The "Theresa May is a safe pair of hands" myth

How to break the second golden rule of marketing.

The first lesson you're taught when you enter the world of branding and advertising is this: say one thing simply, clearly and consistently, and the consumer will quickly learn the message you want to send them.

Persil washes whiter

The world's favourite airline

Beanz meanz Heinz

Theresa May is a safe pair of hands

I'll say that last one again shall I?

Either Theresa May herself, or someone very close to her, really understands the power of a consistent and clear positioning. Just Google "Theresa May is a safe pair of hands". You'll find articles from the Guardian, the Telegraph, Sky, the Spectator, the Express, Dale and Co... all anointing the Home Secretary as the Alastair Darling of the current cabinet -- the Minster who can be trusted with the tricky portfolio.

Here's James Landale on Monday's BBC News at Ten:

Theresa May has been that rare Home Secretary, one that has pleased her Prime Minister by keeping the Home Office largely out of the headlines.

And then later

...a Home Secretary who thus far has protected her reputation as a safe pair of hands

Now hats off to Theresa May's spin doctor -- we've all heard the message. But sadly, that same person seems to have forgotten the second golden rule of marketing: make sure your message reflects the consumer experience.

A Mars a day really does need to help you work rest and play

A Volkswagen really does need to be reliable

And your Home Secretary really does need to be a safe pair of hands

Not someone that mistakenly cites owning a cat as a reason for avoiding deportation. Or ends up with her diary engagements being left in a Glaswegian Concert Hall. Not someone who unilaterally calls for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped and ends up being publicly contradicted by the Attorney General.

They certainly shouldn't end up having to admit to the House of Commons that "we will never know how many people entered the UK who should have been prevented from doing so" -- not when you're meant to be in charge of that very thing.

Because then articles like this get written. And next time someone types "Theresa May is a safe pair of hands" they'll read this - and realise that she actually appears to be a rather the opposite.

Butterfingers.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May takes early lead in the Conservative leadership race

The first poll of the Tory contest puts the Home Secretary well out in front

Theresa May, the Home Secretary is well ahead among Conservative members according to a new YouGov poll for the Times

She is both the preferred first choice of a plurality of members from an open field (she secures 37 per cent of the vote, with her nearest rival, Boris Johnson, 10 points behind) and roundly trounces Johnson with 55 per cent to 38 per cent. In all other head-to-heads, Johnson wins comfortably.

Although YouGov have a patchy recent record in national contests - they predicted the London mayoral victory but failed to foresee the Conservative majority or the Brexit vote - they are four for four as far as internal party contests are concerned, having accurately predicted both the result and the final vote share of the 2015 and 2010 Labour leadership contests and the 2005 and 2001 Conservative contests. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.