Tories campaign with leaflets that barely feature party branding – or Sunak

<span>Many Conservative leaflets, including these in Scotland, do not appear to have overt party branding on them.</span><span>Photograph: X</span>
Many Conservative leaflets, including these in Scotland, do not appear to have overt party branding on them.Photograph: X

The Conservatives have been campaigning with leaflets that barely feature Rishi Sunak or their party branding, with candidates putting their own local images prominently instead, election material shows.

The prime minister has been out campaigning in the last few days, but volunteers were distributing newsletters in green or pink without his face on the cover.

The party is set to distribute a further 2m newsletters to battleground seats in the first week of June, but the material, entitled Your Future, is branded in red and features no images of Sunak.

It focuses heavily on the messages of security, tax cuts, and guaranteeing the triple lock on pensions, with only a minimal mention of Sunak and the Conservatives as being the party to stick to a “clear plan”.

The leaflets prompted suggestions the Tories are trying to distance themselves from Sunak and their national branding at a local level, with the party so far behind Labour in the polls and Sunak’s own ratings also unfavourable.

A Labour spokesperson said: “Rishi Sunak has dropped to new depths of unpopularity, with his own campaign headquarters and candidates refusing to put Tory branding on their leaflets.

“After 14 years of chaos, even the Conservatives have decided it’s time for change.”

Numerous Conservative MPs have posted pictures of themselves campaigning with leaflets that do not appear to have party branding on them. Much of the material is distributed as newsletters, designed to look neutral and with tiny mentions of the Conservative party.

The party’s new leaflet template for the general election, heading to 250 MPs and target seats this week, is also neutrally branded with minimal mention of the Conservatives – just an image of the candidate on the outside.

A Tory source said the party’s newsletter does mention the Conservatives. On the newsletter due to go out in June, a Conservative spokesperson said: “This leaflet isn’t one for Rishi Sunak’s seat and clearly states Conservatives throughout. It is one of a wide number of leaflets that will be issued during this campaign.”

Opposition party sources said the leaflets appeared to be unusual, but that “we are not underestimating the Tories as they have so much money”.

However, the Tories’ ground campaign has encountered difficulties, with an internal memo leaked to the Times showing that party staff were worried Conservative ministers and MPs had failed to “get behind” campaigning and had refused to knock on doors.

It reported that Conservative staff accused MPs of focusing too much on ministerial business in a document accidentally emailed to party MPs by a senior campaigning figure at the Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ). It also highlighted some areas such as Bury and Thurrock, which are marginals, which it said were running low on funds.

Of Rebecca Pow, an environment minister, and the MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset, the document said: “MP still focusing too much on ‘ministerial business’ and noncommittal on time she will spend in the seat now and during the campaign.”

In response, the Conservative party said: “As you would expect a huge number of reports and emails are compiled and sent daily. The email was sent in error and immediately recalled. Those who received it have been contacted with an apology.”

The party is also rushing to appoint candidates to more than 100 seats, with emergency rules that will see nationally-imposed shortlists of three candidates for the remaining contests.