Pick of the week

Best of NS in print and online.

From the magazine

1. Strictly come learning

Samira Shackle meets the new head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw.

2. Cameron has outsourced worrying about compassion. He'll regret it

Iain Duncan Smith's fretting about poverty is no replacement for an empathetic prime minister, writes Rafael Behr.

3. Don't be deceived by the myth of Mitt Romney's moderation

The former Massachusetts governor defends the interests of the rich and powerful at all costs, writes Mehdi Hasan.

4. Why aren't women funny on TV?

All-male panel show line-ups are making me lose my sense of humour, says Helen Lewis-Hasteley.

5. The NS Profile -- Claire Tomalin

The award-winning writer and former New Statesman literary editor hangs up her biographer's coat with a life of Dickens . . . and contemplates one of her own. By Sophie Elmhirst.

 

From the web

1. There was too much mystery for Downing Street to bear

Rafael Behr on Liam Fox's protracted departure.

2. Obama: Mr 99%?

Gavin Kelly says the US president needs to recognise the resentments that have sparked the 99% movement.

3. The world according to Paul Dacre

The Daily Mail editor on corrections, self-regulation and liberals who loathe the tabloids. By Steven Baxter.

4. NHS reform is a never-ending nightmare for Cameron

The Prime Minister could end up with a reputation as the man who broke the NHS, writes Rafael Behr.

5. Hitchens: "I'm not going to quit until I absolutely have to"

Writer makes first public appearance for months in Texas, notes George Eaton.

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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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