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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Contender: Theresa May
Theresa May
Theresa May was the Tories' first woman chairman

Date of birth: 1 October 1956
Job: Shadow family secretary
Education: Wheatley Park Comprehensive School; St Hugh's College, Oxford
Family: Married

On her party's future: "Increasingly in recent years the big political debates of the day have shifted from what the Americans sometimes call 'daddy issues', like economy and defence, to what they call 'mummy issues' - things like public services and welfare."

What the press say: "Has fought hard to reform the party and demonstrated her credentials as a moderniser when she warned that the Tories were seen as 'the nasty party'. Likely to appeal to voters who share her distaste for 'yah-boo' politics," The Guardian.


Famed for her love of exotic footwear - leopard skin kitten heels are a particular favourite - Theresa May has never been shy of putting the boot in when the occasion demands it.

As Conservative chairman under Iain Duncan Smith, she told a hall full of loyal activists they were seen as members of the "nasty party".

She was the first woman to hold the post of party chairman and used it to promote a modernising agenda, urging the party to recruit more women and ethnic minority candidates to winnable seats.

Her big idea - and one which she has returned to in recent speeches - is an "A-list" of 100 top Tory candidates, half of them female, to fight key target seats.

She has long argued for an end to yah-boo, macho politics, arguing that we are now in an era of "mummy" politics, with social welfare issues dominating, as opposed to "daddy" issues such as the economy and defence.

Rising star

But she has always stopped short of backing all-women shortlists.

Mrs May has enjoyed one of the most successful careers of the Conservatives' 1997 intake.

Within two years of her election, she had joined the shadow cabinet, opposing David Blunkett at the Department for Education and Employment.

After the 2001 election, she lined up with most of the former shadow cabinet to support Michael Portillo's bid for the Conservative leadership.

Following his exit, she would not say to whom she transferred her support, but was retained in the shadow cabinet by Iain Duncan Smith, becoming shadow secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions.

New role

Much of her time in this role was spent calling for transport secretary Stephen Byers' resignation.

In July 2002, she was appointed party chairman in controversial circumstances, following the dismissal of David Davis.

When Michael Howard became leader, she shadowed two large government departments, transport and environment, food and rural affairs.

In June 2004, however, she took on the new role of shadow secretary of state for the family.

At the general election she successfully fought off Liberal Democrat attempts to unseat her, increasing her majority in Maidenhead by 5.8%.

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