Don Brind explores the options
For many years Theresa May’s main claim to fame was her bravery in telling the Tories they’re the Nasty Party.
If you doubt that nastiness lives on in Toryland despite the election of the vicar’s daughter look no further than the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. He is the attack dog whistled up by Lynton Crosby to spread a bit of ugliness.
There is no one on the Labour side who specialises in Fallonic thuggery and nor am I suggesting there should be. But defining your opponent is a key part of political campaigning I suggested to Yvette Cooper she was ideally suited to challenging and exposing Theresa May’s shortcoming.
“As long as you don’t cast me as a Michael Fallon. He’s appalling.”
Cooper is already on the case. She rocked Theresa May with a zinger of a question at the last Prime Minister’s Questions of the Parliament. She pointed out that the reasons for calling a snap general election were untrue, adding “we can’t believe a word you say.”
The message — You can’t trust Theresa May” is step one in averting a landside.
Although she outscores Jeremy Corbyn in favourability polls, May is no superstar, as her pedestrian performances on Marr and Peston showed. It’s why she’s being kept out of debates and away from contact with real voters.
I have no doubt May is vulnerable to a forensic exposure of her duplicity and her defective moral compass. This is not a job for Corbyn himself or those close to him — not the least because her apparent popularity comes largely from being compared to him.
Understandably Team Corbyn don’t accept at this stage that a landslide is on the cards. They hope that an blizzard of polices will narrow the gap.
Nonetheless, I think they should encourage Cooper and other senior figures such as Hilary Benn and Lord David Blunkett to challenge the Prime Minister’s trustworthiness and the gap between her rhetoric and reality. Let’s call them the Labour Truth Team.
We should not assume that May is unassailable and that voters won’t be worried about her dishonesty shown in calling an election after repeated denials. And there is lots of other evidence Theresa May can’t be trusted and that any promises she makes are there to be broken. I examined the gap between May’s rhetoric and reality in a recent post.
Her slippery morals are likely to come into focus shortly when the Crown Prosecution Service announce what action they are taking over some 30 Tory agents and candidates caught up in the expenses allegations exposed by Channel Four’s Michael Crick.
At Prime Minister’s Questions May signalled she was ready to turn a blind eye to any misdemeanours and endorse them as candidates. Lib Dem campaigner Mark Pack reckons the CPS decision, which is expected before nominations close is “a once-in-a-century type dramatic event to stop the Conservatives winning.”
The ground war will decide whether there’s a landslide
Nobody will, of course, be able to vote for or against a landslide. Whether it happens will depend on the ground war in the 50 or so Labour seats which on current polling projections could be in play.
The Labour Truth Team can do vital work in helping the many brilliant hardworking Labour MPs whose seats are in jeopardy. Tory candidates will try to ride on the PM’s coat tails, using her heavily in their campaign material. Exposing her duplicity and dishonesty Labour’s defence of these key seats.
Fears of a Tory Tyranny – the phrase was coined by Jack Dromey, who defending a 5,129 majority in Birmingham Erdington – have prompted a call for electoral pacts with the Greens.
One of those leading the calls for Labour to stand down is rising star and former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis whose fate in Norwich South hangs on attracting Greens and Lib Dems. He had majority of 7,654 over the Tories with the two other “progressive” parties each polling more than 6,500 votes.
In general I am in favour of tactical – or as I prefer to call it intelligent voting – but I am cautious about whether the Greens can deliver.
In 2015 I discovered that Green voters are some of the most bigoted and blinkered people (outside the ranks of Momentum). On doorsteps in Battersea and Croydon I would regularly say — “Vote Green and you’ll get Blue”. This line was vindicated in a group of nine seats the Tories won with tiny majorities. Across those seats there were more than 15,000 Green voters. If a quarter of them had voted Labour David Cameron would have struggled to get his overall majority.
The seats — with the Tory majority in bold — are Gower 27 1161; Derby N 41 1618; Croydon C 165 1454; Bury N 378 1141; Morley&Outwood 422 1264; Plymouth S&D 523 3401; Brighton Kempton 690 3187; Weaver Vale 806 1183; Telford 730 930.
Interestingly, four of the MPs, Gavin Barwell Croydon Central, Oliver Colville Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, David Nuttall Bury North, Graham Evans Weaver Vale are among those reported to be under investigation by the police.
I don’t always agree with Tim Farron but the Lib Dem leader is spot on when he tells voters “a Conservative landslide means they will take you for granted wherever you live.”