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This is not campaigning

A few days ago, I was speaking to a local Labour Party worker. He was shrugging at the Tory effort around our neck of the woods, wasn't too worried about retaining the seat at the election; the theory being that they weren't trying hard, because nobody major had turned up.

Then two days ago the Prime Minister turned up.

My first thoughts, when I found out, were of that functionary, his confidence in retaining the seat must have taken a dent from the news that the biggest gun of them all had come calling. The funny thing was, though, nobody knew. I found out on the Today programme the next morning.

The constituency in which I live, West Lancashire, is a place of contrasts. I live in Ormskirk, a reasonably (though increasingly less) prosperous mix of market and student town. We're surrounded by blandly pretty countryside, some reasonably picturesque agricultural land and some chocolate box villages. Down the road, however, is Skelmersdale, the main reason that West Lancashire is a Labour seat. A mining village which was, in 1961, designated a New Town, and designed to house overspill population from Liverpool. It would be reasonable to say that Skelmersdale faces more economic and social difficulties than the rest of the constituency. You may recall that Grayson Perry documentary where he hung out with local gangs. Skem's not as bad as it's painted, but whilst wishing to avoid hyperbole, it was would be fair to describe it as having higher levels of deprivation than the rest of West Lancs. It would seem, therefore, to be a reasonable assumption that any campaigning PM, out to forge a "society that works for the many" would be dropping by Skem on the campaign trail.

Except that she did not. Theresa May's visit to my patch was instead a closed, invite-only meeting in Mawdesley Village Hall. Mawdesley, it's safe to say, is not Skem. Average house price in Mawdesley: £351,349. Average house price in Skem: £121,158. Mawdesley is a very pretty village, with very pretty pubs and a very pretty cricket ground. And in its very pretty village hall the PM spoke to the faithful, who were there by invite only. It's a scene from a Sistine Chapel fresco: St Theresa Preaches to the Converted.

It is of a piece with her earlier effort in Scotland, where here appearance, miles from anywhere to a load of bussed-in supporters was in a village hall which had been booked as a children's party. Only yesterday a couple of journalists from Cornwall Live were shut in a room after asking to film a brief bit of a factory visit.

This complete control over her appearances has two functions: firstly, Theresa May gets to say she is campaigning, getting out there and meeting ordinary people. Second, she doesn't actually have to.

This is the politics of seeming. This is the othering of an entire electorate by one section of one political party. In keeping the actual world at arms length in this way May is paying lip service to the idea of being a Prime Minister of the people (and garnering enough images of her in proximity to actual people to lend this theory enough credence to get her through to June), but she is also confirming that she holds places like Skelmersdale in absolute contempt. The invited in Mawdesley get the Prime Minister they want, the rest can go hang.


  1. Craziness! The mainstream media won't be doing much to expose this, either. I'm judging that on the Kuenssberg-style BBCing of the day, where whatever St Theresa does or doesn't do, is somehow not the issue if Jeremy Corbyn can be made to look terrible.

    Anyway, was really interested to read this from your POV, and I'm liking the new layout on a side-note :)

  2. Neatly avoiding the Tory version of that Gordon Brown bigot gaffe.


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