THERESA May’s flying visit to Bolton for the launch of the Tory election campaign has been welcomed with delight by many voters — but derision from others.
The Prime Minister chose Walmsley Parish Hall in Egerton for her first stop on the campaign trail, where she met the chairman of an amateur dramatic group putting on a production of High Society at the hall.
She also spoke to residents around Turton Golf Club, where her helicopter landed on Wednesday afternoon.
However, one man was filmed sticking two fingers up at the Prime Minister as the motorcade left the hall in Blackburn Road and also appearing to make a gun gesture towards her car.
Nora Howcroft, chairman of the Walmsley Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, had a chance meeting with the Mrs May while she was waiting for a delivery of costumes.
She said: “We were totally unaware of it because her whereabouts were not divulged until she was there.
“She came in to our members room bar afterwards. She was very interested in what we were doing as a society.
“First of all she came to where we keep all our props. I said to her ‘I hope you haven’t touched anything’, she said ‘I’m so sorry for interfering’.”
The Prime Minister arrived at around 5.30pm and spent 15 minutes addressing local party activists and the nation’s media.
Egerton is in the Labour-held target seat of Bolton North East, where Sir David Crausby has a majority of 4,377.
Mrs Howcroft added: “She was a most charming, charming lady. I was very impressed.
“How honoured we are that we’re the first place that she came to after announcing that there is going to be a general election.
“We’re lucky she has launched the election in Bolton, for her to come here and to Egerton, how wonderful that was.
“She was asking me about the show and when it was on. It was a lovely moment.
“It was good, the first lady of the country meeting the first lady of the operatic society.”
The Prime Minister headed straight for Bolton after MPs voted on Wednesday afternoon to approve her plan for a snap election on June 8.
Gary Myerscough was shocked to find his home next to Turton Golf Club swarming with activity as Mrs May’s helicopter touched down.
The 47-year-old, who chatted with the Tory leader before she left Bolton, said: “It was really exciting. When she came back from the speech she stopped to have a chat with us.
“She was asking how we were and we were all very surprised. I couldn’t believe that she had been in Parliament a few hours earlier and was now stood on the first tee at Turton Golf Club.
“It’s great that she came to launch the campaign here. I think when you meet MPs it does make you warm to them and more inclined to vote for them.
“I think people here are more likely to vote Conservative than they might have been before.
“It used to be that you were either loyal Labour or Tory, but now people change their minds more so the Tories will think there is more mileage in targeting Bolton.”
However, not everyone was so pleased to see the Prime Minister.
A video that was widely shared on social media appears to show a man first making his hands into the shape of a gun and pointing it at Mrs May’s vehicle, before then putting up two fingers as the motorcade passes his own car.
In the clip, a police officer on a motorbike appears to speak to the man but a police spokesman said no crime had been reported.
It is not known who filmed the footage.
The Prime Minister, who was watched by local Tory figures including Cllr David Greenhalgh and mayoral candidate Sean Anstee, repeatedly stated her case for providing “strong and stable leadership” as the UK heads into Brexit negotiations.
The Rev Karen Lund, the Walmsley parish priest, said seeing Mrs May — the daughter of a vicar — speaking at the church hall is a source of pride for the area.
She said: “We are delighted that the Prime Minister chose to launch the election campaign here in Egerton, as this fits really well with the aims of our parish, that the hall be available as an open community facility.
“The Prime Minister leaves a pride in the parish that she chose to come to Walmsley, and has at the same time highlighted the value of our churches and parish halls in communities throughout the country.
“We wish Theresa May and all our politicians of every colour, Eastertide blessings at this momentous and important moment in our nation.”