Theresa May vs. Jeremy Corbyn: Their assets and weaknesses

What is the biggest political asset and biggest problem of PM Theresa May, and why? And the same for Labour Jeremy Corbyn. What is his biggest political asset and what about his biggest weakness? Read few comments.

Robin Pettitt, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Kingston University

1. May has often been seen as tough minded and strong on issues such as crime, security and immigration – a reputation built up during her time as Home Secretary. When UKIP was riding high in the opinion polls these were advantages for the party. In addition, when Kenneth Clarke called May a ‘bloody difficult women’ this only added to her reputation as a tough negotiator. In addition, she was Home Secretary for six years – which is notable considering that the post as Home Secretary has been a political death sentence. May’s term was equal to her four predecessors combined. It is clearly this reputation that was at the heart of the Conservative Party’s nearly robotic focus on the ‘Strong and Stable’ leadership mantra.

However, this reputation rapidly come undone during the campaign. Her or her government has performed a number of major changes since she became PM which is seriously undermining her ‘Strong and Stable’ mantra. May went from campaigning for Remain, to being strongly pro-Hard Brexit; her government first proposed and then rapidly dropped an increase in tax on self-employed people (something ruled out in the Party’s 2015 manifesto); having repeatedly rejected any thought of an early election, she called an early election; and May stared changing the party’s manifesto policy on social care within days of launching the manifesto. All of that adds up to a very problematic picture heavily at odds with ‘strong and stable’.

2. Corbyn on the other hand has been almost a 100% consistent in his political views his entire political life. His views now a very consistent with his views when he entered parliament in the early 1980s. His views may not have been very popular with the electorate, but the fact that he comes across as holding those views strong and earnestly is contrasting strongly with May’s growing reputation for changing her position.

In addition, Corbyn comes across as likable, genuine and honest, and indeed that is reflected in opinion polls. Again, this contrast with May. Unfortunately for Corbyn being likable, genuine and honest is not enough to win an election, but it is something that has played will in the election, especially compared to May’s somewhat defensive and uncommunicative stance.

However, Corbyn is still not seen as being Prime Ministerial material. He is completely inexperienced in holding positions where he has a high degree of responsibility, and voters, again reflected in opinion polls, simply do not take him or his team seriously as serious contenders for the highest political position in the country. This has started to shift slightly in the light of May’s mistakes, but it is still a problem. Corbyn simply comes across as a friendly, but somewhat incompetent amateur.

Mark Shephard, Senior Lecturer, School of Government and Public Policy, University of Strathclyde

1. Biggest asset = she is perceived as a workhorse and not a show pony + usually calm, hard-working, measured, and determined.

Biggest problem = appears a bit tired and wooden/lacks charisma, and given emphasis on her being a strong and stable force, has looked wobbly over a manifesto u-turn over personal care costings for the elderly

2.  Biggest asset = he comes across as a nice chap very concerned about the plight of ordinary people. Manifesto title: ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ is a stroke of genius following years of austerity policies that have arguably hit the poorest sectors of society the most. He has turned a negative (being seen as too left-wing) into a positive (being left-wing enough that all those people worried about student debt, house prices, zero-hour contracts, poor pensions, personal health care costs for the elderly…suddenly find they have a voice)

Biggest problem = Not looking like a leader (either in clothes choice or in substance/delivery). Being nice and honest can look weak + his honesty does mean that his long political career and his many different perspectives and sometimes controversial views over time (especially on contentious foreign policy stances) do not sit well with sections of society.

Victoria Honeyman, Lecturer in Politics, POLIS, University of Leeds

1. In personal terms? Theresa May’s biggest problem is that she doesn’t seem particularly approachable or human. Indeed, she seems to lack the human touch. This may well be because she is nervous or simply not comfortable with the leader debate formats which she has been involved in, but that is a big issue for a leader in a media age. In terms of biggest asset, perhaps her biggest failing is her biggest asset. After the terror attacks in London and Manchester, May has seem stoic and level headed, something which is also essential in a leader. She is also on top of the figures in this election, which is very important for a politician, as has been demonstrated by slip ups by several other politicians.

2.  The biggest issue for Jeremy Corbyn is his past. Corbyn has spent his entire career being opposed to things, and that is fine as a backbench MP, but as a leader you have to try to balance that with the current events and the party policies. In terms of strengths, the biggest asset that Corbyn has is his idealism. By couching his policies in terms of how the world (and Britain) could be, he is speaking a language which really appeals to younger voters particularly, but also those who are looking for a new approach to politics.

Bill Jones, Senior Honorary Research Fellow,  Liverpool Hope University

May: biggest advantage is probably her reputation for getting things done efficiently.

Disadvantage: either her tendency to support a specific policy and then suddenly argue the opposite. Or her very colourless and rather boring personality.

Corbyn: advantage – his reputation as a decent and sincere man.

Disadvantage: his poor degree of political skills. But he has improved immensely this campaign and has really performed well. Hence Labour s recovery in the polls.

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