Theresa May asked about answering questions with platitudes, answers with platitudes

'People think there's nothing there'

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 01 June 2017 15:58
Theresa May asked about answering questions with platitudes, answers with platitudes

Theresa May has been confronted about her apparent refusal to respond to questions without employing soundbites – only to answered the charge with more soundbites.

After delivering a speech to supporters in Teeside, the MP was told that her reliance on a small set of catchphrases led some people to worry "there's nothing there". But Ms May answered only with a range of her stock platitudes, including commitments to making "hard choices" and "addressing big challenges".

The charge came as the leader looked to relaunch the Conservative election campaign, she came under intense questioning from political journalists.

One in particular – Channel 4 News's Michael Crick – said the Conservatives were doing "so badly" because she resorted to clichés so often. His comments were apparently in reference to the Conservatives' plunging poll lead, with one new showing it hitting a fresh low of three percentage points just as she embarked on the relaunch.

"Isn’t the reason why you’re doing so badly that whenever people ask you about policy, all we get are cliches and platitudes?" Mr Crick asked. "And we’ve seen the same today.

"People think there’s nothing there," he said.

Responding to the charge, Ms May said that she had published "a manifesto that addresses the big challenges that this country faces – not just over the next five years but beyond".

"And we have set out clearly some of the hard choices that need to be made, but also how will we address those challenges," she said.

The references to "big challenges" and "hard choices" are among a range of platitudes frequently used by Ms May throughout the election campaign.

Mr Crick then asked if he could "get something straight", inquiring where the £8 billion that Ms May has promised to the NHS would be found, a central but uncosted element of the party's manifesto.

Ms May then went on to use more of the platitudes that have become central parts of her election campaign. She failed to say where the £8 billion would come from – but repeated the refrain that only the Tories could offer any money, since doing so relied on having a strong economy, which she claimed only she could provide.

The hostile questions came as the PM attempted to relaunch her campaign, with a focus on positive policies, Brexit and fewer personal attacks. The relaunch was overshadowed by mockery from opposing parties for Ms May's refusal to take part in a televised BBC debate, sending Home Secretary Amber Rudd instead.

Opinion polls suggest Labour is continuing to make ground with a YouGov poll for The Times cutting the Tory lead to just three points although other surveys still give them a double-digit advantage.

With just a week to polling on June 8, Mrs May said voters had the opportunity to reaffirm last year's referendum vote for Brexit by backing her to carry on in Downing Street.

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"If they do, I am confident that we can fulfil the promise of Brexit together and build a Britain that is stronger, fairer and even more prosperous than it is today," she said. "Because the promise of Brexit is great, the opportunities before us enormous."

"Because if we get Brexit right, then together we can do great things. We can build a Britain beyond Brexit that is stronger, fairer and more prosperous than it is today. A Britain beyond Brexit that is more global and outward-looking.

"A Britain alive with possibilities, more confident in itself, more united and more secure. A country our children and grandchildren are proud to call home. If we get Brexit right, we can be a confident, self-governing country once again.

"A country that takes the decisions that matter to Britain here in Britain."

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