Theresa May has been accused of ignoring the real people of Harehills during a flying visit to the inner city Leeds suburb to launch a Conservative General Election drive.
The Prime Minister was in the city yesterday (Thursday), when she asked Leeds voters to “lend” her their vote even if they have traditional Labour allegiances.
As part of the visit, she went to the Shine centre in Harehills, a regenerated former primary school building which now operates as a business and community hub.
But Rik Kendell, who works in the building, said he and many others were left “deeply disappointed” by the after-hours timing of the visit and its staged nature.
Mr Kendell told the YEP: “Mrs May’s arrival was scheduled for after hours, when people who work in the building had left.
“There were no locals in the building other than some Shine staff and an invited congregation of well dressed Tories.
“Harehills as a community was not represented or addressed.
“I found this deeply disappointing. I had no plans to vote for Mrs May but I’m well aware of the positive effect that seeing a speech in-person from such a powerful, motivated public figure can have. As one of the poorer and more diverse areas in Leeds, I’m sure the residents of Harehills would have appreciated being involved. Instead Mrs May spoke exclusively to a hand-selected bunch of the party faithful.”
Mr Kendell’s comments led to a flurry of debate on Twitter, with one person suggesting the PM was “avoiding meeting ordinary people” and others saying the visit was overly “staged” and “scripted”.
Sitting Leeds Labour MPs also had their say.
Leeds East’s Richard Burgon said: “It seems Theresa May didn’t really visit Harehills.
“Instead, like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects.
“It’s a shame Theresa May shut out Harehills residents from her visit.
“She could have dropped in to small businesses on Harehills Lane or spoken with - and listened to - small businesses and community organisations that operate in the very building she used for her publicity stunt.”
And sitting Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves noted: “Theresa May has been Prime Minister for nine months, yet this is the first occasion in all that time she’s bothered to come to Yorkshire.
“People here aren’t fools.”
‘IT’S ME OR CORBYN YOU’RE VOTING FOR’
by James Reed
During Thursday’s stop-off, Mrs May tried to capitalise on many Labour supporters’ uncertainty over leader Jeremy Corbyn by presenting the June 8 poll as a vote on who will be Prime Minister rather than which party will be in government.
Signalling the Conservatives’ growing ambitions in next month’s election, Mrs May delivered her message on the fringes of Leeds North East, a constituency held by Labour since 1997 where sitting MP Fabian Hamilton is defending a majority of more than 7,000.
A swing big enough to secure Leeds North East would point to the Conservatives also taking Labour-held seats including Wakefield, Halifax and Dewsbury.
Mrs May said: “I know that this is a city, it’s a place where perhaps people usually might say that it’s a traditional Labour area but here and in constituencies across the country although it may say Labour on the ballot it will be Jeremy Corbyn who gets the votes.
“There are only two people who it is possible will be prime minister on June 9, only two people who can possibly represent Britain in Europe and the choice is between five years of strong and stable leadership with me as prime minister or a coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, a weak leader negotiating Brexit.”