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Press review

Theresa May: as seen by Swiss papers

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May, who met with the Queen as her first duty, is said to like the peace and quiet of a hiking holiday in Switzerland (Keystone)

May, who met with the Queen as her first duty, is said to like the peace and quiet of a hiking holiday in Switzerland


Switzerland’s newspaper portraits of Britain’s new prime minister designate, Theresa May, are awash with nicknames. Most reports don’t dare speculate on the impact she will have.

Ahead of Wednesday’s formal taking office as British government leader, May is compared with one of her predecessors, Margaret Thatcher (famously known as the Iron Lady), as well as with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The tabloid Blick says May “is more Merkel than Maggie”, while the title of the syndicated report by Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund newspapers is titled: “The summer of an ice queen”. The correspondent highlights May’s rigorous self-discipline and her humble background.

For the prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung, traditionally close to the business community and liberalism, May is “The Wooden Lady”. The report notes that the successor of David Cameron is in favour of more government intervention in the economy.

Like many other reports, the NZZ London correspondent describes the 60-year-old May as a tough and pragmatic negotiator as well as a crisp personality.

May in Switzerland

“Theresa May, a UFO at Downing Street,” says the French-language daily, Le Temps. It explains that the new prime minister is different from her predecessors notably from the Conservative Party and that she does not necessarily share the values of the upper class.

In a little aside, Le Temps quotes the mayor of Geneva, Guillaume Barazzone, who met May during a conference of conservative parties in London last year.

He says May had told him she liked “Switzerland, its institutions and its beautiful countryside”.

Barazzone, who is also a member of parliament, said he had explained to the then British interior minister how the issue of immigration curbs affected relations between Switzerland and the European Union. She, however, had not revealed her views on this issue to him, Barazzone says.

Another quote, reported by the British press in 2007, has been dug up by the Swiss media over the past few days. Blick says May had told the Financial Times that she was most happy when she and her husband are hiking in the Switzerland. Le Temps attributes the same quote to the Daily Telegraph.

Incidentally, May is not the first British Prime Minister to enjoy a holiday in the Swiss Alps. Baroness Thatcher used to spend time in Graubünden and visit a friend who lived in central Switzerland. May apparently spent holidays in the resort of Zermatt and in the Bernese Oberland region.

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