Voters’ opinions are split on whether Theresa May was right to refuse to take part in TV debates - but most are still planning on backing her in the general election.
Participants in the last HuffPost UK-Edelman focus groups of the campaign were asked whether they thought the Prime Minister had done the right thing in deciding not to participate in a BBC debate between all main parties earlier this week.
Opinion among the ex-UKIP voters from Folkestone, Kent, was divided, with some saying Theresa May’s decision to send Home Secretary Amber Rudd to debate in her place showed she had ‘the backing of a team behind her’, while others insisted she should have defended her record personally.
Single mum and residential home cook Emma said: “All these debates are turning British politics into American politics and I don’t think we need that. She’s the Prime Minister. She shouldn’t have to justify herself.”
Lynne, a retired grandmother, said: “I just think it looks like a kids arguing in a playground. I think she did the right thing not doing it.”
Members of the first group, made up of six women and three men, said they felt Theresa May ‘stuck to her decisions’ and did not consider the Tories’ U-turn on social care a huge problem.
Louise, a supermarket worker, said: “If something is not right with the country then she will go and change it.”
“I think if she makes a decision she sticks to it,” Lynne added. “I think she listens to people then she changes.”
Mum-of-two Linda, who looks after her grandchildren, said she thought the Prime Minister was ‘a breath of fresh air’.
“If I am watching TV and she comes on then I will stop what I’m doing and listen.
“As a woman, it’s nice to hear a woman come out with something rather than a man giving you crap all the time.”
Emma, a single mum, added: “I think seeing a female Prime Minister is empowering. It’s inspiring for young women.”
But participants in the second group, made up of three men and three women, were well aware of May’s U-turn on social care and the so-called dementia tax - with one even mistakenly recalling a reversal of the Conservatives’ plan to replace school lunches with free breakfasts.
They also believed the PM should have taken part in head-to-head debates with other party leaders.
Danny, a welder, said: “She should have fought her own corner.”
Customer service adviser Kim added: “It was the wrong decision, she needs to stand there and voice her policies. I see more of Jeremy Corbyn on TV.”
Corbyn was praised for his performance answering questions in front of a live studio audience at Sky on Monday evening, before a face-to-face interview with Jeremy Paxman.
May was laughed at and heckled by audience members over changes to her manifesto and Tory cuts to public services.
Despite this, nine of the 15 participants in two groups said they would definitely vote Conservative next week, while another three said they were undecided but leaning towards the Tories. None were planning to pledge support for UKIP and only one person said they would never consider voting Conservative.
Julia, a retired nurse, said she felt Theresa May was the best placed to represent her views, but that she had made a mistake calling a snap election.
“When she called it she thought she was getting a slap on the back and actually she has got a kick in the teeth,” she added.
Many of the participants, whose ages ranged from 35 to 74, said they would like to see a return of ‘traditional British values’.
David, an electrician and dad-of-two, said: “We knew right from wrong when we were kids. A member of my family is in the police force and I dread him going out on the job. Kids have no respect for the police any more.”
Kim added: “Kids can’t play conkers in the playground any more. If you work in a school you can’t give a child a hug if they are upset. The world has gone mad.”
HuffPost UK is looking at voters’ priorities outside the hubbub of the election campaign trail and what they want beyond March 29, 2019, not just June 8, 2017. Beyond Brexit leaves the bubble of Westminster and London talk to Britons left out of the conversation on the subjects they really care about, like housing, integration, social care, school funding and air quality.
NOTE: These focus groups was made up of people aged 35-74 from social grade BC1 and C2D who previously voted UKIP and are likely to vote on June 8. It was conducted on Thursday 1 June.