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Vicar's daughter in kitten heels 'safe pair of hands'

By Hayden Smith

Published 12/07/2016

Theresa May earned a reputation as a safe pair of hands as she navigated a job often seen as a poisoned chalice to become the longest-serving Home Secretary for more than a century.

Now, the 59-year-old vicar's daughter faces the toughest challenge of her political career and is set to arrive at Downing Street tasked with negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union.

She started out stuffing envelopes at her local Conservative Association and will now be expected to stamp her authority on the party in the wake of the referendum.

Although she was signed up to the Remain campaign, Mrs May kept a low profile in the lead-up to the vote. But her reputation as a "reluctant Remainer" has not saved her from attacks by rivals who insist that Brexit-backing voters will want a PM who actively campaigned to leave.

And she has sparked controversy by saying she could not guarantee that EU citizens living in the UK would be allowed to stay after Brexit, insisting their fate must be part of negotiations.

She will now take charge of a party she once described as "nasty" when she tried, as chairman, to oversee its modernisation. It is not the only time the she has doled out some harsh truths with little sugar coating. Members of the Police Federation were stunned into silence when Mrs May attacked the organisation in a blistering speech.

Hanging onto the Home Secretary brief, which notoriously ruins political careers, for six years shows her ability to navigate stormy political waters. Securing the deportation of radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada also boosted her popularity among the party's rank and file.

However, she held the post at a time when net migration has reached record levels of around a third of a million, leaving the Government under intense pressure over its target of reducing the figure to below 100,000

While her long track record in the highest echelons of British politics is well-documented, the famously private Tory lets little slip about her personal life.

Earlier this month, she revealed that she and her husband, Philip, were unable to have children, but added that it was just "one of those things".

"You see friends who now have grown-up children, but you accept the hand that life deals you," she told The Mail On Sunday.

Mrs May told of her "shock" three years ago after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which means she must inject herself with insulin at least twice a day for the rest of her life.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, Abba's Dancing Queen and Walk Like A Man, from the musical Jersey Boys, were among her picks.

The fashion-conscious politician, known for her love of kitten heel shoes and designer outfits, chose a lifetime's subscription to Vogue as her luxury item.

Educated at Wheatley Park Comprehensive School in Oxfordshire and St Hugh's College, Oxford, where she read geography, she embarked on a career in finance that included a six-year stint at the Bank of England.

Elected to Merton Council in 1986, she headed to Westminster as MP for Maidenhead in 1997.

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