Theresa May enlists hubby in charm offensive as Corbyn labours on

Pro-EU demonstrators float their protest against Prime Minister Theresa May's visit to the BBC building for her interview. Mrs May was joined by her husband Philip on Tuesday evening for their first interview together. They talked about how they fell
Pro-EU demonstrators float their protest against Prime Minister Theresa May's visit to the BBC building for her interview. Mrs May was joined by her husband Philip on Tuesday evening for their first interview together. They talked about how they fell in love at university and disclosed that while she cooks, he takes out the trash.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • With a month to go before Britain votes for its next government, Prime Minister Theresa May set out to woo "middle England" on prime-time television, while her main rival Jeremy Corbyn rallied his socialist comrades in Britain's industrial heartlands. 

Mrs May's first joint interview with her husband Philip on Tuesday was a chance for her to give voters a rarely seen softer side. The couple discussed Mrs May's taste in shoes, how they fell in love at university and disclosed that while she cooks, he takes out the trash.

"There's boy jobs and girl jobs you see," Mrs May announced on the sofa of The One Show, a BBC evening programme that regularly attracts five million viewers.

Earlier in the day, in north-west England's Trafford, Mr Corbyn launched his Labour Party's programme for government with a blistering tirade against "greedy bankers" and heartless bosses who are "ripping off workers and consumers".

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The contrast in approach is revealing. It reflects Mrs May's decision to put herself at the centre of her party's campaign for re-election, and Mr Corbyn's choice to shun the conventional playbook of centre-ground politics and appeal to populist anger at Britain's elites.

On June 8, voters will be asked to choose who they want to lead Britain through complex and potentially acrimonious negotiations on leaving the European Union and to shape the country's future beyond Brexit.

While Mrs May's Conservatives are about 20 points ahead of Mr Corbyn's Labour in recent opinion polls, her campaign has been derided for being too tightly controlled, with few unscripted encounters with ordinary members of the public. Critics have described her performances as stilted and robotic.

In his first campaign appearance, Mrs May's financier husband offered viewers a different insight into the woman running Britain, in what the Tories hoped would bring a rigidly businesslike politician to life.

He said Mrs May first told him she wanted to become prime minister more than seven years ago, before the Conservatives won power under Mr David Cameron's leadership in 2010.

For her part, Mrs May said that while the couple live in the apartment above the Prime Minister's official residence in Downing Street, they like to go "home" for the weekends, where she keeps a large collection of cookery books.

"Theresa's a very good cook indeed actually," said Mr May, adding that while there is not a downside to being the Prime Minister's husband, "if you're the kind of man who expects his tea to be on the table at six o'clock every evening, you could be a little bit disappointed".

About 320km north of Downing Street, Mr Corbyn was introduced by a soap opera actress as the man who "gives a toss".

"I say to the tax cheats, the rip-off bosses and the greedy bankers: enough is enough," Mr Corbyn told an audience of party activists in Trafford.

Not everyone was impressed. Later, on the edge of a crowd in nearby Salford, a heckler could be heard shouting: "Unelectable! He's forgotten about the white working class."

It is voters like this that Prime Minister May is hoping to attract, with her promise to take on the EU in Brexit negotiations.

The signs are she is succeeding.  Even Mr Maurice Glasman, once a key adviser to Mr Corbyn's predecessor Ed Miliband, has held talks with Mrs May's chief-of-staff Nick Timothy in her Downing Street offices, the Financial Times reported.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'May enlists hubby in charm offensive as Corbyn labours on'. Print Edition | Subscribe