The Tories’ threadbare campaign has their jitters rising swiftly to the surface, observes Lindsey German
Theresa May's speech on Brexit was especially preposterous I thought. It made out that no one else could achieve any such outcome, accused Corbyn of going 'naked and alone into the negotiating room' and turned into a virulent torrent of abuse against the Labour leader. The naked and alone bit is, of course, a reference to Aneurin Bevan's abandonment of unilateralism at the 1957 Labour conference - a turning point for the left and the beginning of the end for Bevan. It is the usual sneering from a party which believes it has a divine right to rule and is still looking for a coronation for Empress Theresa. I think that most young people will just see the naked thing as a bit weird, not something that is a dagger in the heart of Jeremy Corbyn.
The personal abuse of Corbyn is to me a sign of two things: the Tories are dead scared about what is happening in the polls and are amazed that voters will look to Labour. It is also a sign of general Tory disdain for Labour - hence remarks to the effect that you can put him in an expensive suit but he will never be 'one of us'. They don't seem to realise this is a large part of Corbyn's appeal. I guess this is also why they are getting increasingly shrill and stupid in their responses. And maybe because the naked ones are the Tories, as people find that the Empress has no clothes.
Figure it out
I have to say, I am more than a little surprised to see the London Evening Standard changed its headline for later editions to one about Corbyn kebabbed on Women's Hour. The previous one had been attacking May over cutting immigration (which the Standards editor, one George Osborne, is against). Cue most of the news media leading with this totally minor incident. Was it really the most important issue in yesterday's election? No, it was just one of the few occasions when Jeremy Corbyn has made a mistake. The Women's Hour story is a bit of a mystery to me. Yes, of course, politicians should have the figures at their fingertips. It is better not to look at your iPad or phone a friend during a live interview. But come on. This was a situation where Labour had costed the policy on childcare and Jeremy Corbyn temporarily forgot it. Compare this with the lack of costing from the Tories or indeed their totally inaccurate and misleading figures over school breakfasts. They receive barely any scrutiny, let alone headline news as Corbyn got today.
I don't know about others, but I'm getting fairly fed up with the obsession with costing all the time. Of course it's important, but real growth in the economy would automatically give more money to spend, and contraction would lead to less money. So it's a pretty imperfect way of approaching the question. A lot of these questions aren't about elucidating more understanding about the debate, but about catching people out. The Women's Hour presenter was just ridiculous in this respect. I wasn't surprised to learn she had previously been on the Daily Telegraph.
Are we heading to hung parliament?
The polls are showing a fairly consistent rise in support for Labour. As far as I can see this is not so much Tories switching directly to Labour, but Labour picking up from non-voters, from former Labour voters, and other parties, including some from UKIP.
Friends on Facebook have sent me polls with the weighting stripped out, which shows the Tories with only a very small lead, not enough for them to form a majority government. Another YouGov poll carried out in particular constituencies indicates a Tory loss of 20 seats and a Labour gain of 30. This would again put us in hung parliament territory. Both may or may not be accurate - it strikes me there is quite a lot of variation in the methods and weighting carried out - but they do show a closeness to the result that was predicted by few commentators at the start.
I remember Nick Robinson of the Today programme sneering - really sneering - when I think it was John McDonnell suggested Corbyn would become more popular the more people saw him. But that's exactly what has happened. Meanwhile, the more we see of May, the less everyone likes her, even her own party. If the polls above are at all accurate, the knives will be out for her. In fact, anything but a very big majority and she's in serious trouble.
She's a liar, liar
The People's Assembly has done some great campaigning, with its I am a threat posters of May and now Captain SKA's Liar Liar track, which is proving to be one of the most popular songs in Britain. Don't know what this means in votes, but it certainly tells you something about the mood in this country.
The generation game
I dipped in and out of the Newsnight election debate about the generation gap on housing and wages. I thought the audience was for the most part more mature than the way in which the debate was framed. They didn't by and large want to blame other generations for their problems. They are right. This is about class, not age, and while my generation had many of the benefits of the postwar settlement, this was hardly utopia. Today, most of the people my age with pensions still work, at least partly from economic necessity. I think they have to frame it in this way because once you end the principle of cradle to grave welfare provision, and the idea of universal benefits, then you have to start blaming different groups and trying to turn them on each other. We shouldn't let them.
Guess what? Last week of campaign and immigration moves up the agenda
Today we have a 'scare' over Labour wanting to bring in unskilled non-EU migrants. This is just trying to raise racism and migration as an issue which affects the campaign. There will always be migration to this country and it has brought huge benefits. As an ageing country, we also need younger people - including migrants - to fill jobs. That should continue, and we should welcome the contribution that migrants bring instead of regarding them as the problem, rather than the greedy landlords and low-wage employers who exploit us all.
A play for our times
I went to see the tremendous production of Shakespeare's Richard III at the tiny Arcola Theatre near me in Dalston last night. I thought it was a fine play to watch during an election, what with all the deceit, changing sides, falling for false promises and flattery. And when Richard said 'For I can smile, and murder when I smile' it reminded me of all too many warmongering politicians.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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