The first general election I remember clearly was that held in October 1964. I was twelve years old and a fanatical supporter of the Conservative Party under Sir Alec Douglas Home. I remember being desperately worried that Harold Wilson would win and we would become a satellite of the Soviet Union. He did win and that was pretty horrid for the country. But we survived, even though Mr Wilson won again in 1966. Then we had the 1970 election, held a month before my eighteenth birthday (though I would not have been allowed to vote if it had been a month later). That was rather fun. The Conservatives were led by Mr Heath. At that time he was frightfully keen on the free market. But, by February 1974, he had changed his mind. He favoured a command economy. But I, who hated his prices and incomes policy, gritted my teeth and worked night and day to support the Conservative Party. We lost, just. Mr Wilson was back. And he won again a few months later. Next, of course, we had the ground breaking 1979 election. The advent of Mrs Thatcher. She won again in 1983 and in 1987. Then, after she had been martyred, her successor won the 1992 election. Then came the Blair era (Mr Brown never won an election) from 1997 to 2010, disagreeable but not nearly so frightening as Wilson and Callaghan. Next was the Cameron/Clegg coalition in 2010 and the Cameron overall majority in 2015. Now we have the 2017 election.
Sorry about that rather dry list of elections, but I thought I should tell you about those which meant something to me. The reason being that I genuinely think this election is unique in the ineptitude of all the major contestants. Of course, there were blunders in all those campaigns, but I am confident they, the blunders, were as nothing compared to those committed by the main protagonists in this election.
As I have said right from the start, my own party’s campaign has been mad in the extreme. Putting all the eggs in Mrs May’s basket was insane. The endless recitation of that mantra, “Strong and Stable Leadership”, and getting the Prime Minister to keep demanding people to vote for “me”, rather than for the Conservative Party, were bound to lead to immense problems. Those problems came. The “dementia tax” u-turn (not the original policy – though it was unnecessary) instantly put paid to the notion that Mrs May was strong and stable. Then, even though great efforts were made to ensure that Mrs May never had to face hostile questioning (she cannot think on her feet), it soon became apparent to the electorate that she wasn’t really all that bright. Worse still, as the campaign went on we discovered that Mr Corbyn, incredibly dangerous though his views were, was a lot better in his interviews and speeches than Mrs May was. He seemed to believe what he was saying, whereas it was clear that Mrs May had no serious opinions at all (other than her conviction that she was strong and stable).
But, fortunately for those of us who care about our country, Labour’s campaign has also been pretty idiotic. I absolve Mr Corbyn from most of the blame. He really has done extraordinarily well, though hampered by pretty well everything he ever said and did before he became leader of his party. I think it remarkable that a man who has supported almost every terrorist organisation in the last forty years or so, who has always opposed our nuclear deterrent, who hates the monarchy, who thinks businesses should be crippled by high taxes even though that would make us all poorer and reduce the tax income, should have so successfully convinced so many people that he would make a good prime minister. I can almost understand why the Labour Party chose him as its leader. Yes, I know that not all his interviews have gone well for him, but I do think he can rightly claim to have done rather better than Mrs May.
But Mr Corbyn, unlike Mrs May, has not been alone in his campaign. While Mrs May’s advisers have prevented her cabinet colleagues from playing any important part in the campaign (the Foreign Secretary was not allowed to make a single speech until today), Mr Corbyn’s colleagues, or the madder of them, have been paraded before us almost daily. Diane Abbott, in particular, has been interviewed on the wireless and the television throughout the campaign. Almost every time she is interviewed she comes an awful cropper. True, after her latest disastrous interview (when it was obvious she had never read Lord Harris’s report on terrorism – commissioned by the Labour Mayor of London), she was withdrawn from another broadcast on Woman’s Hour on the grounds of “illness” (though photographed at a railway station twenty minutes before the broadcast she seemed to be in the best of health). But the damage had been done long ago. Just glance through “social media”, somewhere where the Left is in the vast majority, and you will see endless comments from Left-leaning people saying they can’t face the prospect of Ms Abbott as Home Secretary.
My own guess is that the Conservatives will win the election with a significantly increased majority. I hope I am right. But I don’t think either of the two major parties deserves victory if the test is how competent their campaigns have been. We must hope that 2017 will be a one-off, that both parties will come to their senses before the next election.
Sad though I am that the Prime Minister’s two advisers have saddled us with a disastrous campaign, I will be on the streets on Thursday doing my best to get my fellow voters to vote for her party.