You know when you’re trying to think of a way to describe how things are going in the election as things turn a little weird and then someone hits the perfect metaphor? That:
Chris, this is not the time for sober analysis. This is the stage where every1 gets to play w the infinite improbability drive for a while.
— Declan Gaffney (@djmgaffneyw4) May 31, 2017
I know I promised back at the start of this diary, all those weeks ago, that I wouldn’t spend it following 2015 into the dark corners of polling obsessions but YouGov threw out a little hand grenade of a projection last night, suggesting that things might be about to get weird on us. Rather than putting the Tory majority in the ‘how far back do we have to go to find a comparison?’ range, it instead suggested they might lose seats (and their majority) while Labour would gain to put us firmly in hung Parliament territory. The interesting thing about this was that it wasn’t based on applying a uniform national swing across constituencies but instead looking at how different demographics have said they would vote and then working that out constituency by constituency. It’s a controversial method, that didn’t come up with the right projection for the US Presidential election in the elecoral college last year, but it would be something that produced contrary results to other pollsters if this is a realigning election where there’s mass movement of voters between parties. If that happens, then it will make election night very interesting as results won’t be easily predictable by extrapolating from the first few.
It also offers up the joyous prospect of the Tories gaining votes while losing seats. If any of them were to then complain about this as being an injustice and the voters not being properly represented, I may well die laughing.
Of course, this is the point in election campaigns where people can get over-excited and all sorts of wild speculation can break out. It’s where people spend time debating whether the Edstone will need planning permission to be erected in the Number 10 garden, where we wonder which Liberal Democrat candidates might be able to be appointed straight to ministerial office in the Clegg government or any other number of scenarios that seem likely in the heated air of an election campaign, then afterwards are forgotten about as everyone remembers that the result was the one they predicted and expected all along. It’s a national outbreak of candidatitis, sweeping out from party activists to infect the whole country, then disappearing some time around 10pm next Thursday.
And if a wild projection wasn’t enough to excite you, the country — or that bit of it that obsesses over politics on social media, at least — has got debate fever. Yes, tonight is the BBC election debate, which has been suddenly made an event of interest by Jeremy Corbyn today announcing that he would appear in it having previously said he wouldn’t. This means the Conservatives will now be the only party there without a leader representing them as Amber Rudd will be standing in for Theresa May while the Prime Minister goes off to speak to a small rally of Tory activists in a carefully sanitised warehouse somewhere off the M4. Sorry, I meant campaign and ‘meet the people’ because luckily, she’s not campaigning for a job that occasionally requires you to meet in public and debate with other people.
It’s a clever move by Corbyn, as he does have the momentum in the head to head battle and unless he breaks down and declares ‘all power to the Soviets!’ in the middle of the debate (not that quoting Lenin is necessarily harmful nowadays) he can continue to disarm the Tory strategy against him. They’ve been painting him as a crazed Marxist revolutionary wanting to bring down the system, but his recent appearances (especially against Paxman) have been more sardonic history teacher who the students love because he keeps going off on tangents in lessons and never sets any homework. Everyone’s now frantically re-preparing their tactics and points for tonight, which might even make it interesting. That’s why I’m writing this beforehand, when it might still be interesting, rather than afterwards when the reality sets in and commentators intone ‘we are all Ruddites now’.
As ever, we shall conclude with Election Leaflet Of The Day which today comes from an interesting independent — Tim Lord, standing in Cities of London and Westminster. Like many independents he has one big issue he’s standing on but his is an interesting case of the national becoming local in a distinct constituency. ‘Voted Remain? Vote for Tim.’ is his message, pointing out that the Cities’ current MP, Mark Field, is signed up to May’s Brexit strategy, and as it’s a place with lots of interests in maintaining close ties with the EU, he’s hoping that will motivate them to switch to him. (This article spells it out in more depth) It could be an interesting tactic that delivers a shock, it could be yet another damp squib, but it makes a usually safe seat somewhat interesting.
Eight days left until activists who’ve been up since the crack of dawn gird themselves for a push at reminding people getting home from work that it’s time to go vote.
Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on May 31, 2017.