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Feel the messages: Theresa May’s first speech as PM

Harold Wilson was wrong when he said: ‘A week is a long time in politics.’  If recent events are anything to go by, 12 hours will suffice to get rid of one Prime Minister, install another one, create a new cabinet (Boris Johnson!), convert the ‘nasty party’ in the party of social justice and then feed the Chief Mouser, Larry.

With her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May put down her marker and defined her messages.  Now her actions need to be consistent with her words if her audience is to buy into her campaign to unite the country.

Messaging

There is no denying Cameron was slick in his delivery.  But if messages are not congruent with the feeling, then any campaign is doomed to fail; just listen to Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to sound enthusiastic about the EU in the lead up to the referendum.

Some have compared May’s speech to that given by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 outside 10 Downing Street (‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony’), but the new PM was more direct in addressing her audience.

Theresa May is speaking to you

‘Fighting against…burning injustice’ is her ‘mission’.  She listed her audience: the poor; black; white working class males; state educated; women; people with mental health problems.  Her emotive appeal to ‘ordinary working class families’, those who predominantly voted for Brexit in many parts of the country, was skilfully communicated.

‘I want to address you directly.’  And she did, looking down the camera into our homes.  ‘I know you’re doing your best.’  Yes, I am, we said.  ‘I know that sometimes life can be a struggle.’  Yes, it can, we said. ‘When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you.’  About time, we said.

‘I know because we’re Great Britain (see what she did there?) that we will rise to the challenge.’  A shame the union disappeared, but we get the idea.  And there’s nothing like some powerful alliteration to conclude a speech: ‘…together, we will build a better Britain’ (it just wouldn’t work with the United Kingdom!).

With a cabinet cull, the Prime Minister’s initial actions are supporting her words.  Out goes the Notting Hill set; in comes the first female Justice Secretary (and Boris!).  It looks as though the tone and style of the messages coming from Government might be a little different.  ‘If you’re just managing’, Theresa May was speaking to you.  Did you feel it? Let’s wait and see.

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