• Author:Ben Jones
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The Maybot’s response to Grenfell Tower has been a communications calamity

You know you are in trouble when your own supporters are mocking you; when a negative nickname sticks. Theresa May is now the Maybot. There is no getting away from it.  She is the Maybot. A Robotic figure, showing no emotion, no humanity, no humility and appears to be programmed to repeat vague, generalised platitudes at every turn, regardless of the subject, occasion or audience. Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. Lessons will be learnt. Lessons will be learnt. Lessons will be learnt. The nickname sticks because it resonates; it meets people’s expectations. It feels right.

Mrs May’s appearance at Grenfell Tower yesterday was shameful. I know that is very strong language but I chose my words carefully. I could just have easily said disgusting, as I was disgusted by her failure to speak with residents; her failure to speak on camera live at the site of this unspeakable disaster; her failure to answer questions; her failure to show any warmth or sensitivity to survivors; her failure to put an arm around the victims and their families, to represent all of us who just want to hug our fellow citizens in their darkest hour; her total and utter failure to communicate in a way we expect our Prime Minister to communicate.

Communicating with the public in an unfiltered, authentic way is non-negotiable – it is what we require of our leaders. Part of being Prime Minister is to speak on behalf of the nation – I cannot think of anyone I know who would have gone to Grenfell Tower yesterday and not have spoken to residents. This desire for a constantly controlled communications environment – we saw it with dreadful political consequences during the campaign – is now undermining her standing as Prime Minister and that of her government. This is 2017. We live in an age where deference is no more and were leaders in business and politics need to be able to roll up their sleeves and communicate with any audience at any time. We want and need leaders who are comfortable in being uncomfortable and are able to talk unscripted and unrehearsed at the drop of a hat.

To hear this morning that Mrs May’s decision not to meet survivors or local residents was due to “security concerns” is frankly beneath contempt. As a Tory member and supporter, I am ashamed.

I have just heard another Cabinet Minister, Sajid Javid, on the Today Programme. Another awful, platitude-filled, evasive, out of touch outing. He spent much of the interview trying to reframe the debate; questioning some of the concerns being raised, despite these appearing in a number of coroner’s reports after previous catastrophic fires. The only piece of decent media management this week by the government has been the Chancellor’s decision not to be photographed alongside a load of white men in white ties at the Mansion House – although if he had gone ahead that would surely have been a new low, even for this communication crisis-prone government.

The wonderful thing about communications is that it shines a light on people’s character, strategy and conduct. Communications gives you no place to hide. It can help you connect with your audiences but only if you have the content made for them. It can only paper over the cracks for so long – in the end the truth outs. Communication will find you out. Poor communications will expose you. This government and this Prime Minister is failing on both content and failing on communication and it’s hard to watch.

The Maybot is not just in need for a reboot but in need of decommissioning. The people, not the computer are saying “no”.  The only good thing about yesterday’s communication calamity is that it accelerated her departure from No 10. Very small comfort for those she chose to ignore yesterday in west London who have lost their homes, everything they own and most of all their families and friends.



The photograph is taken from the Liverpool Echo website: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/theresa-jeremy-corbyn-visited-grenfell-13190927 

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