In May 2010 Theresa May came in as our new Home Secretary following David Cameron’s victory at the polls.
I was surprised at May’s appointment given that when the Tories was in opposition it was Chris Grayling who shadowed Home Office issues. We were relieved Grayling was a no show.
I first met May and her team days later as our unit’s expertise covered issues relating to crime reduction, policing and community safety.
Having worked under 4 previous Labour Home Secretaries in 5 years I was relieved to see the back of them.
Labour Home Secretaries under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were more like signposts and had little influence on the government’s key priorities. The real power rested in the hands of a few advisers at Downing Street.
May was the first Home Secretary I saw who had complete control of the portfolio.
With May at the Home Office you knew immediately who was in charge. David Cameron knew that too. May immediately scrapped Labour’s disastrous National ID card project that had costs almost £6bn over 10 years and was never launched.
That decision by May really impressed him and I turned to a colleague and said “she’ll replace Cameron as PM one day”.
What struck me during my time working at Home Office, with May at the helm, was that some of her policies was to the left of anything Labour had proposed.
As a Labour Party supporter I was embarrassed by some of Blair/Brown’s rhetoric. E.g. 90 day detention for terror suspects.
May is sharp, pragmatic, hard working and very clear on her expectations from staff and her junior ministers.
I disagreed with May over her proposals on the setting up of police and crime commissioners – I felt it was just a waste of money.
I am no fan of the snoopers charter legislation but all Home Secretaries get starry eyed when they have oversight on M15/Counter Terrorism policy.
I found the “go home” policy campaign vans against immigrants insulting.
Despite some major blunders in her department over immigration May has managed to enjoy positive coverage in the media. For that May was very lucky. Although her closest advisers include former journalists Fiona Hill, Joey Jones (both from Sky News) and Liz Sanderson (Daily Mail).
But I admired May for taking on that dinosaur known as the Police Federation. I liked how she took on the police over the Stephen Lawrence undercover issue.
But for me her greatest achievement was the blocking of the US extradition request for Gary McKinnon. This US request came in 2002 and 5 previous Labour Home Secretaries were too scared to say no to the US Government.
Proof that May won’t be intimidated by whoever the US elects in November.