Campaign Shorts: a Dramatic Start to the Official Campaign
Has the Campaign Had its Defining Moment?
It seems an age ago that Theresa May stood in Downing Street and told a stunned Westminster that she was calling for a general election. The General Election campaign seems to have gone on an eternity already. However, it was only on Thursday that Parliament was dissolved. As the Prime Minister berated Brussels, that was the official moment the real campaign started.
British election campaigns are, at three to four week, generall pretty short. The last time a campaign was so long was in 1997 when John Major was pushing the election date as back as hecould in the hope of maximising voter satisfaction with the economic recovery.
Those with longish memories may remember that Major’s early dissolution had prevented the publication of a report into cash-for-questions affair. Cynics might wonder whether May’s rush to the polls was from an equal fear, as the CPS mulls police investigations of alleged voter fraud from the 2015 campaign.
The trouble for observers is that campaigns rarely change anything. Labour enthusiasts may see slights rises in the party’s poll ratings as evidence of a change in fortune. They might be right. It is unlikely though.
This promises to be a boring campaign. The most we can hope for is that Diane Abbot continues to give interviews. Theresa May is determined to run a disciplined campaign and avoid potential gaffs. The trouble with criticism of this is that David Cameron was criticised for running a boring campaign - he won it though. The Tories election machine has rarely been more professional, while Labour has rarely been weaker.
Most of all, every election has a defining moment. In 2001, Sharon Storer berated Tony Blair over the NHS: it seemed to sum up voters frustration that publics ervices were not improving quickly enough.
May will be hoping that her statement on Wednesday was 2017’s defining moment. But who knows?
May Has Revealed an Unsettling Authoritarian Streak
When a Prime Minister on the campaign trail visits a factory but fills it with party faithful and keeps journalists locked in a separate room, it’s an unconvincing imitation of democracy. Yet that’s what Theresa May did this week. She chickened out of televised debates, claiming she wanted to speak directly to people, but now she’s even chickening out of that.
It confirms May’s inability to handle unscripted moments. She’s excellent at monologues but weak at dialogue – any critical question, or encounter with a regular John or Jane Smith, clearly spooks her. In her few interviews she dances around questions, asking to be judged by her record without ever stating what’s so good about that record.
Her avoidance of public and press alike confirms something more troubling, though. May called the election because opposition MPs were allegedly blocking Brexit; initially, she didn’t want them voting on Article 50 at all. By seeking to stifle MPs, rather than recognising them as democratically-elected officials whose job is to challenge her and represent the wide spectrum of views on Brexit, May - who recently uttered “every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger” - is revealing her profound aversion to dissent.
We’ll never get a Turkey-style referendum giving May sweeping powers. This election alone, however, has been enough to reveal in her an unsettling authoritarian streak.
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