I want the Conservatives to win the election with a handsome majority. But I have been desperately uneasy about the way they have, so far, been conducting the campaign.
What one might call the “leader cult” is certainly not new to British politics (remember Tony Blair?). But I think it fair to say that it has never before been advanced in such a shameless way as the Tories are now promoting it.
Mrs May’s endless demands that we should vote for “me”, rather than for Conservative candidates, were bound, eventually, to backfire on her. That seems to have happened. The latest You Gov poll for the Sunday Times suggests that Labour is now (on 35%) only nine points behind the Conservatives (on 44%).
The Tory lead is still large. If the electorate votes as You Gov predicts, the Tories will have a decent majority in the House of Commons (about 45). And, of course, it must be unlikely that a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn could ever win a general election. But this sudden surge in support for Labour will, I hope, worry the Tory campaign chiefs into changing tack and dropping their insistence that the election is presidential rather than parliamentary.
On the whole, my guess is that the British people dislike the notion that they are being required to vote, in a general election, for one political leader rather than for her party. Yes, the Conservative Party has a significant advantage over the Labour Party because it has a leader who appears to be competent and probably sane. But most of us distrust political leaders who claim to be more important than their parties. We fear that that sort of thing leads to dictatorship, and we decided we had had too much of that when we, or our ancestors, lived through Cromwell’s reign.
Mrs May herself is not to be unduly blamed for the disastrous emphasis on her rather than on her party. Her advisers have told her that we want a dictator and she has simply accepted their advice. It is to be hoped that she will now understand that her advisers got it horribly wrong.
The latest poll, I pray, will result in our reverting to a proper, British election campaign.