The Mayor, The Speaker, His Wife and The Bloggers

Across the web, not least at the <em>NS</em> online, the London Mayoral election is raising temperat

With just two months until the London mayoral election, the campaign trail is picking up pace in the blogosphere.

Earlier in the week, Mike Smithson at Political Betting called the election “by far and away the biggest political betting event in the UK this year is,” despite the lack of polls. But later that day Anthony Walls at UK Polling Report resists the bendy bus analogy to announce: “After waiting months for a proper poll on the London mayoral election, two come along at once.”

The first of the two polls Walls refers to shows Ken Livingstone 5% behind Boris Johnson, and Smithson senses a whiff of politicising with the release of the second. “My understanding is that Labour and Ken knew about the MORI poll almost as soon as it had been completed,” writes Smithson, “but it was deemed to be a deadly secret because of the closeness of the finding.”

The mayoral election also attracted a great deal of interest on these very pages, as NS political editor Martin Bright criticised prominent Lefties for signing a Compass letter in support of Livingstone. Anthony Barnett at Our Kingdom reveals the frank conversation he had with Bright over his decision to sign, while Oliver Kamm offers Bright his support.

Also this week, Commons speaker Michael Martin found himself the subject of the latest sleaze allegations. The Daily Pundit, with tongue firmly in cheek, asks: “What’s a working class Scot who didn’t go to Oxford and knows what a day’s work is when he sees it doing with friends? It’s a disgrace.”

While, The Remittance Man takes a different view: “Michael Martin’s working class origins are not the issue here. Both George Thomas and Betty Boothroyd have been from working class backgrounds and both served the Labour Party prior to election as speaker, yet both managed to perform their tasks with reasonable fairness and retain the respect of MPs of all parties and the public. Martin has singularly failed to do the same.”

It doesn’t make for great reading for Martin at Iain Dale’s blog. In a poll of 1,122 readers – of whom, somewhat tellingly, only 46% are Conservative supporters – 91% believe Martin should step down as speaker, and 82% rate his performance as either poor or dreadful. Betty Boothroyd comes out as the best speaker of the past 30 years, with 49% of votes; Martin comes in with just 1%.

David Osler also joins the debate: “It is unclear if Martin has technically done anything wrong in pocketing the money from such a generous scheme for a property on which there no mortgage; perhaps Peter Mandelson or Tessa Jowell - given their special expertise in the field of how to finance home purchase the New Labour way - could advise?

“But whatever the rulebook says, this action is morally equivalent to housing benefit fraud, without the ability to claim poverty as a mitigating circumstance.” So there.

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “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”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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