Of all the times to make a statement on criticisms or self-deprecating humor, why did PM Theresa May pick a moment when all eyes would be on her to lead Britain?


May had already faced a fair bit of backlash and criticism throughout the conference, namely from her rising rival, Boris Johnson. Although never directly calling him out or responding to his criticisms, May focused a good portion of her speech on the theme of ‘unity’ – unity in regards to Britain’s approach to Brexit, as well as among the Conservative party itself. She referenced the rivalries indirectly, saying it has been, “no surprise that we have had a range of different views expressed this week”, likely in response to Johnson’s speech earlier in the conference in which he attacked May and claimed her Brexit strategy was a failure.

May was also facing a great deal of pressure to recover from last year’s conference speech, which many consider a nightmare for May. Last year, not only did May enter an unexpected coughing fit mid-speech, but she was interrupted by a heckler on stage, and a letter fell off the stage sign behind her. She even acknowledged the disasters of last year in her speech, saying, “you’ll have to excuse me if I cough during this speech; I’ve been up all night supergluing the backdrop.” 

PM May is consistently criticized for having an off-putting, cold, and some have described it as “robotic”, demeanor. Therefore, starting one of the tensest and highly anticipated speeches of the conference, dancing along to ‘Dancing Queen’, in what can be best described as an effort at self-deprecating humor, certainly turned many heads. Humor seemed to be at the forefront of her address-strategy, before of course entering a more tactical speech delivery on the topic of Britain’s priorities and strategies over the coming months.

It’s interesting that even in the depths of one of the most politically important events in history, the leading line in an article in The Telegraph, on the Conservative conference speaks to May’s “metamorphosis from Ice Queen to Dancing Queen”. Of course, May should be subject to a certain degree of criticism, given the high-profile role she plays and the responsibility she holds as leader of the UK. However, were some of the judgments of May’s character and demeanor a bit far reaching? As in, by the nature of our patriarchal system, was May being subjected to more trivial criticisms, as Hillary Clinton was during the 2016 election? 

Personally, I find it quite likely that given that female politicians are more susceptible to far more insignificant criticisms than their male counterparts, Theresa May, a woman of stout and straight-forward mannerisms, is no exception to this. 

PM May’s dancing made international headlines for a second time, with her dancing in Nairobi during a trip to Africa, being the punchline of jokes for quite some time. Many saw her “Dancing Queen” introduction at the beginning of her conference speech as a PR ploy to try and tackle some of her criticisms of seeming too cold and robot-like. Others thought it was an effort to distract from the important Brexit matters at hand. 

I may be in the minority here, but I saw it more as a witty way to respond to undeserved criticisms in a playful way. 

But why dancing queen? And why now? Of all the times to make a statement on criticisms or self-deprecating humor, why did PM May pick a moment when all eyes would be on her to lead Britain? Some self-deprecating humor goes a long way. Especially if you’re in one of the tensest negotiations in the world, not well-liked, and facing mass rivalry within your own party. A wise political move or self-sabotage? We’ll find out soon enough. 

For now, enjoy this video of the British Prime Minister sashaying to ABBA’s Dancing Queen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbCDFNRA-Wo

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