She's very normal and not at all weird OK?
Philip and Theresa May on 'The One Show' (Image via BBC)
It's fair to say that Theresa and Philip May are not a normal couple. They were introduced to each other by Benazir Bhutto, later the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, at a Tory Party student disco at Oxford University. Philip May was President of the Oxford Union – beating Alan Duncan (future Tory MP) and Damien Green (future Tory MP) to the position – and ever since then he's been an "investment relation manager" at several global financial groups, surely putting him well within one of the highest brackets of income earners. Theresa May is the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Again: not normal.
Still, you wouldn't have picked up on this if you watched them together on The One Show last night. The Mays did their best to present themselves as utterly and boringly small-c conservative, suburban, Church-of-England normal. How do they divide household tasks between them? There are "boy jobs and girl jobs", said Theresa – Philip does the "traditional boy jobs, by and large". Does Philip have a penchant for style like his wife? "I like ties… jackets… fairly normal men's stuff, really," he replied. What do they do on weekends? They go to their house – where, wait for it, Theresa has a lot of "cookery books". But amid the strained pleas for normality, a few moments of the genuinely weird managed to slip through. Here's what we gleamed:
Theresa May Almost Said She Had a "Strong and Stable" Childhood
Although lots of people in the media have been making fun of the Prime Minister and the Tory Party for repeating their campaign slogan ad infinitum, a YouGov poll from last week found that only 15 percent of people remember hearing the slogan. Alliterative and technocratic, "Strong and Stable" perfectly encapsulates the long-held Tory idea of competence, so it's no surprise May almost tried to work it into her biography.
When asked what it was like growing up in a vicarage, she said, "It was very stable – I was very fortunate – very stable, um…"
Matt Baker Is the David Frost Our Times
Working freely within the highly coordinated and controlled strictures of interviewing the Prime Minister – who's been trying her best to keep journalists away this campaign – on the BBC's flagship evening chat show is a pretty difficult task. You could tell from the speed and structure of their responses that the Mays were probably aware of most of the things they would be asked. This makes it all the more impressive that Matt Baker – who famously managed to sneakily ask David Cameron, "How do you sleep at night?" after a conversation about sleep – managed to stowaway two decent questions.
The first was when he said, after a package on fake news, that politicians are partly responsible for this phenomenon, before asking the Prime Minister: "As soon as you bring spin doctors into the mix and they're asking you to present stories that aren't maybe 100 percent true… Have you ever been in situations like that where you've given into the spin doctors?" She didn't answer the question directly, relying on a few banalities about the people putting their trust in her.
Baker also later brought up a serious question about whether May was "comfortable" with the "Presidential" style of campaign that she has been running – putting herself, rather than the Conservative Party, at the centre of the campaign. He referred to this as "marketing", which is a pretty decent dig and goes to show – even in constricted, tightly surveyed formats – you can sneak through uncomfortable questions – which the PM then duly ignores.
Theresa May Has Been Preparing for Brexit Negotiations Since Childhood
One of the phrases that May kept on returning to – no matter how overwrought or irrelevant to the question – was "just get on with it". This is the "pragmatic" ideology that has defined her career as a politician so far: whether it's a punitive, unfeasible immigration target or a masochistic Hard Brexit, her job is to complete tasks to their very end, no matter their moral or political content. Apparently this lesson came from her parents, who said, "'Whatever job you're doing, just get on and do your best in that job,' and that's how I've approached everything in my career."
You Heard It Here for the First Time: Banksy Is Art
"Banksy is art, but it's not quite my cup of tea," was the Prime Minister's sickeningly English answer to an unanswerable question about whether Banksy's work counts as art. If she said, "No," she'd been called a joyless philistine, and if she said, "Yes," without any qualifications, then the former Home Secretary would be endorsing criminality. She evaded that quite well, to be honest.
Pre-prepared Anecdotes Are Visible a Mile Off
There's nothing original in pointing out when a politician's attempt to ape normal conversation comes across as stilted and contrived – but Theresa May manages to take this to another level. She can't even control her head, let alone sound like she's naturally and spontaneously come up with something to say. This became most clear in an anecdote about shoes, which she famously likes buying. Apparently four or five years ago, Theresa May got into a lift at the House of Commons and complimented a woman's shoes. Then she looked at me and said, "Your shoes got me involved in politics." It's incredible to watch, not least because it's so David-Brent-ian in delivery. Also, probably: didn't happen?