This election campaign has been one fought like no other before it. Nick Timothy has had quite the job on his hands managing a neither strong nor stable candidate who seemed to listen to the Tories’ PR mastermind, Sir Lynton Crosby, to the letter. Crosby, as the key adviser, will have advised on the slogan “strong and stable”, and, as she demonstrated herself to be neither of those things, a very swift move to “the best Brexit for Britain”.
This was always going to be the problem when Mrs May faced the electorate. She’s nervous, vapid, a dark player in Government, and obsessed with control. An election meant that she lost control. She has managed to demonstrate these things quite astonishingly well in following the announcement of an election campaign at an interesting time in developments in politics, at home and abroad. The timing of this has been curious indeed.
Mrs May followed Crosby’s advice of restricting the message, sticking to the message at all costs, controlling the press questions. She never deviated from the advice. She did this because she is not a natural campaigner, and is clearly very nervous.
If you’re a fellow obsessive, you’ll remember that David Cameron hired Lynton Crosby to deliver him victory in 2010, who he eventually knighted for his delivery of a successful election campaign. The one thing that he didn’t do, though, was always listen to him. Dave was different like that – he was competent. When Crosby said “don’t debate”, he listened; when it became clear that the public viewed that he was running from a debate, he agreed to one – providing all party leaders attended. He didn’t run; she has.
Broadly, Crosby managed the campaign with US-style attack ads, including those “wrecking balls” featured in YouTube clips by Conservative Party candidates. If “coalition of chaos” sounded familiar to you, that’s because it’s the same line that Mr Crosby recommended the Tories used in 2010, back when I worked in the field. It’s a good line, and it worked then. It worked because he had a strong and stable candidate.
Corbyn’s PR campaign has been excellently run by Seamus. Incredible chap who managed to even persuade him to put on a proper suit from time-to-time. They’ve managed to tell you that all their policies are costed while knowing that it would be impossible to implement them, whereas the Conservatives haven’t even bothered to tell you that their policies are costed.
The Tory manifesto is a joke, but it was always going to be a joke. It’s a disgusting mix of social conservatism with economically illiterate policies. The biggest joke of it all, though, was the ‘Dementia Tax’, and how Mrs May climbed down to public pressure in the middle of an election campaign. She allowed fox hunting, an issue with which 84% of the public disagree, to dominate the news. She did not adequately perceive the strength of feeling on free school meals. But, most importantly, she actually dropped a key election pledge in the middle of an election campaign. We’re in bizarre territory here.
The NHS funding and mental health reforms do not go far enough. There is a crisis in this country, and I seriously doubt the 10,000 new staff will be all that new after all. Greater training, shorter waiting lists, greater awareness and a Health Secretary possessing this core personality trait called “empathy” would go much further than what she is proposing. Scrapping IAPT, as I have discussed before, would also help.
Back to the point here. The frankly horrifying things that have happened in this country in recent weeks have thrown terrorism into an election campaign. We’ve heard all about Jeremy Corbyn and his reluctance to use shoot-to-kill, we’ve heard all about his IRA links, and we’ve heard him attack the government on cutting Police numbers. All of this was going to happen, and it’s revolting that it has.
My old way of predicting polls – i.e. not being too obsessed with blatantly inaccurate data – tended to work. My prediction, for anyone who cares, is that Mrs May will have her majority when the polls close tomorrow evening. I am going to say that her majority will be around 50, because I know that polls understate Tory support. For the record, this was my gut feeling at the start of the campaign.
She will get her win. For once in my lifetime, I’ll be disappointed with that result, but I’d be even more disappointed with a Labour win.
There’s a problem waiting for her, though. She is demonstrating to the people with whom she’ll be negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union that she can bend under pressure. She is demonstrating to her Parliamentary colleagues – those types of people who tend to sack their leaders if they’re not very good – that she is neither strong nor stable.
She may need to re-engage with her harshest critics and take some leadership – some real leadership – in tackling terrorism both here and abroad. Otherwise, she may well find herself out of a job.
Good luck, Mrs May. You’ll need it.