Edited by Angela Smith and Michael Higgins
[Journal of Language and Politics 19:1] 2020
► pp. 10–29
Just call me Dave
David Cameron’s perilous populist status
This paper seeks to show how male politicians can draw on performances of masculinity to appeal to voters. The paper uses former UK Prime Minister David Cameron as an example of how performances of masculinity interact with the opportunistic use of populist forms of political engagement. It argues that while Cameron’s performances of populism are often situated in compatible policy initiatives such as the “big society”, we can also identify a more sustained deployment of masculine discourse in “performances” of alignment with the people. This paper shows how these gendered performances of political leaders mirror changes in society, while exploring how they can also be politically hazardous. Whilst the “new man” might appeal to Western voters, this paper shows how Cameron draws on this performance of masculinity in his first term as UK prime minister; at the same time, showing the limits to such appeal in an age of austerity.