From the archives: a bystander took a behind the scenes photo of May that reduces her campaign to a sham

May uncomfortable
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The Canary is looking back at some of its most-read content. Here, in May 2017 we revealed the behind-the-scenes photos showing that Theresa May’s election campaign was not all that it seemed. This article was read by over 700,000 people. 

An unexpected bystander took a behind the scenes snap of Theresa May that reduces her campaign to a sham. Launching May’s ‘battlebus’, the Conservatives set up a number of photos for the media:

The reality

Media outlets such as The Telegraph lapped up the pictures. But a bystander caught the reality, which was a whole lot different:

Read on...

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The photo appears to show a handful of Conservative Party activists stage-managed to convey a crowd of ordinary locals. This is not an isolated incident, but indicative of May’s entire campaign. Across the country, from Harrow, to Bristol, to Cornwall, only nodding faithfuls are allowed into May’s events.

Take Harrow, London, where the sitting Prime Minister reportedly refused to take questions from anyone other than handpicked journalists. They were allowed to ask six questions in total. And as The Guardian pointed out, even this was “rather generous by the standard of these events”. Or take Cornwall on 2 May, when local paper Cornwall Live reported:

Media were locked in a room and banned from filming.

The tight, fearful control is a constant theme. Sky News Political Correspondent Beth Rigby summed up the undemocratic campaign:


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign stands in stark contrast by anyone’s measure. A social media user compared the two through photos:

Corbyn drew huge crowds in York on 10 May:

Corbyn also drew large crowds in Conservative-held Leamington Spa earlier in the week:


But it’s not just the magnitude of local support that plainly sets Corbyn’s campaign apart. The Labour leader regularly meets ordinary folk and answers free questions from journalists. The contrast led even The Sun’s Political Correspondent to sing Corbyn’s praises:

Media and polling

Of course, rallies and crowds are not an accurate representation of national support, where the opinion polls show May is ahead. But they do show the different ways in which the leaders generate support. May’s support comes from the appearance of a ‘safe pair of hands’ generated by a media generally so faithful to the Conservatives, Channel 4’s Michael Crick accused journalists of ‘colluding’ with her campaign. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s appeal comes from actually engaging with the electorate first hand.

It’s also worth noting that one of the most recent polls put Labour on 35%, cutting previous Conservative leads by half. And opinion polls are generally weighted against young people, because they are less likely to vote. So, a high youth turnout could turn the polls around, because the young are much more likely to support Labour.

This bystander’s photo offers a behind the scenes look at May’s carefully stage-managed campaign. No mainstream media outlet has picked up on the embarrassing façade, at the time of writing. So we need to hold the Conservatives to account ourselves.

Get Involved!

Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.

– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a local group, and/or a political party.

– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.

Featured image via Flickr

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