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PR Week Election Panel

Posted by: on Jul 12, 2017 | No Comments

During the 2017 General Election, I was asked to be a member of the PR Week election panel, commenting each week on developments in the campaign.

Highlight: The leaking of Labour’s manifesto, whether meant to help or hinder, gave the party almost complete control of the agenda for a week and beyond – virtually unheard of during an election period.

Nadir: Whilst we may now have more sympathy for Diane Abbott, her media appearances portrayed a lack of coherence in Labour’s messages but that was nothing compared to the sheer ineptitude of the Conservative’s Dementia Tax.

Conservatives: 5/10
Labour: 7/10
Lib Dem: 4/10
UKIP: 2/10
SNP: 6/10

June 8 2017 –

A second terrorist atrocity has meant that May’s record as home secretary and prime minister has become an issue in the final days of campaigning.

Instead of being able to focus on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal and political failures, as she would see them, she is having to talk about cuts to the police and whether it has, in any way, made Britain less safe.

But just as the Manchester attack took some of the focus off the social care u-turn, the London Bridge attack obscured the apparent disagreements over income tax increases. Corbyn’s last minute decision to take part in the TV leaders’ debate wrong-footed May but Amber Rudd did little wrong as a stand-in PM.

Despite a YouGov poll suggesting otherwise, most people are expecting a Conservative victory but whether it will be as comfortable as May hoped is more doubtful. If she doesn’t get a sizeable majority then she risks being challenged from within. Her next Cabinet selection will doubtless bear this in mind.

The EU meanwhile is adamant that the size of May’s majority will have no impact on their approach to Brexit negotiations but they would give Corbyn some time to settle in should he become PM. He would need some time, as would many others, to overcome the shock.


June 7 2017 –

If someone had suggested at the start of the election campaign that Theresa May would require a relaunch then they would have been laughed at. But that is exactly where we are as we get to the serious end of the election campaign.

A failed manifesto launch, stories of fallings out at the top of the team, accusations of a May-bot approach and other failings have left the Conservatives floundering.

In a campaign reminiscent of the tortoise and hare story, Jeremy Corbyn has slowly plodded up behind May as the finish line approaches. Corbyn has grown during the campaign. May has shrunk.

May is now trying to project her inner Thatcher and what people remember as Thatcher’s strengths – the Thatcher of 1983, not the aloof and disconnected version of 1990. A campaign that was not just about Brexit, is coming back to Brexit.

But while Corbyn may be doing better in opinion polls, this may not reflect itself in the number of seats that the party wins. Labour could do well in terms of the percentage of the vote but less well in terms of number of MPs.

The campaign has come to resemble the traditional two party battles of old. So maybe it is time to rev up the Audi Quattro and head back to the 80s.


May 31 2017 –

While many commentators thought that the Labour manifesto would be the one to face the most difficult reception, it was the Conservative one that caused most reaction.

Its apparent targeting of older people, a key Tory constituency, forced May into a screeching U-turn on social care. It is a big climb-down and one that shows the weakness of a narrow team having total control. The approach prevented leaks but it left her vulnerable to being blind-sided. They just didn’t see this coming.

It also puts a question mark besides the involvement of Lynton Crosby. Is he involved much? Did he not see this coming? Was he simply told to “sell” the manifesto? The document itself seems to have plenty of barnacles of which he is not considered to be a fan.

However difficult it may be to think about such things, the sickening attack in Manchester may well change the course of the election campaign. Amber Rudd, as home secretary, will be more prominent and authoritative.

May will look more prime ministerial and, rightly or wrongly, Jeremy Corbyn is perceived to be weak on defence and security matters.

From U-turns and floundering on the political shows, there is now the (ultimate) opportunity for May to be “strong and stable” again. It is unpalatable to think about news agendas and electoral implications in the aftermath of the outrage when people are still missing and the grief is still so raw but such atrocities do have an impact on elections.

May 24 2017 –

Labour have had a whole week of manifestos – first a leaked draft and now the official one. No one can accuse the party of lacking ambition or not putting forward a radical alternative. This is the territory that Corbyn wants to be in – policy and detail, not personalities and personal attacks.

The leak, whether accidental or not, has meant that the party has been able to discuss its policies at some length.

The Conservatives meanwhile have been trying to make a play for the working class vote that, they claim, Labour have abandoned. However, the Conservative promises on worker’s rights, National Living Wage rises, protection for workers on short term contracts and measures on council houses seem a little Corbyn-lite.

For the first time in this election campaign, Mrs May seems a little rattled. With some areas of reform seeming a little similar, the Conservatives will instead go hard on Labour’s finances.

Their approach will be consistent with that of the past few weeks – maintain the focus on Corbyn and McDonnell, their unsuitability to lead and failed policies of the 1970s.

You can see the posters now of Corbyn in bright flares standing on the picket line. At least no one can say that politics isn’t interesting.

May 17 2017 –

It is now apparent that however bad the General Election result is for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn will remain as leader. For how long though is less clear.

The party had the fig-leaf of the Mayoral election wins in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region but they could not disguise the poor showing elsewhere, even if things were not quite as bad as some had been expecting. UKIP may have been decimated but it is the Conservatives who have the real momentum.

The French presidential election result was used by both sides for electioneering purposes. For Labour and others, it showed that a progressive agenda is not dead. For the Conservatives, it was a further sign that a massive majority is needed to stand up against the EU.

With the manifestos being prepared, the Conservatives will beg, borrow and steal ideas to deliver the widest possible range of votes.

Ed Miliband’s old promises of controls on energy bills is likely to accompany the continued, UKIP-inspired, commitment to a net migration figure. Labour will continue to focus on its anti-elite messages, particularly around tax (bombshell or not). Marx, though, may not receive a direct manifesto name-check.

May 10 2017 –

“The Tories appear stuck between going all out at Labour and Corbyn to ram home their undoubted advantage, and not going so hard that they just depress turnout and turn people off.

“We’ve seen attack dog Michael Fallon only fleetingly and just one dead cat has been thrown on the table by Boris Johnson.

“There is no doubt that Boris grabbed the attention but that was mainly in the absence of anything else going on.

“Paul Nuttall’s choice of constituency to stand in surprised few but it came on the back of a shambolic press conference. Unless they take action, this will be the week UKIP derailed itself.

“With neither May or Corbyn taking part in a TV debate, the election desperately needs the manifestos to be published to help liven things up. Even by week two this has all the hallmarks of being a long-winded, dull and deeply uninspiring election with an emphasis on not making any mistakes.

“The excitement seems to be coming from Europe. May did not want to have a running commentary on Brexit negotiations but it appears Juncker has other ideas. May could be forced to respond otherwise her Brexit election is in danger of going horribly wrong.”

May 3 2017 –

“The Conservatives so far believe that staying quiet is their most effective campaigning tactic. Their silence will allow Labour’s internal divisions to show themselves and Corbyn did not disappoint on Trident, where his policy appeared different from that of his party.

“Keir Starmer’s speech on Brexit, though, showed a determination by the party to take the fight to the Conservatives. By making Brexit the priority at the start of the election, Labour hopes to be able to then open up the space to talk about its priorities of the NHS and education. But where the Conservative position is clear, Labour’s is nuanced. This may reflect the reality of EU negotiations, but is more difficult to communicate.

“The Lib Dems’ big hope is the offer another EU referendum. They may, however, struggle to get past Tim Farron’s distinctly illiberal stance on homosexuality. Rising memberships may make for good headlines, but they are no substitute for credibility with the wider electorate. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have still to address this.

“This has been a gentle week, something to whet the appetite. The electorate has, apparently, been calling for real dividing lines between the parties. The 2017 election will offer stark choices.”

April 26 2017 –



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