Sketch: Theresa May gets lost in the woods
With the general election campaign in full swing, Theresa May seems determined to hide from voters
People were quite critical of Theresa May’s decision to hold a campaign appearance in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods, largely because it’s the sort of behaviour you would associate with a witch in a fairy tale.
Prime ministers don’t usually hide in the forest. After all, if voters wanted a leader who lived in the woods they would have elected Liam Fox. Yet weeks in, this campaign has quickly become dominated by questions over the PM’s whereabouts.
And the event did seem a bit sinister. But then that’s the problem with organising an event in a secluded location and disguising it as a children’s party, as the PM chose to do. Anyway, a children’s party would probably be more fun than listening to the PM repeat her line about stability and strength yet again. It also might be less chaotic than May’s approach to Brexit. Though it’s worth pointing out, for the sake of balance, that the hall wasn’t actually made of gingerbread.
Speaking in Aberdeenshire, the PM outlined her plans to curse the UK’s enemies – both internal and external. “We want to ensure that we build a more secure and united nation,” she said. “That means taking action against the extremists who would divide us and standing up against the separatists who want to break up our country.”
Next May repeated her ‘strong and stable’ line, which has certainly been very popular, though a critic might argue that if voters wanted stable leadership they would vote for a horse. May said: “If you look at the other parties, they’re lining up to prop up Jeremy Corbyn. We see it from the Liberal Democrats and we see it from Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalists.”
The PM then went door knocking, though apparently no one was actually willing to answer their doors to her. It didn’t make her look particularly strong and stable. It made her look like she had got lost on the way back from the world’s scariest teddy bears’ picnic.
Opposition parties certainly weren’t impressed, with the Lib Dems accusing both the Tory and Labour campaigns of “ignoring the Brexit elephant in the room”. It would certainly be surprising if this was true – normally if there was an elephant in the room you would put good money on Ruth Davidson clambering on top of it for a photo-op.
But it has been this tendency towards secrecy – along with the PM’s habit of refusing to take questions during trips to empty factories – which led Jeremy Corbyn to accuse her of political cowardice.
He said: “Theresa May is hiding from the public – she won’t take part in TV debates and she won’t talk to voters.” It was all very unfair, because May isn’t really hiding from the public. She is actually evicting them from their own places of work and then going there after they have left. If anything, she is demanding the public is hidden from her, which is less cowardly, though possibly more confusing.
But May, perhaps predictably, rejected these claims. In fact not only did she reject Corbyn’s claims, she also ruled out appearing on TV debates – and potentially also in mirrors – at any point in the near future.
As she told Robert Peston: “The sort of campaign I want to run is one that is about getting out and about, getting across the whole country, meeting people from all sorts of communities, communities that have felt people have ignored them and not taken their concerns seriously.”
This was admirable – though if Theresa May really wants to meet people it was probably a mistake to book a hall in the middle of the woods in secret without telling anyone. You could meet people by doing that, but it would only be by coincidence.
Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast, decided to campaign in public. But it’s hard not to feel sorry for the Labour leader, given he’s tasked with taking on both the Conservative Party and much of his own one simultaneously. And while Corbyn has struggled to locate one adversary long enough to debate with her, another one has leapt up in May’s place – with former PM Tony Blair deciding to announce his return to politics.
Speaking to the Mirror, he said: “This Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics. You need to get your hands dirty and I will.
“I know the moment I stick my head out the door I’ll get a bucket of wotsit poured all over me, but I really do feel passionate about this.”
As with most of Blair’s statements it felt incredibly sinister, and you have to wonder what it might all mean. After all, this is a man with quite some standards when it comes to getting his hands dirty.
But if anyone felt like they’d had a ‘bucket of wotsit’ poured on them it must surely have been Corbyn. And yet with the election fast approaching and May nowhere to be seen, there’s still little indication that any serious debate will take place. It’s enough to make you want to go and hide in the woods.
Boris Johnson wrote a Valentine’s card to himself and expected us all to be overcome by his magnificence
Neil Kinnock issued a stark warning about the future of the health service and its dependence on EU membership for survival
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee warns that current system has “serious problems”
The campaign comes as Labour’s national policy forum meets in Leeds