Theresa May Exclusive: ‘Maybe I’ll Get To See A Bit More Cricket This Summer’

In her final weeks as Prime Minister, Theresa May talks to Gaby Hinsliff about mental health, her successor and what happens next...

Theresa May mental health

by Gaby Hinsliff |
Updated on

Amid a sea of desks in an empty classroom, Theresa May is gamely making herself at home on a plastic school chair.

As we speak, a few miles across the city, men competing to take her job are busy with another set of hustings. By the end of July, the Prime Minister will be out of Downing Street for good. But for now, Mrs May looks surprisingly relaxed and reinvigorated, having spent an hour chatting to pupils and teachers here in South London’s Southfields Academy about her plans to help tackle budding mental health crises earlier in life.

She tells Grazia she hasn’t given any thought to plans for life after Number 10, but eventually confesses there is one thing she’s looking forward to doing with all that spare time: ‘Maybe I will be able to get to see a bit more cricket this summer.’ The Ashes series comes to England in August and the Prime Minister is a lifelong cricket fan. Before all that, however, she has a wicket of her own to defend. The new measures she’s unveiling in Southfields, which range from training teachers to spot mental health problems to granting sufferers who fall into debt a ‘breathing space’ from being chased by bailiffs while they’re seeking treatment, have been welcomed. But campaigners say many patients are waiting too long for treatment despite the promise of an extra £2.3 billion a year for NHS mental health services.

Since failures in mental health treatment were one of the burning injustices she vowed to tackle when she first became Prime Minister three years ago, there’s a sense of unfinished business here. These plans form part of a recent flurry of activity from Downing Street, with big policies, including a commitment to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, rolled out in what’s being seen as an attempt to create a legacy for which Britain’s second female Prime Minister can be remembered. ‘I had wanted to get the Brexit issue done and dusted and we could have if people had voted for the deal,’ she says, when asked if imminent departure has focused her mind on what she really wants to have achieved. ‘What this shows is what more we can do as a Government, what more as Conservatives in Government we can do for the country outside the Brexit issue. There’s been huge focus on Brexit but, actually, all of these other issues are important – mental health is incredibly important for young people. Climate change, that’s important for the future of our planet.’

These new commitments have been controversial in some parts of the party, with the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, reportedly fighting Downing Street’s desire to pledge billions more for education and some MPs arguing the next leader should be free to set their own priorities. Theresa May won’t say who she wants to win the Tory leadership contest and countered speculation that she might have secretly voted for Rory Stewart – the outsider candidate who went viral by accusing the other candidates of not being honest about how difficult Brexit is, before he was knocked out last week – by insisting that she hasn’t told anyone how she voted.

It’s clear, however, that she does want her successor to pick up where she’s been forced to leave off. ‘I would hope that my successor takes this forward, I think they are absolutely crucial issues that need to be addressed. There’s more to be done on mental health. We’ve made some significant announcements, more money is going into this area, but we need to ensure this isn’t a one off – it’s a continuous process of making sure that mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.

The last three years of guerrilla warfare over Brexit have been gruelling for everyone in Government, with talk of burnout across Whitehall. So how does Mrs May protect her own mental health in one of the most stressful jobs in the country? ‘I think it’s important when you are in any job with pressures to first of all always be clear about the goals and what it is you want to achieve,’ she says. ‘Having good support around you, a good team around you, is also important in terms of getting the job done.’ She says she’s trying to create a culture of openness about mental health in Westminster too: ‘I would hope that in the environment I’m in that people do feel able to talk about their mental health. Obviously, there’s been a lot of work in Parliament, like Charles Walker (the Tory MP who has suffered from OCD) who was my first colleague to stand up and say that he had mental health problems. That openness, which can’t have been easy... that’s been very important in hoping to overcome that stigma.’

Meanwhile, the reason she herself keeps returning to the issue, she says, is that she sees it as a way of unlocking people’s potential. ‘I have great ambition for young people that they should be able to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them. Having good mental health is an important part of that, people being able to achieve what they want to achieve in life.’ And with that she is off, back to Westminster, and the race to achieve whatever she still can before her time as Prime Minister runs out.

Join Grazia’s campaign to drive more support for mental health in the workplace. Visit


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