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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

'Costed' Manifestos

The opinion polls show a narrowing gap between the Labour and Conservative parties, with just a week to go until the actual election.

Mrs May, who famously called the Conservatives the 'nasty party', has descended to the very nasty technique of attacking the Labour leader personally: and her close supporters appear to be indicating that this will be the main focus of her speeches from now on. This is a stupid decision: Mr Corbyn does enough to re-emphasise his own shortcomings and inadequacies every day, so for Mrs May to hammer on that theme will almost certainly elicit increasing irritation from the electorate.

It also shows up Mrs May's own inadequacy. In government, she has been an assiduous implementer of Osbornian cuts to public services and a total failure in reducing net immigration to the UK. Simply to assert that she will be more competent than Corbyn in a negotiation with Brussels is mere rhetoric: especially as it is obvious that 99% of the negotiating will have to be done by diplomats and sectoral experts.

Voters are increasingly willing to consider what Labour has on offer. Commuters into London are open to the suggestion that railways could not be less concerned for them under nationalisation than they are as corporate franchises. The chance of having lower water bills and power charges is not to be spurned. The possibility that the health service and social services might be improved is to be welcomed. Even the recent tendency of George Osborne's Evening Standard to attack Mrs May can have no impact in the north-east or on Merseyside, but it could be damaging to the Tory vote in London.

Yesterday Corbyn's conspicuous failure to remember how many millions of pounds his childcare policies would cost made a one-day wonder, to which came the riposte: well, nobody can remember everything all the time. It is not news any more.

More importantly, Labour does have several expansionary ideas. Like Donald Trump, they are prepared to borrow billions of pounds to unleash economic activity; which compares very favourably with the continual attrition of all public and social services that the Conservatives promise. It is not at all clear that Mrs May has any clear idea of the economic policy that her government has been following, or will follow after the election, if [as is still likely] she is the narrow winner. She certainly has no grand plan for investment in any sector of the economy. When she talks of 'more money' for schools or the NHS, the sums involved are always less that the perceived real-terms need as the population grows and ages.

Tories warn that Corbyn and his close team have no serious or senior government experience: but they cannot demonstrate a significant record of achievement for their own side. All governments overspend: even the Cameron-Osborne-Clegg regime did not eradicate the deficit, though some of the methods they chose to reduce it, notably student fees, effectively destroyed the Liberal party in parliament.

Mrs May chose to have the current election, and could be on track to loose it. That will be a blunder bigger than Cameron's gamble on the Brexit Referendum and open to way to a bizarre coalition government that might just manage to govern.

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