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Theresa May Stumbles Awkwardly to Election Day

By borrowing so liberally from the left and the right, some say Mrs. May is a populist herself. Not, say, a Marine Le Pen of the National Front in France, but “a lukewarm Anglican version of a populist,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford.

But in her bid to win over the working class she has at times irked her core electorate, the elderly and the home-owning middle classes. Her most left-wing campaign proposal put a floor of £100,000 on what people of means had to pay for elder care but no cap. Nicknamed the “dementia tax,” the policy prompted such an outcry that it was discarded within four days.

The flip-flops on this and another prominent proposal — a tax increase on the self-employed, symbolized in the tabloids as the “white van man” — have led some to doubt that the “Red Theresa” image is anything more than an election ploy.

“None of this convinces me that this is a major political figure,” Mr. Garton Ash said. “I don’t buy it.”

Amid declining poll ratings, Mrs. May has sought to exploit the perceived flaws of her opponent, Mr. Corbyn, a leftist who has advocated nationalizing the rails and some other industries and whom opponents accuse of being soft on terrorism and nuclear deterrence.

When she visited the factory in Bath last week, before the London terror attack, some workers said they were underwhelmed. “She looked a bit shaky and kept saying the same things,” said Tim Moxey, 36, a machine operator. Others were more forgiving: “She has been given a hard time and I think she has handled it well,” said Howard Butchers, who said he had never voted Conservative but will this time.

David Goodhart, the author of “The Road to Somewhere,” an influential book about Britain’s values divide, still says he believes Mrs. May could dominate Britain’s political landscape for a generation — not despite her clumsy campaign, but because of it.

“She is unflashy, verging on the inarticulate,” Mr. Goodhart said. “There is something that is rather appealing to the slightly more middling times. We’ve done enough admiring of the cognitive elites and their marvelous articulacy.”

“We want something more dowdy,” he said, “because we’re a country in a dowdier mood.”

Source: NYT > World

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