May’s lacklustre campaign

“I am trying to remember if there was ever a worse Conservative election campaign than this current dog’s breakfast,” says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. But “I don’t think anything quite matches up to this combination of prize gaffes and the robotic incantation of platitudinous idiocies”. Gaffes include the decision to “alienate that 84% of the electorate opposed to fox-hunting” and “to force [people with dementia] to sell their own houses… to pay for their own care”. Such decisions smack of “complacency and arrogance”, and suggest that Prime Minister Theresa May “called this election convinced that almost nothing she could do or say would prevent the inevitable landslide”.

Quite, says Bruce Anderson in the Financial Times. May’s team should have inserted a few “sonorous phrases” and kicked any definite proposal on care “a very long way into very long grass”. Instead, the Tory campaign has been crippled by this tale of “blunder, denial and retreat”. This is a textbook demonstration of the “iron law of political strategy: do not play to your opponents’ strengths”.

“The Conservative campaign has meandered from an abortive attempt to launch a personality cult around Mrs May to the self-inflicted wound of the most disastrous manifesto in recent history,” reckons the London Evening Standard, edited by former Chancellor George Osborne. “Shrill” attacks on Corbyn’s foreign and security policies, in the wake of the Manchester attacks, haven’t helped, while the Tory campaign has barely touched on Brexit – “the very reason we were having an election in the first place”.

It’s not May’s policies that are at fault, but her decision – “like many other women in politics” – to “play it safe”, argues Cathy Newman in The Daily Telegraph. May goes into interviews “armed to the gills with facts and figures, which then come spewing out without the viewer getting much idea of the person behind the politician”. The “big boy beasts of Westminster”, such as Boris Johnson or Ken Clarke, instead “sail close to the wind” and as a result look “more like real people”.

Facts and figures matter, notes Ian Leslie in The New Statesman, as Jeremy Corbyn’s floundering over the cost of Labour’s childcare policies in an interview on Monday with Woman’s Hour demonstrated. However, notes Helen Lewis in the same publication, Corbyn’s “benevolent twinkly uncle”-style appearance on BBC’s The One Show later that day proved that, unlike May, he can at least do “sofa banter”.

Have the pollsters got it wrong again?

The polls may suggest Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could “force a hung parliament, and perhaps even become prime minister”, says advertising agency CEO Michael Moszynski in The Daily Telegraph. But “it won’t happen”. In fact, “the Conservatives remain safely on course for a three-figure majority”. The reality is that “Labour’s polling is being boosted by its over-representation among the young and others who are less likely to cast their ballot”.

Surveys also miss “undecideds”, “who… have often made up their mind but won’t say”, and those “who claim one view and then vote entirely differently in the polling booth”. Many “lifelong Labour voters” have privately told Moszynski’s researchers that they “will vote Conservative for the first time”.

Many Labour party insiders also agree that the polls are too optimistic. “Not only are the Tories piling up new votes in key Midlands and northern marginals,” says Michael Savage in The Guardian, but canvassers have been “hearing negative reactions to Corbyn’s speech drawing a link between British foreign policy and terror attacks”. Indeed, internal polling suggests
that Corbyn “has gone down like a bucket of sick in working-class areas”.

The level of divergence of opinion means “at least some of the pollsters are going to discover that the tweaks they made after the debacle of 2015 haven’t worked”, says Stephen Bush in The New Statesman. So if nothing else, “we’ll learn a lot about the health of political polling on 8 June”.