The UK general election campaign is up and running again, after attention was focused on France over the weekend. I have just been watching Jeremy Corbyn giving a heartfelt speech on the BBC News. His rather stumbling style is quite endearing in many ways, and the absence of slick oration and stage-managed key points also refreshing to see.
He came up with some great ideas of course. A better NHS, a fairer society, the end of privatisation of industry and utilities, and increased taxation on the rich. Yesterday, his shadow chancellor made a speech about how Labour might pay for all their promises, despite pledging not to raise taxes on anyone earning £80,000 a year, or less. This is far higher than the average wage in this country of course. I suspect that the majority of the population would consider someone wih an income of £80,000 to be very well off indeed. So, Labour attempted to sweep in the affluent middle classes yesterday, then Corbyn returned to appeal to the poor and hard-working this morning.
Listening to the Labour leader today, I found myself liking most of what he had to say. He has in roots in the Socialist origins of that party, yet current trends have forced him to temper his one-time radical enthusiasm. Bold claims to build one million new houses are best taken with a pinch of salt though, as are some of his other rather fantastic promises. But he can afford to make such promises, as he knows he is unlikely to ever be in a position to have to deliver on them. He can boast of a minimum wage increase, huge additional investment into the NHS, and getting a Brexit deal that leaves the UK in a strong trading position. He might just as well say that he will pay for a holiday in Florida for every family in Britain, or give every pensioner free electricity, and a new car. He can say anything, because he will never have to prove the truth of his words.
Jeremy Corbyn enjoys huge support within his own party. He has won two leadership elections, and survived the backstabbers among his Labour colleagues in Westminster. But the hard truth is that the Labour Party has never been in a worse place, and never before faced a potential defeat of such proportions. OK, they will probably get my vote, but that will make little difference in a county dominated by the government party. UKIP may have also lost any influence in the country as a whole, but their votes will not be going to Labour. They will be bolstering Conservative majorities instead.
As Jeremy made his speech today, he must have been encouraged by the cheering from the audience, and the whoops of delight as he drove home each point. The applause was genuine, and the enthusiasm palpable. You might have believed that he could become a real leader, a man of substance.
But he was preaching to the converted.
We all woke up to some surprising news this morning. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has called an election in June, just a few weeks away. She could have stayed on until 2020, under the rules in the UK, but instead has chosen to put her policies, and her un-elected leadership, to the voters of Britain, three years early.
The BBC reports this as a ‘surprise decision’, and as you might imagine, there is nothing else being reported in our media at the moment. But is it a surprise? Well, not to me at least, and I suspect that anyone who spends any amount of time being interested in politics is unlikely to be surprised either.
There has rarely been a time in this country when the opposition to the sitting government has been less effective. With the constant attacks on the leader of the official opposition, The Labour Party, by almost every media source, and many in his own party, it appears unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn has any hope of winning. If he does fail to do so, he will probably be forced out anyway. The Liberal Democrats also have their least effective leader in decades, so are not going to pose any threat. As for the nationalists, UKIP, their only elected members are deserting that party as fast as they can get their jackets fastened, and they have little impact in this country anymore.
As for the Scottish Nationalists, they will continue to go on about independence, Brexit, and asking for another referendum. They may enjoy a huge majority in their own country, but have little effect on the UK overall. The Conservatives enjoy one of their biggest leads in the polls for a very long time. Despite all the hoo-hah about Brexit, and talk of a ‘divided nation’, we have to face the fact that the current Conservative government is generally regarded to be doing a good job of running the country, like it or not.
In 2016, we all saw that polls could no longer be trusted though. The June election might appear to be a done deal already, with Mrs May sweeping back into power, confident in her popularity.
But you never know. Not any more…