Five things we need to know about Theresa May


With Theresa May moving into Number 10 after six years in the cabinet, many of her recent public comments about economic, transport and infrastructure issues will have reflected the Government’s views, rather than her own.

Here are five areas where we might deduce which way she will steer policy.

1) Even stronger backing for infrastructure?

Prime minister Theresa May

On Monday, more or less as rival Andrea Leadsom was withdrawing from the leadership contest, Ms May gave a speech on economic policy, in which she proposed: ‘More Treasury-backed project bonds for new infrastructure projects. More house building’.

It looks as if the new prime minister may even want to go further than her predecessor on these issues.

2) Refocus the Northern Powerhouse?

However, Ms May appeared to criticise then chancellor George Osborne’s alleged obsession with Manchester under plans for a Northern Powerhouse. In the same section of the same speech, she promised 'a plan to help not one or even two of our great regional cities but every single one of them’.

The Birmingham Mail suggested this might mean ‘goodbye to the Northern Powerhouse as we know it’, although that may have been wishful thinking from a rival region. But on Wednesday, Mr Osborne was unceremoniously ‘resigned’.

3) Back Gatwick for a new South East runway

Last month ministers announced a further delay to the Government’s response to the Airports Commission, which recommended a new runway at Heathrow.

When an opposition MP, Ms May, who represents the Maidenhead constituency was strongly opposed to the Labour Government’s plans to build a third runway at the West London airport. She has largely kept her own council since but has already appointed Philip Hammond, who has publicly backed Gatwick, to replace Mr Osborne.

On a side note, Kent MP Rehman Chishti has said Ms May told him that she is against the so-called "Boris Island" proposal for an airport hub in the Thames Estuary.

4) Scale back or ditch HS2?

Again it may be wishful thinking on their part, but many campaigners and commentators are suggesting that one of Ms May’s early moves might be to scrap, or at least scale back, the increasingly expensive HS2 rail link from London to the Midlands and beyond.

The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins wonders aloud whether an early break with David Cameron’s approach might be for Ms May and Mr Hammond to ‘switch resources from the south’s HS2 to the north’s HS3’.

5) Brexit means Brexit

Another key line from Ms May’s speech on Monday was: ‘Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.’ The vote to leave the European Union is predicted to have a major impact on the economy and therefore infrastructure and transport in the future.

Having signalled that there will be no backsliding, Ms May has appointed eurosceptics David Davis and Liam Fox as secretaries of state for ‘exiting the European Union’ and international trade respectively, not to mention Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.

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