A couple weeks into the election campaign and I believe it is a lot closer. YouGov voting figures on May 17 report voting intention for the Conservatives is down significantly to 45 per cent, a fall of 4 per cent in a few days. Labour meanwhile are on 32 per cent, giving the Tories a 13 point lead. This still shows a sturdy Tory lead and, unless a miracle occurs, they will be the party to bring through the required majority on June 8, whether you like it or not.
However, wider ideological change is at play after the release of both party’s manifestos. To begin with, Labour’s view of a Britain ‘For the Many, Not the Few’ was warmly received and its hopeful attitude to the future was positively acknowledged by many. The combination of its premature release and Diane Abbott’s gaffes were awkward. However, this appears to have been forgotten behind the manifesto‘s progressive attitude towards university fees, nationalizing the railways and supporting the rights of EU citizens. LBC’s Political Editor, Theo Usherwood, commits to believing that it is only the weakness of Corbyn that is now holding the party back and that the manifesto largely left people at home with the sense of ‘right message, wrong messenger’.
Secondly, the Tories have begun playing policy flip-flop with an umbrella attitude to the electorate. Some commentators accuse them of endorsing inherently UKIP attitudes towards immigration, and Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, accused May of a ‘blunt approach to immigration’. They have also begun to ever so slowly show their anxieties around Labour’s socialist program. Andrew Neil of the BBC said ironically that the major omission from the Tory manifesto was an apology to Ed Miliband for all the policies they disparaged but have now included.
In the long run, a narrative is emerging that may have consequences that are not so obvious. Support for these ideological ripples was shown just a couple of days ago in Leeds where thousands turned out to see Corbyn speak. Albeit they were mostly students and so ideologically Corbynites, the chants of ‘Corbyn, Corbyn, Corbyn’ from a crowd of young voters and him returning their cheers was convincing. This was never the case in the 2015 election where Labour’s campaign was dogged by an improbable leader and his ‘EdStone’ that was much mocked. Besides, what are the chances of a similar atmosphere towards a Tory rally? It’s still early but the blue corner of this general election lacks vibrancy and future perspective. To me, one party appears on the front foot, the other does not.
Why Corbyn Should Stay Regardless
Sustaining the emerging narratives at this early stage is no less required than when the Labour Party do not win. Returning to Usherwood’s ‘right message, wrong messenger’ point, I tend to disagree. Corbyn may just be the exact messenger required to sustain this leftist momentum that has surrounded him since his election to party leader in 2015. Whilst, he may never fit the role to win the party an election, he can certainly supply and design the mould for his successor to mimic and this will be invaluable to reflect a rising Left.
Though Corbyn will almost certainly lose, the electorate appears less attached to the present centre-right conservatism and the Left’s belief in New Labour. Instead, the Labour Manifesto indicates that classic tax and spend politics is not obsolete and that different options to the policies of today are available.
I will not disclose how I will vote in this election, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are not the only opposition. However, to support the same government that has been in power since 2015 may just be starting to get unpopular. Although the majority will surely do just this, I look forward to the end of Brexit and am already excited by the following election, as it is there that real change might finally take place for a modern Britain.