Forget the phrases ‘long-term economic plan’ and ‘propped up by the SNP’, which came to define the 2015 election. Lynton Crosby, political mastermind and Conservative campaign director extraordinaire, has a new approach. It’s called ‘strong and stable leadership’ and its poster-girl is Theresa May.
After having triggered the starting gun of the election earlier this week, the Prime Minister began her campaign with a speech in Bolton. It was pretty short, but it set the tone for the campaign over the next 50 days. ‘Strong and stable leadership,’ she said, over and over again. Expect to hear the same speech churned out throughout the campaign, with the odd news element sprinkled in for flavour, or perhaps an occasional dash of local colour added.
‘It’s about strong and stable leadership in the national interest,’ she promised us. ‘And you only get that strong and stable leadership by voting for the Conservatives.’ ‘Strong and stable leadership.’ ‘Five more years of strong and stable leadership. So vote for a strong and stable leadership in this country. Vote for the strong and stable leadership this country needs.’ An exhausting eleven times in one short speech.
‘Brexit means Brexit’ was harmlessly stupid, and turned every now and then into something equally pointless, like ‘red, white and blue Brexit’, or ‘a country that works for everyone’. Sound bites, of course, but never rendered with the soul-crushing ruthlessness that Crosbyism brings.
But he’s back. The man famed for taking the traditional blood sport of electoral politics and reducing it to mundane mush. He is the guru who aims to bore.
The sad truth, of course, is that it wins votes.
Crosby ran both of Boris Johnson’s winning mayoral campaigns in London in 2008 and 2012. He helped former Australian prime minister John Howard to a good few victories between 1996 and 2004, and delivered the 12-seat Conservative working majority that nobody saw coming just two years ago.
Lynton Crosby knows that incessantly repeated catchphrases, which litter every paragraph of every speech on every campaign pit stop so as to be totally sure they’ll make the BBC news bulletin, is beautifully executed psychological warfare. It just happens to be achingly dull.
Crosbyism is back in force, taking all the fun out of politics in order to bore us all into the next Conservative government.
At least Corbynism will keep us entertained.
Jack May is a journalist based in London.