'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The 'Theresa May is a safe pair of hands' myth...

Here's my piece that appeared in yesterday's New Statesman...

The first lesson you’re taught when you enter the world of branding and advertising is this : say one thing simply, clearly and consistently, and the consumer will quickly learn the message you want to send them.

Persil washes whiter.

The world’s favourite airline

Beanz meanz Heinz

Theresa May is a safe pair of hands

I’ll say that last one again shall I?

Either Theresa May herself, or someone very close to her, really understands the power of a consistent and clear positioning. Just Google ‘Theresa May is a safe pair of hands’. You’ll find articles from The Guardian, The Telegraph, Sky, The Spectator, The Express, Dale and Co… all anointing the Home Secretary as the Alastair Darling of the current cabinet – the Minster who can be trusted with the tricky portfolio.

Here’s James Landale on Monday’s ‘BBC News at Ten’.

“Theresa May has been that rare Home Secretary, one that has pleased her Prime Minister by keeping the Home Office largely out of the headlines.”

And then later

“…a Home Secretary who thus far has protected her reputation as a safe pair of hands”.

Now hats off to Theresa May’s spin doctor – we’ve all heard the message. But sadly, that same person seems to have forgotten the second golden rule of marketing: make sure your message reflects the consumer experience.

A Mars a day really does need to help you work rest and play.

A Volkswagen really does need to be reliable.

And your Home Secretary really does need to be a safe pair of hands.

Not someone that mistakenly cites owning a cat as a reason for avoiding deportation. Or ends up with her diary engagements being left in a Glaswegian Concert Hall. Not someone who unilaterally calls for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped and ends up being publicly contradicted by the Attorney General.

They certainly shouldn’t end up having to admit to the House of Commons that ‘we will never know how many people entered the UK who should have been prevented from doing so’ – not when you’re meant to be in charge of that very thing.

Because then articles like this get written. And next time someone types ‘Theresa May is a safe pair of hands’ they’ll read this - and realise that she actually appears to be a rather the opposite.


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