Rishi Sunak Proves That The Conservative Power Stance Lives On

Rishi Sunak appears to be leading the current leadership race, outranking his fellow Tory MPs – but that’s not the only way he’s following in the (literal) footsteps of other top Conservatives.

Photos from Tuesday show the former chancellor in the famous power stance which has been recreated by several Tories over the years.

It began with then-chancellor George Osbourne, before being adopted by former prime minister Theresa May and then reinvented – with more dynamic arm movements – by ex-health secretary Sajid Javid.

Sunak then brought it back for the launch of his leadership bid this week, although with a more purposeful swing added in.

As journalist Adam Bienkov pointed out on Tuesday night, this is a curiously Conservative Party phenomenon.

It all began with Osbourne.

A different angle of Osbourne’s power stance

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

In 2015, after the Conservatives won a majority in the general election, Osborne adopted a wide leg stance and folded his fingers together to welcome the crowds at the Tory Party conference.

May took on the same pose at the same conference, when she was home secretary. It clearly impressed those present – within less than a year, she would be elected as Tory leader and subsequently become prime minister.

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove, who hit headlines last week after advising Johnson to resign, was also guilty of the unnatural pose backstage, again at this same conference, as The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon noted at the time.

But this strange pose clearly did not stay at this conference.

A few months later, then-prime minister David Cameron did it on live TV while trying to persuade the country to vote Remain in the EU referendum. Like his fellow Conservatives, he put a personal twist on it by turning his upper body away from his feet and gesturing with spread out hands. But, as the UK voted Brexit, it doesn’t look like the pose helped his argument.

David Cameron takes part in a BuzzFeed News and Facebook live EU referendum debate on June 10, 2016
David Cameron takes part in a BuzzFeed News and Facebook live EU referendum debate on June 10, 2016

Sajid Javid then, was quite late to the game as he took up the pose only in 2018 when he had just been appointed home secretary (before he became chancellor, resigned, then became health secretary, resigned, then ran for Tory leader for the third time and dropped out).

The pose is, of course, famous for being a way to invoke authority and confidence in the individual who holds it, which may explain why it’s been adopted so many times.

A viral TEDTalk from Amy Cuddy in 2012 suggested people should do this for a few minutes (although in private) before doing something terrifying to instil confidence in themselves.

Clearly, the message lives on – and with Sunak leading in the polls, it may prove effective after all.

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