Seems I picked the wrong weekend of the campaign to take a break from politics and blogging, as everything appears to have been turned upside down over the last few days. ‘Dementia tax’ went from being the sort of thing you don’t even write on the flipchart when someone suggests it to a Google search term both the Tories and Labour were bidding to advertise on, and meanwhile Donald Trump touched a mysterious glowing orb as part of a ceremony, and Jeremy Corbyn made a surprise appearance at a Libertines gig where he was greeted with acclaim by the thousands of people there.
Yes, I feel like I’ve fallen into a parallel universe too. Apparently we’re in a version of 2017 where not only are the Libertines still a thing, they can also get massive crowds of people along to watch them.
As everyone is fond of pointing out, election wobbles happen to every party in every campaign. Everything up to then has been smooth sailing and easy going, then something comes out of left field — who knew they were going to care that much about one manifesto promise? — and suddenly you’re under pressure, the polls are looking a lot closer than you thought and campaign HQ is inundated with reports of candidates and canvassers being chased down driveways by people saying they’ll never vote for you again. Now, there’s a lot of suggestion that this is essentially meaningless, that campaigns change nothing and elections are decided on fundamental impressions and perceptions decided long before. All campaigns — even Blair in 1997 — have wobbles, they say, and then go on to win and look back at them with a happy nostalgia at their naivety, but we forget that there are an awful lots of campaigns that went on to lose who have similar tales without the rosy tint. If there’s one thing we should have learned from recent years, it’s that politics and public perception can change very very quickly. We don’t know how many hammer blows it takes to knock down a strong and stable wall, but it’s probably not as many as you might think if the first few gentle taps reveal that it’s actually pretty weak and wobbly.
(At present, that final sentence is my entry in the Most Tortured And Painful Metaphor category of this year’s election blogging awards)
And for a question now that may turn out to be oddly prescient in the next Parliament. The Salisbury Convention says that the Lords won’t block any policy that’s in the new Government’s manifesto. What happens if the Government disowned part of that manifesto during the election campaign in favour of something else? (The best answer to that so far involves the Lords killing a cat, and I don’t really wish to find out if there is an official ceremony for doing that somewhere in the bowels of the great uncodified British constitution)
Also from the weekend, here’s the Foreign Secretary being caught out in a lie on national TV:
— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) May 21, 2017
But don’t worry because the interviewer decides it’s all a bit of laugh and doesn’t go on to press him over it. Maybe if people stopped referring to him by the middle name he only uses for political purposes and went for ‘Mr Johnson’ or ‘Foreign Secretary’ instead, this would stop seeming like a fun little silly game with a comedy character, and serious politics with a man in a position of real power and influence?
For all those who claim that referendums are the settled ‘will of the people’ and can’t be turned over by a mere election manifesto, would you care to explain why the Tories are talking about changing the way the London Mayor and Assembly are elected? They’re actually talking about switching all Mayor and PCC elections to single member plurality systems (the system some refer to as ‘first past the post’ despite it lacking anything that even resembles a winning post), but London’s was agreed as part of the referendum that approved the Mayor and Assembly and overturning the will of the people on Mayoral referendums…is something the Tories have form on, so why are we surprised?
And with things hotting up on the election trail, we now have a decent selection of candidates for Election Leaflet Of The Day, though the winner has to be this one from Lee McCall, independent candidate for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who has stumbled on an unintentionally creepy slogan. ‘I’m not running for office, I’m running for you!’ he promises his electorate, bringing up the image of him chasing them all over the Isle of Sheppey. It could also work as the closing line of a political-themed rom-com, where the protagonist suddenly realises what’s important in their life and tells them so.
Maybe we all just need to hope in a happy ending. Eighteen days till we find out if we’re getting one…
Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on May 22, 2017.