A few days ago no sane observer of this election would have suggested it was possible that Labour could win. All has now changed. The polls put Labour only five or six points behind the Tories. When you factor in the advantage Labour has from unreformed constituency boundaries there suddenly seems to be a distinct possibility that Mr Corbyn will find himself Prime Minister leading a Labour/SNP coalition.
How did this happen?
There are, I suggest, two reasons. I will deal with the lesser one first. The extraordinary ineptitude of the Tory approach to care for the elderly must have played its part. The original policy, as set out in the manifesto, was not unreasonable. The Labour Party was, and is, proposing far more draconian attacks on the assets of the dead than Mrs May was. The Liberal Democrats were, and are, in favour of excessive increases in tax to pay for care for the elderly. True, had Mrs May consulted almost anyone other than her Rasputin (Nicholas Timothy) her manifesto would not have come down so baldly in favour of old people having to pay for their care from the equity in their houses. But, as I say, the policy was not plainly wrong.
There was a minor hiccough in the polls after the Tory manifesto was published. Then came Mrs May’s first major blunder of the campaign. Instead of sticking to her guns, as a strong and stable leader would have done, she capitulated. She invented the “cap”. She told us her policy was all right because no one would have to pay too much for care. That was an obvious U turn. But she decided, no doubt on the advice of Rasputin, to assure us that there was no change in her policy. “Look at the manifesto”, she kept saying. But the manifesto said nothing about a cap. And her own Health Secretary, whom she had not thought it necessary to consult about the policy at any stage, had, entirely innocently, already assured us that there would be no cap.
From being strong and stable Mrs May had, overnight, become weak and wobbly.
That fiasco plainly played its part in bolstering support for Labour. But the Tories’ main problem has existed from the start of the campaign. To the simple mind it made sense. Mrs May was a sensible, though maybe a little boring, and competent operator. Mr Corbyn was an obvious nutcase. Lots of traditional Labour voters dislike Mrs May’s cabinet colleagues, but seemed to like her. Let’s make the election into a May versus Corbyn competition, said Rasputin. Forget the Conservative Party. Campaign for Theresa May’s Team.
Masses of us explained that this was madness. Yes, we entirely agreed that Mrs May’s qualities, when compared to Mr Corbyn’s, gave the Conservatives a distinct advantage. But we thought it insane to put the entire burden of the election campaign on Mrs May’s shoulders. And when even she started (as she did at a very early stage) demanding that people should vote for “me”, not for the Conservatives, we threw up our hands in despair. Surely, we thought, and we have been proved right, the time will shortly come when voters will tire of this egotistical campaign. And, as we knew, Mrs May would be bound to put her foot in it one day. She does not, as all (other than her Rasputin) agree, have a particularly quick mind. She can’t think on her feet. Very sensibly, she has done her best to avoid being interviewed by serious broadcasters for many years. She knows she is no match for them (it was certainly sensible of her to refuse to take part in leader debates).
But it is impossible for a party leader wholly to avoid interrogation during a general election campaign. She has done one television interview so far, others will follow. She did not shine in the first and she won’t shine in those to come. This notion, invented by Rasputin, that Mrs May’s personal reputation is so wonderful that everyone will vote for her, not for Conservative candidates, was bound to come a cropper one day. That day came a little earlier than most of us expected when she became weak and wobbly over care for the elderly. But it would have come several days before 8th June even without her U turn.
I am very much on Mrs May’s side. I want her to win the election. The thought of Corbyn as Prime Minister is simply appalling. Abbot as Home Secretary would be horrific. That is why I am tearing my hair out as I see the Tory campaign continuing to career towards the abyss. After the horror of Manchester (when Mrs May did her job well) we were told campaigning had started again. Mr Corbyn made a rather silly speech saying we should give in to Islamist extremists because they were only cross with us as a result of Tony Blair’s foreign adventures. Mrs May was in Brussels and not able to campaign. No cabinet minister was allowed to take her place. Rasputin had decreed that, if Mrs May was otherwise engaged, the cabinet should remain silent. And then, in Brussels, she gave a press conference. She had not learned her lesson. Yet again she said “vote for me”, not for the Conservatives.
On a personal level it would be horrid for Mrs May to lose this election. The campaign started with her being acclaimed as the most popular leader of the Conservative Party since long before Mrs Thatcher. If she loses the election, which she might well do if she continues to follow Rasputin’s advice, she can be sure of being the most unpopular leader in the party’s entire history.