Boris Johnson has been accused of refusing to meet members of the public and running scared of protests during a visit to Somerset.
Johnson was in the south-west of England to try to bolster the campaigns of Tory colleagues against strong Liberal Democrat challenges. But in Taunton he was heckled by protesters as he visited a school and a planned stop-off at a bakery on the edge of Glastonbury was ditched.
Though the visits were not publicised, word got out that Johnson was in the county and a crowd of about 100 people, including Extinction Rebellion protesters, musicians and even a bard, turned up to greet him at Burns the Bread.
There were tense scenes as police moved the protesters away from the front of the bakery on to a grass verge close to a busy road while leaving Tory supporters where they were.
The Conservative faithful, including the Wells candidate, James Heappey, waited for more than hour but Johnson did not show. Chants of “Boris hasn’t got the balls” broke out before the crowd dispersed.
Johnson later served a customer at another Burns the Bread shop in Wells six miles away and aimed an insult at the environmental campaigners he had dodged, saying: “There were lots of crusties there – more crusty than your loaves.”
The prime minister went on a short walkabout of the high street in Wells and was cheered and welcomed by several people, although there was some heckling from others.
Lynnsey Kelly, who runs a flower shop in the city, said: “Right at this very moment in time are there not more important things to be done in this country than the prime minister coming to Wells and serving pasties to people and having a photo opportunity? It is absolutely disgusting.”
Back in Glastonbury, Martin Campbell, a retired NHS manager, said: “He’s running scared. He doesn’t want to talk to ordinary people about the issues that affect us all.”
Laura Sorensen, holding an Extinction Rebellion banner, said: “It seems that Mr Johnson and his ilk do not want to meet members of the public. Boris has chickened out – what a flaky man.”
Lisa Goodwin, the bard of Glastonbury, had prepared a poem to welcome Johnson while the musician John D Revelator entertained the crowds with a song called the Boris Blues.
An environmental activist called Smurf said he was not surprised Johnson had not turned up. He pointed out that some of the placards were aggressive and offensive. “If you open up the dialogue by shouting ‘Tory twat’ you’re not going to get anywhere,” he said. “I’d like to sit down and talk to the guy.”
Some had just come along to catch a glimpse of the prime minister. Di Smith said: “I’m not really political at all. I quite like Boris actually. But I feel let down that I’ve stood out here in the cold for hours and he hasn’t come.”
Earlier at West Monkton primary school in Taunton, Johnson discussed the Incredible Hulk with pupils. One boy said: “He’s got boobies,” to which the PM replied: “Those aren’t boobies, they are muscles.”