Saturday 29 April 2017

The Absurdity of Theresa May

British politics has long had an absurd streak, and in this regard we should commend the Prime Minister for preserving this fine tradition. Consider these exhibits from the last week of general election campaigning:

Theresa May visits a factory. She refuses to take questions from the press and the employer forbids workers from talking to the hacks.

Theresa May visits North Derbyshire and is interviewed by BBC Radio Derby. Asked about what Boris Johnson meant by calling Jeremy Corbyn a "mugwump", she replied "What I recognise is that what we need in this country is strong and stable leadership."

Theresa May drops into another workplace in Leeds. Rather than engaging with members of the public, the party takes over the building after the doors close and a few dozen party members are bussed in. Interestingly, all of their paraphernalia is branded with Theresa May as opposed to the Conservatives.

Theresa May takes a helicopter ride to a wee hut in the forest near Aberdeen. The press are invited, but it's miles from anywhere and there's no mobile reception, hence live coverage is impossible. Questions are from pre-approved outlets and, again, Tory activists are substituted for the public.

You have to ask yourself, what the hell is going on with the Conservative Party general election campaign?

When the Tories are polling ridiculous numbers, their fear is they can only head down, and those taken from the last couple of days show Labour's vote appearing to firm up. Not enough to challenge the Tories at this stage but hey, a year of political volatility and all that. Hence the absurdity of the most control freakish election campaign ever mounted by a mainstream party. For all her 'strong and stable leadership' talk, she knows - and Crosby knows - that she would not survive first contact with the public. Everything must be done to keep her aloft and remote. Campaign images surrounded by adoring Tory activists are serviceable enough for the news. As far as her team and the pollsters are concerned, she could spend the next five weeks going from one invited audience to the next. The votes are in the bank, so why do anything else?

Also, the disappearance of the Conservatives from the branding in Yorkshire and now in Scotland isn't a new thing. It was road tested at last year's Holyrood elections. In Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tories found a personable vessel unencumbered by politics or scandal onto which all kinds of things could be projected. With their name mud after the Thatcher years and near destruction at the hands of Labour, to have a genuinely well-liked politician at the helm saw them dump their branding. It was Ruth Davidson's Conservatives. If you don't like the Tories but you like Ruth, why not give her as opposed to the party a punt. It was a clever pitch and it worked. Now look how the Tories are doing. Out rolls the same approach again in the North and Scotland. Theresa May is more than a Conservative politician, she's fighting for you to make sure the EU doesn't take Brexiting Britain to the cleaners.

May's appeal is her confected grown up, serious image. Some voters, older voters especially, find this reassuring. She might be a Tory, but she seems to be a safe pair of hands. Especially when you half-listen to her speeches about poverty, workers, inequality, etc. The 'strong and stable leadership' appears to contrast sharply with the other parties, and, of course, after the 18 months of backbiting, whingeing, sabotage and, in some cases, scabbing in the Labour Party. This has to be tackled head on, especially when May's leadership is anything but strong, let alone stable.

With nothing to lose, Jeremy Corbyn's energetic campaign is outward facing and engaging - the polar opposite than our "strong" PM's. That's one dart in the wallet. Another is how this looks like askance. For people leaning decidedly toward May, the fact this man the press, the Tories, and some of his own side have derided and traduced is making a good fist of it might be enough to give pause. He is, after all, not running away from a chance to debate May on television. These voters might not like him/think he's not up to it, but at least he's having a go. Ordinarily in politics, this wouldn't matter. In the dynamics of an election, between May and Corbyn poll after poll have shown a big preference for her. However, as we've noted previously, Labour's campaign is following a twin track approach. Jeremy is doing his leadership campaign on steroids thing, and sitting Labour MPs dubious of the leader's vote catching creds are going all-out local. Who's going to stand up for Stoke, for instance? Rob Flello, Ruth Smeeth, and Gareth Snell or a Conservative Party that has spent seven years cratering the Potteries with brownfield sites? Others are going one step further with Ben Bradshaw in Exeter arguing that Labour aren't going to win, but you can safely continue voting for him to provide opposition knowing Jez won't be entering Number 10. These local tactics, which result from Labour's difficulties, can play out in constituencies where the MP is dug in in who knows how many ways. In other words, if doubt is put into enough voters' minds about May's leadership, it could be capitalised on by Labour localism.

May's campaign, her person herself is coming across as absurd and frit. If that can be made to stick as much as her strong and stable nonsense, there is a chance the Tories won't have it all their way on 8th June.


Speedy said...

I disagree about JC's campaign - I think declining to participate in the TV debates was a massive own goal. I mean, FFS what had he got to lose? It would have been a tremendous opportunity for him to show off his, supposed, humanity to the masses. No one's going to see a speech in Leeds.

May is just cruising.

Anonymous said...

JC's comments were an attempt to put May on the spot.

He never said "no debates ever" - that was (again) media invention.

Shai Masot said...

Good news. Two new polls show the Tory lead over Labour has been halved in a week. The tactic of distracting the rather sinister Tom Watson with free food wherever he goes seems to be working. Just think of how well we could be doing if the Blairites just shut up and got behind our democratically-elected leader.

Anonymous said...

"There are many complex reasons for people to use food banks"

Er, no Theresa. It comes down to a lack of cash. Simply that. I think its becoming ever more apparent why this 2nd rater wont do live tv debates and why every aspect of her involvement is being stage managed to the Nth degree. She really isn't up to much at all.

Alas, neither is the Labour leader. At least we are focusing on policy and getting some decent exposure as a result. It's been a reasonable week with signs that the polls are narrowing a touch. Now lets get some of our better performers out there - Yvette i'm thinking of you in particular - and lets get stuck into the Tories about their failings in government.


Anonymous said...

Jeez, there are few more over-rated pols out there than Cooper.

Remember when she was tearing it up as a member of Eds ShadCab?

Me neither.

Ben Philliskirk said...

May's strategy is based on the premise of being a surrogate monarch for at least the next five years, and you never see the Queen getting into debates or arguments do you?

Like Macron and Le Pen in France, she is trying to appear above ordinary party politics and squabbles in order to somehow embody the 'national will'.

Her lack of policies, charisma, intellectual calibre and empathy are blatant. She depends on flag-waving and a widespread distaste for politics to keep her going.

jim mclean said...

The FAZ report makes sad reading.