Strong and stable

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Theresa May in 2017

"Strong and stable" or "strong and stable leadership" was a phrase often used by the British Prime Minister Theresa May in the run up to the 2017 United Kingdom general election.[1][2] The phrase has been criticised as an example of May's tendency to talk in sound bites and critics of May's leadership have suggested that the truth is that she is "weak and wobbly".


Poster in Shoreditch, London, mocking the phrase during the election campaign

According to the Financial Times, the phrase may have originated from former Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation speech after the UK voted to leave the European Union: "stability . . . strong, determined and committed leadership".[3] David Cutts, professor of political science at the University of Birmingham, has described the phrase as an example of compressing information to provide helpful cues to voters and reduce the time needed to acquire information.[4]

The phrase became a cult internet meme during the election campaign and was criticised for its repetition. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's coordinator for Brexit-related affairs, parodied the phrase by saying "Any Brexit deal requires a strong and stable understanding of the complex issues involved".[5]

Use by Theresa May and others[edit]

"Strong and stable" was described as a cliché and led to criticism that May was an ineffective political campaigner who could only talk in slogans.[6][7] In an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, May was stopped after saying "strong and stable" in the first 30 seconds, and was asked to not use sound bites.[8]

Artist Jeremy Deller designed a poster parodying the phrase and mocking the government's Brexit process.[9] At a press conference during the election campaign, a reporter suggested that May was "weak and wobbly" rather than "strong and stable".[10] This was repeated by other news outlets.[11] At another point in the election campaign, a man presented opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn with two bananas, one bearing the word "strong" and the other with the word "stable." Corbyn found the incident amusing even though the man had intended to suggest that his politics were bananas.[12]

After the election, May reportedly wanted to drop her "strong and stable" slogan because she felt it was making her look "stupid", and it was widely considered that the phrase had been overused and was becoming ever less effective.[13]

References in the media[edit]

As of 2019, the phrase was still being associated with May in the press.[14]


  1. ^ "'Strong and Stable' versus 'for the Many not the Few'". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  2. ^ "'Dreadful night' when Theresa May's strong and stable fantasy evaporated". The Guardian. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  3. ^ "The surprising origins of May's 'strong and stable' slogan". Financial Times. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  4. ^ Cutts, David. "'Strong and Stable' versus 'for the Many not the Few'". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  5. ^ Poole, Steven (10 May 2019). "Strong and stable leadership!' Could Theresa May's rhetorical carpet-bombing backfire?". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  6. ^ "European media delight in covering anti-Brexit march". The Guardian. 24 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  7. ^ "If Jacinda Ardern was in No 10, imagine how different Brexit would be". The Guardian. 26 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Theresa May lasts just 30 seconds when asked on Marr "not to used soundbites"". The Independent. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  9. ^ "It's not Brexit (yet), but is it art, asks new London show". Reuters. 15 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  10. ^ "May challenged on being weak and wobbly". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  11. ^ Quinn, Carolyn (24 May 2018). "When 'Strong and Stable' became 'Weak and Wobbly'". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  12. ^ Gilbert, Simon (9 May 2017). "This is why Jeremy Corbyn was offered 'strong and stable' bananas". Coventry Telegraph.
  13. ^ Jimmy Nsubuga (12 June 2017). "Prime Minister Theresa May 'wanted to drop strong and stable slogan' | Metro News". Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  14. ^ "For EU, Brexit has trashed May's 'strong and stable' image". Washington Post. 22 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.