For the Many, Not for the Few

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Posted on June 1, 2017

For the Many, Not for the Few

A couple of months are an eternity in politics, especially UK politics. Since Prime Minister Theresa May decided back in April to call a general election, in part given her huge lead in the polls, she has now found her lead cut, by at least one poll from twenty points to three points. Although most of the polls still predict a Tory Parliamentary majority, there are now those, less than one week out from the election on 8 June, predicting a hung Parliament,.

How did this happen?

There have been a number of factors which have contributed to the narrowing between the two major parties. Firstly, much to everyone’s surprise, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party has fared far better as a campaigner than predicted. He has connected with the party’s roots, although wary that Labour votes which had gone to UKIP are more likely to go to the Tories than return to Labour. Questions remain about Corbyn’s potential as a Prime Minister, but there is no doubt he has generally performed better than expected. Much of this has emerged from a combination of Labour’s ability to campaign on ‘for the many, not for the few’ while Corbyn himself is presented as a regular person, not attached to the establishment.

Secondly, there has been a dearth of detail about Brexit, which was of course the rationale behind Theresa May’s election call. The main opposition parties, however, have been campaigning on more usual political issues and the public has been receptive to this approach. The Tories were caught out particularly on social care (where people would have to pay for their own elderly care until their assets were less than £100,000, including the value of their home) and were forced into a policy U-turn. People are extremely sensitive to the idea that they may have to sell their homes to fund their care costs and not be able to pass on their home to their children. The mantra of ‘going after pensioners’ i.e. traditional Tory voters, has not helped. Theresa May’s leadership style has not been a huge asset to the party and many are now saying that she would find it difficult to survive if she did not increase her parliamentary majority substantially. If her small Parliamentary majority of 17 is cut, she will be in deep trouble with the far right of her party holding more sway. Although not decisive, her case as a leader was not bolstered by the Prime Minister’s decision to be the only leader not to attend the televised debate on BBC on Wednesday evening, allowing the other parties to capitalise on the fact ’she couldn’t be bothered to turn up’.

So what will happen?

Even though one or two polls are suggesting a hung Parliament, polls can be wide of the mark. Even though the Labour Party have managed to close the gap considerably, most political pundits are suggesting a Tory majority. But her majority needs to be much higher than 17 to give her the confidence to go into the Brexit negotiations with the country behind her. The Brexit negotiations will start on 19 June. It is difficult to imagine anyone but Theresa May leading those talks.

We will see where the UK is one week from now. Although a hung Parliament is unlikely, Theresa May and the Tories will need to work hard in the lead up to the election if they are to see the kind of Parliamentary majority the polls suggested 6 weeks ago.

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