The Prime Minister’s office is a small, unimpressive room in 10 Downing Street with miserable views and unexceptional furniture. Since moving in, Theresa May has spruced it up — but only a little. There is now a large glass meeting table; her predecessor preferred to chat on the sofas. She has also delved into the government art collection to retrieve two pictures of Oxford, where she honed her interest in politics and met Philip, her husband. She has also picked a painting of an English country church (she is of course a vicar’s daughter), and that’s about it. It’s a place for work and — very occasionally — interviews.
We meet a few weeks after Mrs May won The Spectator’s Politician of the Year award. She had been expected to turn up to the ceremony, say a few polite thank-yous, and head back to No. 10 for more work. Instead, she walked on to the stage wearing a high-vis jacket, a joke at the expense of our guest of honour, George Osborne, whom she had defenestrated when she became Prime Minister. She then turned on her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. It was a potent mixture of humour and political blood sport — reminding everyone in the room who was in charge.
A year ago, she says, she had no inkling that she might be in No. 10 now. She didn’t expect the referendum to end in regime change. ‘I hadn’t expected the vote to go the way it did,’ she says. ‘And I was then surprised when David went as quickly as he did.’
He’d promised to stay whatever the result; she says she believed him, and learnt that he was resigning from the television news. She emphasises that she didn’t decide to run for the leadership immediately, as she was ‘a bit shocked at what had just happened’.