Theresa May dancing onto stage to ABBA at the Conservative party conference has certainly divided opinion. For every person who found her Dancing Queen routine funny, there was another who just saw it as mortifyingly embarrassing or inappropriate. Social media experts, however, observed something else: the generation of compelling shareable content.
All the main news channels used the original video in their online and television coverage. Twitter quickly came up with @DancingTheresaM and a quick scan of your Facebook feed will reveal that significantly more people than usual are now discussing the Conservative conference. Even Instagram, a difficult territory for politicians, seems to be sharing Theresa May’s moves.
Whatever your opinion, one thing a prancing Theresa May demonstrates is this, she has a human side (if not a brilliant sense of rhythm). That’s a key challenge for politicians of all stripes, who are often viewed (unfairly) as a sort of weird sub-species removed from the rest of us. Theresa May has come in for criticism on this count more than most. She was attacked for her wooden delivery during the general election campaign when she was also seen to be dodging interaction with ‘real’ people. However, nearly everyone can relate to dancing (remember Sainsbury’s ‘food dancing’ ad campaign last year?), irrespective of whether the moves are slickly choreographed or as rigid as your great uncle Bernard’s efforts to dance to Beyonce at a wedding. And, let’s be honest, a bit of awkward dancing does provoke a certain amount of sympathy too.
There is a risk to all this though. At a time when many people are concerned about the success or otherwise of the Brexit negotiations, will voters welcome a PM ‘messing around’ in a time of crisis? Perhaps the Tory campaign chiefs will be more concerned with whether her opponents decide to use this to mock her. Will Boris Johnson follow up on his fields of wheat stunt by cruelly mimicking her dancing too? Will rebellious members on either wing of her party decide she’s brought the party into disrepute?
Over the next few weeks we’ll see how her moves are received by her internal and her external market. The rebel MPs will have their say and polls will cast their verdict too. In the meantime, while Theresa awaits her post-conference boost, the rest of us will be trying to tear ourselves away from the social media gags. It’s difficult to look away.
Max Wilkinson is a senior account manager at Camargue