Campaign Shorts: Labour Showing Signs of Life Despite Poll Drubbing
Labour Showing Substance In the Face of May’s Hollow Slogans
A key Tory strength is message discipline – find a phrase with impact and repeat until voters accept it as fact. Theresa May, playing to her perceived strengths, settled early this election cycle on “Strong and Stable Leadership”.
Strangely, though, it’s already feeling vacuous. Her manifesto, when unveiled, might illuminate what the Conservatives are actually standing for. Currently, however, their soundbites are words with no substance – empty slogans voters are expected to just mindlessly regurgitate.
It doesn’t help that May so obviously avoids directly answering questions on policy. “Strong and Stable Leadership” has become less of a soundbite and more of a crutch. Unless May shows that she is a strong leader, rather than just telling us, it will tire as quickly as “Brexit Means Brexit”.
Compare this to Labour. The party, caught unawares by the election, bizarrely seem more prepared. Policy alone won’t win the day, but they’ve at least been quicker to roll out pledges.
And while Corbyn has been mocked for using real-life examples at Prime Minister’s Questions – “Jenny would like to know how she’s going to make it onto the housing ladder” – this shtick has been surprisingly potent in campaign ads. Testimonies from teachers and nurses has grounded the debate, going beyond mere words to show the day-to-day impact of policies.
Labour would be wise to continue this, especially if May’s campaign continues to be so hollow. Their image and unity is debatable, but at least they’ll have one thing the Tories currently lack – substance.
The Lib Dems are the Big Unknowns
The local elections have confirmed it. The Conservatives are heading for a landslide.
Mrs Thatcher led by three points in 1983’s local elections, she went on to win a massive majority at the general. Locals tend to favour Labour and this year Labour recorded its worst result in years, polling a miserable 27% on national projections.
Labour’s leadership have left it too late to reverse public opinions on either their leader or their economic vision. Their only hope is a game changer that involves the Prime Minister being caught with a pig or a stunning revelation from the CPS on election fraud investigations.
The Conservatives can expect to make gains in England and Wales at Labour’s expense and perhaps a modest boost, at least in terms of seats, in Scotland.
The unknown factor in this election is not Labour but the Lib Dems.
At 18% in the local elections, Tim Farron’s party outperformed opinion polls. They failed to pick up seats - indeed they lost seats - but their vote was good, in England at least.
A smart campaign that targets Remain seats, of both main parties, could see a modest Lib Dem revival but nothing like the scale predicted at the beginning of this election.
May is steamrolling this election, suffocating the smaller parties and depriving them of oxygen. That is all she needs to do. Even where the Labour vote held up, or where the Lib Dems did well, the Conservatives made gains by hoovering up ex-Kippers. So there are plenty of risks for the Lib Dems too.
Labour Needs to Convince on the Economy
Labour has enjoyed a small uptick in the opinion polls following its recent policy blitz. As Stephen Bush writes in the New Statesman, it is appealing for voters to know that “Labour will do something nice for you, whether that be reversing the cuts to health spending or putting more police on the beat.”
However, the election will be won on the economy alongside Brexit. Labour endeavours to contrast itself with the reckless approach to EU negotiations taken by the Tories. But it needs to convince voters that its alternative to austerity can be realistically implemented.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has pledged to not raise VAT, income tax or national insurance contributions on those earning less than £80,000, while also protecting the triple-lock on state pension increases. Labour would reverse cuts to corporation tax and do more to combat tax avoidance.
The Tories attack Labour as a threat to aspiration, but polling by YouGov indicates that voters are broadly supportive of tax increases to improve funding for hospitals and social care services that are struggling after seven years of cuts.
The Tories’ Lynton Crosby-managed campaign will hammer the message that Labour will wreck the economy and balloon the deficit, but McDonnell has pledged that Labour’s spending commitments will be independently costed.
With the poorest suffering the most under Brexit-driven inflation while the top one percent’s wealth expands, Labour has everything to gain from a credible economic platform that addresses such injustice.
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