What's in a name? A lot for politicians with unfortunate nicknames that stick

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 07:47:15 AM. From Don't Tell Patel to Thatcher the Milk Snatcher and JuLiar Gillard, there are reasons a catchy nickname sticks, writes Gary Nunn.
Photo: JuLiar, Thatcher the Milk Snatcher and ScoMo: three politicians with nicknames that won't shift. (ABC News) When the British public reflects on Priti Patel's legacy in her relatively short stint as UK international development secretary, she may be hoping it's characterised by her diligent stewardship of the UK's aid budget. But she'd be wrong. What she'll really be remembered for is her name. This has little to do with race or gender; it's about how our memories work. A politician's name — and its malleability to a witty nickname — can have a disproportionate effect on their legacy and reputation. It's not vacuousness; our brains are wired to recall rhyme and humour more readily than an inventory of a minister's prosaic achievements in office. If an MP's name lends itself to a rhyming pun, an ironic distortion or a catchy insult, they'll primarily be remembered for the event that coined the nickname. Photo: Known for her austerity policies, Thatcher became 'the Milk Snatcher'. (Reuters: Roy Letkey) In Patel's case, she had the perfect surname: "'Don't Tell Patel" became her moniker, during the scandal of her not telling the prime minister about unauthorised meetings in Israel. Patel's political hero is Margaret Thatcher. Although well-known for being the first female British prime minister and her long and formidable tenure in office, she's often remembered for something she did before any of this even happened, during her former role as education minister. She...Read more
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