Will a Woman with Type 1 be the Next UK Prime Minister?



Update – 7/11/2016 – Multiple news outlets say no other candidate is opposing May in the Conservative Party, clearing the way for her to become prime minister.

Update – 12/13/2016 (after the fact) – Theresa May is now the prime minister of the United Kingdom.

In Game of Thrones, the character of Littlefinger once said that chaos is a ladder, implying it is one that can lead to power to the few who can climb in difficult circumstances. Right now, the United Kingdom is in the throes of chaos, and that chaos might help Theresa May to become (as far as we know) the first head of state with Type 1 diabetes.

May, who was diagnosed with Type 1 late in life, currently serves as the Home Secretary under the Tory administration of Prime Minister David Cameron in the United Kingdom. After voters there elected to exit the European Union in what is known as the Brexit vote, Prime Minister Cameron has pledged to step down as head of the party and as prime minister. This has created a power vacuum within the party, and May has become one of the leading candidates vying to succeed Cameron. While those of us in the U.S. are not always up to speed on UK political rules, it appears that if she wins control of the party, she could become prime minister.

Want to read more about the prime minister? Read “Why wasn’t Theresa May’s Type 1 diabetes an issue?” 

Secretary May has made quite an impression on British political life, and not because of her Type 1 diabetes. Friends and foes alike say she is a smart politician who has avoided much of the infighting and backbiting that usually accompanies a career in British national politics. During her tenure working in Cameron’s administration, including during the time of her diagnosis, she has been characterized as a capable and hard worker, even if some of her decisions have been criticized.

The British political scene is extremely volatile at the moment, and changing by the hour. The vote to exit the EU has sent British markets tumbling, and the pound to its lowest trade value in 30 years. The two major parties, the Conservative (Tories) and the Labour, also have been engulfed in internal strife.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson, who favored leaving the EU, is considered a leading contender to replace Cameron. However, he is also deeply unpopular within some wings of the Conservative party, and many are heaping the blame of the post-vote chaos on his doorstep. Conservatives who don’t want Johnson to head the party have coalesced around May as the leading alternative candidate, and there is some data pointing to her as more than a name tossed in the ring. A recent YouGov public poll of who should be the next Prime Minister finds that May just beats out Johnson – 19 percent to 18 percent. That’s well within the margin of error, and certainly not a mandate from the public. She captures a more sizeable advantage among Conservative voters – 31 percent to 24 percent. What’s refreshing is that, so far at least, no one has made an issue about May having Type 1 diabetes. Of course, it is still several weeks before voting will take place, plenty of time for medical mudslinging.

If May does gain the post of prime minister, she will inherit a number of headaches. All observers believe that the Brexit will be a messy divorce, and economists believe it will hurt the UK economy for a good, long time. That economy was already sluggish and the government has been implementing deeply unpopular cuts to social programs. Meanwhile, because of the Brexit vote, Scotland may try to leave the United Kingdom and declare independence – meaning that the very nature of the United Kingdom is at stake. Already there are calls to somehow reverse the vote to exit the EU, but no one quite knows if that’s even possible.

The situation is extremely fluid right now, so May becoming prime minister is far from a sure bet. However, whether you agree with May’s politics or not, it would be a milestone to have someone with Type 1 as the leader of a country.

You can read a more extensive profile of May here.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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