Sunday 28 May 2017

The Worst Tory Campaign Ever

It's hard to feel sorry for Theresa May. So hard even a big old softie like me can't manage it. She might presently enjoy double-digit leads in some polls, but the campaign is not going to plan. To think, it could have been very simple. It should have been very simple. With a huge lead in the polls all May had to do was be very boring and robotic - an effortless task - and carry on Brexiting this and Brexiting that. The public would have switched off, but she'd have got back into Number 10 over the electorate's snoozing bodies. Everyone knows strong and stable is a load of bollocks, but you've got to at least look the part. And she did, for a time.

Consider the dementia tax debacle alongside the means test for winter fuel payments and abandoning the triple lock on the state pension. Just why? Dave achieved a Tory victory because his scaremongering about nuclear weapons and a Labour/SNP coalition frightened enough people into voting for them. When you make people feel insecure, it gives the Tories an advantage. The lesson lost on May, however, is you're not supposed to issue naked threats. When your passage to victory demands the annexation of the volatile UKIP vote, it's the height of stupidity to be seen to destabilise the core support in the arrogant belief they have nowhere to go. The question going begging is why a politician of May's experience and her aide, Nick Timothy, could make such a mistake?

Consider this. Labour's manifesto is a collaborative effort. Shadow cabinet members and their spads all contributed to the drafting process. There were debates and discussions among the leadership and it finally went to the NEC for approval. At each and every stage more than one brain was making a contribution. How different this is from the Tory approach. Timothy, intuiting his boss's intentions, was left to get on with it himself in the utmost secrecy. Apparently, not even Lynton Crosby himself saw a draft until the day before it went to the printers. And we know what happened - because no one saw it, no one was exercising oversight, no one was there to say "hold on Nick, this isn't a good idea". That's how we have the politically damaging dementia tax and the gross underestimation of the schools' breakfast spending (Timothy had budgeted 7p per day per child), and why the manifesto spectacularly unraveled. Such is Timothy's much-vaunted genius that he derailed the campaign and forced May to make a humiliating climb down almost entirely on his own. Labour couldn't ask for a more effective sleeper agent.

After a few days pause which Theresa May tried her presidential damnedest to look like a strong leader, uncomfortably for her her past has come up. While the Tories and their media friends are determined to drag politics back onto Jeremy Corbyn's relationship with Sinn Fein in the 1980s and 90s, it's May's relationship to police and intelligence budgets that's now posing the Tories the most difficulty. Yes, crime is in long-term decline, but we know that has little to do with the reduction in police numbers. Deficit determinism was the hallmark of the coalition government - actual need (as well as economic realities) played second fiddle while the Treasury taps were turned off. And Theresa May as Home Secretary was perfectly happy to go along with this. Therefore, if the attack lines cast by Amber Rudd and "Handbags" Fallon this weekend are how the Tories are going to play it over the next 10 days, banging on about how terrorist attacks are more likely under Labour is going to be a bit of a risk. Firstly, because cutting the police by 20,000 over the last seven years is hardly the actions of a government "serious" about security, second it just draws attention to Labour's manifesto pledge for more coppers and extra help for the spooks - points on which the Tory manifesto is silent, and third it's downright distasteful - to use the murder of 22 people for electioneering while there isn't a palpable national panic about terror attacks is risky bordering on reckless as far as Tory chances go.

There is also the game we've seen the Tories play time after time. It's called 'project your weakness and watch us get away with it'. Wibbly-wobblyness is a characteristic of Jeremy Corbyn, so Rudd will declare as she stands in for her frit leader at Wednesday evening's debate. Uncosted pledges and a burgeoning debt mountain are the price paid by Labour's plans, despite the provision of figures that say otherwise and the government's own spending record. It's Labour's plans that will turn Britain's streets into a terrorist playground, despite 10,000 extra police and the promise of 3,000 intelligence service recruits. And it's Labour who are going to put taxes up and cost you your home for adult social care, while the manifesto pledges to the contrary.

In short, the Tory campaign is in disarray. As it relaunches, they will be using their leverage in the media to hammer Brexit and counterpose May to Corbyn. Their problem is she has already got found out and further blunders could put the election into question, never mind the promised landslide. A month ago, the Prime Minister was unquestioningly the greatest asset the Tory party has possessed since Thatcher in the early 80s. Now she is increasingly looking like an albatross.


Baden said...

She was an asset primarily because her positions on issues were very much in accord with the political consensus. The media 'love in' was beyond ridiculous.
The adulation covered up her/their mendacity/vacuousness.
I always felt it was likely an election campaign/spotlight would increase these flaws and that the media would over-reach itself trying to discredit Labour, resulting in an overall net gain for Labour, irrespective of the final outcome.

Speedy said...

Labour need to bang on about the dementia tax and the NHS - things that bring the reality of Tory rule home even to ageing Brexiters.

At the end of the day it is about keeping these old people at home - I can't see them voting for Jeremy, but it may decrease their enthusiasm for May.

Shai Masot said...

They will "counterpose May to Corbyn". Would that be wise?

Blissex said...

«Everyone knows strong and stable is a load of bollocks,»

If they have heard of it at all...
Sean Kemp says: “The vast majority of people don’t pay any attention to the general election whatsoever” (2’30” in). Yougov, for example, have found that only 15% of voters have heard the Tory slogan “strong and stable” even though its endless repetition has driven many of us potty.

«Dave achieved a Tory victory because his scaremongering about nuclear weapons and a Labour/SNP coalition frightened enough people into voting for them.»

This is one of the stories that people in the politics bubble tell themselves. An alternative story is that voters reward governments that push up southern house prices, as G Osborne understood:
“Hopefully we will get a little housing boom and everyone will be happy as property values go up,” George Osborne is said to have quipped at a Cabinet meeting earlier this year.