For Theresa May, rebranding to a green and caring image is even less likely to work. First, she has effectively presided over a retox of her party: she has promoted Dominic Raab and welcomed back Liam Fox and David Davis, all of whom have strongly objected to the Tory modernisation project, claiming it takes the party away from its grass roots. Her party’s flagship purpose – Brexit – has anti-modernisation at its very core. Attempting a facelift, at this point, will be painful and difficult.
Second, she is in a far trickier position than Cameron ever was. Cameron recognised his party could not be seen as both “nice” and “effective”, but had to dance between the two. The party could be nice in the good times, as long as it dropped all that to be effective in the bad. It could be nice to attract young voters, as long as it could switch back to being effective when the older and working-class vote fell. May has no such wriggle room.
She cannot afford to lose the support of those on low incomes, and she cannot afford to be seen wasting money at a time when the economy is in peril – her party must project an air of flinty reliability. But neither can she afford to see the Tories abandoned by the young, who are overwhelmingly turning to Labour – her party must be seen to care, too. The task is almost impossible. May, dogged politician though she is, may not be the person to do it.