Top seven things for final week of the election
Campaigning in the UK election is well underway again after the shocking terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The decision that was (rightly) made to suspend campaigning gave the nation time to grieve over a terrible act which specifically targeted young women and girls celebrating the many freedoms offered to them in the West. It is worth saying that whilst campaigning is back in full swing, for many families, the horrors of that night earlier this week is a constant worry and will not ease any time soon.
UKIP were the first to being campaigning again, chaotically launching their manifesto yesterday. Local campaigns began shortly thereafter and national campaigning for the other parties started again today. After the break the parties are determined to make up the lost time and will be campaigning hard over the Bank Holiday weekend and beyond.
With a lot going on over the next couple of weeks it will be interesting to see how the campaigns adapt to the change in circumstances. Here at Chelgate we have identified the top seven things to look out for between now and 8th June.
Following a disastrous U-turn on one of their headline policies, you can rest assured that Theresa May wants to keep the focus off the Conservative manifesto as much as possible. However, the other parties who have not been forced into a climb down will look to capitalise on the Tory slip up as much as possible.
Look out for the Conservative Party striving to keep the debate focused on national politics, Jeremy Corbyn, the future of the UK and a Brexit deal.
Meanwhile, all the other parties will talk about their manifestos and policies, which tend to be more popular than their leaders. Also, enjoy the melodrama of UKIP banning ‘adhesive gold stars’ as a reward in the classroom.
- Dead cat on the table
The talk of the manifestos will lead to Lynton Crosby’s favourite election technique, throwing a dead cat on the table. As Boris Johnson said, ‘they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’
When the debate focuses too much on Theresa May’s weak points, Mr Crosby will release one of the Tory attack dogs, possibly Chris Grayling, to refocus the national debate. Although it does remain to be seen what the line of attack will be.
- The Polls
The gap in the polls has closed, possibly to as low as five points and this has left Corbyn and his team feeling confident. Hence, Corbyn’s speech today in which he laid the blame for the Manchester attack on Western foreign policy failures.
This is crucial, because although Corbyn’s stance is what he has firmly believed for decades, the Labour Party would be unlikely to push forward with such strong language if they were still massively behind in the polls.
This poll ‘wobble’ always happens to the incumbent party as election day looms. CCHQ will certainly have a lot to think about over the bank holiday weekend. However, Crosby is unlikely to be too upset by this. It is exactly what he wants, as a seeming hardening of Labour support allows people to focus their minds more on the type of Government they want and ensuring they turn out to vote.
The debate around security has played a major role in this General Election and the Conservatives have been arguing that voters cannot trust Jeremy Corbyn with the UK’s security. Considering what has happened this week, this argument will now have to be phrased delicately. Manchester has previously been targeted by the IRA, and the IRA tried to assassinate the Margaret Thatcher when she was PM. Days later Jeremy Corbyn invited them in to Parliament to speak.
The Tories will seek to ensure that this is not forgotten. As John McDonnell does his rounds on the talk shows expect this past to be highlighted. McDonnell’s, Corbyn’s and even Diane Abbott’s (who is crucially the Shadow Home Secretary) links to the IRA and other potentially questionable organisations will be brought up.
In many Conservative Party members’ minds, the attack on Manchester cements the validity of this argument more than ever. The question is how this will play out and will it form part of Crosby’s dead cat strategy?
- The Mayors
Out of the horrific attack in Manchester, the nation came together, spearheaded by Labour’s newest mayor, Andy Burnham. He did a terrific job speaking up for Manchester. Furthermore, Sadiq Khan has demonstrated he can use his mayoral platform to make the case for Labour moderates. Expect more from these Mayors as the public view of Corbyn remains negative. Also, expect Corbynistas to blame the media, the voters, the pollsters and whoever else they can think of for his failures, rather than looking introspectively and identifying that Corbyn is in fact the problem.
In addition, expect to see Andy Street, the Conservatives’ latest elected star, making the case for Conservatism in the West Midlands. Labour will hold Manchester, and some of London, but expect the Conservatives to make some gains in one of Labour’s biggest Midlands strongholds.
- The devolved institutions
It seems the hysteria around the Conservatives beating Labour in Wales is losing steam. That said, it should be noted just how brazen Theresa May and her team are being in targeting safe Labour areas. Along this line is the decline of Labour in Scotland. Labour’s collapse north of the border was a major contributor to the Conservatives’ surprise win two years ago. Those traditional Labour voters have turned to either the SNP or, to use its full name, the Conservative and Unionist Party.
Now, Ruth Davidson, the Leader of the Scottish Tories, looks like she will help the Conservatives gain seats in Scotland. She in part gets a fair hearing because she is not some tweed wearing bloke shipped up from the lowlands, but speaks with a genuine Scottish accent in dulcet female tones. If Theresa May is to win the landslide she so covets she is going to have to make significant gains in both Scotland and Wales. Expect to see Theresa May moving her tanks further forward as she moves from Labour’s front garden to their back yard in both Wales and Scotland.
Theresa May has run a pretty tight ship. Water tight. So water tight it’s barely even on water. She will have taken the leaks from the American press as a personal affront. Seeing a British Prime Minister stand up to an American President is the stuff of dreams for many people. More so as Donald Trump seems to have actually listened.
Although people may be shocked, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Remember when she defied America as Home Secretary and refused to extradite Gary McKinnon? The PM demonstrated there she was willing to stand up to the United States, and if she is given a mandate, she will continue to do so.
The Conservative Party will be formally briefing the press over the next couple of weeks. But don’t expect any leaks from the Conservative or Labour moderate side. The Conservatives will be concerned about upsetting Crosby, a man many of them trust whole heartedly to return them to power. Labour moderates will not leak as they want to allow Corbyn every chance to fail on his own, so they can seize back power in the aftermath of the election.
So what next?
These are just a few themes to look out for over the next couple of weeks. The electoral cycle has been unpredictable recently and it is clear that the political fabric of our society has changed.
Then we get to the polls. The polls were wrong in 2015. They were wrong on Brexit. They were wrong on the US presidency. They were still wrong in the French presidential election, although this was less noticeable because they did at least predict the right result. Therefore, who is to say they are not wrong now? Jeremy Corbyn sweeps to power in a 1992 ‘Silent Tory’ style victory. Only this time it is the rise of the Hard Left in the UK.
The only thing we can do is wait and see. Watch how the remaining leaders do in their one on one interviews with Andrew Neil. It’s all a bit of political theatre but in the age of social media comments and clips will be circulating way beyond a TV audience. Look out for Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC as he is first out of the blocks after the PMs performance last week. His media performances aren’t great, but he has been more assured of late. However, anything short of a dismal failure will be hailed as a success and it is likely the polls will take this ‘success’ in to account. Particularly when compared to Theresa May’s performance at the beginning the week which was shambolic.
The result of this crucial election remains to be seen.