With Theresa May making her first speech as Prime Minister and choosing her first cabinet, she has finally offered a glimpse of what her policies as Prime Minister could look like.
With her appointments to the major roles in her first cabinet it was clear that Theresa May was aiming to make good on her promise to reunite the Conservative Party following the bloody referendum campaign. With high-profile figures from both the Remain and Leave camps appointed to key positions within the cabinet, May has looked to appease the warring factions within the party. Indeed, perhaps most notably Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson, who clashed so explosively in the first referendum tv debate, were both given plum roles in cabinet. Whilst veteran Eurosceptic David Davis, who had previously been extremely critical of Theresa May over her stance on civil liberties, was made the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. This move, as well as the appointment of Liam Fox as Secretary of State for International Trade, is likely to do much to appease the often troublesome Conservative backbenchers. Overall, it could be said that the ideology of the cabinet has shifted to the right somewhat, with the discarding of Tory modernisers like George Osborne, Michael Gove, and Oliver Letwin, part of the so-called ‘Notting Hill set’.
But, whereas the cabinet has shifted right, Theresa May’s rhetoric in her first speech as Prime Minister was distinctly left of centre. May stated:
If you’re from an ordinary working-class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise.
The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours.
When it comes to taxes we will prioritise not the wealthy, but you.
With such a strong commitment to the themes of social justice and inequality, it was clear that May was attempting to seize the political centre ground, admittedly relatively simple in the absence of an electable opposition. However, at times it was difficult to distinguish between some of the themes of her speech and the themes of Ed Miliband’s 2015 electoral pitch. This tallies with some of the commentary on May’s speeches during the short leadership campaign, with The Daily Telegraph describing her proposed curbs on big business as ‘rehashed Milibandism’. This suggests that Theresa May is looking to take advantage of the lack of a viable centre-left party, persuading any swing voters that their only viable option is to vote Conservative. This may also be a sign that another general election is imminent: either in the autumn or early in the new year.
Ultimately, it is difficult to know what way Theresa May’s policy will go during her time as Prime Minister. However, taking into account her complete overhaul of the cabinet, as well as yesterday’s speech, it seems that Theresa May’s administration will take a completely different path to David Cameron’s.