So Britain has its second female Prime Minister in Theresa May, the new Conservative party leader.
And the comparisons between May and the country’s first female prime minister, Maggie Thatcher, have come in thick and fast, but where do the similarities start and end? Especially in terms of the image they present to the media.
Thatcher was well known for her use of PR advisors to present a carefully honed image and according to Media Friendly, “she used PR stunts in her campaigns and elections.” Regardless of her politics, she was clearly a memorable leader, with some of her quotes – such as. “If you want something said, ask a man…if you want something done, ask a woman” – still used to this day.
But did we ever really know the real Maggie? Or was her media identity completely controlled by her advisors?
Well, perhaps not. Andrea Leadsom, who competed against Theresa May in the leadership campaign until she dropped out of the race, chose one of Thatcher’s advisors, Tim Bell, to help manage her image. Yet Leadsom was ridiculed in the press and by PR professionals alike for her ‘foot-in-mouth’ comments, particularly ‘mothergate’. So maybe political spin doctors are not always in the driver’s seat.
But how does the carefully controlled image of Thatcher compare to May’s?
As she says herself, May is not a “showy politician” but she has invested heavily in a female-led team to manage her profile, both during her leadership campaign and now in her role as Prime Minister. And it seems it is a small world when it comes to political PR; like Leadsom, May looked to those who were more experienced, choosing Kate Perrior, who helped run the PR for Boris Johnson’s successful campaign for the 2008 London Mayor elections.
While May has only recently been appointed Prime Minister, she and her team have already managed to carve out a prominent persona in the media. May’s leopard print heels, for example, grabbed a lot of attention!
When it comes to fashion, May and Thatcher can both be considered alike. It’s likely both will be remembered for their political power dressing and feminine style – this is perhaps one area where their personalities really shine through.
But we’ll have to wait and see what PR move May will make in the coming months: will she ignite an early general election? Will she ever match David Cameron’s famous one-liners? And more importantly, will she bin her famous heels?
Some might complain about the use of spin doctors in political campaigns and elections but it’s easy to see why politicians rely on their advice: they have the media’s, and therefore the public’s, quizzical eye on them at every decision and move. And as PR Week puts it: “The moral of the story is that no politician should step into prime time unless they have a spinner at their side.”
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