Saturday, May 13, 2017

Status pro quo: Channel 4 reporter says Theresa May 'refusing to take press questions she hasn't pre-approved'

SOTT | May 9, 2017 | Lucy Pasha-Robinson

© Francois Lenoir / Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May
The Independent - Channel 4 correspondent says member of Prime Minister's team told him not to bother raising his hand as 'he wasn't on the list

A senior political commentator has accused Theresa May of refusing to take questions from journalists unless they have prior approval to speak.

Channel 4 political correspondent Michael Crick claimed a member of Ms May's campaign team told him not to bother raising his hand to ask a question as he "wasn't on the list".

He also claimed another reporter had been told journalists' questions were being vetted ahead of campaign events, in a series of barbed accusations directed at the Prime Minister's campaign team during an event in York on Tuesday.

"I was told by May aide I wasn't on list to ask May a question, & there was no point in putting my hand up to ask one," he said on Twitter.

"One reporter told me May aides made clear if he didn't state his question in advance then he wouldn't get a question."

A Conservative party spokesperson told The Independent claims that questions were being pre-vetted were categorically untrue. They also vigorously denied claims Ms May was refusing to take questions from journalists who had not been pre-approved. They said any pre-selection of journalists was only carried out in order to ensure each outlet - irrespective of political leaning - had a fair chance to question the Prime Minister.

Other political journalists in attendance also denied Crick's claims.

The Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn wrote on Twitter: "Nice story, but not actually true. They may ask, but we don't tell."

BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier said: "Who are you referring to Michael? Certainly NO collaboration between me/BBC and May's team."

Mr Crick later tweeted that Ms May was taking "unprepared questions, chosen by her randomly," at a separate campaign event with factory workers in Morley and Outwood.

However footage emerged of an exchange with one audience member in which Ms May can be heard asking: "You have a pen in your hand, are you a journalist?"

It emerged as accusations Ms May is "hiding" from real voters continue to persist ahead of the 8 June general election.

At a campaign rally in April, staff claimed they were barred from attending and those left in the building were reportedly "invite-only."

Further accusations emerged after a campaign event held in Scotland was publicly listed as a children's birthday party and not advertised in advance.

Dr Judi Atkins, politics lecturer at Coventry University, warned Ms May's protective campaigning strategy could harm her image in the long term.

"Ultimately I think it is a mistake - it is just increasing a distance between the people and the leaders who are supposed to represent them," she told The Independent.

"We are not getting to see her human side, we are not seeing her as a rounded person. We're getting her as a leader, as the Prime Minister, and perhaps she can get away with that at the moment but David Cameron was able to present a human side as well.

"In the short term, she is playing it very safe but a week is a long time in politics and we've still got weeks to go before the election."

Jeremy Corbyn said Ms May's refusal to face real voters on the campaign trail was "showing contempt for the public" and suggested she was scared of them.

Ms May was also strongly criticised after refusing to take part in a televised debate with the Labour leader. Both will face the public on 2 June in a Question Time special, the BBC announced on Monday.

Despite criticism of Ms May's campaigning strategy, she continues to ride high in opinion polls. A Kantar poll released on Tuesday showed the Conservatives with a 16-point lead over the Labour party.

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