School of Politics and International Relations

Theresa May’s rhetoric can be as populist as Trump’s

7 March 2019

A study that analysed speeches by world leaders has found that the British prime minister can be as populist – in her rhetoric at least – as Donald Trump. Professor Tim Bale, who was not involved in the research, said describing the narrow referendum result as “the will of the people” was a typical feature of May’s populist discourse. But he stressed that plenty of Tory leaders before May had flirted with populist ideas. “There’s always been a strong strain of populism, particularly when it comes to immigration, among Tory politicians,” Bale said, noting that William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard “primed” voters for the kind of anti-elitist rhetoric that fuelled the rise of Ukip by fomenting the view that “ordinary people” were being betrayed over immigration. “The way it was framed was always essentially populist: ‘You, the people out there, have a common sense and completely legitimate view about immigration. The political class, the chattering classes, the liberal metropolitan elite who dominate New Labour are ignoring you and selling you down the river.”

Read more in the Guardian