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Mis-Communicator of the Week: Mark Rutte

When electorates make their choice on who they are going to vote for increasingly I believe that this choice is based, not on the issues, but on a candidates’ personality, image and authenticity. Their stance on various issues will help to shape people’s perception of the candidate but they are not the deal breakers they once were.

Think of it this way: who would you like to invite into your house for a cup of tea or share a beer with at your local? That person may not be the cleverest but they are likely to be seen to be more like you, more trustworthy or perhaps have better common sense. That is who people will vote for.

Language used by politicians is essential in helping people form opinions about their leaders and potential leaders. One of the reasons Donald Trump was able to catch and hold people’s attention during the recent US election was his use of language that was simple, clear, jargon free and basically the way ordinary people who voted for him happen to speak.

Another significant election is nearly upon us, this time in the Netherlands. Mark Rutte, the current prime minister and leader of the conservative-liberal VVD, is facing a significant challenge from right-wing firebrand Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party.

Wilders has risen to prominence by attacking immigration (particularly Islamic immigration) and using language seen by the courts as incitement to violence and encouraging discrimination. He isn’t afraid to use simple words and phrases often falling into slang as a way to connect to his core vote.

Faced with the rise of Wilders it is now Rutte’s turn to simplify his language and speak plainly about immigration. This week his party took out a blunt advert in the Dutch media telling anyone who doesn’t like the Netherlands to leave. In doing so Rutte was attempting to move his tanks onto Wilder’s territory and quickly erase years of saying the opposite.

Clearly they hope that this approach will negate Wilder’s attractiveness on this issue that is central to the election. If the issues were all that mattered then this could be a sound election tactic but, as I said at the beginning, personality, image and - essential here - authenticity are more important. That then leaves Rutte floundering as this advert was far from authentic and potentially undermined the prime minister’s hard won reputation for being trustworthy and reliable and makes Mark Rutte my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.

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