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Election 2017: What to look out for

Posted by: on May 5, 2017 | No Comments

So here we go. Parliament has been dissolved and the campaigning will now get fully underway.  The opening skirmishes of the past few weeks are giving way to a proper election campaign full of claims, denials and attacks.  But what will be the outcome of this election?

In calling the election, Theresa May’s wanted to put a stop to opposition to her approach to Brexit in Westminster. There is no chance this will happen.  The House of Lords is there to hold the Government of the day to account.  The Opposition parties are there to hold the Government of the day to account.  They will all continue to do this whatever the potential size of Mrs May’s majority.

Her decision to go to the country had as much to do with the weakness of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn as it did giving her the power to deal with Brexit negotiations. If the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is to be believed then the size of May’s potential majority will make no difference to the negotiations.

So what should be looking out for?

Key messages – throughout the election, politicians will keep repeating the words they want you to hear in your head as you stand in the voting booth.  The Conservatives are going heavy on ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ and juxtaposing this against the potential for a Labour / Lib Dem / SNP ‘coalition of chaos’.  Labour are going with ‘better’ and ‘fairer’; the Lib Dems want to talk about a second Brexit referendum; the SNP a second independence referendum; and UKIP on holding the Government to a hard Brexit.  These messages can change during the course of an election but that usually means the party that changes is losing ground.

Michael Fallon – the Defence Secretary is fighting again to be the Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks, Kent.  But in an election campaign, Sir Michael is the Conservative’s ‘attack dog’.  If he features heavily in the election campaign then you know what type of campaign the Conservatives are running.

Media bias – well, claims of… Labour will try to use the political playbook that criticises the media and the bias of elites.  Diane Abbott’s terrible media performance on police figures was simply her ‘mis-speaking’ whilst John McDonnell could not understand why the BBC chose to carry Conservative criticism of Labour’s spending plans with little apparent challenge.  If Labour fails to changes the polls in the coming weeks then expect more criticism of the ‘biased media’ from them.

TV debates – far from becoming part of the furniture for general elections, they continue to be a source of contention.  ITV, and potentially the other broadcasters, have said they will continue to hold a leaders’ debate without the participation of May or Corbyn.  They have both said ‘no’ to taking part.  Whether Corbyn will hold to that and let the others simply criticise him in absentia will soon become clear.

Tough talking – the more terse the language becomes, the nearer to Election Day we will be.  The ability to govern is always a key focus of elections but with the Brexit deal to negotiate the ‘can you trust X to get a good deal for Britain?’ will be a central theme of this election.

All elections have their ups and downs. Each will have events their own unexpected events.  The media will trawl Twitter feeds and social media histories in search of a story.  Each of the manifestos will be poured over once they have been published.

What is not in any doubt is that all sides face a challenge in motivating people to get out and vote. It is quite possible that this will be the ‘Brenda from Bristol’ election – there is ‘too much politics going on at the moment’.  It’s a sentiment that many would agree with….

My article for The Sussex Newspaper.

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