Profile: Theresa May's husband Philip

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Theresa May and Philip
Image caption,
The Mays on the steps of No 10

As only the second male prime ministerial consort in British history, Philip May is going to have to get used to being in the spotlight.

He emerged from relative obscurity on Monday to be pictured on the steps of Parliament, embracing his wife of 36 years, before a crowd of her cheering supporters.

Their broad grins made the front pages, offering a rare glimpse of the human side of Theresa May, who has carefully guarded her private life.

But Mr May, who has led a quiet life as an investment manager to this point, seems unlikely to be the kind of prime ministerial spouse who seeks the limelight.

Some have already pigeonholed him as another Denis Thatcher, who was content to play a supporting role to Margaret Thatcher during her time in power, offering opinions and succour in private, but doing his best to avoid controversy in public, despite being sent up by Private Eye as a gin-swilling, golf club reactionary.

Political ambitions

Philip May is from a different social background to Denis Thatcher. Grammar-school, rather than privately educated, he was born in Norfolk and grew up on Merseyside before going up to Oxford to study history.

His mother was a French teacher, his father a shoe wholesaler, which has caused some amusement in the family, according to the Daily Mail, given Mrs May's much publicised fondness for an exotic pair of heels.

He is different from Denis Thatcher in another way, having harboured political ambitions of his own as a young man.

Image caption,
The Mays got married in 1980

When they met in 1976 at Oxford University, at a Conservative Association disco, Mr May was president of the Oxford Union, a traditional precursor to a career in frontline politics.

Other contemporaries included Alan Duncan, who preceded him as Union president and remains a friend of the couple, future Tory ministers David Willetts, Dominic Grieve and Damian Green and future political journalist Michael Crick, who was elected Union president after him.

Benazir Bhutto, who would later become the prime minister of Pakistan, was the star of the Oxford political firmament at the time, and is reported to have introduced Mr May to his future wife.

The couple, who reportedly bonded over a shared love of cricket, married in 1980, at Mrs May's father's church in Wheatley, Oxfordshire.

'Huge support'

Within months, however, Mrs May's father, Anglican vicar Hubert Brasier, died in a car crash. Her widowed mother Zaidee, who had multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair, died a few months later.

Mrs May, who rarely opens up about her private life, spoke about the "huge support" she received from Philip, who at 57 is two years younger than her, during this period in her life on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

"That was very important for me. He was a real rock for me," she said.

She recently spoke of her sadness that they could not have children together.

Image source, Getty Images

Apart from a stint as chairman of Wimbledon Conservative Association, Philip May appears to have long ago abandoned political ambitions of his own and got behind his wife on her long, steady climb to the top.

He built a career in the City as a fund manager for Prudential Portfolio Managers, de Zoete and Bevan, and Deutsche Asset Management.

Since 2005, he has worked as a relationship manager for Capital Group, who released a statement on news of his wife's new job, saying: "He is not involved with, and doesn't manage, money and is not a portfolio manager.

"His job is to ensure the clients are happy with the service and that we understand their goal."

Philip has been described by friends of the couple as the more gregarious of the two at social gatherings, but not someone who would want to steal the limelight from his wife. He will offer criticisms of her speeches but is always supportive, it is said.

A friend told The Guardian: "Philip is really lovely. He's just a regular, nice guy who's bright like she is. They still totally love each other and have a great friendship."