A very long time ago – on the 30th May 1983 to be precise – The Sun newspaper printed a questionnaire I designed to help people decide how to vote in the general election.  The two leaders at the time were Margaret Thatcher and Michael Foot so, not surprisingly, their respective personalities were a major preoccupation.  My questionnaire was designed to redress the balance by helping people focus on the policies the parties were putting forward, not merely the dramatically different personalities of the two leaders.

Fast forward 33 years to the May/Corbyn general election and I realise I’ve missed a trick; this time I should have designed a questionnaire that ignored policies and focused on personalities! 

I’m 12 years older than Jeremy Corbyn and, admittedly rather late in the day, I’ve seen the light; getting people to vote for you, even if your polices are daft, depends on your so called ‘soft skills’.

If I’d been advising Theresa May (oh, go on, allow me to fantasize!) I’d have suggested :

1.  Always answer questions – even if the answer is, ‘I don’t know, I’ll find out’.  The only exception to this is if you are asked something seriously intrusive such as, ‘What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?’ . 

2.  Never interrupt people when they are talking – not even Jeremy Paxman.   Just wait patiently for them to realise you are waiting patiently .  Not getting a word in edgeways has massive advantages.

3.  Always own your mistakes and be proud of U turns.  They show you’re human and are happy to reconsider and change your mind.

4.  Always, when you’ve done something wrong, which will inevitably be often, be quick to apologise and show remorse.  Never indulge in self-justification – a sure route to hubris.

5.  Always say ‘From my standpoint…..’.  This acknowledges there are other points of view that will differ from yours.   Never say, ‘The reality is…..’.  Realities (plural) are a matter of perception, not of fact.

6.  Always say, ‘I have learnt the following from this …..’  with a couple of specific examples.  Never say, ‘Lessons will be learnt’ because no one will believe you.  

7.  Get out, meet people, ask them questions  and, above all, listen to what they have to say whilst nodding sagely.

8.  Always say, ‘Up, down and across the country’.  This is more inclusive than saying ‘Up and down the country’ or ‘Across the country’. 

9.  Always be generous with your thanks.  People like to be thanked and it doesn’t cost anything.

10. Remember that humour is the shortest distance between you and everyone else.

Do you think my advice would have made any difference to the outcome of the general election?  Hmm, I thought not.  Ah well, worth a try.


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