Conservative parliamentary candidates in marginal seats have started referring to themselves as “Theresa May’s local candidates” in an apparent attempt to win votes by distancing themselves from their party and instead associate themselves with the Prime Minister.
Claire-Louise Leyland, the Tory candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn who is hoping to overturn sitting Labour MP Tuliq Siddiq’s majority of 1,138, described herself on her Twitter profile as “Theresa May’s Local Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn” but did not mention the Conservatives.
Ms Leyland’s cover image also showed her grinning next to Ms May.
She later added the word “Conservatives” to her page after other users asked why she appeared to be distancing herself from her party.
It comes after a leaked memo from Conservative Campaign HQ reportedly said Tory candidates should tell voters: “The only way to be sure of strong and stable leadership through Brexit and beyond is by voting for Theresa May and her local Conservative candidate on 8 June."
Those who have been Conservative MPs for many years were reported to be amused that they have now been reduced to being called the Prime Minister’s “local candidate”.
The official Conservative Party Twitter account later tweeted about Thursday’s local elections, saying: “Polls are open until 10pm – only Theresa May’s local candidates can deliver strong, stable leadership across the UK”.
Last week, 'Conservative' branding was all but removed from banners during a visit by Ms May to Leeds. The Prime Minister spoke to party supporters in front of signs reading "Theresa May: Strong, Stable Leadership in the National Interest" but featuring no mention of the Tories.
Party activists, meanwhile, held signs saying "Theresa May: Strong, Stable Leadership”. “The Conservatives” was only written in much smaller print underneath.
A Labour spokesperson told The Independent: “They can refer to themselves any way they want, but there is no hiding from the fact that behind Theresa May’s slogans, it’s the same old Tories, standing up for a privileged few.”
The Tories’ decision to make Ms May the centre-point of their campaign stems from the fact the Prime Minister is significantly more popular than her party among voters.
While polls suggest the Conservatives have the support of between 40 and 45 per cent of the public, 61 per cent of voters believe Ms May is the best choice for prime minister, compared to just 23 per cent who back Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms May now has a higher popularity rating than any other prime minister in recent years, beating both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in their best years. Ms Thatcher’s highest score was 48 per cent, while Mr Blair peaked at 52 per cent.