Safety First Campaign – Can it Last?

I am finding this ‘election campaign’ quite tedious already. This is mainly because the Tories strategy of hiding May away and announcing no policies makes it dull for those who like me are wanting to watch every twist and turn and work out what it means. As Marina Hide outlines in this excellent article this is ‘Health and Safety gone Mad’

I will make sure during the campaign period I maintain a focus on the Tories and the consequences of them winning, because this seems the most likely outcome form the polls. I am not sure this will be enough still for my Momentum trolls! However, the Tories  are making it hard work because they are saying and doing so little. And I guess this is the whole point. As I wrote last week the election campaign where you start with an 18-21 point lead is only there for you to lose. I understand their safety first approach given that May is such a poor performer on the stump. But I am not sure they can keep this up until 8th June. The story of the Tories ‘hiding’ might just start to stick with such a lengthy campaign period and some key voter groups. I am guessing this is a risk they feel worth taking.

As we know Lynton Crosby is back in the fold and his iron discipline and ‘message discipline’ is notorious. It shows already in this campaign. The trouble is for those of us who want to fight a proper election based on trading and comparing manifestos we really do need to know elections don’t work like that – however much we want them to!

We have to understand that most people don’t follow the election in the same way as those of us who have bothered to read this blog this far! They don’t really follow the election at all. You will be absolutely fed up of the phrase strong and stable. It is now a joke amongst journalists who hold sweepstakes at every Tory event about how many times it will be used. But of course they will only use it once in their 20 second bulletin and this is the once a voter *might* just hear it. Most won’t even hear it once a day. This is an example of where political class really is out of touch with ordinary voters. All too often they assume the electorate follows every policy announcement and every twist and turn with the same interest as Party members. What they really forget is that party membership puts you in the slightly strange category!

This is where I am afraid I return to my favourite MUST READ – Don’t think of an Elephant by Lakoff… I have covered this idea of Framing in previous blogs and why an election is all about the Frame or narrative. We know you don’t do lists of policies… voters often like Labour or Democrat (its an American book)  lists of policies but framing means they like Tories or Rep Values and messages much more. We pat ourselves on the back when voters tell us they like our Labour policies. The trouble is that if they don’t like the leader or trust us with their economic future none of this matters. 

Labour is winning the ‘policy list test’ but doesn’t have an overarching theme and message that resonates yet. Some of the polling and focus group work I have seen doesn’t suggest it is having much of an impact because people can’t get past Corbyn. (Huff Post)

On the other hand Labour didn’t give the impression of an Opposition caught out by the surprise snap election. I know Tom Watson MP has been saying for months that May would call an early election and it looks like some planning has gone into being prepared. I say ‘some’ as not having candidates in place across most of the country and not in the marginal seats is a serious mistake as far as I am concerned. I will look at the Labour campaign next week. I am a little worried that there is a simple narrative yet and a string of policy announcement that have been good at grabbing daily headlines haven’t added up yet to a proper strategy. I will also look in a little more depth at what the strategy is trying to achieve. I felt there was quite some bluffing going on from both sides this week.. Corbyn in Harlow a target seat we need to win to form a government and the Tories talking of targeting quite safe Labour seats (Leicester West and Nottingham South around us here in Loughborough). When we have an idea where the resources are being pumped we will know what is really happening. I still suspect we are in the territory of Labour losing up to 100 seats but that it will be a lot less worse than that because of the movement and uncertainty still of voters not wanting to give May a 150 seat majority. Some will return to Labour knowing its safe Corbyn will not be PM. That is certainly a fear for the Tories. Complacency might mean they don’t get the massive majority they desire. I have heard it from moderate Labour & Remain supporters who didn’t want to vote for Labour if it gives Corbyn comfort that he wasn’t beaten too badly and tries to stay on, that they now feel safe voting Labour again. These though processes do mean this is a really tough election to call until we get nearer polling day. I am still not in game for calling this one!

However, as much as we all dislike the Tory safety first tactic it is what will win them the election so they will stick to it. It will really annoy those of us who want to expose the Tories record and their plans for the next 5 years. But they don’t want to engage on this. They want to repeat Strong and Stable and focus on May v Corbyn as the next PM.

It will mean this is a difficult to election to cover and the trivial will become the ‘story’ for the day because there is so little government policy to scrutinise. Now I may be wrong. I know there is pressure from within the Tory ranks to create a radical manifesto as they feel they are assured of a victory and would love the ‘mandate’ to carry this out. They are from the wing that allowed Cameron to win them an election but never bought into his Notting Hill set. If they do win then the Tories may well be playing a patient game. There is plenty of time still to announce policies once the manifesto is launched. We will see if there is shift in emphasis and pace. Somehow I doubt there will be.

I will write in more depth this week about why I will still be voting Labour despite all my misgivings about Corbyn and I will be out helping when I can good local Labour MPs defend their seats. I feel passionately that any Tory government elected on June the 8th would be a disaster and more so one with a large majority free to wreak havoc. We must stop them. Which is why I have fought so hard over the past 2 years to get us an electable leader so that we might be challenging them at this election – not 20 points behind. That battle has halted. We are where we are and I still want to see the Tories lose!

In the meantime Monday 1st May is 20 years since I was elected in 1997 – 10 years after I had fought my first council election in 1997. Some of us had plans to celebrate this with some events over the next month but these have all been postponed. So to celebrate there will be the 1997 election coverage on BBC on Monday and I will be posting  few thought about how we won, what went wrong, what went right and why we have drifted so far from potential power since 2010…

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