Sheer depression stops me scrolling back through these posts to look again at my observations on the last general election a distant two years ago, but I know one thing. I wrote a post with the title, ‘The Marvin Gaye Election’, aka ‘What’s Going On?’ And you know what? Nope, me neither.
The weird 2015 election, when the Tories once more showed their true colours by waging savage warfare on their opponents, including their surprised coalition partners, was somehow unreadable. The polls said that the numbers had barely moved since 2010. No one party could win. Either the Tories, or Labour, could be in coalition-forming territory, possibly both. The Lib Dems would be kingmakers, (or hostages). Who’s afraid of Nigel Farage? Could Russell Brand and Milifandom swing the vote to Ed?
Where are they now? The past is another country. In our times, George Osborne edits a freesheet in his spare time, Cameron has gone for one long, blissful chillax, Ed Balls is a Dancing Queen.
And we have a PM who calls an election, and then legs it.
So. One week out from the vote, and what do things look like?
Let’s start with the numbers. The Tories are in the lead. By 20%. By 12%. By 3%. You could call it a trend, except that the only trend is that the numbers look random. YouGov is the rogue this time, saying it’s a tight race between Corbyn’s Labour, and Maybot’s Tories. All the others say May is in big-to-massive majority territory. So let’s not bother our pretty little heads with polling fluff.
How does the election feel?
It feels like a farce scripted by someone who doesn’t know anything about politics. The Thick of It written, not by Armando Ianucci, but by EL James. Fifty Shades of May. She sure is a glutton for self-inflicted punishment. Not that she can’t dish it out, too. The Leaders’ Debate? The Strong, Stable thing to do is clearly to send in a woman who’d lost her Dad two days earlier, to deputise. Because if there’s one thing we know about May – she’s all heart.
Everyone says Jezzer’s having a good campaign. Perhaps he is? I can’t say – I’m only a voter. He moves from excited crowd, to excited crowd, but they are crowds of supporters. The press aren’t told where he’ll be, and we voters certainly aren’t. An example. Corbyn had a huge rally in Hebden Bridge. I’m not surprised. I know Hebden Bridge – lovely place, Brighton in the Pennines. But it is one bit of the parliamentary constituency of Calder Valley, held since 2010 by the Tories, solidly Leave voting in the referendum, and that is much harder terrain for Labour than lovely little Hebden. Is the Labour leader speaking to people beyond his own support base? I don’t know.
We do know that May isn’t resonating. People seemed to like May when they didn’t know much about her, just about her carefully tended image as ‘strong’, decisive, and ‘not Cameron’. She called the election because she fell for her own propaganda. It might just be a short enough campaign for it to work, but it doesn’t augur well. May means May. Which was great as long as we didn’t know what May is. Now we do…. Will the wheels come off her Brexit ‘plans’ (?) as quickly?
I’m a Remoaner. I thought Tim Farron had played a weak hand brilliantly when he claimed the 48% for the Lib Dems. But this election has probably buried that conceit. Labour’s parliamentary strategy over Brexit has been appalling, but it is slowly becoming clear what Labour’s emerging stealth strategy on Brexit might be. Now isn’t the time to rehearse it, but it seems to involve looking at Britain’s relationship with the EU from the other side – at putting Brexit into the mix with the EU’s need to restructure the Eurozone and reset relations with the East. It’s an intelligent ‘have cake, and eat it’ strategy. In other words, if no one knows what Brexit is, we might as well have a big, shiny Brexit that looks very much like Britain’s present EU membership, but with a different badge.
UKIP isn’t quite dead yet. May has hoovered up some of its voters. Some of its members, especially the ex-Tories may go home, too. But there are people who once would have been right-wing Labour in its ranks. They are able local politicians. But whether they will muster 4 million votes this time? It doesn’t feel likely.
As for Scotland and Northern Ireland, how their votes fall matters. If non-Unionist parties do well in NI, that could hold down the numbers of potential MPs with pro-Tory leanings. In Scotland, the reverse seems likely. The re-birth of Scottish Conservatism might be May’s saviour.
Closer to home, I live in a Labour/Tory marginal, in an historically Tory seat. I went to a local hustings meeting last night. The Tory candidate is a personable-looking young woman with the ‘right’ CV for an ambitious Tory, complete with media training. She’s a posher Justine Greening, a younger Amber Rudd, and a bit robotic. Labour’s candidate is equally in the modern Labour mould, female, minority ethnic, articulate. It feels like Labour might just hang on here.
So – what IS going on? It all feels chaotic and unpredictable. So could that be the result? Chaos? Don’t bet against it.