General Election 2017: Theresa May, Queen of slogans

The PM will say what needs to be said to get to the top.

Slogans yes; eating chips, not so much (PA Images)

The Prime Minister is perhaps one of the most underrated political operators of this era. It seems Theresa May will say whatever it takes, whenever she needs to say it, in order to make the slippery ascent to the summit of British power.

Here are some examples:

“You know what some people call us: the nasty party”

Bournemouth, October 2002

Citing public perception of an archaic, inward-looking party months after they’d been handed an election hiding by the New Labour machine, Theresa May’s speech was perhaps the moment that marked her out as a future leader.

She returned to the theme 14 years later in Birmingham accusing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour of tolerating anti-Semitism:

“Do you know what some people call them? The nasty party!”

But Theresa didn’t get the last laugh. In an echo of all those years ago, a fellow Tory MP stepped up to plunge those very words into her back.

The Tory refusal to allow entry to more than 350 child refugees from Calais going back on the previously agreed 3,500 under the Dubs amendment was seized upon by May’s “trousergate” nemesis, Nicky Morgan.


“Brexit means Brexit”

Late 2016 onwards

The reformed Remainer had a Damascene conversion and was now seeing Union flags inside her eyelids. The statement may be nebulous, but it sounded firm and common sense — exactly what you’d expect from a seasoned politician, national leader and vicar’s daughter.

There’s never a shortage of camera-thirsty Eurosceptic backbenchers willing to slither in front of a camera and argue that all along the referendum was about: an end to freedom of movement, ending single market access, blue passports, sovereignty of Parliament, breakfast or whatever else popped into their head that morning. Brexit is everything, and Brexit is nothing.

Brexit means Brexit.


“Red, white and blue Brexit”

December 2016

On board HMS Ocean in the oasis of freedom and human rights that is Bahrain, Theresa May dismissed all talk of hard, soft, and grey Brexit.

Dressed in her France ’98 England shirt (under the jacket) and Lonsdale Union Jack shorts (just out of shot), the prime minister dabbed her eye stoically with a hankie — believed to have been made from a flag found at the site of the battle of Waterloo — and declared her intention to pursue “a red, white and blue Brexit”.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron gave the prime minister’s proclamation short shrift:

Unsurprisingly, the slogan was ridiculed and mothballed. Sadly not quite quick enough for the cringe-worthy soundbite to have never fallen from her red, white and blue mouth.


“Strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos”

Since before the dawn of time

And thus the needle barely skipped a single groove before Lynton Crosby reached out and changed the record. We’ve been hearing “strong and stable…coalition of chaos” for what feels like every day since Coronation Street first went on air.

Artist Andy Warhol said “repetition adds up to reputation” and it’s a mantra political strategists are only too aware of.

Even in the face of all the available evidence, say “strong and stable” enough times and it cuts through with the voters — despite Theresa May’s prominent position through six years of unremarkable coalition and Tory government not exactly known for financial excellence.

But this has moved beyond parody, to the point where even sympathetic interviewers are actively asking May to her face to stop saying it.

Just listen to how the phrase congeals around “Harder, better faster, stronger” by Daft Punk. It stiffens around a pretty benign dance track to the point of emotional distress; clouding your mind’s eye until you can only see a scribbled blue and green Tory tree.

Cassette boy’s antics paved the way for this terror. WHY DOES CASSETTE BOY HATE BRITAIN?


Manifesto week has arrived. It’s time for the queen of slogans to let the policies talk for themselves.

Follow upday UK on Twitter and Facebook.