Saturday, 15 April 2017

May volunteering says a lot about the difference between her and Corbyn

A few days ago I went to interview a local small businessman for an article I’m writing, as things often do in this type of situation after we had finished the interview proper talk moved on to other issues and we ended up chatting politics.

‘So, what do you think of Theresa May?’ I asked after a few minutes.

‘You know, throughout my life I’ve always been a Conservative voter but Mrs May is different from most Tory leaders: I really like her.’

I must admit it was a comment that didn’t surprise me at all.

Time and time again the same word keeps coming up from people who I speak to; and very definitely not just lifelong Tories. They ‘like’ Theresa May.

And it strikes me that being liked is important.

Since having that conversation I have asked people what it is that makes Mrs May likeable?

It’s certainly not an ability to tell jokes at Prime Ministers Questions; it’s definitely not being a sparkling orator or even necessarily coming across as particularly warm in interviews.

So given that the vast majority of us have never met her why do so many of us profess to liking this woman who can, at the very least come across on television as somewhat robotic?

One Twitter user told me “I could say this, Ken Clark is not someone I see eye to eye with on all sorts of things, same with Croydon North MP Steve Reed but I feel I'd enjoy a pint with both.”

But what makes a politician likeable, I asked? “Thinking about it (I) just have the impression they’re earnest.”

Another Facebook user responded a little differently “I don't think she's 'likeable' - very few Conservatives are, very few politicians generally, to be honest. What she does do is project an image of being a safe pair of hands in a time of chaos, particularly when the official opposition is doing the opposite. The Tories have always excelled at that - 'you don't have to like us but at least we keep the wheels on'. Generally, I think the most successful PMs have been the ones who are least liked... I think that's why she'll win and win big.”

And whilst both of those observations may well be highly accurate it was only when I read this morning’s Times that I think I fully understand why I, and quite possibly others, like Mrs May as much as I do.

If you peruse today’s press, certainly not on the front pages, you will see photographs of the Prime Minister volunteering with the marshalling at her local Good Friday road race, the Maidenhead 10.

Mrs May’s local newspaper, the Maidenhead Advertiser, reports that she “can be seen marshalling the race most years”.

And it struck me being a race Marshall is the epitome of likeability.

As someone who taken part in more than my fair share of road races over the years I know how important voluntary marshals really are.

Marshals turn out often on cold and wet mornings to stand in remote spots ensuring competitors take the right route and encouraging them onwards.

Marshals, especially when you’re near the back of the field as I usually was, make a race, they lift your spirits and the thousands who take part week after week around the country are completely unsung and yet without them races would simply not go ahead.

Marshals literally get nothing from the job they do apart from the sure knowledge that they are helping their community.

And this woman whose day job sees her leading our Government has, most years – long before the paparazzi turned up – given her free time to volunteer.

In many ways Theresa May is living proof of the Big Society that David Cameron espoused but never really bought into.

I would venture that Mrs May’s race marshalling does as much to explain her sense of community as Jeremy Corbyn’s endless taking the stage at protests does to explain his.

One is about actions; one is about words.

I think I know which option most of us ‘like’ more.

And why agree with my Facebook correspondent. I think she will win and win big.

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