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

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Camilla Tominey As­so­ci­ate edi­tor and Harry Yorke

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

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