The final straight of two terrible campaigns

by Rob Marchant

A week left of campaigning, and Britain’s political race to the bottom is in full flight. Polls all over the shop; but narrowing at the end, as they invariably do.

In different ways, the Tory and Labour campaigns are spectacularly failing to enthuse the electorate.

The Tories, for whom the election has always been theirs to lose, seem intent on torpedoing their own campaign. Uncosted pledges – almost unheard of for usually-meticulous Tories – and their fiasco on the “dementia tax”, resulting in a mid-campaign U-turn by May.

Then there is the air campaign. First she is front and centre: then the party panics and sees her wooden, unengaging and largely absent. John Prescott reports a senior Tory viewing the campaign as “a disaster”, and that opinion is surely not a one-off among the grandees, let alone the commentariat.

To round off her dismal campaign, she has made an awful blunder, not so much in boycotting the televised debates, but worse: sending a substitute and saying she is too busy “thinking about Brexit negotiations”. The optics, as they say, of such a high-handed approach are awful, and the natural response uncomplicated. “I’m sorry? Who was it actually called the election?”

The one ray of light on the horizon for the self-sabotaging May must surely be that the poll-narrowing currently taking place will probably be enough to animate her base to come to the polling station, rather than stay at home. Meaning she will win comfortably where she does not deserve to. But, then again, neither does her opposite number.

Ah yes, Labour. Where to start?

In the wake of the Manchester tragedy Corbyn, perhaps fatally, has decided to put foreign policy – surely his weakest area – front and centre in the campaign, thus playing right into the Tory attack unit’s hands in its final days. Foreign policy, security and defence are suddenly important; a highly unusual effect in a general election, usually decided on leadership and economy. But, when it does happen, the effect can be sizeable (for example, the celebrated “Falklands bounce” in 1983). Britain does not love leaders weak on defence and terrorism. And Corbyn has around four decades of previous.

Talking of which, a mention of honour goes to his “economy with the actualité” on meeting the IRA. He apparently didn’t meet anyone from the IRA, even though a convicted member says he did. Then came Diane Abbott, who helpfully agreed that he did meet them but only “in their capacity as Sinn Fein activists”. Not as bombers, obviously. So that’s all right then.

On these subjects, Corbyn is worse than weak: his views completely turn off many of those who take the trouble to actually find out about them. His only workable defence is therefore either to hope no-one will; or accuse the media, Trump-like, of “fake news” in the hope that it will convince. And for a segment of the electorate, he will succeed.

And then there are the daily gaffes – yesterday’s being Corbyn’s inability to cost his own policies. This latest was most notably followed by, not a spirited defence of the party’s flagship childcare policy and its costs, but a deluge of anti-Semitic hate-mail directed at the interviewer via Twitter, noting that she was a “Zionist” (far-left code for “Jew”).

How often, we ask, has the leader of a major party ever had to publicly disown racism by his own diehard supporters, in the middle of a general election campaign?

Then there is the parallel campaign being run by the Corbynite left of Momentum. Not content with Labour’s own mobile app for telephone canvassing, they have launched their own. Why, one wonders, should they need one, with a perfectly serviceable app from Labour freely available?

Could it be so they can actually target different seats from Labour HQ, thus saving MPs friendly to the Corbyn cause? Or is it just that the contact details of supporters might turn out to be incredibly useful in the coming leadership battle which seems nigh on inevitable?

In short, the more intelligent commentators see both campaigns as dire. But elections are usually fought on a more visceral level, where people will make a judgement on leadership credibility and the chances of the economy. Where the intelligent arguments will pick apart May’s largely uncosted manifesto and the potential impending economic disaster of Brexit, the public at large will see someone who looks vaguely credible and someone who does not.

Yes, May sent him a gift via the TV debate by not turning up and sending Amber Rudd, allowing herself to be “empty chaired”. He did ok. So what? TV debates change little (and in fact Rudd did not make a bad fist of that particular hospital pass, either).

Then there is still the last week of campaigning which will be, you can bet your life on it, a no-holds-barred, relentless attack on Corbyn’s, McDonnell’s, Thornberry’s and Abbott’s fitness to govern, via their personal histories. There can only be one winner in that contest.

Finally, there are the polls. Even with narrowing polls, it is as well to remember that this general election, like all others, will be decided in the marginals; calculations based on broad swings in the national vote-share have inbuilt inaccuracy in a first-past-the-post system. Lord Ashcroft, the only pollster regularly to poll in marginals, predicts a Tory majority of 142, and Tory seat count of nearly 400, even after the recent poll narrowing. Oh and yes, YouGov has predicted a hung parliament in its most recent poll, but you can see here why that is a “brave” prediction.

Even allowing for significant error margins and a dire Tory campaign, the truth is that a Labour win is still, sadly, a distant pipe-dream.

What matters is what happens next.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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16 Responses to “The final straight of two terrible campaigns”

  1. Jon Newham says:

    I’m enjoying this site! I’m a One Nation Conservative but I’ve found it’s election coverage consistently enlightening, interesting and fair minded. This article is particularly good. I shall continue to follow Labour Uncut.

  2. Anne says:

    Don’t really agree with this analysis Rob. I was not really a Corbyn supporter at the beginning of this campaign but I feel he has had a better campaign than many thought he would while Teresa Me has gone down in popularity. Labour has produced a good manifesto and offers a brighter future for the UK. A good Brexit deal will be important for the U.K. economy. Teresa Me will not only be difficult but she will be a disaster in these negotiations. The better Brexit negotiator would be Kier Starmer.

  3. Harry says:

    Sorry accidentally hit summit on the last article which gave it a very different end to what was intended. Can you remove it and post this one

    Seriously why is this site even called labour uncut any more? You clearly have 0 interest in helping labour to win this election. In a couple of weeks where even the mainstream press have admitted that corbyn has done far better than expected you have one article from a lib dem attacking him as a Tory and then this one which tries to equate labour’s reasonable (with the exception of Diane Abbott) competent and well thought out campaign with Theresa May’s car crash.

    I’m not a fan of corbyn and voted for Owen smith last September but
    1) you have to give credit where it’s due and he has been pretty impressive even if the bar was set very low.
    2) there’s a general election on so it’s time to stop our internal squabbling and get out there to beat the tories. Corbyn wouldn’t have been my first choice for leader and it’s likely that his past will drag the party’s vote down but for god sakes get behind him for the last week of the campaign. Else all your are doing is helping the tories.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Jon what do you fund enlightenimg
    I agree with Anne
    rob, yes a corbynista put something anti semetic on line,after th Jewish radio 4 jou naliat high,ighted Jez couldn’t recall his figures straight away, this could be a Tory landslide it could take a. Generation to recover from, I’m slogging my guts out so its ,a small tory victory
    Not so Jeremy is given a nother chance

    But , this one incident isn’t representative of labour, and doesn’t mean the local campaigns have been a failure

    The IRA, abbotts racism,past aren’t un known we all expected the Tories to drag it,up
    And we’ll have worse at this weekend

  5. Vern says:

    It would be difficult to find two more uninspiring people and yet both are vying for the job of leading our great country. I am no fan of May at all but her back room team is better than McDonell, Abbot and Thornberry. And Anne, its just my opinion but I think Kier Starmer is barely known outside of his own family and has no credibility in terms of negotiating and most importantly putting Britain’s interests first.
    I am not as convinced that the win for Conservatives is as nailed on as you suggest Rob but I am genuinely concerned what sort of a mess we will be in with Corbyn or worse still a coalition of those that graced (or disgraced) our screen in the leaders debate last night.

    Next week’s campaigning needs to be detail and policies and a move away from the insults and repeated slogans.

    I wouldn’t pay either campaign manager in washers!


  6. John P Reid says:

    I agree with Harry and vern

  7. steve says:

    “Corbyn is worse than weak”

    Spot on, Rob, yet Corbyn appears to be increasingly popular.

    Clearly this demonstrates the capriciousness of an unthinking electorate.

    The electorate got it wrong when they voted against Scottish Labour’s Blairites led by Jim Murphy. And if they vote for Corbyn in the general election they will have got it wrong again.

    Why, oh why are we lumbered with such a muddleheaded and unreliable electorate? How I yearn for a time when the electorate unhesitatingly votes in conformity with the wishes of the Establishment elite.

  8. Tony says:

    “Lord Ashcroft, the only pollster regularly to poll in marginals, predicts a Tory majority of 142.”

    Last time, his polls did not prove very successful. Just ask the Liberal Democrats.

    “TV debates change little”. In a close election, they do not have to!

  9. Anne says:

    I have watched the tv debate tonight between Me and Corbyn. I did think Me performed better than her previous performances – she had a terrible interview with Andrew Neil. I think this improvement has been brought about because she called the election when her popularity was high and she thought she could just take the public with her and not work for it – also the Tories have produced a poor manifesto which is not costed and quite frankly very uninspiring. Andrew Neil has stated on This Week that it is common knowledge in the Westminster bubble that Me is viewed as a second rate politician. By Contrast Corbyn came with a reputation as being a poor leader but he is proving to be inspiring – he has a vision for the UK – the manifesto is inspirational- there is hope and aspiration in his performance- I really hope he can make it. Also impressed by Barry Gardiner on Question Time.

  10. NickT says:

    Corbyn does not deserve power – and the prospect of his parade of idiot cronies occupying the highest offices of state is appalling. The Tories are wretchedly incompetent and cruel – but I see no reason to believe that Corbyn would be better. After all, he’s voted with them often enough!

  11. Leslie48 says:

    Outside the cities the voters will crush the Corbyn led Labour party. For 22 months we have warned of this coming cataclysm of a man standing for our once great party which was able to deliver social justice and economic growth. Now Corbyn stands as a fringe hard leftist, a backward looking, 1970s class warfare state socialist with a toxic past and no experience of office. Middle England will treat him accordingly.

  12. Paul Rogers says:

    This site and articles like the above used to make me angry with its anti JC, London based designer politics preaching, now i just laugh at it.

  13. Fubar Saunders says:

    “Why, oh why are we lumbered with such a muddleheaded and unreliable electorate? How I yearn for a time when the electorate unhesitatingly votes in conformity with the wishes of the Establishment elite.”

    Yeah…. Damn those pesky voters with their free will. *snarf*

  14. Fubar Saunders says:

    The problem is guys…. “beating the tories” isnt enough for those outside the Corbynista die hards.

    You’ve got to give the rest of us outside of Islington, Camden, Lambeth, etc something more to go on than that which will stand up to rigorous examination.

    All of us undecided/none of the above voters know what you’re against. Tories. Easy. So are a lot of the rest of us. What we’re not really seeing is what you’re really FOR. What your holistic vision is. And how it is really deliverable in a nation that is socially conservative with a very small c. Like it or not, the vast majority of the electorate is not comprised of social, economic or any other kind of “progressive”. You have to convince people of your vision and sad to say, apart from the desire to kick the tories in the nuts, to take away from a certain target sector, we’re not seeing it.

    Its all well and good saying you’re going to pour more money into the NHS. What are you going to do about making sure that its properly spent where it needs to be, not being wasted on fripperies and huge staff churn at CCG level. Its all well and good saying you’ll see Brexit through, but what is your solution? The Norway solution? Any deal at any price, therefore rendering the referendum pointless?

    What of McDonnell’s “People’s QE”? its all well and good going on about tax rises for those earning more than £123K (funnily enough, just above a Cabinet Minister’s salary), but given that capital and talent are globally portable, how are you going to prevent both capital flight and a brain drain? What are you going to do internationally about globalised business and taxation, beyond telling them to go and join the tories?

    What are you going to do about immigration and the bringing in of both skilled and unskilled Labour which is undermining peoples ability to compete on level terms against better trained and educated talent from overseas and gives neither business nor the state any impetus to train and develop its own people and has been more responsible for wage stagnation than any party is prepared to admit?

    And thats without going anywhere near the toxic pasts of McDonnell & Corbyn and their well documented support for proscribed organisations like Al Muhajiroon, the Provisional IRA, HAMAS and so on and so on, let alone the rampant anti-semetism problem and the subsequent whitewash.

    Its simply not enough to be a tory hater to secure a floating vote. The tories are weak, ineffective and visionless, but with the collapse of the UKIP alternative, unless you give us something to go on instead of just hating Tories, lots of people who would otherwise have returned a Blairite government (with all its diluted Thatcherism) will either abstain, like I am going to do, or they will hold their nose and return the weakest Tory PM since Anthony Eden.

  15. B says:

    God this is a depressing article/website in general.

    Come on people, we are presumably all in the same boat, lets support each other rather than resorting to crass, infantile insults. More that unites than divides, etc…
    I guess we can not know until Thursday evening if Corbyn has enough support to win, but even if he has not, it is undeniable that a large number of people have been exposed to left-wing ideas like public ownership and that they like these ideas.

    (and by the way, as this seems to be important to some here, I was born and live in rural Devon, not Islington)

  16. I have long believed that a political party that cannot enthuse young people has no future. The Tories have given up with the youth vote and the Liberals blew it off when they joined the Tories and broke the ‘pledge’. What has Corbyn done for the party which the remnants of New Labour in the PLP incapable of doing? He has given young people something to believe in, a better future.

    So how sad @@Jon Newham, @Vern, @steve, @NickT, @Leslie48 and of course Rob Marchant, you continue living with your negativity. As the great Sergeant Oddball said “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Otherwise it looks like you need a hole to hide in for a couple of years.

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