Monday, August 8, 2022

How Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss both curated their personal image in the prime ministerial race

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Truss has drawn comparisons to Margaret Thatcher in her efforts to channel “confident femininity,” while Sunak’s clean suits are part of an effort to portray herself as a financially responsible candidate

While Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have been dragging each other through the mud since submitting their candidacies for leadership, calling each other fancy and dishonest respectively, their public images have remained as glossy as ever.

Ready for Rishi or Liz for Leader? That’s the question Tory members will be asking themselves over the next few months as they elect their next Prime Minister. But what the two win depends less on their performance on the stump and more on what their catchy slogans hint at: personal branding.

Mr. Sunak has swapped his hoodies for tailored suits as he transforms from modern chancellor to statesman. Mrs Truss, on the other hand, has opted for an obvious nod to the conservative iconography of the past, mirroring her idol, Margaret Thatcher, in both style and content.

And while both developments may seem seamless, their campaigns for the prime minister are carefully crafted affairs.

“When you talk to politicians, they often treat branding as a dirty word and say they don’t,” says Dr. Christopher Pich, Lecturer in Branding and Marketing at Nottingham University. “But they do it, they all do it, and they’ve been doing it for generations.”

Mr Sunak is believed to be the richest MP in the UK with a net worth of £730million this year Sunday times“Rich list. And he has made no effort to hide his expensive taste, wearing £490 Prada shoes to a construction site earlier this month before stepping out in a £3,500 suit on Wednesday.

But his more polished style is part of an attempt to portray himself as a city dweller in charge of the nation’s finances, says Dr. pitch In a move that could alienate his more right-wing peers, Sunak has promised not to cut taxes until the economy recovers from the pandemic.

“He’s rich – there’s no point in hiding it,” he says. “But he’s probably fine wearing expensive suits – he’s pushing the idea that he’s the embodiment of British business and aspirations. It might hurt him even more walking around town with a Costa coffee.”

The clean look also appears to be part of an effort to distance himself from Boris Johnson, who was finally ousted from the Prime Minister’s office earlier this month following drip feed revelations about Downing Street parties and Westminster smut.

Mr Sunak’s resignation, seen by many as a stab in the back for his former ally, sparked a wave of departures that shattered Mr Johnson’s prime ministerial post.

But the former chancellor knows that presenting himself as the spotless successor to the outgoing prime minister is not enough.

“He’s very passionate about the job and enthusiastic about it because he knows he doesn’t match the personality of Boris Johnson,” says Dr. pinch.

Mr Sunak’s campaign for prime minister was spurred on by jaunty comments about his panache and vigor for the job. “Guys, we totally screwed it up! Well done!” he told colleagues in a campaign video released Thursday after making the final two.

It’s easy to forget that Mr. Sunak, at 42, is just four years younger than his rival in the race for 10th place. But while Ms. Truss may not share Mr. Sunak’s Coca-Cola-fueled Silicon Valley optimism, she has carefully curated one of her own personal brand.

In the 10 months since he became foreign secretary, the government’s official Flickr account has published a staggering 1,124 photos of Truss on various trading trips. Truss in New Delhi, Truss in Riyadh, Truss in the Sydney Opera House – like a bunch of fake Tintin books.

There are photo albums of the cabinet minister dancing through palaces, jogging across the Brooklyn Bridge and towering over mostly male colleagues.

Even Priti Patel, who, when she was Home Secretary, made good use of the photo opportunities offered by dawn drug raids, can only be seen in a measly 188 photos on the government’s Flickr account.

Perhaps the most notable of Truss’ many and varied official photos are those that bear more than a passing resemblance to her heroine, Mrs Thatcher.

On a visit to Estonia last November, she channeled an image of the Iron Lady in West Germany by donning a military helmet and posing in a tank. Truss also drew comparisons to a famous 1987 photo of Mrs Thatcher in the Soviet Union wearing a black fur hat on a visit to Moscow earlier this year. Not to mention her frequent appearances in tie-neck blouses.

According to fashion consultant Lucia Restani, Truss’ references to Mrs Thatcher are attempts to promote her “confident femininity” in a traditionally male setting.

“Sunak is trying to be a bit more contemporary – his pants are shorter, he’s wearing sneakers. Truss is colorful and vibrant, but she’s a bit more conservative,” she says. “Whether it was copied from Margaret Thatcher or not, who knows.”

Ms Truss herself has dismissed fashion comparisons to Ms Thatcher, insisting “I am my own person.” But her promise to channel Thatcher principles when she becomes Prime Minister suggests otherwise.

Contrary to Mr Sunak’s emphasis on “fiscal responsibility”, Ms Truss has already pledged to make £40bn worth of tax cuts if she is elected to office. Similarly, Mrs Thatcher chose to cut income taxes, deregulate the financial industry and privatize state-owned assets soon after becoming Prime Minister in 1979, despite rising inflation.

“She may be trying to project the imagery associated with Margaret Thatcher – the image of a strong and determined woman who has embraced Westminster sexism,” says Dr. pitch

But which of the two will be bidding for Tory membership is difficult to say at this point. Truss is currently leading the polls, but as last week’s political theater has shown, the tide can easily turn.

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