SHOULDN’T a friend have suggested to Theresa May that adapting David Cameron’s tired rhetoric about “a strong economy, strong defence and strong, stable leadership” might not be a good idea?
He plugged the line constantly because it meshed with the “nice bloke but no leader” nonsense touted by Jeremy Corbyn’s critics on the Labour benches after he had trounced the best they could throw up against them.
Cameron’s trinity of strongs didn’t help him when his European Union referendum gamble blew up in his face and he had to walk the plank.
Adopting all three strongs as her slogan and using them as the catch-all answer to every question posed to her by the Labour leader wins May loud roars of approval from her obsequious backbenchers at Prime Minister’s Questions.
But PMQs bears no resemblance to the more searching experience that TV debates offer.
Constantly repeating an adviser’s soundbite would guarantee studio audience irritation and reveal an inability to move from scripted speech to impromptu discussion of key issues.
May’s refusal to participate in TV debates is a clear-cut admission of political weakness.
Her suggestion that she will “get out and about and meet with voters” and will be too busy to spare a few hours in debate with Corbyn and others holds no water.
She will be protected from cross-examination except on her terms, concentrating on set-piece speeches surrounded by enthusiastic Tory activists to provide flattering short clips for news bulletins.
The decision by ITV to press ahead with election-time leaders’ debates even if May refuses to take part is to be welcomed.
Other TV stations should take the same stance. No prime minister should have a veto on head-to-head political argument.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood’s suggestion that May should be empty-chaired if she fails to turn up is justifiable.
May’s reticence to cross swords with political opponents confirms that the Tory Prime Minister has not chosen to call a general election because of political strength but of weakness.
Not only is she apprehensive about future support from her backbenchers but also over possible impending criminal charges over the Tories’ 2015 election expenses.
She has enjoyed a honeymoon period since sliding into the Tory leadership, being joined by the mass media, many Labour backbenchers, Scottish and Welsh nationalists and even the diminutive rump previously known as the Liberal Democrats in a free-for-all assault on Corbyn.
May wants to portray the June 8 election as a contest between her determination to honour the voters’ referendum decision and efforts by all other parties to sabotage that democratic choice.
Corbyn has emphasised that, for Labour, the electorate’s clear decision must not be frustrated.
What is at stake is the kind of society that a post-EUexit Britain will be — one dominated by the austerity agenda imposed by the Tories and their Liberal Democrat allies and backed by May or the left alternative championed by Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
Labour has proposed a number of policies that provide a clear choice between capitalist austerity and a caring, inclusive and just programme.
There should be no truck with opportunist suggestions of a pre-poll “progressive alliance” with Greens, SNP, Plaid and even the Liberal Democrats.
Tim Farron has already indicated that his party would enter another coalition with the Tories “in the national interest,” so how can they be viewed as progressive?
The only viable alternative government to the Tories is Labour, which must be actively supported by all working people.