The prospect of a landslide’s now being averted
I was an eye witness to the last terror attack in London on March 24th. As walked into New Palace Yard at Westminster on that afternoon I heard one of the shots that killed Khalid Masood and saw him and his victim PC Keith Archer laying on the cobbles, before I was ushered indoors by security staff.
The following day in the Commons I was impressed at the way both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn rose to the occasion the following day. Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition captured a mood of national determination not to be cowed by terrorism.
Fast forward to Sunday June 4th and here’s the Prime Minister, having allegedly suspended the Tory election campaign using the privilege of the Downing Street podium for what in part felt like a campaign speech about future measures to tackle terrorism.
The conclusion I draw is that she is rattled. She was getting her retaliation in first against the inevitable questions about the 20,000 cut in police numbers on her watch in the Home Office. Compared to that day in March Theresa May is a diminished figure.
As Mike Smithson tweeted For the first since she became Prime Minister YouGov have come up with a negative rating for her. He observed that her Doing Well score dropped 7% to 42% while the Doing Badly climbed 7% to 49%.
Meanwhile, says PB’s supremo, Corbyn has enjoyed “one the most extraordinary turnarounds in leader ratings that I have ever seen.” Doing Badly has dropped 14% to 44% while Doing well is up 12% at 42%. The “dementia tax” debacle has raised questions the Prime Minister’s fitness for the job of negotiating Brexit, according to a quarter of pundits I quoted in last week’s post , Phil Collins and Rachel Sylvester of the Times, The FT’s Janan Ganesh and the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson.
And Corbyn sought to exploit those doubts about May temperament and skills by emphasising that Brexit negotiations are a team sport. He gathered together Labour’s Brexit team together at an election rally in Essex . Alongside the leader were Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer, (who got an endorsement from the Independent the best person to negotiate Brexit), Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner – who has emerged as one of the stars of the Labour campaign.
Corbyn said: “ On June 19, Labour will be ready: ready to negotiate a Brexit for the many and not for the few … ready to deliver a deal that gives British businesses and society a chance to thrive”. In my humble opinion, as they say, that Labour Team is more than a match for the bluster and wishful thinking of their Tory counterparts May, Davis, Fox and Johnson.
Much as I’d like to see it, however, I’m not expecting Starmer et al to be on the plane to Brussels. The polls still point to a May majority but maybe one short of the landslide she hoped for.
May’s desire for a landslide had nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with being able to crush Tory dissidents. They forced her to back down over the national insurance increase for the self employed, they oppose grammar schools, they are queasy about school cuts and they oppose her hard Brexit approach.
There is now a realistic chance of averting the landslide and making it possible for brave Tories to combine with Labour and others at Westminster to pull the country back from the damage of a hard Brexit.