Theresa May lacks the Iron Lady’s clear ideological vision, argues Comment Central.

Ever since Theresa May emerged as the frontrunner in the Conservative Party’s leadership contest, politicians and commentators alike have been in a frenzied excitement that the country is on the brink of delivering the next ‘Margaret Thatcher’ to office.

Just last weekend, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Employment Minister Priti Patel argued the Home Secretary has “exactly the same” qualities of determination and resilience that made Margaret Thatcher the ‘Iron Lady’ of world politics during the 1980s.

While resilience and determination are undoubtedly desirable in a leader, it was more than just these two qualities that earned Margaret Thatcher the accolade of the ‘Iron Lady’. Rather, it was these qualities married to a profound understanding of the challenges the country faced, and the ideological vision with which to solve them.

From her first conference speech as Party leader Thatcher was clear about the challenges facing the country and the ideology required to address them. She saw that for Britain to succeed in the world it had to overcome its economic and financial problems, and needed to regain its self-confidence. She was clear about the great challenges of her time. To tackle them she set out her ‘stepping stones to recovery’: six measures aimed at getting the country back on the path to prosperity and to heal the wounds socialism had inflicted. The measures sought to deliver tax cuts; tackle crime; curb the trade unions; introduce right-to-buy; increase pension provisions; and strengthen the country’s defences. Thatcherism had been defined.

In contrast, and only weeks away from potentially taking office, the Home Secretary has failed to outline the same clear ideological vision for the country. True, she has clarified important points of economic and political management, including a pledge to stay part of the ECHR, deliver Brexit, abandon the goal of delivering a budget surplus by the end of the Parliament, and not hold a general election until 2020. But there is little detail regarding the broader direction the country would take under her stewardship. In her speech the Home Secretary touched briefly on her renewed commitment to ‘one-nation conservatism’, pledging to pursue “a bold, new, positive vision for the future of our country – a vision of a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us”. But there is little substance to back up this rhetoric.

Andrea Leadsom, meanwhile, has set out a more comprehensive programme for her premiership, advocating action on immigration, tax-cuts for the poorest, and promising to put wealth and job creation at the heart of her agenda. She has vowed to continue the work of bringing down the deficit, and is committed to addressing the north-south economic imbalance. On housing, she has promised to increase the country’s housing stock to make it easier for first-time buyers, while transport and communications infrastructure will see increased investment. She has expressed a desire to prioritise new trade deals with the fastest growing parts of the world and much needed action on tax simplification.

While it’s too early to tell if Leadsom has the strength of character and determination to deliver on her pledges, the nature of her detailed programme for office suggests that she, rather than the Home Secretary, deserves that title of Britain’s next Iron Lady.

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