British Home Secretary Priti Patel, 47, a highly controversial and polarizing figure in U.K. politics, long ago embraced the hard-core philosophies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Now she's on the cusp of taking over the leadership of Conservatives' hard-right faction.

Patel, the daughter of Indian immigrants who fled Idi Amin’s Uganda, became the first ethnic minority female home secretary following her appointment to that role by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Her statements and policies have outraged many Labour politicians and constituents. Among other things, she is a strong proponent of Brexit – a stance that put her at odds with former Prime Minister David Cameron, who originally recommended she run for Parliament.

Patel, a strong supporter of Israel, supports restoration of the death penalty, opposes gay marriage, wants the government to hire and better equip more police officers, and would like to see immigration into Britain stemmed.

An incident in 2017 seemed to place her political future in jeopardy. While serving as secretary of state for international development under Prime Minister Theresa May, Patel held secret meetings with Israeli government officials in breach of Foreign Office rules and without May's knowledge. Patel apologized and resigned.

With such a complex backdrop, one wonders about Patel’s future.

Erik Goldstein, professor of international relations at Boston University, said Patel’s appointment to Johnson’s cabinet no doubt enhanced its ethnic and gender diversity. “Most importantly she was seen as having hard conservative views on matters relating to policing and immigration,” Goldstein said. As such, while Patel may be reviled by many on the left, she has “strong support among the right, and now dominant, wing of the Conservative Party because of her consistent hardline views on immigration and law-and-order issues.”

Victoria Honeyman, a lecturer in British politics at University of Leeds, does not believe Patel was a “diversity hire,” citing her cabinet experience under May.

Professor Steven Fielding of the School of Politics and International Relations at University of Nottingham, noted Patel holds views that most Conservatives members do -- very right-wing on economic and social policy.

Goldstein said Patel’s questionable parleys with Israeli officials under May were forgotten once Johnson took over.

Goldstein said a Gujrati Conservative is not unusual in Britain where large numbers of South Asians have lived for at least 60 years. “The British Asian community … has become integrated into British society, become politically more pluralistic,” he explained. “The economically successful Hindu and other South Asian communities have naturally gravitated to the Conservatives, the traditional party of business.”

Honeyman noted that for some within the British-Asian community the Conservatives might be their “natural home” or they may be willing to lend them their vote based on specific issues, “but there will also be others who would never vote Conservative.”

British-Asians, she noted, are divided on Patel, but that has more to do with her policies rather than her race.

Think tank Runnymede Trust reported in the 2017 general election, Labour received 77% of the ethnic minority vote while Conservatives received just 20%. Among Muslims, Labour got 87% of the votes. Nonetheless, Conservative support among British-Indians has been steadily rising – from 30% in 2010 to nearly 40% in 2017.

Might Patel become Britain’s first ethnic minority prime minister since Benjamin Disraeli in the mid-19th century? Goldstein said he does not think so -- not due to ethnicity, but rather because she does not have a broad enough base of support across the party.

“She is likely, however, to be a senior figure if the Conservatives win the [next] general election,” he added.

Honeyman concurred. She said a far more likely candidate would be Conservative Sajid Javid, the current chancellor of the exchequer and son of Pakistani immigrants.

Fielding indicated some Conservatives would like to claim the first nonwhite leader and prime minister.

“But she [Patel] is a very implacable figure – an attack dog -- who might alienate others,” he cautioned.