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Theresa May’s disjunctive premiership: Choice and constraint in political time

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nick Randall



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Theresa May’s premiership is widely acknowledged to have been a failure, but political commentators and the scholarly literature have, thus far, tended to focus on May’s misuse of her agency. This article argues that May’s premiership presents a particularly powerful example of the need to disentangle structure and agency when assessing prime ministerial performance. Drawing upon the work of Stephen Skowronek, it sets out a framework of evaluating prime ministerial agency in ‘political time’. This is then used to show how the conditions and circumstances in which May governed limited the feasibility, increased the costs, and compromised the effectiveness of her actions in office. We argue that this confirms that May was a victim of circumstances as much as a victim of her own agency.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Byrne C, Randall N, Theakston K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Politics and International Relations

Year: 2021

Volume: 23

Issue: 4

Pages: 699-716

Print publication date: 01/11/2021

Online publication date: 03/06/2021

Acceptance date: 12/04/2021

Date deposited: 03/06/2021

ISSN (print): 1369-1481

ISSN (electronic): 1467-856X

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/13691481211016931


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