The rights and wrongs of Theresa May's decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon to the United States aside, it has done wonders for her popularity.

The home secretary was cheered in the Commons as she announced she was blocking Aspergers sufferer to the US on Human Rights grounds, somehow managing to unite both right-wing critics of the coalition, such as MP Stewart Jackson, and civil liberties activists in praise.


Stewart Jackson
Good news on Gary McKinnon - thank God

Campaign group Liberty said the decision was "a great day for rights, freedoms & justice" in the UK. "The Home Secretary has spared this vulnerable man the cruelty of being sent to the US and accepted Liberty’s long-standing argument for change to our rotten Extradition laws," it added.

The move also prevented David Burrows, McKinnon's MP, from having to follow through on his threat to resign as a ministerial aide to the environment secretary if the extradition went ahead.

May's decision quickly led to chatter about her being a possible sucessor to David Cameron as Tory leader.

At the start of the day bookmakers Paddy Power had her at 16/1 favourite to takeover the party, following her dramatic intervention this was slashed to 12/1.

Rival bookies Betfair also slashed the odds on her becoming the next leader from 23/1 to 14/1.

The decision has been described by some in Westminister as May's Love, Actually moment, a reference to the film scene where Hugh Grant stands up to the American President during a live press conference.

Gary McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp thanked May for making an "incredibly brave decision to stand up to another nation as strong and powerful as America". Sharp added: "She had the guts to do it".

Other than a brief wobble during her clash with Brody Clark, the civil servant at the centre of the passport checks fiasco last year, May has so far managed to avoid the political death trap that the Home Office has been for many others.

Her announcement yesterday that the government plans to opt out of 130 EU measures on law and order including the European arrest warrant also did nothing to harm her standing among eurosceptics.

And as the most high profile female cabinet minister in a government often criticised for not having enough women in senior roles, the home secretary is also always likely to feature in leadership speculation.

Of course not everyone was happy at her blocking the extradition. Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson said it was "not in the best interests of the country". But then he doesn't have a vote in any Tory leadership contest.

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  • Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, at

    Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, attends a protest outside the Home Office against the Home Secretary's decision not to halt his extradition to the US, in Central London on December 15, 2009. Gary McKinnon, who suffers from a form of autism, could spend life in prison if convicted by a US court of gaining access to 97 computers in 2001 and 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Ben Stansall

  • Janis Sharp (2nd R), mother of Gary McKi

    Janis Sharp (2nd R), mother of Gary McKinnon, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg (3rd R) and Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne (4th R) attend a protest outside the Home Office against the Home Secretary's decision not to halt his extradition to the US, in central London, on December 15, 2009. Gary McKinnon, who suffers from a form of autism, could spend life in prison if convicted by a US court of gaining access to 97 computers in 2001 and 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Ben Stansall

  • Gary McKinnon extradition

    Computer hacker Gary McKinnon's mum Janis Sharp with a letter and flowers she is planning to give to the Queen.

  • Gary McKinnon extradition

    Computer hacker Gary McKinnon's mum Janis Sharp with his girlfriend Lucy Clark with a letter and flowers they plan to give to the Queen.

  • Gary McKinnon extradition

    Janis Sharp, holds a card signed by politicians and well wishers for her son, computer hacker Gary McKinnon, on Westminster Bridge, London, as authorities in the US want him to stand trial for hacking into top secret military computers, Mr McKinnon, from Wood Green, north London, suffers from Asperger's syndrome, says he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

  • Gary McKinnon extradition

    Janis Sharp (right) the mother of Gary McKinnon with Trudie Styler, as outside number 10, Downing Street, handing in a book and poems written by Gary, to mark the 10 years since her son's arrest on US hacking allegations.

  • Gary McKinnon extradition

    Janis Sharp (right) the mother of Gary McKinnon with Trudie Styler, as they stand outside number 10, Downing Street, before handing in a book and poems written by Gary, to mark the 10 years since her son's arrest on US hacking allegations.

  • Decision Expected On The Extradition Of Computer Hacker Gary McKinnon

    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Janis Sharp, the mother of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, is photographed as she attends a press conference following a decision by Home Secretary Theresa May not to extradite Mr McKinnon to the US on October 16, 2012 in London, England. Mr McKinnon, who sufferers from Asperger''s Syndrome, admits to accessing US Government computers but claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs. Mrs May told MPs in the House of Commons that Mr McKinnon was 'seriously ill' and that enforcing the extradition warrant would be in breech of his human rights. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Janis Sharp, the mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon leaves her home near Hatfield, England, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. Britain's government says Gary McKinnon won't be extradited to the United States, ending his decade-long campaign to avoid trial there over allegations he broke into sensitive military and NASA computer networks. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

  • Janis Sharp, the mother of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon reacts, during a news conference in London, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. A British computer hacker's decade-long struggle to avoid trial in the U.S. over alleged breaches of military and NASA networks ended in success Tuesday, as the U.K. government ruled he was unfit to face charges there. Home Secretary Theresa May said she had blocked the U.S. request to extradite Gary McKinnon after medical experts concluded he was seriously depressed and that there was "a high risk of him ending his life." (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Decision Expected On The Extradition Of Computer Hacker Gary McKinnon

    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Janis Sharp, the mother of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, is interviewed after a press conference following a decision by Home Secretary Theresa May not to extradite Mr McKinnon to the US on October 16, 2012 in London, England. Mr McKinnon, who sufferers from Asperger''s Syndrome, admits to accessing US Government computers but claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs. Mrs May told MPs in the House of Commons that Mr McKinnon was 'seriously ill' and that enforcing the extradition warrant would be in breech of his human rights. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Janis Sharp, the mother of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon reacts, during a news conference in London, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. A British computer hacker's decade-long struggle to avoid trial in the U.S. over alleged breaches of military and NASA networks ended in success Tuesday, as the U.K. government ruled he was unfit to face charges there. Home Secretary Theresa May said she had blocked the U.S. request to extradite Gary McKinnon after medical experts concluded he was seriously depressed and that there was "a high risk of him ending his life." (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • McKinnon extradition

    Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, arrives for a press conference at her solicitors in London today.

  • McKinnon extradition

    Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon, arrives for a press conference at her solicitors in London today.

  • McKinnon extradition

    A supporter of Gary McKinnon congratulates his mother, Janis Sharp, before a press conference at her solicitor's in London today.

  • McKinnon extradition

    Janis Sharp, mother of Gary McKinnon arrives for a press conference at her solicitors in London today.