Theresa May has had a long and impressive career, seemingly untarnished by her years in the higher echelons of Whitehall. When announced as the next Prime Minister the general consensus was that she did, in fact, offer the “strong and stable” leadership that formed the base of her ill-fated electoral campaign.
Jeremy Corbyn has also had a long political career: from 1983 to 2015 he was one of the most rebellious backbenchers there has ever been. His only experience of leadership was of the ‘Stop the War’ campaign back in 2003.
His win in the leadership race was shocking and his lacklustre and unconvincing stint when he first became opposition leader was seen as a doomed venture by media and party-men alike.
Indeed, when May first called the election, her experience in contrast to the Labour Leader’s lack of, indicated a twenty-point lead for the Conservatives. If this had come to fruition, May would have secured one of the biggest majorities in Westminster history- but as we know that’s not what happened.
So, what went so wrong for the Conservatives that they lost their twenty-point lead?
Personality. Theresa May not only underestimated her ability to connect with the electorate, but severely underestimated the ability of Jeremy Corbyn to run the campaign he did.
Theresa May looked awkward in front of the cameras and most significantly whenever she answered a question, whatever that question was, she did not answer. She gave a one-line response and immediately changed back to a scripted answer that went along the lines of, “we need a strong and stable government”, “it’s me or Jeremy Corbyn”, “I can give you a strong economy”.
Her reversion to scripted one liners, meant there was no diversity, nothing that would make a voter see her speaking and be enthused by her attitude towards the elections. She was lethargic, there was no passion and ultimately no personality that would engage voters and make them listen to her.
On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn exceeded expectations. Much like Donald Trump he used personality to mobilise voters who would not have voted in the past. In the case of Corbyn it was the youth. What was telling is that his experience with activism meant he could certainly speak to a crowd, he was much more comfortable and engaging when he was speaking from his head rather than using the monitors for a written speech.
With responses to questions like “what’s the naughtiest thing you have ever done” like “that’s far too naughty”, rather than “I upset some farmers running through fields”, his informal but passionate attitude shone through the perception that politics was boring and that young people should not care about it.
Of course, policies like scrapping tuition fees and investing heavily in the NHS would have increased his popularity, but good policies can only get you so far. The backbone of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign was to change the public perception of him and mobilise a new type of voter.
He nailed it. He came across as charismatic against Theresa May’s dullness and the results show that it worked. He even managed to move past costing issues and military issues and make sure that voters new that he wanted change and he was passionate about it.
To round off, Theresa May won this election, her support didn’t slump enough for her to lose her place as the leader of the largest party. The hung parliament does however show that over eight weeks Jeremy Corbyn used his personality to increase his support more than any other Prime Ministerial candidate for a long time.
Many in Labour’s Head Office thanked their lucky stars with the results and also realised that their greatest asset has come to them in an ill-fitting jacket.