It may have been heralded as a snap election, but as we approach Thursday’s UK general election it has seemed like anything but snap-fast. To most British voters tasting their first opportunity to speak up a year after the UK voted by a slim but significant margin to back Brexit, quitting the European Union, the campaign has dragged on.
It has also, since mid-April when called by Premier Theresa May, seemed like the incumbent government has an unchallenged march to victory in its sights.
But what started off as a 20 percentage point lead over Labour whittled down to around 5 percentage points a week ago and some analyses even suggested that May’s pro-Brexit government could be robbed of enough seats to form a majority government at all.
A bitter irony for a savvy politician who ascended to become PM nearly a year ago despite, apparently, expressing she was a Remain supporter in the EU Referendum campaign last year. For May had called the election on June 8 with the mandate to boost a threadbare parliamentary majority in the hope of securing strong government when hard talks get underway with the EU over Brexit.
But recent studies suggested she might be 16 seats short of any majority, let alone a working majority of 50+ which she yearns. That might lead to a minority government or a stale-mate hung parliament.
Maybe events this weekend have turned the tide. With less than two days to go before polling opens and shuts, the ruling Conservatives look set to grab 43 percent to Labour’s 36 percent, according to the latest Opinium opinion poll. And former Tory Party Treasurer and pundit Lord Ashcroft today suggested the government may be heading for a 64-seat overall majority.
What’s changed party fortunes?
London’s deadly terror attacks at London Bridge at the weekend. The poll, which was conducted after the London Bridge incident, suggested May will certainly command a larger majority at Westminster than at present. It also revealed a significant rise in those considering national security when voting.
Certainly, that kind of sentiment tends only to last a week and may already be fading. But it may be enough to give the government the leg up it needs to secure at very least a face-saving majority government.
But it was not only the raised awareness of safety that has played into the government’s hands. Labour too, I would contend, has given it a helping hand inadvertently.
By Monday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, lapping up recent polls suggesting he might just be able to close the gap and steal the premiership, kind of lost command of his senses. He started to make pushy demands and these might have backfired.
Corbyn demanded that May resigns after revelations that the UK police force faces a headcount and budget cut.
Well, May has already taken a step in that direction calling an election, surely. So asking her to quit three days before the polls is greedy. Furthermore, to be pushing this cause days after the London atrocities, and falling back on the events of the weekend for support, quite frankly smacked insensitive with voters and victims’ families.
Had Corbyn thought through his strategy a bit, instead of leaping just because polls – notorious for being wrong – put him within steering distance of victory, who knows? He might have won. Instead, I am already writing his political obituary.
Instead of being reactive and critical Corbyn ought to have shown leadership and positive qualities. Better to talk of the future than the past. So, for choice, he could have said “In light of the atrocities this weekend, it may be of some comfort to know that Labour, if elected next week, will increase police head count and budget by ***. Will the Tories match us?”
That could have been a real political salvo.
But I will stick my neck out. Actually, I don’t think it is such a stretch. And I will declare here and now that the Conservatives – ceteris paribus – have done enough to bag victory on June 8.