Our political leaders have always relished the chance of a photo-shoot in sunny Cornwall.
Our beautiful county lends itself naturally to the idea that our leaders are all men and women of the people – sharing the same simple pleasures of life that we all enjoy. Whether it’s enjoying a beach holiday, tucking into some chips, visiting our many tourist attractions or admiring freshly-caught fish, Cornwall is a press officer’s dream.
Many visits coincide with electioneering, when the political heavyweights swing down with their teams of assistants and advisers to help their local candidates and the campaigning party faithful. The South West, traditionally – if not currently – has been held up as a Liberal Democrat stronghold, and the party held its conference here in 2008.
The message is simple: People love all things Cornwall (look at Ross Poldark) – therefore, people will love you if you are pictured in Cornwall too. Of course, in reality it doesn’t always work like that.
Here we take a look back through our archives at just a handful of images of political party leaders on their visits to Cornwall in recent decades.
First off we delve right back to the Iron Lady herself, when Margaret Thatcher dominated British politics. She is pictured above on a windy day at St Peters Church Hall in Bodmin in November of 1982.
Jumping forward to April 1997, just ahead of losing power, her successor as Prime Minister, John Major, was also on the campaign trail in the South West. He posed for several pictures with giant fish, pictured here on a visit to Newlyn fish market.
After the Labour landslide of 1997, the new Conservative leader William Hague launched his “man of the people” tour here in September. And what better way to show his common credentials than trying out the log flume at Helston theme park Flambards, and famously sporting a set of personalised hats.
In May 2001, the late Charles Kennedy visited the South West as leader of the Liberal Democrats, looking for supporters among the palms of the tropical biome at the Eden Project.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie also enjoyed their holidays here in Cornwall. Here they are, just like you and me, soaking up Poldark country in Charlestown in August 2001.
Gordon Brown also took the Eden Project tour, pictured here when he was Prime Minister in 2008. To be associated with the famous backdrop of the progressive domes is media gold, although it could not save the Labour Government from defeat in the election two years later.
Who ever said David Cameron was not abreast of local news in Cornwall? When he was the fresh-faced Conservative leader in opposition in April 2010, he even came to visit our newsroom here in Truro and posed for a picture with the West Briton. Did it have anything to do with him getting the top job just a month later?
Of all the political leaders in recent times, Mr Cameron and with his wife Samantha have managed to strike that tricky media balancing act – by actually having their holidays here. Here is Mr Cameron playing a spot of beach cricket with his family in 2011. In 2010, Mrs Cameron even gave birth to their daughter Florence Endellion (after the Cornish village) at Truro’s Royal Cornwall Hospital.
While campaigning to become an MEP, the then leader of UKIP Nigel Farage paid a visit to Newlyn in May 2008. He clearly borrowed an idea from Mr Major with that canny ‘man admires fish’ picture, here with fisherman Mick Mahon, the UKIP candidate Mick Faulkner and fish merchant Julian Smart.
While he was leader of the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg visited Cornwall several times. He posed for selfies with pupils at Helston Community College, where he announced that the Government would pay for the school to be rebuilt in February 2014, which is yet to happen…
And Mr Clegg was back again just a few days later when he was shown around Porthleven, which was damaged in the powerful storms the previous winter. Here he is with harbour master Phil Ward.
Not to forget the Green party – briefly-serving leader Natalie Bennett came to Penzance and Helston ahead of the 2015 election. Here she is with the late Mark Upton and the Green candidate Tim Andrewes outside Helston’s Epworth Hall.
And here are the Camerons again at their favourite holiday retreat of Polzeath in 2015, pictured having a coffee outside the Galleon Beach Cafe following an early morning swim. They made the visit to Cornwall each year while he was Prime Minister.
Last year brought a visit by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who took time out to pose for a selfie. He visited Perranporth before addressing a Labour rally in Newquay in June, 2016.
And to bring us right up to date, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron can’t stay away from the place, having been first off the blocks when the snap General Election of 2017 was declared, by coincidence while he was already due to attend a rally in Truro that day. He has also returned since to Penzance.
And we end with the Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured here in Mevagissey proving that sometimes, even that idyllic Cornish holiday-look can sometimes go awry.
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