Thoughts on a General Election - Week Six:
Although we've had quite a lot happen in the last seven days, there hasn't been any particular change of trend, strategy or competence.
Labour has eased McDonnell out of the limelight, presumably because they think the holes in Labour's numbers are now their weak point. Once again, a smart move on Labour's part.
Corbyn has been eased into the picture with consummate skill. If you had predicted at the start of this campaign that in the final week he would be sitting in front of Peston, telling him that he would keep his allotment if he became PM, I doubt that many would have believed you. Semiologically, this is classy stuff. The underpinning point here is that no chap who owns an allotment *and plans to keep it even if he wins* could possibly be a threat to the British way of life. Genius.
Meanwhile the Conservatives have more problems than you can shake a stick at.
1) They have refocused away from "strong and stable in the national interest" into claiming to be the best party to deliver a strong Brexit. Unfortunately the "firm on Brexit" line doesn't really work. The LibDem's abject failure to make "Remain" an electoral issue should have been the clue. The voter sees Brexit as something he or she wants the new government to get on with; arguing about who is going to do it better is not really a vote-winner. It's even less of a vote-winner when the only people we have seen on either side who look like they might be really good at it are in the Labour Party.
2) What can one say about May? Even today she was responding to a question with the homily "What we have made absolutely clear is...." presumably without realizing that beginning an answer with this is on a par with "you are feeling sleepy, you are feeling sleepy..." . There's been little strategy and, more importantly, woeful delivery. I don't like to try to read people's minds, but I strongly suspect that even the longest-living, lifelong-loyal Conservatives are going "Gawd, this is embarrassing". It's like those maths lecturers at svchool or college who were so hopeless at social skills that they would spend the entire lesson/lecture talking to the blackboard while writing up equations which the class copied down. You never heared a word he said because his chin was in his chest and he mumbled.
3) UKIP seems to have imploded to about 3%. Curiously, I do not think this will make much difference. It might save a few seats for Labour in that the Conservatives will be unable to slip through "on the rails".
4) LibDems utterly irrelevant. The attempt to mobilize the Remainers just did not work. Half of them had become "let's make the best of it" and two thirds of the 20% left seem to be supporting Labour.
Can Labour win (i.e., form the next government)? I don't think so. Nothing is impossible, but for them to form the next government I think they need three non-correlated events to coincide:
(a) a continuation of the trend of the past three weeks rather than a pause,
(b) for the YouGov assessment of the youth turnout to be right, and for the ICM assumption to be wrong,
(c) Labour doing what the Conservatives did in 2015 -- getting the votes where it matters.
Party workers don't like hard-headed analysis. Because of their emotional investment, they think in terms of "reception on the doorstep". The fact that the pollsters have less than a great track record (despite their protests to the contrary in recent months) serves only to reinforce their belief that "it's not what I'm sensing on the street" has strong statistical validity. It doesn't.
Can the Conservatives win a bigger majority?
It's beginning to look difficult. It keeps coming down to Labour successfully harnessing the youthful vote *in the right places*. It's no fucking use in safe Conservative seats or safe Labour ones. You could have every drinker and eater around Brixton market's Tapas Bars on a Friday evening swearing that they will vote and it won't matter a toss. What are the youngsters going to do in the marginals?
If Labour fail in this, then the Conservatives might, just might, squeak a slightly bigger majority. But their efficiency last time was very high. That is what sets the bar in 2017. The Conservatives don't just have to pick up the votes efficiently, they have to do it even more efficiently than they did last time. A big ask.
I've put numbers for the UK in, plus numbers for the latest polls specific to Scotland and Wales.
Cons Majority of 12.