UK

Theresa May Accused Of Dodging 'Any Form Of Public Scrutiny' After Keeping Journalists At A Distance

Labour Call Out 'Extraordinary Effort To Avoid Public Scrutiny'.

02/05/2017 14:11 BST | Updated 02/05/2017 16:12 BST

Theresa May’s efforts to avoid journalists on the campaign trail have led Labour to accuse her of “going to extraordinary efforts to avoid any form of public scrutiny”. 

May visited a diving equipment factory in Cornwall this morning, not that you would know it from reading Cornwall Live, which used its live blog to stress how hard it was to get close to the prime minister.

PA Wire/PA Images
Theresa May visits AP Diving in St Ives where media were tightly controlled

But the Conservatives have hit back, saying May has taken “four times as many questions” than Jeremy Corbyn on the campaign trail so far and saying filming had been arranged long in advance.

Cornwall Live’s blog included a photo of a closed door their journalist could not go through, a film of the nearest they were allowed to shoot from (a long way off) and openly wondering why they were refused to permit their three-minute meeting with her.

Journalists were even put in a room together to prevent them carrying out any unauthorised filming, according to the paper.

MP Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s National Election Chair, said: “Theresa May’s campaign is going to extraordinary efforts to avoid any form of public scrutiny.

“What is especially worrying is that we’ve still not even heard from the Prime Minister on the alarming leaks from Brussels, which expose just how reckless her Brexit plans are.

“Rather than hiding away, the Prime Minister needs to come out and explain just what on earth is going on.”

A spokesman for The Conservatives said: “One media organisation’s last minute request to add a camera to a pre-arranged pool of broadcast cameras was not possible this morning.

“The organisation’s journalists did interview the Prime Minister and their photographer accompanied the Prime Minister on a factory tour.

“Theresa May has so far taken four times as many questions from journalists as floundering Jeremy Corbyn while his cabinet can’t even answer basic questions about how they would pay for his nonsensical policies.”

Cornwall Live’s blog said of the visit: “Having covered several high-profile politicians’ and royal visits over the years, the level of media control here is far and above anything I’ve seen before.

“We’re not even allowed to show you her visiting the building.”

Cornwall Live’s deputy editor Steve Smith said he had “never known a visit like this”.

Rival paper The Falmouth Packet reported May’s visit had been “kept completely secret right up until the last moment” and that it was unclear “if Mrs May will now visit other businesses in the surrounding area or continue on to a different part of Cornwall”.

The extent of the controls was picked up by journalists in Westminster.

Politics Home editor Kevin Schofield contrasted May’s day with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who had a disastrous interview trying to promote Labour’s pledge to increase police funding but was at least “taking loads of media questions”.

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell said May was having a “touch of the Erdogans again”, referring to the authoritarian, anti-press Turkish president.

A German tweeter compared her shutting out the press to the Populist Right party AfD.

St Ives was a Lib Dem seat that the Tories won in 2015, turning the whole county blue.

During Cornwall Live’s permitted three-minute exchange with the PM which they weren’t allowed to film, the site’s reporter asked whether the Government had to give the county more money to fund social care.

May urged people to appreciate the broader picture, adding: “That is about strong and stable leadership.”