Lindsey German on the state of the race, Swinson’s true colours, and faux antisemitism
There's still a lot of debate about Tuesday’s debate. As usual, the BBC led the way in inanity. Its report on Wednesday morning was that both sides had been more or less equal. But that both Corbyn and Johnson had been laughed at. Are we to take this seriously? Corbyn was laughed at over climate change – presumably by a handful of Tories who don’t think it’s important to worry about the effect of this on the world’s poorest. Johnson got laughed at when he said trust was important, and again at the end when he kept repeating get Brexit done.
But to be honest I’m not sure how much you can say about the outcome of the election by measuring laughter among a partisan audience. Rather better is to judge what people actually say. While the media highlighted a YouGov poll which showed 51-49% overall in favour of Johnson, it also showed, as the Independent pointed out, that Corbyn was well ahead among undecided voters following the debate.
‘Undecided voters gave Jeremy Corbyn a 59-41 per cent lead over Boris Johnson as best performer in last night's ITV general election leaders' debate, according to details of YouGov polling’. Since these are exactly the sorts of people he needs to win over, this is of some significance, as are the various online polls which showed clear majorities for Corbyn. Other figures from the same poll show that in answer to the question of how well or badly do you think [X] performed in tonight's debate, Johnson was Well: 59%, Badly: 41%, while Corbyn was, Well: 67%, Badly 32%.
Labour is still well behind in the polls, and the pound has strengthened in recent days with the growing expectation of a majority Tory government – which even if it is led by a buffoon who wants to ‘get Brexit done’ is still the preferred choice of much of the ruling class. But a recent poll now shows the NHS as the major concern of voters, ahead even of Brexit, which is exactly where Labour wants it to be.
And we still have three weeks until the election, weeks in which Labour can make it clear the difference between its policies and those of Johnson. This won’t necessarily be easy, as Johnson is clearly pitching to working class voters, for example with his plan to raise the threshold for National Insurance. So Labour’s manifesto today needs to be very radical, stressing the issues Johnson can’t go with, like nationalisation.
Some people were disappointed that Jeremy wasn’t nastier to Johnson. I think many of us would have been. There is certainly a great deal of criticism that can be levelled at Johnson. I’m not certain Jeremy is the person to do it, though – it isn’t his debating style, and when you try to change your style it doesn’t always work.
Doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t though.
On the button…
Other takeaways from Tuesday night. The Tories really are lowest of the low to convert their twitter account to one which pretended to be a fact checker. They are the pits. Jo Swinson has told us that she will press the nuclear button. Why would we doubt it from this increasingly open Tory? Luckily, a recent report said that the more people saw of Swinson the less they liked her. Good idea to have her picture all over that bus, then. And Adam Price of Plaid Cymru (who used to be a nice anti-war MP) couldn’t answer whether he would prefer Johnson or Corbyn as prime minister. Really?
It's not what you say…
Perhaps the most remarkable controversy from Tuesday night is the one which claims Corbyn was antisemitic by pronouncing Epstein in the wrong way. My understanding of German is that Epstein is pronounced as Jeremy Corbyn pronounced it – similarly to the way Beatles manager Brian Epstein, composer Oscar Hammerstein or scientist Albert Einstein were pronounced. Surely many people do pronounce these names as Jeremy did, without any thought other than that they were trying to pronounce them correctly. They cannot in the remotest way be construed as antisemitic, and shame on those who try to pretend that they are.
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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