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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 15:55 GMT
Theresa May: Shadow Education & Employment
Theresa May
By BBC News Online's Ben Davies

Theresa May's political ascent has been swift since she was first elected at the 1997 general election.

The Maidenhead MP was one of only five new women Tory members elected four years ago.

And she was the first of the new intake to make the frontbenches and the shadow cabinet having been given the education brief in 1999.

In appearance Mrs May has a passing resemblance to the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Comfortable with euro policy

Politically she was thought to be less against the single currency than many of her frontbench colleagues although she may have hardened on the issue and she has said she is "comfortable" with her party's policy on the euro.

As a teenager she realised she was a Conservative and became only quietly active because her father, as a Church of England vicar, felt his family should be private about their politics.

In 1974 she ran as the Tory candidate in her school's mock election and became active in student politics when at Oxford University.

She even met her future husband, Philip, at a Conservative function.

Like him she enjoyed a successful career in the City after coming down from Oxford.

City slicker

Working initially for the Bank of England she then went on to head the European Affairs Unit.

As a councillor in Merton she chaired the local education committee.

In 1992 she ran as the Tory candidate in the safe Labour seat of North West Durham losing to Hilary Armstrong - now the local government minister.

She also lost to Margaret Hodge, now minister for education and equal opportunities, in the 1994 Barking by-election.

When she finally won the nomination for a safe Tory seat she beat, among others, Sir George Young and Eric Forth who were trying to jump from their own constituencies to safer seats.

Decent majority

In the end she romped home in Maidenhead on the night that so many Tory MPs lost their seats in the Labour landslide.

On arriving at Westminster her maiden speech included the suggestion that she should wear a name badge to avoid being confused with arch-EuroscepticTory MP Teresa Gorman.

One of the areas that she spoke out about often when she first arrived was Labour's decision to abolish the schools assisted places scheme.

She has also expressed strong disapproval of Labour's now abandoned policy of women-only shortlists, branding them patronising.

First in shadow cabinet

In 1999 she won her shadow cabinet place as Tory education spokeswoman.

In a parliamentary party short on women she has been seen as one of the most impressive female performers.

One of the more bizarre events to occur in months since she became an MP was when it emerged that Mrs May had namesake in the porn industry.

Soft porn star Teresa May
Teresa May - not to be confused with Theresa May
Teresa May (notice the absent 'h') is a soft porn star but given the similarities in their names there have been various occasions when people have tried to book the politician.

At the time Mrs May said: "We do get telephone calls from time to time from people who want to book me to do programmes which are perhaps not about politics."

The subsequent publicity did wonders to raise Mrs May's profile.

Though in fairness that had been reasonably high from the moment of her selection in Maidenhead where she became the first Conservative woman to be chosen to run in a safe seat.

Future leader?

That sort of thing always prompts cries of "future leader".

Earlier this year she had the dubious pleasure of preceding Ann Widdecombe into the lap of Liberal Democrat MP Richard Allan.

A peculiar situation prompted by a game of musical chairs for charity.

Mrs May was brought up in Oxfordshire by her father, Rev. Hubert Brasier, and her mother Zaidee.

She married in 1980 and she and her husband have no children.

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