World media watch 'irresistible rise of Mrs May'

Front page of French paper Le Figaro Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption France's Le Figaro: "Europe puts pressure on new 'Iron Lady' to get on with Brexit"

Commentators worldwide are trying to explain Theresa May's ascent to become the UK's prime minister to their readers, and to place David Cameron's successor within the context of the British political landscape.

Some paint her as a tough negotiator in the mould of Margaret Thatcher, while others point to her greater concern for social cohesion.

Most writers focus on her forthcoming negotiations with the European Union, but the parallel leadership struggle in the Labour Party also attracts mostly bewildered attention from observers abroad.

'Austere, determined'

Much of the European press sees Mrs May as a "moderate pro-European" facing the paradoxical task of negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union.

The London correspondent of France's Le Monde, Philippe Bernard, says she is "austere, determined and politically astute", and will be a "formidable negotiator" in talks with Brussels.

He draws parallels between her "irresistible rise" and that of another cleric's daughter, German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

"Neither have time for trivialities... both are liberal conservatives of a pragmatic rather than ideological bent," he says.

He expects her to "remake the British political landscape" by addressing the "social despair that underpinned the Brexit vote", especially given her "good fortune" in facing an opposition Labour Party "on the verge of collapse".

Enrico Franceschini, the London correspondent of Italy's La Repubblica, thinks she might find the appeal of an early election "irresistible... given that the Labour Party is even more divided than the Conservatives".

Image copyright Bild
Image caption Germany's top tabloid Bild says "Brexit duo must save what they can"

Germany's popular Bild tabloid also sees similarities with Mrs Merkel, dubbing them the "Brexit duo who have to save what can be saved" from the European relationship.

On the other hand, Der Spiegel says Mrs May could find the chancellor less of a partner, reporting "Merkel's chilly message" that Britain should "not expect concessions".

France's Le Figaro sees Europe "pressing Theresa May" to begin talks before crucial French and German elections in 2017, but warns that "Margaret Thatcher's heir doesn't look like she's going to be rushed into anything".

Image copyright La Croix
Image caption "New face, new course," says France's La Croix

But Spain's ABC daily fears that Mrs May's caution could simply be a case of "not having a clear plan to heal the European wound".

'Another planet'

France's leftwing Liberation pays more attention to the woes of the opposition.

British affairs analyst Olivier Esteves says Labour is partly to blame for the Brexit vote, because its failure in government either to control or explain EU migration "abandoned" the white working class to the Eurosceptic right.

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Image caption Germany's Tageszeitung says "Angela Eagle thinks her time has come"

"The Labour elite are winners in a silent class war of globalisation that had violent social consequences. They were unable to explain immigration to their traditional voters, because they live on another planet," he concludes.

Nor does Ralf Sotscheck, the British affairs commentator of the left-wing Berlin paper Tageszeitung, have many words of comfort for Labour.

He says the Tories have stolen a march on them by getting Mrs May into position so quickly, leaving the "Blairite wing to ruin Labour".

Spain's El Pais agrees that the government is radiating consensus while "Labour continues to dig its own grave".

'British revolution'

France's Tribune financial weekly sees Mrs May's most pressing task as being one of "reconciliation", to ensure that the threats of recession and Brexit do not lead to stronger separatist moves in pro-Remain Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Rafael Ramos, the London correspondent of Barcelona's La Vanguardia, agrees that the post-Brexit turmoil in the two major parties could lead to a "great British revolution of the 21st Century".

Image copyright Sueddeutsche Zeitung
Image caption "As sexist as it is eccentric", says Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Most press profiles inevitably mention Mrs May's striking taste in footwear, prompting Friederike Zoe Grasshoff of Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung to complain that such coverage is "as sexist as it is eccentric".

"She is about to take over as prime minister, and the big question is - wearing which shoes," Ms Grasshoff complains, although she does acknowledge that Mrs May might be able to cheer herself up during those all-night Brexit talks with the reflection that "at least I got the shoes right".

'Interim premier'

Further afield, Russian commentators are full of praise for Theresa May, although one tells the official Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper that she is likely only to be an "interim" prime minister without Mrs Thatcher's impact.

Pakistan's The Nation also sees the danger of Scottish secession, adding that "Britain should be thankful that they have a prospective prime minister who is willing to roll up her sleeves and get to work immediately".

Image copyright Hindustan Times
Image caption Hindustan Times highlights India links

India's Hindustan Times says the "cricket-loving" Mrs May is expected to "continue Cameron's focus on India, particularly given that the Brexit camp privileged trade ties with India, China and the Commonwealth after leaving the European Union".

'Long knives'

Sebastian Mallaby writes in the Washington Post that Theresa May is a "true conservative, although of a refreshing kind", and sees her socially-concerned approach and hostility to banking excesses as likely to make "Britain the place for pro-market progressives everywhere to watch".

But Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of Britain's New Statesman magazine, tells the New York Times that Mrs May's pragmatism is unlikely to "mollify her ardently Eurosceptic colleagues" in the Conservative Party.

"If Brexit does not mean Brexit, their long knives will be sharpened," she warns.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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