1. HUMAN WRONGS
Theresa May is ending this election campaign as she began it, facing accusations of yet another U-turn. Having changed her mind about even holding a snap poll, seven weeks later she is changing tack again, this time the key issue of terrorism.
In perhaps a measure of just how much damage Labour’s police cuts line was doing in the wake of the London Bridge attacks, the PM has decided to open a fresh front of her own on human rights. Just two days from polling day, she last night unveiled a raft of proposals and warned “if human rights laws get in the way of doing these things, we will change those laws to make sure we can do them.”
This contrasts with the Tory manifesto pledge that no such laws would be changed, though May’s aides insist derogating temporarily from the European Convention on Human Rights won’t breach that pledge. The Lib Dems say she wants a “nuclear arms race in terror laws”, Amnesty says her remarks were “reckless and misinformed” and Labour’s Shami Chakrabarti says human rights are vital. Ex-DPP Keir Starmer made the strong point on Today that the Human Rights Act didn’t stop him taking tough action against terrorists (“I know because I did it for five years”). But he failed to be explicit when he said ‘we’ve got to get the balance right’ between rights and security.
All of which won’t bother May or Lynton Crosby one bit. In fact, the more Labour is seen to defend human rights, the more the Tories will think they’ve scored a direct hit in targeting working class Leave voters. Public anger over ‘the right to family life’ being abused by terror suspects may well outweigh metropolitan principles. It’s not human rights, but human wrongs like deranged death cults that many floating voters worry about.
Labour is on stronger ground when it points out that May is now flip-flopping. She used to ridicule Tony Blair’s ‘knee-jerk’ plan after 7/7 (which included longer detention and control orders). Now she wants to return to something like the control orders she abolished. May tells the Sun she wants to extend police detention to 28 days.
A robot that lurches from one position to another is not exactly strong or stable, critics are bound to say. As for her ‘Maybot’ nickname, she told the Sun she had not heard it. “That’s not a description of myself I’d recognise,” she said, not sounding remotely robotic.
There is a real difficulty for May in fresh revelations about the way the London Bridge attackers slipped the security net. The voters may not blame her directly, but she says repeatedly that her first duty is to keep us all safe. That duty has taken a knock in the past three weeks.
2. RALLY DRIVER
On the last day of an election campaign, all party leaders try to drum up a sense of excitement largely through the number of airmiles they clock up, and today is no different. The PM is in the south and then the Midlands, but Jeremy Corbyn is doing a three nations tour starting in Scotland, moving through Yorkshire and Wales and then ending up in (where else?) Islington.
At each of six events, Corbyn is holding mass rallies and is sure to pull in the crowds. When put to him by the Mirror that he had inexplicably been visiting lots of northern Labour seats with big majorities, Jezza said on Monday he was in Leamington Spa in Middle England. “And we had 100 or so Labour members turn up but then we had hundreds and hundreds of other people too.”
Corbynsceptic candidates counter that Michael Foot had thousands at his rallies in 1983 and the party still went down to an historic defeat. Some also wonder whether all those rally fans wouldn’t be better employed door-knocking and trying to persuade the unconverted to back Labour. Meanwhile, new research from the National Centre for Social Research suggest only half of under-30s are certain to vote.
It’s 16 years ago today exactly (yes it was June 7, 2001) since Blair became the first Labour leader to secure a full second term, with a massive majority of 167 seats. John Prescott tweeted Corbyn’s rally in Gateshead to say ‘we never pulled in crowds like this in 1997’, but former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith replied: “But we did ‘pull’ enough votes to win 418 seats John!” There endeth the lesson.
3. SURGE ME, GOV
Despite all the promises after 2015 not to be influenced by the opinion polls, this campaign has again been influenced by the polls narrative (not least YouGov’s). But one senior Labour figure told me yesterday: “There is no surge!” They expect a Tory majority of at least 80, and have got similar feedback to the LabourUncut analysis yesterday suggesting big losses in the north.
The Tory vote in many of Labour’s ‘Brexit towns’ has gone up by between 80 to 100%, my source says, putting in play lots of seats with 5,000 majorities. There is real anger too at pieces like Gary Younge’s in the Guardian, which said that the campaign had disproved the assumption that Corbyn was ‘unelectable’. “Not a single poll puts us ahead!” one Labour source tells me.
The message among Labour centrists is that May has shown herself to be so poor under pressure that a more effective Labour leader could actually have won this election or at least got a hung Parliament. Expect to see much more of that in coming days and weeks.
In a new interview with HuffPostUK, Nick Clegg says Labour MPs should be “brave” and “Leave Labour behind” after a general election defeat. Let’s see how many voters leave them behind tomorrow.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch Theresa May’s glorious ‘fields of wheat’ moment.
4. LITTLE RED PEN
Jeremy Corbyn has a hot new revelation in his Mirror interview: John McDonnell has not just a Little Red Book but a Big Red Pen. “You would be amazed at the number of things John McDonnell refused to allow in the manifesto as he said we cannot afford it,” he says. “You’d be surprised how strong John can be with a red pen.
Well, not strong enough according to the IFS’s Paul Johnson. Very early on the Today programme (I do this so you don’t have to), Johnson had a withering verdict on Labour’s tax and spend plans. He repeated the £50bn tax hike would “take tax to its highest level in peacetime”, but more importantly he said of McDonnell’s plan: “it absolutely doesn’t add up”. He said the party would be likely to raise only £30-40bn of its planned rises and said some of its tax evasion schemes “you just can’t make work”.
Johnson added that the Tory plans would mean public sector pay would “hit its lowest level comparable to the private sector”. “There’s almost nothing in the Conservative manifesto either on the tax or the spending side.”
The FT points out the “striking and disturbing” lack of debate about the economy in the campaign. (It also has a report that may cheer up McDonnell: a study by Greenwich University that renationalisation of the water industry would save each household £100 a year). And it is truly staggering that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has been The Invisible Man of the 2017 general election. I can’t recall any election in living memory where the man in charge of our finances has been deliberately kept off the airwaves like he has.
Diane Abbott, meanwhile, has been replaced by Lyn Brown as acting Shadow Home Secretary ‘for the period of her ill-health’, Corbyn has announced. That’s a very big step and may now stop the unsightly ridicule of recent days. Anyone with an ounce of humanity will wish her well.
5. SPARE US THE CUTTER
While May is ‘doing a Blair’ (2005 vintage) on terror, Corbyn is ‘doing a Blair’ (,1997, 2001 vintages) on public services, pledging to tackle under-investment in schools and hospitals. And as with many issues that have been crowded out in this campaign, it often seems that education and the NHS just haven’t been on the radar as much as Labour would have hoped (and the Tories feared).
We report on one of the starkest examples of the impact of the cash squeeze: a high-performing academy in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain is having to cut the length of its school day to save money.
I met parents at The City Academy in Hackney and they were furious at their school being forced to take the drastic step of reducing lesson time by 30 minutes a day. Read my report HERE. It’s the first mainstream secondary in the country to do this, but others could follow suit. Primary schools have since told me they are looking at similar steps.
We also decided to look at another of the PM’s forgotten pledges on education: getting more white working class boys into university. Sir Peter Lampl, Sam Freedman and Anna Vignoles give us their solutions (spoiler: new grammars aren’t the answer).