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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Not Cut-and-dried

Yesterday, while travelling to my charity discussion in Catford, of all places, I heard of the coming General Election. Overnight, I was determined to blog about anything else. Then, in the bright light of dawn [at 7.15, anyway] it seemed the obvious topic: just to say, that the election could be a lot more open than the recent opinion polls would suggest.

Mrs May continued with her 'trust me to do do what I won't tell you' line. That will not survive the six weeks of campaigning. She will have to give clear answers on terms of adhesion with the EU,  on immigration, and all the other questions arising from Brexit: and when she does, it will be clear that the electorate has other things on their minds anyway.

Brexit was an accident: David Cameron thought to bury euroscepticism, and instead it buried him. Mrs May was an under-performing Remainer. Now she casts herself as the apostle of the Brexiteers, without putting any flesh on the bare bones of the concept of surviving 'outside' the EU. Unless she changes that fundamentally, her apparent majority will evanesce.

The biggest issue in the minds of the majority of voters, of all parties and of none, is that which this blog addressed yesterday; the degeneration of British social life through the egregious 'cuts' imposed by the last two Tory-led governments. The most certain voters are state pensioners: will they vote for a manifesto that threatens the link between inflation and pension increases? Will they vote away their bus passes and winter fuel allowance? Will they vote for more cuts in the health and social services, with the probability that care for the frail will become even more hit-and-miss, and both drugs and operations will be prioritised for younger people?

Jeremy Corbyn, who many Labour MPs do not believe is fit to be Prime Minister [ a view they share with the vast majority of the electorate], nevertheless has a prominent platform on which to continue to oppose the cuts, as he did in his first statements yesterday. The press will follow him, looking for gaffes and evidence of ineffectuality: but they have no option but to present his case to the public. He will plug away. He is reasonably articulate. He regards the Brexit vote as 'given', and the negotiation of decent terms - including Britain remaining in a broadened Common Market - as pretty well inevitable. The more airtime and column inches Labour get, provided they stick to the core message of Tory evil, they will have a negative impact on the Conservative vote.

The LibDems have a massive dilemma, which they do not yet appear to recognise. They can continue to deny democracy, by trying to reverse or nullify the Brexit decision: in which case they will continue to appear stupid, especially given the manner of speaking represented by their leader. He is much more likely than Corbyn to gob his way to embarrassment.

The one-trick pony from Edinburgh will continue to pretend that the Brexit decision licences her to demand a new referendum on Scots sovereignty: in which case her party has nothing material to contribute to the UK-wide election debate.

Labour will be more effective in preventing the Tories from having a massive majority than in holding seats for themselves, and may yet give a field-day to the LibDems as the repository of negative votes.

Now I will keep off the topic of the election until mid-May: by which time I will be able to retract any or all of the above in the light of what happens.

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