Theresa May’s Losing Gamble

NY Review

I’m not interested in politics – but the latest developments in the US and the UK have caught my attention,

This article contrasts the Tory Theresa May and her Labor counterpart, Jeremy Corbyn.

Here are some quotes:

May decided that she was her party’s chief asset and set about traveling around the country in a “battlebus”—a quaint function of Britain’s geographic compactness, there being limited need for planes—emblazoned with her own name rather than that of the Conservatives. She sidelined her cabinet colleagues and made herself the sole speaker in her cause. The trouble was, she was appallingly bad at it.

A faltering speaking style was coupled with an awkward facial tic: her expression tends to default to a grimace that only worsened under pressure. She repeated her slogans ad nauseam, constantly telling voters that the country needed “strong and stable leadership,” which only she could provide; that she wanted a large mandate to strengthen her hand in upcoming Brexit negotiations with the remaining twenty-seven EU member states that Britain is about to leave behind; and that the alternative was a “coalition of chaos” formed by the hapless Corbyn in alliance with the UK’s smaller parties.

Rapidly, she was mocked as the Maybot, her repetitions cut together and circulated virally via social media. Hers was a style of political communication perfected in the Tony Blair era that began in the 1990s, in which candidates were drilled in “message discipline,” repeating the same phrase over and over to ensure the key words made it onto the evening news. It worked then. But in the era of Facebook and Twitter, it exposed her to ridicule.

With nothing to lose, Corbyn turned up for various TV interviews or debates with the leaders of smaller parties that May had chosen to duck. She calculated that she would be granting him too much status if she debated him one-on-one, a view taken by several prime ministerial incumbents before her. But that allowed him to make his case. Whatever you thought of his politics, he was clearly a person comfortable in his own skin. The same could not be said of her.

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