Opinion: Where did it go wrong for Theresa May in Leeds?

Theresa May.
Theresa May.
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Leeds was always going to be a hard nut to crack for the Conservatives if they had pretensions to doing anything other than hanging on to their seats.

In the end, they were lucky even to do that, with Stuart Andrew coming achingly close to losing his Pudsey seat to Labour unknown Ian McCargo. In Morley and Outwood too, Labour local boy Neil Dawson gave Andrea Jenkyns a real run for her money. The fact that these two seats came perilously close to causing an almost total Conservative wipeout in Leeds is a sign that something went drastically wrong for Mrs May. Yes, solid grass-roots campaigns by Labour played a part. But there was something else too.

Perhaps the defining moment of the flawed Leeds campaign was the disastrous trip to a community centre in inner-city Harehills. Mrs May’s flying visit drew stinging criticism for her lack of engagement with actual locals, playing out as a bit of parody of the traditional ‘out and about’ which the PM’s team were pushing to the max. The criticism must have stung, because Mrs May was back in Leeds less than two weeks later, trying to do the exact opposite by taking questions direct from factory workers in Morley. But it was too late by then and didn’t really ring true.

Politicians should stick to what they’re good at, and Mrs May doesn’t do warm and witty and touchy feely. If you are gong to engage in the politics of personality, you should know your own personality - and stay true to it.