Ben Ffrench and Kofo Braithwaite look ahead to the General Election
First Ben Ffrench looks at Labour perspective of the 2017 General Election.
Labour is doomed, right? It certainly seemed that way, judging by most of the articles on liberal media (Guardian, i, Observer) that I have read. Most commentators write as if the Tories have already won and whilst it remains most likely that the Tories will win a thumping majority, I believe that Labour can achieve a miracle, although they will need to radically rethink their strategy. Currently, hope is still sparse, and hoping is all anyone of my political persuasion can do. But Labour’s hope improves by the day.
It all started with that pesky u-turn. Whilst Theresa May and the Conservatives did enjoy lavish polling, the dementia tax fiasco has made the headlines this campaign. I daresay it could be a poll tax moment, the day an unpopular pledge to force richer home owning pensioners to pay for their own care exploded in May’s face; she didn’t back it, but retreated. There are a few other things that are in the opposition’s favour. The first thing is Theresa May’s personal election campaign. Mrs May has kept the lowest possible profile, claiming that she will only be campaigning in her constituency of Maidenhead, a place where she has a 29,000 majority. She has not engaged with voters at all, being alien and distant from voters at a Tory campaign event in Leeds hiding amongst Tory activists. However, it is clear why ‘submarine May’ uses this tactic. She is not seen to be particularly strong in public, shown clearly in the tactical decision to not take part in televised election debates with other leaders. Jeremy Corbyn tricked all his critics with what many might call a masterstroke on Wednesday’s TV debate: against a barrage of personal Tory attacks, he turned up (when it appeared he wouldn’t) People are warming to Corbyn, seeing their Daily Mail Corbyn stereotypes crushed before their very eyes. It is a no-win situation for May.
Another factor is the weakness of the Conservative manifesto. Compared to Labour’s promises, the document looks pallid in comparison. The Tories have been keen to stay off on any detail in this election, instead appealing to voters about the ‘strong and stable leadership’ of Theresa May over Jeremy Corbyn’s unstable lunacy. The policy decisions that the Tories have made in the manifesto are largely unpopular, and show a large degree of arrogance in the election, especially amongst their core demographic. Firstly, Mrs May’s refusal not to increase tax rates does not sit well with traditional Tory voters or even the party, nor does no doubt the so called ‘dementia tax’ . The target to cut immigration to 10,000s is also mentioned, a policy, according to the London Evening Standard, not supported by a single cabinet minister.
But despite all this, there still remains a vast chasm between Labour and government. There are crucial things that Labour must do. One of these is getting young people voting, an uphill task that the Tories can comfortably rely on not to be the case. The 18-24 age group is the most friendly to Labour.. As well as this, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell must convince voters of Labour’s economic credibility. They must show Amber Rudd’s ‘magic money tree’ to be real. It is incredible to think the Tories are trusted with the economy, given stagnating wages, and a micro-economy that is a disaster. Labour must convince voters that ‘economic growth’ is worthless without proper wages and a strong society across the board. If Labour’s manifesto is IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) checked, economic credibility will be hard to deny. Labour must also develop a progressive alliance. A recent letter to the Guardian, signed by Owen Jones, Clive Lewis and others urged Labour not to stand candidates in two constituencies: Brighton Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and Isle of Wight, in favour of the Green Party. If Labour joins forces with the Greens, Labour could in theory be the biggest party and in turn reduce the number of Tories in the House of Commons.
Finally, the pertinent issue of Brexit has to be properly addressed. Theresa May, with her ‘strong and stable leadership’, wants a mandate for Brexit. This sits well for Lib Dem support. Many voters are forgiving the party’s coalition sins and turning to them for support for Europe. The ‘hard Brexit’ approach of May is too weakly contrasted with Labour’s ‘keep single market benefits, end freedom of movement’ position and it is thus tactically unsound. Brexiteers will vote Tory, whether Labour likes it or not. They must instead guarantee staying in the single market, and promise a second referendum. If Labour continues its ‘end freedom of movement’ line at all costs, there will be trouble.
That just leaves leader Jeremy Corbyn, who many regard as Labour’s greatest obstacle to electoral success, but who could also be their surprise weapon. It’s comparatively easy to win a leadership election of your own party against sympathetic members, but the country? He’s shown he can do it before; now, he must do it again. It’s undeniable that he and his party have gained steam, in the polls and elsewhere; Corbyn is enthusing voters, and he must continue to redefine his image with a sophisticated strategy to appeal to voters who have always seen his noble leadership mutated through the ugly lens of Britain’s overwhelmingly Conservative newspaper media. Labour most of all, must control the narrative.
There is no precedent for a Corbyn victory, but then this is the age of the improbable. All the polls two years ago seemed to point towards a Labour victory under Ed Miliband, but this did not become a reality. Everyone thought Brexit would be a dead issue after last year’s referendum, and now look. Finally, Donald Trump defied the odds last year as well. Perhaps Corbyn could top them all this time or Theresa May will undoubtedly humiliate Labour even more. But for any Labour supporter, there is no use giving in to predictable, defeatist analysis. There is now an emerging light of hope present in this age of Tory dominance.
Kofo Braithwaite now shows us the Conservative view of the Election.
Jeremy Corbyn, in his brief and underwhelming stint as leader, has dragged the Labour Party so far down a black hole that I’m sure parents have started using the idea of a Labour government (as unrealistic as it is) to scare their children to bed. I can picture it now, “If you don’t go to bed now, Jeremy Corbyn will get you!” This is the state of the modern day Labour Party: weak, divided, ineffectual, and with no chance of getting anywhere close to Number 10. The polls are unanimous; come June 8, Theresa May will enjoy a stupendous majority and Labour will be blown out of the park. Here’s why:
Theresa May’s election strategy, undoubtedly thanks to Lynton Crosby’s genius, is terribly clever. No TV debates, selected audiences, strong and stable leadership. Mrs May is seen to always be in control, giving speeches to Tory activists and displaying the strong and stable leadership she will deliver once comfortably returned to Number 10. It seems that during this election the focus isn’t so much on policies but on the quality of leadership, and based on that metric, Mr Corbyn is frankly a non-starter. With over 70% of his Shadow Cabinet having resigned, a motion of no confidence having been issued, and his own MPs constantly defying the three-line whip, his credibility as a leader is down the drain.
On the other hand, Corbyn is trying to make this election about everything apart from Brexit (because I suppose he’s still trying to figure out what Labour’s policy is). Jeremy Corbyn kicked off his campaign in Croydon, and not once did he mention anything EU related. He talked about schools, the NHS, immigration and other issues, but not a word about Brexit. After the release of the much-anticipated Labour manifesto, it is now abundantly clear that they are living in a fantasy world far away from reality. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has already denounced much of Labour’s policies, such as raising tax for the top bracket, and demonstrated how it will actually raise about half as much money as the Labour manifesto wants us to believe. The hard-left manifesto is a blast from the past, and is already being dubbed the most left wing manifesto since Michael Foot’s leadership in the 1970s. Nationalisation of industry, higher taxes for the rich, corporation tax at exorbitant rates: the communist manifesto is perhaps a more fitting name for it.
Much attention has been placed on Corbyn, but his Shadow Cabinet is arguably of greater concern. His Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is a self-proclaimed “proud and unrepentant Marxist”, and has said his economic philosophy is greatly influenced by Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky and has also said that there is a lot to learn from reading Das Kapital. Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott demonstrated in her car-crash interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari that Labour has no clue how they will fund their outrageous pledges, such as an extra 10,000 policemen. And Emily Thornberry, who doesn’t even know who the French foreign minister or South Korean president is, is his Shadow Foreign Secretary. Jeremy Corbyn and the team he has surrounded himself with are simply not fit for purpose, and that is why they will suffer an incredible loss on June 8.
But lest we forget, Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats are also somewhat involved in this election. The strategy they’ve adopted is to brand themselves as the party of Remain, in an attempt to attract Labour voters that opted to stay in the European Union. This in theory is a reasonable position for them to take, but unfortunately Tim Farron suffers from his own image problems. Most people don’t know who he is, and those that do think he’s a bit odd. They are aiming to defy the will of the British people by seeking a second referendum on the terms of the deal, which may not sit well with voters.
Therefore, the choice to be made during this election is rather clear. Either you opt for the Tories who will deliver strong and stable leadership in the national interest, or vote for a coalition of chaos, led by Jeremy Corbyn and propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.