In a few weeks the UK will go to the polls and elect a new Parliament. The Conservative party of Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to win decisively.
The second-biggest party is the Labor party. The leader of Labor is Jeremy Corbyn, who faces off against May during the Prime Minister’s Questions.
Looking at the back-and-forth, it’s not hard to see why Corbyn has failed to inspire confidence in the public:
From the start, Corbyn does not exude strength. He speaks haltingly. In general he just looks uncomfortable and like he doesn’t really want to be doing this.
He lacks the ability to speak spontaneously, instead requiring notes for everything he says.
On top of that, he lacks a certain genuineness in his presentation. This comes from both lack of preparation (hence over-reliance on notes), and in general poor communication skills.
At certain points he does convey more passion and personality, but it’s much rarer.
For example around 7:40, speaking about the pain that people are facing in healthcare, this should be an extremely strong statement that he shouts with passion and conviction. But instead he finishes his statement trailing off in a quiet voice before sitting down.
Successful opposition leaders are able to deliver clever zingers, and concise, pointed criticisms that juice up their party and get people laughing and motivated to follow them. Corbyn is weak in this regard, his presentation instead being a simple laundry list of grievances and complaints.
Lastly, note the difference in eye contact between Corbyn and May. Corbyn rarely looks at May. Again, he spends most of his time looking at his notes, and most of the remainder just looking around aimlessly in the general direction of the audience.
By contrast, Theresa May looks directly at him from the beginning. We saw a similar eye contact dynamic during the political debates in the recent French election.
By looking more directly at Corbyn, May comes across as stronger, more dominant, confident and focused.
When she isn’t looking at Corbyn, she is looking at the audience calmly and confidently, and using hand gestures much more effectively. She rarely looks at her notes.
Her points are succinct and concise. She is in full command of her facts and data. Her verbal delivery is smooth and effortless. And she is able to combine both pro-Conservative talking points with criticisms and mocking of Labor.
She is much more comfortable and relaxed in her position than Corbyn is in his.
Her party, occupying more seats in the House, shouts and screams in her favor (louder than the Labor side), further strengthening her message and confidence.
Theresa May is not the best speaker the UK Parliament has ever seen, but next to Corbyn she is a powerhouse.
The same dynamic is seen in this last PM Questions before the election:
The only difference here being that Corbyn’s strategy was to make every one of his turns at the podium a quote from an average person.
This can be an effective strategy, because he is using the words of real citizens. He shows more passion and emotion here, which is good.
But again he lacks the power and charisma of May. In his very last chance to speak as the Labor leader before the election, he seems to pass off his messaging responsibility onto other people’s words, and so exits the stage with weakness.
UPDATE 6/9/17: After the election, the Conservative Party has lost seats, but remains the largest in Parliament, while Labor has grown by 30 seats.
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