Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Public Health

Interpreting Theresa May’s vision of a shared society

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 19 January 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j213
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  1. martin.mckee{at}

Policies to protect health also need a redistribution of power

Theresa May is an unlikely revolutionary. Yet on the day she entered 10 Downing Street this was how she defined herself. She spoke of the need to tackle shorter life expectancy of people born poor, the harsher treatment of black people in the criminal justice system, and low educational attainment among white working class boys. Six months later, in a speech entitled “The Shared Society,” she restated this commitment.1 The British public had, we were told, voted in the EU referendum for a “quiet revolution” that would “change the way our country works.” There is, of course, the minor detail that this was not the question on the ballot paper, so how could she know what type of change voters wanted? But, even if she could know, it’s far from clear how she would deal with these issues.

The challenges of distilling meaning from the prime minister’s words are well known. …

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