Wednesday, June 7, 2017

You want an election promise? I’ll give you an election promise: Jam tomorrow!

Well, it’s election day in Britain tomorrow, and a bloody odd election campaign it has been. We usually have just three weeks of campaigning once the government of the day has called a general election, but this time it has been seven. At the time the British prime minister, the Conservative leader Theresa May, had what looked like an unassailable lead in the polls and it was predicted she would have a landslide. That lead has now diminished to if some polls are to be believed, just one point ahead of Labour.

Theresa May looked like winning by a landslide and the long, long predicted demise of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - who a few months ago even lost a no-confidence vote by his MPs with more than two-thirds of them declaring he was a complete no-hoper, but who then went on convincingly to gain the backing of party members in a leadership election - looked imminent. It all looks very different now.

The oddest people, who normally see themselves as Tories are saying things like ‘well, I have to say that that Corbyn does say some good things’. And May who seemed so unassailable has shown herself to have feet of some of the hardest clay known to man. It didn’t help that she decided to become the centre of the Conservative election campaign which was centred around how ‘strong and stable’ she was and how chaotic Labour and the other opposing parties looked. Her line was that ‘she’ was up for re-election, not the Tories, and that tack even pissed of many Conservatives - personality cults don’t go down well in Old Blighty.

It all began to come unstuck for May when she announced something along the lines of ‘old people won’t be charged for their care until after they die’, which, as many pointed out, seemed to imply that once they had die, the state would swoop in and hoover up as many of their assets as it could. It only needed some astute sub-editor somewhere to label such a measure as a ‘dementia tax’ and the policy was a dead in the water and a surefire vote loser. And don’t you know it just four days later May abandoned it. ‘Strong and stable’ folk began to ask themselves. How about ‘weak and wobbly’. And as image is all, May just hasn’t recovered.

As for Corbyn, it is now almost a cliche to remark what a dead nice chap he is and what sensible things he says, and if he wasn’t actually the leader of the left-wing ruffians, why, one might even consider bringing oneself to vote for him. As it is the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph have gone for the jugular on front page after front page, trying to make him out to be a ‘friend of terrorists’. And they are, of course, slavishly in favour of May despite here persistent wobbling. Oddly, enough - or possibly not at all oddly enough - the Mail’s former stablemate, but still it’s office mate at Northcliffe Towers in Kensington, the Evening Standard is rather viciously anti-May. Well, there’s an strange thing, you might think, but it ain’t that strange after all.

Here are two good examples of the Mail’s style. The irony is that for all the huffing and puffing and viciousness, they are preaching to the converted (and the same is true of the Guardian, although on the other wing).

You see when David Cameron resigned after what can now only be called the Brexit referendum disaster, so did his Chancellor George Osborne. And then to great surprised from hacks throughout the country Osborne was appointed the new editor of the Evening Standard. Needless to say he has no journalistic experience at all, although the nature of his job doesn’t really demand any if, as is very likely, he his safely surrounded by professionals who know their job.

The general wisdom is that, like Blair and Brown - though without the rancour and eventual utter mutual loathing - the idea was that Cameron would be PM for a while, then Osborne would take over and take his turn in the cockpit. What larks, eh? But the Brexit vote saw to that. So the general wisdom has shifted to declaring that Osborne his using his editorship of the Standard to take well-aimed potshots at May in the hope that she will sooner or later fail and he can ride in to rescue the Conservative Party. Well, I personally think there’s little hope of that. The Tories don’t like a snitch and a snitch is what he will look like.

Apart from that, the election campaign has been surprisingly low-key. I’ve known far livelier elections. I have agreed with my stepmother to stay up tomorrow night and watch as the results roll in, which isn’t usually until after 2pm, four hours after the polls close, by which time we shall have had our fill of rambling, sonorous political analysis, most of which will be shown to be garbage by the end of the night, but then most of which will also be comprehensively forgotten by the end of the night. Sometimes you get a laugh or two when some politico or other makes a gaffe, and if you can stay the course, it all gets very rough around the edges by about 5/6am when people are well and truly flagging and have run out of cliches.

The last time, in 2015, there was great excitement early on when against all expectations - the polls were predicting a hung parliament - a slim Tory majority was predicted by the exit polls. In the event it wasn’t even as slim as the prediction. Interestingly, I heard on the radio a few days ago that at the last elections and then the 2016 Brexit vote, although the bookmakers were predicting a hung parliament and that Britain would remain in the EU, their wrong predictions were necessarily their fault. All they were doing was recording how much money had been wagered on different outcomes. And it seemed that although in total more money had been wagered on those two results, more but lower value bets had been placed on what proved to be the final results. Bear that in mind tomorrow. Or not.

Pip, Pip

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