Gerald Kaufman’s recent death may have necessitated a by-election that the unexpected announcement of a General Election has now negated, but the late Labour MP’s oft-quoted description of his party’s 1983 manifesto under Michael Foot as ‘the longest suicide note in history’ has resurfaced yet again just a few months after Kaufman’s passing, revived as the right’s response to the 2017 Labour manifesto, ‘mysteriously’ leaked a week in advance, which gave both the Conservative Party and its Fleet Street mouthpieces time to rip it to shreds and implant the requisite doubt in the minds of floating voters.
The interesting aspect of this predictable reaction, however, is that – unlike 1983 – any negativity on the part of the electorate towards Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas stems less from the proposed policies offered in the manifesto and more their professed dislike or distrust of Jezza himself – or at least the motley crew surrounding him. Few members of the public when asked have actually dismissed the policies as either undesirable or unenforceable. Indeed, many of those policies seem to be engineered to capitalise on the general apathy towards mainstream politics and the detested bedfellows of the mainstream that last year’s EU Referendum exposed. On paper, all the right targets are highlighted and there’s a lot in there that seems surprisingly sensible, only ‘radical’ in the sense that it doesn’t compromise and make allowances in ways we’ve become accustomed.
In contrast to Labour’s proposals, ‘Team Theresa’ are so overconfident re the foregone conclusion of a Tory triumph on June 8 that the Conservative manifesto seems rooted in the belief that it doesn’t matter however unpopular the policies proposed are, for a win is guaranteed. The Tories could propose the decriminalisation of slavery or the legalisation of paedophilia and they’d still be convinced of a landslide. Alienating significant swathes of the electorate, whether mothers whose children are entitled to free school meals, elderly home-owners, the young unemployed or supporters of the fox-hunting ban doesn’t appear to matter to them. Theresa May just keeps on turning the conversation away from domestic issues and back towards Brexit in the hope that will suffice.
Theresa May’s unassailable conviction that her Strong and Stable personality is enough to swing it for the Tories has seen her party’s Election literature dominated by the leader, whereas with Labour it’s the local candidate who has been emphasised at the expense of their leader. The PM evidently regards the Presidential battle as the way to go and she reckons when it comes down to her and Jezza, there’s no contest. An episode of ‘The Thick of It’ in which opposition spin-doctor guru Stewart Pearson declares his party needs to appeal to ‘One Show Man’ seems – as with so many elements of that series – uncannily prescient following May’s PR exercise sharing a sofa alongside hubby the other week.
If it comes to personality, however, Corbyn has the edge in terms of campaigning; Jezza is in his element when addressing a crowd, permanently on the road, whereas ‘his opponent’ prefers the occasional appearance on the small screen – as long as she’s directing events, of course. At the moment, May is acting like a reclusive rock star in a Kate Bush vein, whose first album in years requires little or no self-promotion to ensure it will shoot straight to the top of the charts on the strength of an impressive track record of groundbreaking and innovative efforts decades before. This attitude is founded on a remarkably high opinion of herself as a politician; considering her six years at the Home Office saw her constantly fail to achieve her aims to reduce immigration numbers to the figures she specified, not to mention the relatively low profile she’s cultivated ever since promotion to No.10, one wonders where this high opinion comes from. Her career in public office is hardly a Strong and Stable basis for such conceit.
It does seem strange or perhaps simply symptomatic of the Tories’ arrogance that they can take their traditional pensioner vote and disregard it with their plans for social care, or the so-called ‘Dementia Tax’; this appears to be a bizarre miscalculation on the part of the PM, especially considering the huge proportion of over-50s who actually drag themselves to the nearest polling station to vote Tory when compared to the teenyboppers who constitute Jezza’s cult following. Surely it makes sense from a Conservative perspective to court the blue-rinse brigade that has proven to be the party’s strength-in-depth at the ballot box in recent years? Apparently not. And now the polls are telling us the previously-astronomical lead the Tories had over Labour has considerably narrowed; according to the Sunday Times, the gap between the two is currently down to just nine points – and this despite the usual reliance on ‘Project Fear’ tactics whenever a Conservative Government seeks to prevent a Labour Government.
Wobbles are not uncommon during a General Election campaign, especially when a party has gone into it so far ahead of its main opponent that confidence can easily become complacency. Whilst it still appears that a Conservative victory is the most likely outcome, Theresa May is taking a hell of a lot for granted at the moment, and dispatching senior Cabinet Ministers to take the flack on the airwaves while keeping her own head down does raise the question as to which party has penned this Election’s suicide note.
© The Editor