Tories 'drop Conservative name in the north of England to capalise on popularity of Theresa May'

Christopher Hope
In Leeds on April 27 Conservative signs promote the values of Theresa May... - AFP and licensors

The Conservatives appear to have dropped the party’s name in the north of England in a bid to capitalise on Theresa May’s soaring personal popularity ratings.

The Prime Minister went to Leeds on Thursday evening for a rally in a seat held at the last election by Labour MP Richard Burgon with a 12,533 majority.

At the event Mrs May spoke in front of a huge sign saying “Theresa May: Strong, Stable Leadership In The National Interest”.

The crowd, comprising mostly activists, held up signs saying “Theresa May Strong, Stable Leadership” with the word “Conservatives” in very small writing.

In contrast, at a campaigning event in Dudley five days earlier, Mrs May stood in front of large Conservative signs which played down her personal appeal.

Other signs said: “Strong and stable leadership in the national interest” with no mention of Mrs May’s name.

Mrs May’s personal ratings far outstrip her Labour opposite number Jeremy Corbyn.

Theresa May in Dudley on April 22

The survey by pollsters GfK found Mr Corbyn has an approval rating of 17 per cent with the British public and disapproval of 58 per cent.

By contrast Mrs May had a 46 per cent approval rate compared to a 33 per cent disapproval rating.

Giles Kenningham, who was the party’s director of communications at the last election, said the party was clearly trying to frame the debate in parts of the country as Mrs May versus Mr Corbyn.

This could be successful in areas of the country where the Conservatives have been traditionally unpopular.

Mr Kenningham said: “One of the key issues in these elections is who do trust with your future and that comes down to leadership. “Framing the election around Theresa May who has an established track record versus a man who's an unknown quantity and has trouble controlling his own party's makes perfect sense.”

The news came as Mr Corbyn criticised Mrs May for only addressing invited Tory activists at the rally rather than members of the public.

Mrs May is under increasing pressure to agree to take part in television debates with Mr Corbyn.

A poll for the Electoral Reform Society found that the majority of the public think televised General Election debates are important to help voters make up their minds.

The study by BMG Research for the Electoral Reform Society found that 56 per cent of people think TV election debates are 'somewhat' or 'very' important in helping voters decide – with the figure rising to 71 per cent among 18-24 year olds.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “These figures show voters now see TV debates as ‘part of the furniture’ of a General Election.

“That’s particularly the case for younger voters – meaning it’s therefore crucial for youth engagement that they take place.”

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