Prime Minister Theresa May: a woman of substance, diligence and fortitude

On the day the nation learned that Prime Minister Theresa May would vacate 10 Downing Street as the incoming Boris Johnson careered towards it, I received a letter from Mrs May, addressed by hand to me personally.

Theresa May meeting Yorkshire Post Editor James Mitchinson

It will surely be, by the very nature of the timing, one of her final flourishes in office.

It comes in response to a letter that I sent for her attention on June 18, by way of a distress flare for the region, inviting Mrs May to comment on our Power Up The North campaign; a multi-publisher broadside from newspapers across the North lamenting the ever-widening chasm between North and South.

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-> Theresa May's letter to The Yorkshire Post in full: Boris Johnson must unlock the north's vast potentialAs anyone should be, let alone one afforded the privilege of editing The Yorkshire Post, my letter to Mrs May was courteous and respectful. I wanted to acknowledge the strength of character I’d seen in her; the mettle she’s shown as chief protagonist of a chapter that every right-minded Briton wants ripping from the book, and to offer – however inconsequential they might be in the scheme of things – some thanks and a degree of admiration.

Thanks and admiration for what, will be the howl from certain quarters, particularly those – oft anonymous – factions at the extremes of modern-day political commentary where intimidation and abuse are the stock-in-trade.

However, before I do explain my reasons for wanting to share with you this letter and how it made me feel to receive it on behalf of Yorkshire, I must take you back to Thursday June 9, 2016.

-> Why the new Prime Minister faces the same Brexit challenges as Theresa MayThat was the day that then Prime Minister David Cameron strutted confidently into a room full of invited readers of this newspaper to convince them that European Union membership was in the best interests of the country and of this county.

With his sleeves rolled up and jacket slung aside he regaled one or two of us with tales of cricketing lessons with Geoffrey Boycott and then flung open a set of double doors onto a room that presented no fears for such a confident man. EU sermon delivered, we retired to a room where I took the chance to ask Mr Cameron if he feared some people might vote for Brexit to give him a bloody nose: a proxy popularity contest, now that he had so clearly nailed his colours to the mast.

He was adamant that I was talking nonsense and whilst I paraphrase owing to the passing of time, his retort was one that said: “The British public would not be daft enough to vote for Brexit just because they do not like me.”

Now, little over three years later, we have clear sight of the moment Mr Cameron pulled the pin on a political grenade that even the most revered of politicians on the world stage would have been reluctant to receive.

So my admiration is chiefly for the way Britain’s second female Prime Minister has conducted herself inside the Brexit pressure cooker, showing a level of fortitude that one expects of any leader of this great nation.

-> Why Boris Johnson learn from Theresa May mistakes and power up the north from day oneMy thanks are multiple: firstly for taking the time to visit this office in order to talk to journalists whose job it is to represent Yorkshire, and on one particularly memorable occasion with one of our young apprentices, an encounter which will forever inspire young Natasha Meek.

Secondly, despite this newspaper being excoriating in our critique of Government Ministers in recent years – including Prime Ministers – that Mrs May reserved a degree of diplomatic magnanimity for this newspaper in finding the time to craft a thoughtful response to our concerns. Time will tell as to whether her successor holds himself up to Mrs May’s standards of conduct.