Can Donald Trump teach Theresa May how to listen?

Like Bill English and now Simon Bridges, it seems that Theresa May has lost touch with her base.

Sven Hughes at the Spectator suggests that perhaps Donald Trump can teach her how to listen again: Quote:

There’ll be talk of trade tariffs, Iranian nuclear weapons, Brexit and the embassy in Jerusalem. Of that you can be certain. There’ll be the awkward press questions about the inflatable ‘orange man-baby.’ No doubt.

But I’m hoping that The Donald has one more conversation this Friday: a discreet word in the ear of our Prime Minister. Not about policy, but about listening. The fine art of hearing the voice of the public. Because this has been at the root of all of her recent problems. She stopped listening. She was so focused on what she wanted to sell, that she stopped listening to what the audience wanted to buy. You can accuse Donald Trump of many things but being disconnected from his base is not one of them. He listens. And that is why he is such a master in the ‘art of the deal’. End quote.

My mentor taught me “Two ears, one mouth, use them in that ratio.” The problem with politicians who are improperly trained is they think it is the reverse of that. Quote:

Mrs May would do well to listen carefully to what the American president has to say if she wants to survive in this post-Davis-BoJo reality.

Not listening is the reasons for our Prime Minister’s Reverse Midas Touch: whereby everything she touches turns to shit. In earlier centuries, this unquestionable talent would have resulted in a lucrative Freak Show career. Today, as the head of the UK government, Mrs May’s ability to manifest a caca-tastrophe is rather less of a virtue. She didn’t listen when Lynton Crosby told her not to go to the polls. She didn’t listen to her own team when writing that ill-fated election manifesto. She didn’t hear that ‘take back control’ was an instruction, not just a strapline. She thought the people didn’t know what they were voting for and that a softer Brexit was better for them. She didn’t listen when the Brexit Secretary warned her. She didn’t listen to the EU not budging and inch or the public’s visceral response to this European arrogance on every radio phone-in across the land. She didn’t listen to the unwavering pro-Brexit polls.

And if she doesn’t listen, how on earth can she expect to connect with her base? To speak with the public, not just at them? Of course, she can’t. End quote.

Gee, that sounds like the arrogance of Bill English who is now sitting at home wondering just precisely what happened. Maybe he should give Theresa May a call. Quote:

So, who better to advise our PM than The Donald? A man who knows a thing or two about pattern-matching his language to his audience… and who also has experience catapulting the careers of socially inept Apprentices. He’d be just the ticket as May’s mentor, if she’d only ask for his advice.

I’m serious. This is the man who has confounded his critics by speaking around them; directly to his base. And all with a bombastic style that may even have secured him a Nobel Peace Prize along the way.

Assuming she makes it to Friday as Prime Minister, Theresa May could use the commute from London to Chequers to pump the President for his sure-fire ways to win over an audience. And, here are just three of the things that she may hear in response:

  • Create a single unifying statement that describes the belief and behaviour of your brand. Think ‘safety’ for Volvo and ‘taste’ for Coca Cola. What is the single word that the Conservatives ‘own’: the word that directs all their conversations and actions? This is what Trump has managed to do with ‘great’. As in, ‘let’s make America great again’. It’s what Obama did with ‘change’ in 2008. It enables the audience to feel enfranchised. It builds empathy. It’s what the Tories, under Theresa May, have failed to do.
  • Describe the ‘better’ that people can expect post-Brexit. What is the single thing that Brexit will deliver to everyone? This is what Vote Leave understood with their promise of ‘control’. It’s why Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’. It onboards people. It makes them feel involved and in the mood for action. It makes them reject other messages / political parties that stand in the way of this unmet need. Again, Theresa May, has fallen short on this crucial empathy-builder.
  • Stay true to your audience. Never stop listening to the real voters. Jettison the ivory tower and get out there speaking to real people about real ‘bread on the table’ issues; taking the temperature. Listen to their concerns, their responses to your policies. This is what Trump has been doing week-in week-out since getting elected. Speaking to crowds. Listening to their evolving real-world issues and real-world language. Changing and adapting to reflect the audience realities. The Brexit voters haven’t changed their tune, but our PM stopped listening to them, preferring instead to hear her disconnected ‘advisors’ in No 10. She first made this mistake by not appearing during the TV debates. Seemingly, she still hasn’t learned this vital lesson.

Chances are that none of this will happen of course. The PM won’t ask for advice and The Donald won’t offer it. The Tory party won’t action these bullet points and the electorate won’t feel they are being heard.

Sadly, this may be May’s real legacy: she further-eroded the trust between politicians and the public by not listening. To her own people, or the public. What a wasted opportunity.

But I still hold out just a sliver of hope. Because Trump is known to say the unsayable…

Please Mr President, get her to start listening before it’s too late. Before we all feel that it’s no longer worth trying to speak to her. End quote.

What a brilliant column. It’s just a shame that politicians rarely listen to columns like this. Those politicians soon get benched.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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