Nobody can seem to agree on whether or not we should feel sorry for the Prime Minister. But then, sympathy for politicians is always highly selectiveby Julia Blunck / October 5, 2017 / Leave a comment
Bad governments, like struggling football teams, have tendency to become chronically unlucky. Not much of what happened to Prime Minister Theresa May in her conference speech was her fault: lax security that allowed a comedian to make the occasion a joke; lettering falling apart behind her; a never-ending coughing fit. Another politician—Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose good fortune now seems untouchable, maybe—would have shrugged these problems away. For Theresa May, they now seem less like eventualities and more like death omens. Gone is the woman who would crush the saboteurs. Now she’s just poor Theresa; weeping Theresa.
The fact remains that image matters as much as policies. There was a reason to believe that Corbynism wouldn’t have survived the association with Corbyn himself; yet, during the elections, it was proven that it wouldn’t have worked without him. Similarly, Theresa May’s image was once the Tories’ greatest asset. It’s now a problem.
A lot has been said about Theresa May entering a “Gordon Brown phase.” To put it simply, people are beyond hating her; she’s now an object of pity. There are similarities, of course: like May, Brown’s Labour had become chronically unlucky, to the point there were actual car crash sounds in the background as he launched a new poster.
Yet there is also a crucial difference. Pitying Brown was never be seen as something that could help him. If anything, feeling sorry for Brown only encouraged the media to be harsher—at one point, it was even implied that he was unfit for the job of Prime Minister if, as the press speculated based on a list of foods Brown wished to avoid, he was on antidepressants. His unhappiness was another piece of political gossip for the press to pick over, not something we should feel bad about. Likewise, Ed Miliband, a man who spent his leadership followed by the slight whistle of backstabber, was never meant to be seen as sympathetic in his “weirdness.”
It’s not cynical at this point to wonder what’s behind the subtle cues that we should feel sorry for May. Commentators point out that it’s hard not to feel sorry for her. Perhaps it is, but it feels strange to be told of her fragility. May isn’t struggling because she’s a frail woman;…