Thought you knew everything about June’s incredible ‘snap’ general election, one of the greatest self-owns in British political history? Think again.
A new book from political journalists Tim Ross and Tom McTague has unearthed some startling revelations about how the badly the Conservative Party’s election campaign played out in a new book, ‘Betting the House’, with extracts serialised in the Mail on Sunday. Here are five of the most eye-catching stories:
1. Theresa May started planning for the election in February, and was convinced by David Davis to go for it.
Received wisdom has it that May opted to call the election after a mind-clearing hike in Wales during the Easter parliamentary break. The reality seems very different, according to Ross and McTague, with planning for the thing beginning months earlier: on Thursday, February 16, at Chequers, in fact.
They also suggest she was bounced into the decision by her self-assured Brexit Secretary, David Davis. He was said to have told Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby that “we’re well ahead in the polls and we’ll win”, though he was unconvinced by the “shallow” support for May among the electorate.
DD’s thinking was a thumping victory would strengthen his hand in the Brexit negotiations, and continued to press the PM. “Little by little, May’s caution turned to confidence, ” the journalists wrote, paving the way for that moment of clarity up Snowdonia.
2. May served chicken lasagne and boiled potatoes at the summit, and some people can’t cope with it.
At the meeting of advisers, strategists and speechwriters in February, an unusual combination was on the menu: chicken lasagne, served with boiled potatoes.
Sir Lynton reportedly quipped that you could “learn a lot about a leader from the menus they serve”, and social media seemed to agree.
3. There was a guest appearance from Barack Obama ...
Yes, the former US President has a cameo. According to the extract, the Democrat called a friend in the Conservative Party shortly before the bombshell exit poll was released to reassure them that Labour would lose between 20 and 30 seats.
It would have meant an increased majority for May, but not so disastrous that it would spell the end for Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. At the time, it would have been regarded as a solid outcome.
The book says the message relayed was: “Labour are expecting to lose seats, meaning the Tory majority will go up. And the disastrous Corbyn is here to stay.”
But then reality bit hard soon after ...
4. The exit poll leaked early
Ross and McTague write that Fiona Hill, one of May’s key aides, was told a few minutes in advance about the outcome of the exit poll.
The poll, which dictates the tone of the coverage of the night, is usually only released to broadcasters who have paid for the survey. The BBC’s Andrew Marr admits he told Hill of the result, but insists it was “seconds” before it became public - meaning there could have been multiple leaks.
Not that Top Tories were convinced. “Fuck it,” Sir Lynton reportedly told a room of senior campaigners. “The BBC’s never been right about anything in their lives.”
5. May is a germaphobe
The book suggests May was avoiding her own activists working at Conservative HQ. Why?
“She didn’t come into the office very often because it was basically a pit of germs,” a source told them. “There were quite a lot of germs flying around.”
Even when she deigned to speak to them, May delivered to her staff a rehash of her “strong and stable” stump speech that earned her the nickname The Maybot.
Some party workers were more engaged with Twitter: “This was the prime minister of the United Kingdom talking in the middle of an election to her own campaign staff and she couldn’t even hold the room.”