Back when the up-and-coming election was called, I claimed that, against my best wishes, that Theresa May would walk the general election, that the Labour Party would collapse, that the Liberal Democrats would make a convincing comeback, and that UKIP would collapse. With just 9 days to go, it seems that only the latter of those predictions appears to be the truthful case.
Back in 1983, The Labour manifesto which led to their worst defeat since the 2nd world war was described as the “longest suicide note in history”. Looking at what has happened in the polls since the main two parties released their manifestos this time round, you can say the same thing about another manifesto. However, this time, it seems that the Conservative Party have decided to take some political cyanide. Labour may have been gaining in polling before May 18th, but, as demonstrated in the Ipos poll on that day, Labour were only gaining vote from the Lib Dems and UKIP, while the Conservatives were staying constant. In the last 12 days since this manifesto has been released, the Conservative have lost significant points to Labour in every poll. In average polling in England this gap has shrunk from 16.7 points (47.2 – 30.5) to 10 points (44.7 – 34.7). While average polling for the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party has stayed fairly similar since May the 18th, it suggests that Labour have gained most of its progress through either Conservative voters or undecided voters. In individual polls this change is more striking. In the Welsh voting poll following the release of the manifesto saw the Conservatives fall 7 points (down to 34), while the Labour rising 9 points (up to 44), a massive 16 point swing which took Labour from a losing position to a comfortable lead. Last night, YouGov even predicted that there would be a hung parliament after the election. If Labour keep catching the Conservatives at this rate, we could have the scenario which only 2 weeks ago was unthinkable of Prime Minister Corbyn on June 9th.
Now, why is this happening. Well firstly running an election campaign on the slogan “strong and stable”, before performing a U-turn on the first unpopular policy and crumbling in your first major political interview of the election is probably the easiest way to lose votes other than punching a baby or taking a wee on a Mosque perhaps. So Theresa May being uncovered as a bit of a con artist in terms of leadership stature has certainly not helped the Tories. It also has to be said that other than stumbling on is history with the IRA, the one thing which I think will still probably cost Labour this election, Jeremy Corbyn has done well to convince people he has some fight, and was very impressive on Jeremy Paxman’s verbal assault program Monday. Although I’m not totally convinced by him, I acknowledge he has gone some way to confounding expectations. The Labour manifesto, which although is economically unachievable all in one go, also is filled with popular policies and actual vote winners like ending tuition fees, the increase of bank holidays and the renationalisation of the Royal Mail.
However, I see the closing gap in this election mostly down to the absolute farce that is the Conservative manifesto. Say what you like about the Cameron-Osborne era, but at least their manifestos were coherent, understood the trade off between vote winners and in their minds necessary unpopular policies, and actually bothered to cost the manifesto. Starting with the so-called Dementia Tax, it made absolute no political sense for the Conservative policy, when it should have followed an independent report to instead ignore the report and put through a policy which alienated many of their core voter base. It also made absolutely no sense for them to alongside this unpopular policy to also include a vote on legalising fox hunting, which over 80% of voters, including the majority of Conservative voters, are against.
With the route down hard Brexit, combined with the fact they didn’t even bother to cost their manifesto, the Conservatives also have shot themselves in the foot by following down a rhetoric of that they are the only party which can offer a stable economy, while at the same time following down policy lines which are economically careless. Even their ex chancellor, George Osborne, has labelled the Conservatives immigration policy as “economically illiterate”. It is striking that JP Morgan, a bank which would in more usual times would be ardent supporters of Conservatives, have said the so-called “coalition of chaos” would be better for the British economy.
Going on to Brexit and Immigration, I do not need to tell anybody that the Conservatives are going after the UKIP vote on this issue, but as the way they are going is, as George Osborne rightly says is “economically illiterate”, they are taking a huge risk on this. By the day, Conservatives are risking a policy which are risking themselves losing the old floating voters who Cameron/Osborne used to target to beat Labour and the Lib Dems.
On the economy, the Conservatives have even tried to alienate their free market base, by promising the rather Keynesian policies of putting workers on company boards and the Miliband idea of energy caps which their supporters labelled last election as “Marxist”. This slightly more left wing economic policy has also failed to win any voters as every other party have gone more left wing than them combined with the fact there is no public confidence that the Conservatives will do any of these things promised.
To add to their struggles, the economy, immigration, Brexit and elderly care are the things the Tories are seem by the general public as better at than Labour. So when you go onto health, where the Tories are the party who has promised the least investment to the NHS, and education, where the Tories are following the policy which goes against evidence of better general attainment of bringing more grammars schools rather than supporting all schools, the Conservatives look just as incompetent if not more incompetent on those issues than before. At the same time to all this, the Conservatives are failing to offer anything again to young people, who, according to polling, look to have registered to vote in greater numbers to vote against the Conservative Party.
As I mentioned before, I still don’t necessarily think Jeremy Corbyn can win this election. If he does though, from a Conservative perspective you will have to put this down as the biggest bottle job in modern political history, and if that does happen, they can only have themselves, their poser of a leader and their stupid, nonsensical manifesto to blame.