11th March 2016
MAY 2020 (PART ONE)
It’s the day before the General Election and spirits are high in the Corbyn camp. The Labour leader has been playing to packed halls all around the country. Some events are over-subscribed and Jeremy Corbyn has had to make impromptu speeches in the street. The events have a quirky 1960s feel about them. On occasions the microphones fail or the teleprompter goes on the blink but this somehow adds to the charm.
As the campaign progressed Corbyn’s rallies have been accompanied to venues by a march of banners from Trades Unions and political organisations. The banners dominate the stage and often obscure the official Labour Party material. Some of the banners are from organisations not affiliated to the Labour Party.
Corbyn’s speeches are cheered to the rafters and all is reminiscent of his leadership campaign. At each venue the speech is very similar. A promise to end austerity, reinstatement of all government cuts over the last 5 years, ending tuition fees, nationalisation of the railways, abandonment of Trident and massive investment in infrastructure to stimulate the economy. This goes down well with the audience as does Corbyn’s promise to pay for his manifesto by getting multinational corporations “to pay their proper taxes”.
Throughout, Corbyn has refused to share any platform with the Conservative Party as he holds them responsible for an unprecedented attack on the working class, trade unions, the poor and disabled. This too has gone down well with his supporters. As a result there are no television debates or joint leaders’ interviews. Corbyn has also limited his one-to-one interview engagements instead preferring to speak to voters directly either at rallies or on walkabouts. Some of his advisers are said to believe the media is biased against him and he would not get a fair hearing.
While spirits are high in the Corbyn camp the polls tell a different story, showing throughout the campaign a consistent Tory lead of between 10% and 14% (as indeed they have for the past 4 years). Labour dismisses these saying their canvass returns tell a very different story with non-voters coming over to them in large numbers. The party claims the return of voters they say were “driven away by Blair” and, in any case, nobody has confidence in polls following the 2015 election.
The campaign has been bitter. The new Tory leader, Borge Josbor, who took over when David Cameron resigned in 2016 following a resounding “remain” victory in the EU referendum poll, has tried to turn the election into a referendum on Corbyn. He is consistently referred to as a “risk to national security and the economy”. Tory party broadcasts and posters are littered with alleged Corbyn quotes about disbanding NATO and calling terrorist organisations “friends”. His links with the IRA are a particular source of attention including his attendance at ceremonies to commemorate “martyrs” killed by UK soldiers. Photographs of Corbyn and Gerry Adams together in the 1980s are prominent in the press. Corbyn’s plan to abandon Trident is called “the biggest risk to national security since 1939” and the opposition of unions with workers in the defence industry is gleefully exploited by the Tories.
A BBC interview where Corbyn refused to condone the shooting of terrorists by police officers is constantly aired.
On the economy Borge claims Corbyn’s sums do not add up as his spending plans are solely dependent on raising Corporation Tax income. They say he would have little alternative than to raise general taxes. “Labour’s £20m tax bomb” is spread all over the bill boards. Labour is branded the “tax and spend” party that will increase the national deficit and cause another economic crisis.
Corbyn’s response to the personalisation of the campaign has been to ignore it. He has let it be known that he “does not do personal” and only wishes to stimulate informed, comradely debate.
The campaign has reached a stalemate with the Tories attacking Corbyn as being unelectable and Corbyn responding with plans to abandon austerity and reverse Tory cuts.
In keeping with tradition newspapers declare their allegiance in Wednesday morning’s papers. To nobody’s surprise the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Sun all declare for the Tories carrying lurid stories of Corbyn’s past associations. The Guardian returns to type and advises readers to vote Liberal Democrat with the party showing modest signs of recovery since the slaughter at the polls in 2015. The Independent tells its online readers to vote Conservative although they have been favourable to Corbyn throughout the campaign. The Daily Mirror advises readers to vote Labour saying that is what it has always done. The cartoonists are particularly cutting with the Mail carrying a drawing of a swivel-eyed Corbyn wearing a Lenin cap with an over-large red star holding a hammer and sickle high above the city of London. The Express carries a cartoon of Corbyn sitting in a cave with heavily armed Arabs sitting on barrels of dynamite labelled Hezbollah and Hamas with Corbyn asking “Did you invite the IRA?”.
On to election night. The BBC results broadcast begins with the promise of an exit poll at 10pm. The host, Jeremy Vine, goes to great lengths to remind viewers about the controversial, but accurate, exit poll from 2015. The camera cuts to Professor Poll who explains the methodology which he claims will deliver the biggest test of public opinion ever undertaken to ensure accuracy.
At 10pm Big Ben strikes and Vine announces “It’s 10pm, the polls are now closing and the BBC is predicting a …………….”
(to be continued)
By Keith Nieland