Who is Theresa May, next in line to steer Britain?

Story highlights

  • Theresa May expected to become Britain's prime minister on Wednesday evening
  • In politics for decades, she has strong stances on immigration, same-sex marriage

(CNN)Theresa May is not a mother -- her opponent made that clear, to her own demise -- but you may be wondering who exactly is this conservative politician tapped to lead post-Brexit Great Britain.

Let's start by making one thing clear: Though May stood with the Remain camp, there will be no do-over on the Brexit vote.
    "Brexit means Brexit. The campaign was fought. The vote was held. Turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict," she said, asserting there was no chance of a second referendum on Britain leaving the European Union.
    The 59-year-old May became the heir apparent after Andrea Leadsom, the final of four opponents in the bid to lead the Conservative Party, dropped out following backlash to her remarks that she was more qualified than May to lead Britain because she is a mother.
    To be fair, the tea leaves were already pointing toward May, who garnered 99 more Conservative Parliament members' votes than Leadsom in the first round of ballots, and 115 more in the second.
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    Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he will lead his last Cabinet meeting Tuesday and will deliver his resignation to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. May will formally replace Cameron on Wednesday evening.
    "It is clear Theresa May has the overwhelming support of the Conservative parliamentary party," he said in a statement. "I'm also delighted that Theresa May will be the next prime minister. She is strong, she is competent, she's more than able to provide the leadership the country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support."
    Leadsom also pledged her support to May.
    In remarks shortly after her leadership was affirmed, May vowed to negotiate with the European Union for a successful Brexit, to unite the country and to espouse a "strong, new, positive vision for the future," not just for the privileged, but for everyone.
    Here are some things you should know about Britain's next leader:

    Growing up

    The daughter of a Church of England vicar was born in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on England's southeast coast, BBC has reported.
    She attended both public and private schools and went on to study geography at Oxford University's St. Hugh's College, graduating in 1977, her website says.

    Professional career

    Shortly after graduating, May began working at the Bank Of England, where she remained until 1983. May went on to hold positions at what is now the UK Payments Administration, according to a biography on her party's website.

    Politics

    May entered the political fray more than 30 years ago, starting out by "stuffing envelopes at her local Conservative association before serving as a councilor in the London Borough of Merton from 1986 to 1994," her party bio says.
    After failed bids to join Parliament in 1992 and 1994, May was elected a Conservative member of Parliament for Maidenhead, just west of London, in 1997, the Parliament website says.

    How she got here

    In her latest re-election, in 2010, May won her Maidenhead seat by a landslide, tallying more than twice the votes of her Liberal Democrat opponent.
    She's served in a slew of positions since joining Parliament (too many to outline, but you can see them all here), including being a member of the Shadow Cabinet from 1999 to 2010 and serving as the first female party chair from 2002 to 2003.
    "Theresa was appointed Home Secretary in May 2010. In this role she is leading the Government's work to free up the police to fight crime more effectively, secure the borders and reduce immigration, and protect the UK from terrorism," the bio on her website says.

    Reputation

    Theresa May has been compared to Germany's Angela Merkel.
    The Financial Times in London has described May as a liberal conservative and compared her to Germany's Angela Merkel.
    May ran as a "safe pair of hands," meaning she could be trusted to handle her party's leadership during trying times, namely the economic instability wrought by the Brexit vote.
    CNN political contributor Robin Oakley said May, who has a reputation as a serious-minded workaholic, was "the nearest thing you could find in British politics today to Margaret Thatcher."

    On the issues

    Naturally, any politician with her tenure has plenty of accomplishments to tout, not to mention some embarrassments, including the so-called "go home vans," which were billed as an effort to encourage illegal immigrants to self-deport but were widely panned as xenophobic.
    While we don't have room to outline where May stands on the many issues facing Britain, you can find those stances here and here.
    In sum, she is largely for same-sex marriage, reducing welfare benefits, selling public forests, sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, raising undergraduate tuition fees, decreasing the number of members of the House of Commons, electing police and crime commissioners and stronger enforcement of immigration rules.

    She's in for a fight

    It was only minutes after May secured her party's leadership, paving her way to 10 Downing Street, that her detractors were quick to surface a 2007 column she wrote blasting then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was in his first year in office.
    In the column, she criticized the Labour Party leader's National Health Service cuts and the party's inability to curb violent crime. But it was the final paragraph that people were seizing on Monday.
    "So whenever Gordon Brown chooses to call a general election, we will be ready for him. He has no democratic mandate. He has a reputation tainted by his failures after a decade in office. And he has no new ideas. An early election? Bring it on," she wrote.
    Expect the "no democratic mandate" line to be repeated plenty in the coming weeks as her rivals call for snap elections.

    Personal

    She has been married to British banker Philip May since 1980. According to profiles in three British newspapers, Benazir Bhutto, who went on to become prime minister of Pakistan, introduced the pair at a Conservative Party disco while they were attending Oxford.
    They live in Sonning-on-Thames, which is also home to lawyer and activist Amal Clooney, magician Uri Geller and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, the Independent reported.
    Philip May gives his wife a kiss Monday before she speaks about assuming party leadership.
    May describes cooking and walking as primary hobbies, and if you're wondering whether walking can really be classified as a hobby, she elaborated in a column for Balance magazine, in which she wrote of her battle with diabetes.
    "The fact is that you can still do whatever you want to do. For example, on holiday my husband and I do a lot of quite strenuous walking up mountains in Switzerland, and it doesn't stop me doing it. I can still do things like that and can still do the job," she wrote.