The Prime Minister was in Cornwall today trying to shore up support for the Conservatives ahead of the local and general elections. However the plan went spectacularly wrong as journalists complained of being ‘banned from filming’ and being ‘locked in a room’ . The PM’s team have been called ‘paranoid’ and ‘control freaks’ in return.
Even the normally compliant and Tory friendly Cornwall Live changed it’s tune during the day as local journalists were denied any sort of meaningful access to the PM as national journalists like Laura Kussenberg and international agency Reuters were ushered around the stage-managed visit to AP Valves in Helston.
CL then took their revenge by posting pictures of a miserable looking Prime Minister with the caption ‘PM looking thrilled to be in Helston’ and one of Mrs May pointing up saying ‘can you see my poll rating falling?’
Finally one local journalist, Lyn Bartlett, was allowed two questions and two minutes max and were forbidden from filming or photographing her answering them. Predictably the PM just ignored those questions and trotted out the nauseating mantra about ‘strong and stable leadership’.
The PM then visited Mevagissey and Steve Double MP. In a quick walk about the village Mrs May further upset people by again not answering questions from local press and not engaging with the public.
The one lady who got through to the PM told her “This election is not just about Brexit you know”
Then (maybe the biggest faux-pas of the day) she was photographed eating her lunch but it WASN’T a pasty! It was chips! without even any fresh Cornish fish to go with them!
What should have been an easy stop on the campaign trail has turned into an PR disaster for the PM.
Stephen Gilbert, the man trying to win the St Austell and Newquay seat back from Steve Double for the Lib Dems, told CS
“Theresa May says she ‘believes in campaigns where politicians actually get out and about and meet the voters’ and today she has done the exact opposite. Blocking journalists from doing their job, refusing questions from local people and banning photos is one way to run an election campaign, which perhaps has more in common with North Korea than with British politics.
The only thing missing from this visit is an accompanying early morning tweet, a la Trump. If Mrs May wanted to show she was in touch with the issues in Cornwall then this is master-class in how not to do it, but perhaps the fiasco says more about her than we think”
Derek Thomas, the St Ives MP who invited Mrs May down said
‘The PM accepted my invitation to meet with me at a business in West Cornwall following a Prime Minister’s Question I asked in the Chamber recently. As the local MP I’ve worked especially hard to help our small businesses as they provide the lion-share of jobs in West Cornwall and Scilly. I’m arguing that we need to create a fairer tax-system including reforming business rates and increasing the vat threshold which will have an immediate positive impact on small businesses in coastal communities. I was pleased to be able to welcome a small manufacturing company, AP Valves. They are a world-leader and export both within the EU and to non EU countries. Just exactly the kind of company that recognises the need for a strong stable Government and a hardworking strong champion for the area.’
Weirdly, his rival for the St Ives seat, ex MP Andrew George had released a statement to the press yesterday, in response to Mr Thomas’ accepted invation, in which he said he would be pleased if the PM came.
“I hope she comes” he said yesterday. “But when she does I hope she won’t simply come to console the local Tories and for tame photo-calls”
Today he joked
“It seems the art of clairvoyance is alive and well in lay-lined west Cornwall!”
But it also seems the PM has fallen into the self-inflicted trap I’d advised her to avoid. I hope she will open up a bit and answer questions rather than attempt to stage manage things in this way.
This approach is a disaster for her and an insult to those who take pride in our open democracy. I do hope she would learn from this, reverse her decision not to do TV debates and answer the questions I’ve raised on behalf of thousands of local people who care passionately about the NHS, our children’s future and the gamble she’s taking with Cornwall’s future as she seems hell bent on a self-harming hard Brexit”