One Year On, Theresa May Keeps Fragile Grip On Her Job As British Prime Minister : Parallels After a disastrous June election in which her party lost parliamentary seats, many wonder how long the prime minister will stay in office. The opposition says May is heading a "zombie government."

One Year On, Theresa May Keeps Fragile Grip On Her Job As British Prime Minister

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Anyone want to be British prime minister? It's a job few politicians seem to want - the head of expected upheaval as the U.K. leaves the European Union. The current prime minister, Theresa May, came close to losing her job in last month's election. Her approval ratings have taken one of the most dramatic nosedives in British polling history. But May vows to soldier on, as NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from London.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Theresa May is not a touchy, feely politician. She can come across as quite formal. Critics call her a May bot. She skipped election debates and prefers scripted speeches to Q&A, and so she had a sort of steely look on her face when a moderator invited questions after a recent speech she gave about improving job security for British workers.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you, Prime Minister. We have time for a few questions.

FRAYER: The very first question by TV journalist Robert Peston was a dig at May's job security.

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ROBERT PESTON: Recent events in your own life - do you think they've made you slightly more sympathetic to insecure employment? And...

FRAYER: May smiled politely. She did not answer the question. Polls had showed her Conservatives would win more parliamentary seats in last month's election. But May ran such a lackluster campaign that her party lost its majority and had to do a deal with a hardline faction in Northern Ireland to stay in power. And now...

JOE TWYMAN: Our latest poll has the Conservatives eight points behind Labour. And this is a big change since the general election.

FRAYER: Joe Twyman is a founding director of the polling company YouGov. He's also tracked May's approval ratings in other European Union countries as she prepares to negotiate Brexit with their leaders.

TWYMAN: Theresa May was as unpopular as Vladimir Putin among German respondents - and so really not a very good position to be in going into these negotiations. The only solace she could perhaps draw from our data was that she still remained more popular than Donald Trump.

FRAYER: That might make another politician rethink his or her policies. May has advocated for a so-called hard Brexit, effectively severing all ties with the EU and all its agencies. That makes some British voters quite nervous, but May doesn't appear to be re-evaluating.

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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: Though the result of last month's general election was not what I wanted, those defining beliefs remain. My commitment to change in Britain is undimmed.

FRAYER: May's election slogan was strong, stable leadership, and that's what Britain needs, says political scientist Patrick Diamond, as it enters exit talks with the European Union. But he doesn't think May will be around for very long.

PATRICK DIAMOND: She's not going to be prime minister for a decade. She'll be lucky probably to be prime minister for a couple of years. Her position is very weak.

FRAYER: Diamond says May's Conservatives are frustrated with her, but he says they've decided she serves a purpose for now.

DIAMOND: The view in the Conservative Party is, we cannot afford to be led into another general election by Theresa May; we have to get rid of her before then. Having said that, they would also like an election to happen after the Brexit negotiation's been completed.

FRAYER: As time passes, polls show British support for Brexit is waning. Rivals would rather Theresa May dirty her hands with it than them. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, London.

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