I’m a Tory MEP candidate, get me out of here
Glum faces greet May’s unannounced appearance at campaign rally in front of an empty room
As photographs go, it told a thousand words about the beleaguered state of a premiership on the brink.
If Theresa May had hoped her unannounced appearance in Bristol would be a pleasant surprise for Tory MEP candidates, they had a funny way of showing it. With the Brexit Party riding high in the polls and Mrs May
under growing pressure to set a timetable for her departure, the glum look on the candidates’ faces appeared to suggest that they would rather the Prime Minister was anywhere else but in their constituency yesterday.
Six days from the European Parliament elections and the scene was more akin to a wake than a rally as Mrs May scarcely managed a smile herself as she gave her first – and one suspects only – speech to promote the Tories’ campaign.
Only moments before arriving at Ashton Gate, Bristol City FC’S ground, she received a letter from Jeremy Corbyn confirming that Labour was pulling the plug on the cross-party Brexit talks, and with it her only realistic chance of getting her deal through Parliament. Which goes some way to explaining why, as she addressed a camera crew and pool reporter in a function room, she could not even bring herself to say that the Conservatives “will deliver Brexit”, despite a campaign poster behind her suggesting the party was “getting Brexit done in the national interest”.
“If you want a party that wi... can deliver Brexit, vote Conservative,” she told the empty room, struggling to recover from the obvious slip of the tongue. Conceding that “we didn’t want to be fighting these elections” in the first place, she insisted: “No one else can get the job done.” What, not even Nigel Farage? The Brexit Party leader has been gobbling up Tory
votes with gusto. The irony of her attack line that Mr Farage “doesn’t work constructively in the national interest” cannot have been lost on anyone who has noticed Mrs May’s approval rating resembles a Siberian winter.
Among the four candidates competing in what could have been an audition for “I’m a Tory MEP Candidate, Get Me Out Of Here!” was Ashley Fox, leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliament, who has spent the past fortnight expressing his regret at having to run again for a job he does not want. He was joined by local councillors Faye Purbrick, Claire Hiscott and Emmeline Owens, whose only consolation is that they stand no chance of being elected, as least according to Brandon Lewis, the party chairman. One party activist helpfully told reporters: “The only reason I can see she came to Bristol is all four MEP candidates are mild mannered, I think supported Remain, and haven’t called for her to go.”
No wonder most media – including all local press – were barred from the event, with Mrs May entering and exiting the city “under a veil of secrecy”, according to the Bristol Post. She did not even tell the local membership that she was coming, presumably for fear they might try to persuade her to stay at home.
It has really come to something when a Prime Minister’s own candidates consider her a curse rather than a blessing.
Conservative candidates Faye Purbrick, Ashley Fox and Claire Hiscott share the stage with Theresa May at the campaign event in Bristol for the European Parliament elections