Things are looking good for the Conservative Party (or “me” as Mrs May has re-branded it). This week’s council elections gave the Tories a large national lead which, if history repeats itself, is likely to be even larger in the general election itself. But could things still go wrong for the government on 8th June?
I should explain. This may come as a surprise to you, but I am a committed supporter of the Conservative Party. I want it to do very well in the general election. But I have a worry.
Can the electorate survive another month of every Conservative spokesman and candidate answering every question, on whatever subject, with the bald assertion that we want “Strong and Stable Leadership”?
Throughout my life political parties have dreamt up slogans for elections. In the campaign of 1951, shortly before my birth, Churchill’s Tories campaigned under the slogan “Set the People Free”. In every election since then the major parties have produced simple slogans. Today, we have Strong and Stable Leadership (the Tories) and The Many not the Few (Labour). There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t complain about it. If the slogan is well chosen, it can help, by always being there on a placard behind political speakers, to remind us of the main theme of the party’s campaign.
But this year we have something different. The slogan, at least for the Conservatives, is not just a phrase on a placard. It has become the only sentence which most of the party spokesmen are prepared to utter.
Mrs May is the worst offender. Ask her what her tax policies are, what plans she has for the NHS, what is to be done about care for the elderly, what she thinks about free speech, whether she thinks defence expenditure should increase, at what level she proposes to fix the national minimum wage or any other question about her policies. The answer is the same every time, and completely ignores the question: “the British people want Strong and Stable Leadership”.
I don’t really blame Mrs May. She is just doing what her unimaginative election “experts” tell her to do. I also acquit her of getting too big for her boots by constantly telling us that it is she, not the Conservative Party, for whom we should vote on 8th June. Her experts have told her that the polls and focus groups are sending out the message that she is more popular, for the moment, than her party. It is the experts, not Mrs May, who have decided she should keep asking for people to vote for “me” rather than for the Conservative Party.
But I fear the experts are gravely mistaken in their approach. They assume we are all very stupid. They have convinced themselves that the slogan is all that matters, that we aren’t interested in the policies. And, by forcing Mrs May to say nothing but Strong and Stable Leadership, they are doing their bit to ensure that, eventually, she will lose her popularity.
What the experts can’t grasp is that voters are likely to become irritated by not being treated as grown ups. As the next few weeks pass more and more people will be exasperated by the refusal of any Conservative candidate, other than those brave enough to ignore the experts’ idiotic advice, to say anything other than that Strong and Stable Leadership is the answer to every ill.
It will certainly be disastrous if Mrs May continues to do what her experts tell her to do. We have all been told, by Mrs May herself, that this is an election in which she is vastly more important than her party. If voters, by the end of the campaign, know nothing more about her policies than that she claims to be a strong and stable leader, they may begin to have second thoughts about voting for her.
We committed Conservatives must pray either that the “experts” grasp the simple point that voters want more than a slogan or that Mrs May and all other Conservative candidates will see sense and ignore the advice they are being given by their expensive experts.