London: Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May continues her epic struggle to deliver Brexit after winning a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday.
The latest political drama came a day after her Brexit deal with the EU was overwhelmingly rejected by parliament and one month after she survived a bruising party no-confidence vote.
She has largely been protected by the inability of any serious challengers to form alliances and depose her, with the toxic Brexit issue dissolving traditional political bonds.
May made it her mission to carry out the wishes of voters who backed the Brexit referendum in June 2016 when she became premier the following month.
But Leave backers have always been suspicious of having a Remain supporter — which May was before the referendum — leading negotiations.
And MPs who opposed Brexit want her to stick tighter to the EU or call for a second referendum that could potentially nullify the first one’s result.
Shortly before Christmas, she was forced to acknowledge the weakness of her position, telling Conservative colleagues she did not intend to lead them into the next scheduled election in 2022 as she uncomfortably defeated the internal coup.
It was a rare concession by a prime minister praised by her supporters as resilient but accused by critics of ploughing on oblivious to the changing circumstances around her.
The party challenge came shortly after she had to tell the House of Commons that the vote on her deal was being postponed as the scale of potential defeat became clear.
Critics from all sides rounded on the leader on Wednesday, with Remain supporting journalist Matthew Parris calling her a “zombie prime minister”, and the Leave supporting Daily Telegraph newspaper warning that she was “out of allies, out of time”.
May took over after her predecessor David Cameron quit following the shock vote for Brexit in June 2016, winning by default after her rivals fought among themselves or withdrew.
She had quietly campaigned to stay in the EU, but has repeatedly stressed the importance of implementing the verdict.
Yet her plan’s provision for a ‘backstop’ to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which could keep Britain indefinitely tied in a customs union with the EU, has angered Brexit supporters.
Despite the near constant criticism, May has kept at it and compares herself to her cricketing hero Geoffrey Boycott, who was a byword for doggedness as a batsman.
The vicar’s daughter has also gleefully seized on a putdown by a party elder that she was a “bloody difficult woman”.
May eschews gossip and networking, proving herself through hard work, spending six years in the tough job of interior minister before entering Downing Street.
But her reserved nature often makes for stilted relations with world leaders and voters, while her staccato speaking style, repeating phrases and avoiding direct questions, earned her the media nickname “Maybot”.
‘Goody two shoes’
May, 62, described herself in a 2012 interview as a “goody two shoes” whose Protestant faith defined her upbringing.
She knew she wanted to become a politician when she was just 12, and once said the naughtiest thing she had done was running through a field of wheat.
May studied geography at the University of Oxford, where she met her husband Philip, who became a banker, after reportedly being introduced by future Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto.
The couple never had children and May devoted herself to a life of public service that saw her become Conservative Party chairwoman in 2002.
The apparent ease with which May positioned herself to become prime minister after the referendum drew praise for her political skills — but this evaporated the following year.
Faced with an apparently unassailable poll lead, she called a snap election in June 2017 to bolster her position and Brexit plan — only to lose the Conservatives’ majority.