by Frank Schnittger
Wed Nov 6th, 2019 at 10:45:29 PM EST
Boris Johnson enters the first day of the official UK general election campaign with an average lead of 11% in the 11 polls published since the House of Commons voted to hold a general election. These poll leads range from 7 to 16% and there is no discernable trend over the past week. Not too bad a start, one would have thought, until one recalls that Theresa May's lead was 19% when she called the 2017 election.
Boris Johnson's campaign launch has also been dogged by no less than three scandals on the opening day of the official campaign:
First, Jacob Rees-Mogg blamed the Grenfield tower residents for not ignoring official fire-brigade advice to stay put, and therefore being responsible for their own deaths. Matters were not helped by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen appearing to suggest this was because Jacob Rees-Mogg was cleverer than those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire...
Then the Tories were caught doctoring a video of Labour shadow Brexit secretary to make it appear he had no answer to the question of how Labour would negotiate a better Brexit deal.
Mr Starmer was grilled by ITV on Tuesday over the party's Brexit plans, including rigorous questioning on its policy of trying to negotiate a new divorce deal and then holding a referendum in which its MPs might then campaign against the agreement they had struck.
In a heavily edited video of the interview published by the Conservatives, Starmer was shown being asked by ITV presenter Piers Morgan why the EU would give a Labour government a good Brexit deal.
Mr Starmer was shown apparently blinking, startled, faltering and uncomfortable behind the red slogan: "Labour has no plan for Brexit."
In the actual interview, Mr Starmer did not falter but answered immediately: "Well Piers, I have been talking to the EU, to political leaders across the EU 27 countries for three years, and I know very well what the parameters are of any deal that they would do with a Labour government."
Yet Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly, speaking to ITV on Wednesday, repeatedly refused to either accept that the clip had been doctored or to apologise.
Not a good look when there is so much emphasis on fake news and nefarious social media campaigns...
Finally, Welsh secretary and cabinet member had to resign when it was revealed he had covered up his knowledge that his aide had sabotaged a rape trial:
A cabinet minister has resigned on the first official day of the UK election campaign over allegations he knew a Conservative candidate for the Welsh assembly had sabotaged a rape trial before he was selected by the party.
Alun Cairns said he was not aware his former aide was responsible for the collapse of the case in August 2018 after making claims about the victim's sexual history.
But an email obtained by BBC Wales this week revealed the Welsh secretary was told about the incident in August 2018, four months before Ross England was selected as a candidate.
Mr Cairns received an email from Geraint Evans, his special adviser, on August 2nd, 2018. It said: "I have spoken to Ross and he is confident no action will be taken by the court."
Christina Rees, the shadow secretary of state for Wales, accused Mr Cairns of "brazenly lying" about his knowledge of the case.
Not a good look, even for a Tory...
With the Lib Dems also slipping in the polls - an average of 11% behind Labour and Jo Swinson focusing heavily on the soft Tory vote in Tory held seats, the Remain vote may not be as badly split between Labour and the Lib Dems as first feared. With Nigel Farage's Brexit party averaging only 10% in the polls, he may not represent as bad a threat to Labour seats in Leave constituencies as first thought either.
With the Tories expected to lose some seats to the SNP in Scotland and others to the Lib Dems in the South of England, Boris is banking heavily on picking up Labour seats in Leave voting constituencies in the midlands and North of England. But will strongly Leave Labour voters in these neglected constituencies really vote Tory? Some will undoubtedly defect to the Brexit party, but then so may some Tory voters.
Labour is on popular ground when it seeks to protect the NHS from being bartered away to US Corporations under a Trump/UK trade deal; when it seeks to provide workers with greater protection in the gig economy; when it seeks greater protection for tenants and better services for commuters on privatised rail services. If voters really want to move on from Brexit they have 10 years of Tory austerity and chaotic rule to focus on.
This being the first winter election since since 1974 the cold and dark will limit all the parties' capacity for door-to-door canvassing reducing Labour's membership advantage and making digital campaigning more important. Having the better messaging and targetting technology will be more important than ever. Perhaps we will find out if Dominic Cummings is really the genius he claims to be. Starting off by doctoring video clips in a way easy to refute may not be the wisest strategy.
Tom Watson's statement that his decision to stand down as Deputy Leader and candidate is for personal rather than political reasons should limit the damage it might have done to Labour's chances and the presence of former Conservatives like Dominic Grieve as independent candidates will highlight divisions on the Tory side.
The DUP's cause will not be helped by the decision of their MP, David Simpson to stand down because of an extra-marital affair, and, when added to the "Cash for Ash scandal" and Ian Paisley (Jnr)'s (unreported) free trips to Sri Lanka on 5* holidays in return for lobbying for the Sri Lanka Government will add to the perception of sleaze in the DUP ranks. Boris Johnson has few enough potential allies as it is, and it looks unlikely that the DUP will be among them in any case, even if they do manage to retain all their 10 seats against all expectations.
Thus, with SNP support, Corbyn could well end up being the next Prime Minster, even if the Conservatives are the largest party - even if the Lib Dem refuse to support him. They would probably also support his second referendum legislation if he were to become PM, so all is not lost for the Remain cause. It all depends on how the British people vote however, and many will be attracted by Boris' simplistic "get Brexit done" message.
Or will they? They might also be attracted by the Labour message of giving them the final say within 6 Months of gaining office. It may be the only way of reconciling the rift that has opened up in British society, and that is surely the more urgent task.