The Temptation of Theresa May

LONDON – The three great Theresas in history are all saints. The most recent to be canonized was Mother Teresa, a tireless charity worker and controversial campaigner for the poor; the first was Teresa of Ávila, one of the Catholic Church’s most dynamic and powerful personalities during the sixteenth century. And in the nineteenth century, Thérèse of Lisieux spoke to animals, cultivated gardens, performed good works, and became known as the Little Flower.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is, at times, as philanthropic as Mother Teresa, as ambitious as Teresa of Ávila, and as modest as the Little Flower. But will she be remembered as well as any of them?

Like the Little Flower, May is so discreet that even many members of her own party have doubts about what she actually believes. She has pandered to America’s toxic president, Donald Trump, and courted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is rapidly turning one of the world’s most strategically important countries into a grim Anatolian backwater of intolerance. Both gestures have eclipsed even former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s kowtowing to Chinese President Xi Jinping during Xi’s visit to the United Kingdom in 2015.

But there seems to be something deeper to May. By invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, her government has now pushed Britain’s narrow Brexit referendum decision past the point of no return with minimal controversy, while remaining extraordinarily popular.