What others say: New prime minister makes good first impression

  • Sunday, July 24, 2016 6:56pm
  • Opinion

In any job, first impressions are important. It is always possible to recover from a difficult debut; but it is more forgivable to mess up in future if the initial outing has been a success. So Theresa May’s confident and fluent first performance at Prime Minister’s Questions will have come as a great relief to her party and something of a revelation to a wider public unsure of her qualities. From what we have seen so far, it is clear that the Conservative Party made a wise choice not just in elevating Mrs May to No 10, but also in avoiding a damaging two-month leadership campaign.

Andrea Leadsom, newly installed in the Cabinet, must have watched her leader’s performance in the Commons yesterday with an even clearer understanding of why she was right to pull out of the contest. Indeed, throughout her first week in the job Mrs May has looked to the manner born. We have no idea yet how she will handle a major crisis or manage her Government and her party. But while PMQs may look to outsiders like a noisy bear pit, it remains the weekly showcase for a leader to strut their stuff. Mrs May certainly did that — though, as David Cameron discovered, looking and sounding like a prime minister does not guarantee longevity when events intrude. All sorts of pitfalls await the new premier, especially in handling the vote to leave the EU.

To that end, Mrs May travelled to Berlin last night and will be in Paris today for preliminary talks with Europe’s two most important leaders about how that might be achieved to the advantage of all concerned. Here, again, first impressions will prove important; so, too, will any indications that Mrs May is able to give as to where she wants to end up at the end of the Brexit negotiations.

It is too early for her to say anything definitive; but when asked by one Conservative MP to rule out any notion of staying in the single market by another means, such as through EEA membership, Mrs May said her aim was to secure the best trade deal in the national interest. On the vexed question of immigration, she said the concerns of voters, apparent in the referendum outcome, had to be addressed; but she also implied that a strict target of reducing net numbers to the “tens of thousands” has been replaced by a more sensible aim of achieving “sustainable levels” of inward migration. The Prime Minister is right to avoid any dogmatic posturing on these crucial issues. This has been an excellent start.

— The Telegraph, United Kingdom,

July 20

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