How weak and wobbly Theresa May needs to power up or meet her final meltdown

Without fear or favour, Richard J. Hillgrove VI tips the tables up on world leaders, brands and countries who all often think they can hide behind the smoke and mirrors via their communications professionals. Bang On takes a full throttle, punk approach to dissecting and analysing modern PR and marketing. It's not for the faint hearted....

Theresa May by Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds may have a dilemma on its hands. The Theresa May replica it recently installed at a cost of £150,000 should ideally be remodelled to remain a true likeness of the embattled prime minister.

MayBot’s current waxwork wears the orange power suit she wore to meet Donald Trump and portrays the archetypal Tory Iron Lady, but today the living model is looking pretty rusty.

Madame Tussauds' PR note that she will be decapitated once she leaves office, which in my opinion, might be anytime soon.

The PM is anything but the embodiment of strong and stable. Everything about her says weak and wobbly.

As persona and leader, May embodies and symbolises absolute mayhem. She displays the opposite of the qualities researchers recognise as necessary in an effective leadership brand.

Research by Jeff Black, the communications expert from Black Sheep, has found that leaders possess six qualities. They are approachable; they are empathetic; they are active participants; they live in the moment; they are servant leaders and they are compelling storytellers.

The PM is none of the above.

According to research by professor Amy Cuddy at Harvard Business School, the most important skill for leaders is trustworthiness. Theresa May does not exhibit this quality either. She’s not even trusted by her own cabinet.

Today’s Telegraph screams: “Boris Johnson and Michael Gove lead cabinet revolt against Theresa May over fears she is forcing a soft Brexit”. Her strategy of keeping her enemies closer by giving top jobs to Gove and Johnson has backfired bigly, as her friend The Donald might have said.

The one ability May does personify is coping, but that merely serves to give everyone palpitations.

Back in October at the Conservative party conference, May was the picture of ill health, coughing and spluttering through her leader’s speech. As the Mirror pointed out, she was left “paralysed on a political life-support machine”.

Further back, in April 2013, her first big interview for her leadership play in the Mail on Sunday was headlined: “My shocking illness: Home Secretary reveals she has Type 1 diabetes and needs daily injections … but vows to continue her political career."

So, even four years ago, she was setting out her stall as a weakened, unwell person who copes rather than strong leader. Today her posture and facial expressions don’t hide any of the strains the country is experiencing. She provides no reassurance or ‘better way’ to anyone.

Meanwhile, her party spinners can’t plug holes quickly enough to prevent drowning in the daily PR disasters crashing around them.

The tsunami of crises is unrelenting. There’s the DUP revolt but also the post-Brexit Ireland question in general, Scotland and Wales calling for the same deal as Northern Ireland and the Tory revolt against defence cuts.

Then there are the welfare and benefits nightmares, home office immigration bungles and homelessness with shocking stories including the Birmingham man recently found frozen to death on the street.

The list goes on. In November, the Mirror reported that May’s own constituency of Maidenhead has just got its first food bank.

This prime minister of a government with no majority has given up on leading from the front and is now consumed with ducking and diving to avoid the flack coming at her from all sides – almost literally, as MI5 have just revealed a suspected terrorist plot to assassinate her.

Her only hope of stemming the tide would be to get out more, to be seen to be interacting with the people, to listen and be more active in the community or NHS.

She badly needs some iconic electioneering-style photographs to start to reverse George Monbiot’s observation that “your Government hates you”.

But that would require a total Tory refit, a DNA rewire, and since that’s not on anyone’s cards, all our irresolute and rocky PM can do is retreat into her bunker at No 10.

The Tory communications strategy to date of announcing cynical policies to try and make them appear more Left than Jeremy Corbyn comes across as hollow and cheap.

There was the announcement in July that the Government wants to fast-track gender reassignment so you don’t have to visit a GP for approval. This caused a revolt among grassroots party members.

Then in October, May suddenly pledged help for the young on student fees and housing. The move was universally slammed as desperate. “‘Tories lie consistently’: students on Theresa May’s tuition fee plans,” read the Guardian headline.

Her Waterloo may well come in February if threats of the biggest demonstration in British history against the proposed visit of Donald Trump are realised. May the Appeaser hasn’t done enough to condemn the US president by merely saying he was “out of step” by retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda videos from Britain First. It’s all hand-holding and special relationship with her.

Fracking is another ticking bomb. Scotland has banned it. The Republic of Ireland has banned it. Northern Ireland has a moratorium, and so does Wales. Meanwhile, in England, increasingly ugly scenes are creeping into mainstream media as they show villagers across the land protecting their children and homes from the 'enemy within'.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s August 2017 survey ‘Energy and Climate Change Public Attitudes Tracker: Wave 22’ shows support for fracking at an all-time low of just 16%.

Environmental NGOs are questioning its legality in England after finding that the MacKay-Stone report (2013), which the government commissioned, used flawed data from faulty measurement instruments to give fracking a clean bill of health and grant licenses.

This legacy from David Cameron’s days at No 10 could become Theresa May’s poll tax if she doesn’t start to show leadership.

More recently, INEOS, the multinational petrochemicals giant, has been allowed to injunct normal citizens in the high court and quash their right to protest against this means of extracting fuel. A case fighting the injunction is about to go to appeal, and there’s talk of United Nations intervention to prevent human rights abuse.

The PM herself needs to power up and reconnect, urgently. Unless she does, her weak and wobbly ways will soon see her stagger towards her final meltdown, and Madame Tussauds will be introducing her waxwork to Madame Guillotine before we know it.

Bang On to Richard on email richard.hillgrove@6hillgrove.com and Twitter @6hillgrove

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