Election Shorts: May Versus Corbyn is A Fight Going Down to the Wire
A Choice Between Two Cults
How do we explain the new effigy at Dover of Theresa May giving a two-fingered salute to our European allies? One suggestion: Brexit is a cult and she has assumed its mantle of leadership.
In the disaster that has been the Conservative campaign, one feature has been consistent: she will deliver on Brexit; she will stand up for Britain; she will realise the “promise of Brexit”. She will also avoid telling voters how she will do any of this.
Those now smirking at May’s embarrassment might want to pause: re-elected May will need to shore up her position with the faithful with a sharp right turn.
The trouble is that Labour is a cult too.
Jeremy Corbyn has been labelled The Absolute Boy. It makes Milifandom seem profound. Frankly, it is just not normal to treat political leaders in this way. Politicians are flawed. Inevitably they fail. Whatever happens, Corbyn will be unable to avoid this fate.
In the campaign, Corbyn has shown mettle that his political character previously lacked. Had he shown this eighteen months again, history might be different. Too little, too late.
The cult would be fine were it not for the fact that Labour has offered a regressive programme for government that fails the poor; nationalisation may quicken the heart-rate of die-hard supporters, but it does not offer a radical redistribution of power. Corbyn is guru, nationalisation is his mantra.
This cult prefers to deny the reality that is Brexit. Labourites have been begging for difference between their party and the Conservative party for years. Then when the chance arises, on the most important issue of the day, they capitulate to the Conservatives.
Cults are about false hope. They also tend to end badly, so avoid them. 20% will vote tactically. Be one of them.
The Tories’ Charge of the Light Brigade Brexit
This election, like most, is essentially an exercise in throwing up questions for the voters to guess the best answer too – and not just “Who on earth is to blame for Theresa May’s campaign from hell?”
Bizarrely the biggest question of all, Brexit, has not featured prominently. What the campaign has at least shown is that both leading parties are planning to go ahead with it. But only the Tories are committed to doing it in the suicidal style of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Of the main questions that have come up more often, some are standard for British elections and others have been made more acute by a campaign blighted by terrorism.
Has the NHS improved under the Tory government?
Have schools got better under them? And are Theresa May’s plans to segregate our children by reintroducing grammar schools and encouraging faith schools the best way to unite our dangerously divided society?
Do you have a job? If so, does it feel more secure than when the Tories took office and is your pay keeping up with your cost of living?
Is finding and paying for decent housing easier for you than it was seven years ago?
Do you feel safer because Theresa May cut 19,000 police officers, and 1,400 armed officers - representing a fall of 19%?
Do all of these issues matter less to you than Jeremy Corbyn’s views on the Falklands War in 1982?
Voters who can confidently answer “yes” to these questions should vote for Theresa May’s Conservatives. Those who cannot should vote for whoever is best placed in their constituency to stop them.
Labour Has Seen Its Prospects Shift Dramatically
That the opinion polls are being so inconsistent, and the fact there is even speculation about Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn, shows just how significantly Labour’s prospects have shifted over the campaign.
A large contributing factor to this is how dire the Tory campaign has been. Theresa May wanted this election to be defined by her supposedly “strong and stable” leadership on Brexit, but it is Labour which has guided (to use an overused phrase) the narrative.
The biggest idea in the Tory manifesto was the “dementia tax”, a PR disaster, while the Labour manifesto’s costed policies have resonated with the public. The Tories attack Labour for their “magic money tree” but they have been muted about their commitment to future austerity.
May is correct to say that the election is choice between prime ministers, but she took Corbyn’s unpopularity for granted. Though still less trusted, over the course of the campaign he has closed the gap with May while her favourability has plummeted.
The NHS cyberattack and two terrorist atrocities have made national security a prominent issue. May promotes herself as a safe pair of hands but faces tough questions over policing cuts and arms sales to authoritarian Gulf states.
Corbyn’s dealings with the IRA and lifelong anti-interventionism remain contentious. To seem more prime ministerial he has performed u-turns on Trident, NATO and “shoot to kill” policy. In this eleventh hour he will have to gain the trust of enough undecided voters who view him as weak on defence.
The most likely outcome is still a Tory victory and Labour members have taken a gamble with Corbyn’s anti-austerity socialism. But with the campaign being so unexpectedly volatile it seems pointless to make predictions.
Corbyn is confident Labour can win but this will depend on young people turning out in record numbers. Labour youth will have to put their passion into practice if they want to see an upset.
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