Dance moves and diplomacy

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If you’ve been online over the past week, you’ve surely heard about (and likely seen) Theresa May’s trip to South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, on which she aimed to develop the UK’s trade relations with African nations for the post-Brexit era. However, it was her dance moves rather than her diplomacy that was noticed online.

There were 18,175 posts across social media channels about Theresa May dancing between 28th August and 3rd September, with interest peaking after the second video of her dancing on the final day of her trip went viral. Users of Twitter and other social media sites found the videos hilarious, immediately making them into memes, and many asking why her advisors allowed her to do this. Surely, after the first video received some mocking comments, she had been told not to do it again, users said.

However, it is more likely that the Prime Minister’s advisors actually encouraged her to dance again and overcome the negative comments. Theresa May has often struggled with coming across personable, but some slightly off-beat dance moves make her seem more human. Who can’t relate to not quite being able to nail a move on the dancefloor? Nearly everyone has been that person at a wedding or after a few work drinks. Online sentiment towards her dancing was actually more positive than usual sentiment towards her, despite the slightly rusty moves.

Over the past year, online sentiment towards Theresa May has hovered at around 40% negativity quite constantly, as reflected in voting opinion polls. Indeed, in the week of the Prime Minister’s trip to Africa, online sentiment towards her was 38% negative. However, the sentiment towards her within the posts about her dancing was only 30% negative. This suggests that some of her usual critics were swayed – perhaps making the Prime Minister more relatable through dance was a good move after all. An 8% shift seems quite significant when opinion figures have recently been so immobile; perhaps this will be a moment that began some change for Theresa May.

Were people really laughing with her instead of at her? Comments from Twitter users include that it “made my lunch break” and was “incredible” – praise that May might not be used to hearing right now. She also received praise from the media, with even the left-leaning paper The Guardian saying “good on Theresa May for giving dancing a go”.

Despite some cruel words from social media commentators, most would agree that the idea of Theresa May dancing makes her seem more human than usual. “We have to be careful not to interpret this as a pro-TM shift in full.  She still has to get Brexit over the line, but this is a well time light reprieve from the negativity that has surrounded her these past few weeks. Well played, I’d say” Fleur Hicks, MD at onefourzero.  As is often with the world of politics, no matter what you do, it seems there will always be someone who isn’t happy.

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