Theresa May’s campaign compared to Iain Gray's ‘subway moment’ by election expert

Written by Staff reporter on 5 June 2017 in News

Exclusive: Professor John Curtice says Theresa May's ambitions and tactics in the general election may be unravelling

Theresa May’s fixation on a message she is “strong and stable” is at risk of unravelling, the UK’s most prominent psephologist has said.

Professor John Curtice, who regularly provides expert election analysis for broadcasters, compared May’s election campaign to a moment when former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray ran away from activists into a sandwich shop in 2011.

Gray was forced to cancel an election event after rowdy protesters chased him from Glasgow’s Central Station into a Subway sandwich shop.


Theresa May has repeatedly used the line "strong and stable" to describe herself in the campaign, despite failing to take part in TV debates and performing a U-turn on social care plans days after the Conservative manifesto.

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood Professor Curtice said: “The difficulty for May is that she created a narrative about ‘strong and stable’ and it’s a narrative which is at least at risk of unravelling.

“I will tell you what it reminds me of, Iain Gray’s campaign in 2011 and the message that Labour was the only party that could stand up to the Tories and then he went running away into that Subway shop. The moment he went into it, out went his chances.”

Curtice adds although May is unlikely to lose the election, her objective of winning an enlarged majority is “not a risk-free enterprise”.

“If she fails to achieve her objective, her authority as Prime Minister will be weakened, not strengthened, and of course what you need to remember here is the subtext of her plea to get such a big majority, it is not about Brexit because actually, the party is fairly united about that at the moment, but about the risk that her party will divide on other issues – in the way it divided over social care so quickly.

“It is also such a personal ambition that if she fails to deliver a majority of less than 50, then frankly, people in her own party and beyond are going to ask, ‘what the hell was the point in that?’”

For the full interview read the latest issue of Holyrood magazine


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