30 May 2017

May conjures image of Corbyn going naked into negotiating chamber

Theresa May has chosen Wolverhampton station platform for her latest speaking engagement. To be fair, this particular station was decommissioned in the 1970s but the external brickwork is all there behind her and the audience and the media are sat exactly where the trains used to run.

Theresa May has reprised her October 2016 conference speech which itself was then adapted when she stood in front of No. 10 just after getting the top job. It did wonders for her connection with white, working-class voters and she is hoping to rekindle that after a dodgy time in the polls.

She addressed those working-class voters who were stirred to vote for Brexit in 2016, many of them longstanding Labour identifiers or not voters. She said her political opponents were trying to “steal your (Brexit) votes”. She appealed to Brexit voters’ “patriotism”, mocked Jeremy Corbyn, who, she said, would go naked into the EU negotiating chamber.

She was trying to yoke the election back to the premise on which she first wanted it to be fought: “It’s me or him, this is a national emergency, are you patriotic or what?”

She was pushing this line in an area of the West MIdlands where the Brexit vote was comfortably into the 60s. Labour figures around here say there is still a big negative reaction to their leader on the doorsteps amongst traditional Labour supporters.

To add to their queasiness, Theresa May conjured the image of Jeremy Corbyn going naked into the negotiating chamber. If you hadn’t got the image, she repeated it later in her address. She used the word “weak” to describe him three times in one sentence. That is the adjective that comes back particularly strongly in focus groups, rather then “left wing” or “extreme”.

One Tory candidate from the region said he hadn’t seen anything of the wobble that the polls were talking about. He said: “I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Tory in the West Midlands right now. She works better than Cameron here – the background, something about that I think. She’s a bit like Thatcher was in the West Midlands.”

Theresa May made no reference to the Jeremy Corbyn interview on BBC Radio 4 “Woman’s Hour.” But her staff were very excited about it.

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