2017 General Election Diary Day 43: And now it gets interesting

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You know when you’re trying to think of a way to describe how things are going in the election as things turn a little weird and then someone hits the perfect metaphor? That:


I know I promised back at the start of this diary, all those weeks ago, that I wouldn’t spend it following 2015 into the dark corners of polling obsessions but YouGov threw out a little hand grenade of a projection last night, suggesting that things might be about to get weird on us. Rather than putting the Tory majority in the ‘how far back do we have to go to find a comparison?’ range, it instead suggested they might lose seats (and their majority) while Labour would gain to put us firmly in hung Parliament territory. The interesting thing about this was that it wasn’t based on applying a uniform national swing across constituencies but instead looking at how different demographics have said they would vote and then working that out constituency by constituency. It’s a controversial method, that didn’t come up with the right projection for the US Presidential election in the elecoral college last year, but it would be something that produced contrary results to other pollsters if this is a realigning election where there’s mass movement of voters between parties. If that happens, then it will make election night very interesting as results won’t be easily predictable by extrapolating from the first few.

It also offers up the joyous prospect of the Tories gaining votes while losing seats. If any of them were to then complain about this as being an injustice and the voters not being properly represented, I may well die laughing.

Of course, this is the point in election campaigns where people can get over-excited and all sorts of wild speculation can break out. It’s where people spend time debating whether the Edstone will need planning permission to be erected in the Number 10 garden, where we wonder which Liberal Democrat candidates might be able to be appointed straight to ministerial office in the Clegg government or any other number of scenarios that seem likely in the heated air of an election campaign, then afterwards are forgotten about as everyone remembers that the result was the one they predicted and expected all along. It’s a national outbreak of candidatitis, sweeping out from party activists to infect the whole country, then disappearing some time around 10pm next Thursday.

And if a wild projection wasn’t enough to excite you, the country – or that bit of it that obsesses over politics on social media, at least – has got debate fever. Yes, tonight is the BBC election debate, which has been suddenly made an event of interest by Jeremy Corbyn today announcing that he would appear in it having previously said he wouldn’t. This means the Conservatives will now be the only party there without a leader representing them as Amber Rudd will be standing in for Theresa May while the Prime Minister goes off to speak to a small rally of Tory activists in a carefully sanitised warehouse somewhere off the M4. Sorry, I meant campaign and ‘meet the people’ because luckily, she’s not campaigning for a job that occasionally requires you to meet in public and debate with other people.

It’s a clever move by Corbyn, as he does have the momentum in the head to head battle and unless he breaks down and declares ‘all power to the Soviets!’ in the middle of the debate (not that quoting Lenin is necessarily harmful nowadays) he can continue to disarm the Tory strategy against him. They’ve been painting him as a crazed Marxist revolutionary wanting to bring down the system, but his recent appearances (especially against Paxman) have been more sardonic history teacher who the students love because he keeps going off on tangents in lessons and never sets any homework. Everyone’s now frantically re-preparing their tactics and points for tonight, which might even make it interesting. That’s why I’m writing this beforehand, when it might still be interesting, rather than afterwards when the reality sets in and commentators intone ‘we are all Ruddites now’.

As ever, we shall conclude with Election Leaflet Of The Day which today comes from an interesting independent – Tim Lord, standing in Cities of London and Westminster. Like many independents he has one big issue he’s standing on but his is an interesting case of the national becoming local in a distinct constituency. ‘Voted Remain? Vote for Tim.’ is his message, pointing out that the Cities’ current MP, Mark Field, is signed up to May’s Brexit strategy, and as it’s a place with lots of interests in maintaining close ties with the EU, he’s hoping that will motivate them to switch to him. (This article spells it out in more depth) It could be an interesting tactic that delivers a shock, it could be yet another damp squib, but it makes a usually safe seat somewhat interesting.

Eight days left until activists who’ve been up since the crack of dawn gird themselves for a push at reminding people getting home from work that it’s time to go vote.

2017 General Election Diary Day 42: There are no answers here

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The more I think about it, the more I’m jealous of them back in 1974. Not for the fashions, the power cuts, the endemic racism and sexism and the three day week, but for the fact they got the general election campaign over and done with in three weeks from it being called. We could have done it twice over in that time, and yet here we are with still more than another week to go.

For those of us who’ve been obsessing over it, the election has been on for ages, but for a lot of people it’s only just begun as it’s not until now that people start paying real attention to what’s going on. Part of that’s because we’re now getting a couple of the big events of the campaign: Channel 4’s ‘get shouted at by Jeremy Paxman’ special last night and the BBC’s some-but-not-all of the leaders’ debate tomorrow (different from ITV’s leaders debate in that those who choose not to turn up get to send a substitute rather than just being ignored).

Last night was billed as May vs Corbyn, though it was a bizarre contest in that it appeared to have been stage managed to ensure that they never actually met so it was more a case of trying to settle a havyweight championship fight by observing the two fighters shadow boxing in separate rings. Both rings featured a sneering and hectoring Jeremy Paxman for them to shape up against but only for twenty minutes, half of which were taking up with him repeatedly barking the same question after he initially asked it. As is so often the case, it was the sort of interview that was more concerned with delivering a gotcha moment for the headlines to bother with probing and exposing its subject. It feels to me that its time for interviewing to take a step back from this model and try something different, because at the moment its playing into the politicians’ game of looking for that big moment and trying to force it into being rather than waiting and letting the story develop.

The problem with these short formats is that it only means that politicians have to survive a short encounter, and as long as they do that without swallowing their own tongue or inadvertently shouting ‘Hail Hydra!’ in the middle of it, they’ll be dubbed to have at least met expectations, and nothing much will change.

So, let’s instead look at our Election Leaflet Of The Day, which this time is a dispatch from the Highlands where the Something New party are standing one of their two candidates (the other is right at the other end of the UK in Horsham). The ‘something new’ in this case appears to be the internet which will apparently ‘connect us all’ and allow them to deliver their manifesto promises of nice things for everyone. They’re also offering ‘representation, not party politics’ which despite being delivered by an organised group campaigning on a manifesto in an election isn’t causing the whole thing to collapse in on itself in the usual paradox of party politicians declaring that what they’re doing isn’t somehow party politics. They don’t quite utter the dread words of ‘let’s all agree with me take the politics out of this’ but it’s close enough.

Nine days to go…that’s single figures and counting.

2017 General Election Diary Day 38: Three scenarios in search of an election

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And we’re back.

One thing that I’ve been thinking about with this election is whether there are any other elections it resembles and if those give us a clue to what the final result would be. Political scientists like finding things that are broadly comparable for two reasons: first, we can use different outcomes to measure the effects of small changes in other variables, and second, we get to pretend that all that reading about previous elections that we’ve done was of important academic significance, not just indulging in a psephological hobby. So, here are three other elections that this one may or may not resemble. Bonus points for guessing which one it’s most like before we get to see the answers of June 9th.

(And a reminder that the prediction competition is still open, if you’re interested in scoring meaningless points)

My favourite Liberal slogan made its appearance in 1974.
February 1974: Never ask the electorate a question you don’t already know the answer to

This was the last time a Prime Minister decided to call a snap election, and unlike this one, Edward Heath went for a very quick one with just three weeks between him telegraphing the Queen (she was in New Zealand) to ask for a dissolution of Parliament and the election date. Heath called the election in the midst of a series of industrial disputes and the three-day week to ask the electorate to decide ‘who governs Britain?’ He wanted a strong majority and electoral mandate to take on the unions and thought he could get the people to rally round him. When it came to the crunch the electorate’s answer to the question was more on the lines of ‘not sure, but probably not you’. Heath had over a year left before he had to call an election, but wanted to get a new mandate to take on a difficult task – will May’s search for one lead to the same result.

1983: The closest thing to khaki

An economy coming out of recession. An election a year after the UK was at the centre of a major world event. A female Conservative Prime Minister ready to decisively shift her party in a new direction versus a Labour Party led by a veteran left-winger despised by the press. So far, so similar, except for the bit that’s missing. This time we didn’t get the proclaimed moderate wing of the Labour Party splitting off under a leader recently returned from a high-profile foreign role, and the Labour Party has remained vaguely united and on-message during the campaign. (There has been some sniping, but it’s equivalent to the attacks from within May faced over the dementia tax) It’s not identical to 1983, but is the best chance we’re going to get to have an idea of what might have happened there without the SDP? When things look like they’re shaping up into a classic two-party fight, what happens to the centrist voters when they’re the ones who get squeezed?

2004: The blame game

Not a British election this time, but one in Spain, which was the last time a major terrorist incident (the Atocha bombings) happened during a European election campaign. Before the bombings, the incumbent right-wing government had a comfortable polling lead over their left-wing opponents but by the time the election came around three days later, they were defeated and the left won a surprise victory. One of the principal factors behind that was the Aznar government completely mishandling the response to the bombings, by insisting the Basque separatist movement ETA was behind it when it was eventually revealed to have been done by Islamists. However, it does show that the electorate won’t necessarily rally round the government in a time of crisis, and the shift in voting behaviour caused by a major event isn’t easily predictable.

So, three previous elections, three possible scenarios that we could be playing out right now, or something entirely new and different might be happening. Thirteen days till we find out.

Manchester

There’s no election diary today, as there’s no electioneering going on because of what happened in Manchester. It’ll resume at some point in the near future, and I will too. There are lots of words already on what’s happened, and there’ll be lots more to come, and the only advice I’ll give is that if you’re asking yourself ‘is it too soon to write this?’ then yes, it most likely is.

If you want to help in this and future emergencies, then if you can register here to give blood.

2017 General Election Diary Day 34: U-turns, caps and Libertines

Seems I picked the wrong weekend of the campaign to take a break from politics and blogging, as everything appears to have been turned upside down over the last few days. ‘Dementia tax’ went from being the sort of thing you don’t even write on the flipchart when someone suggests it to a Google search term both the Tories and Labour were bidding to advertise on, and meanwhile Donald Trump touched a mysterious glowing orb as part of a ceremony, and Jeremy Corbyn made a surprise appearance at a Libertines gig where he was greeted with acclaim by the thousands of people there.

Yes, I feel like I’ve fallen into a parallel universe too. Apparently we’re in a version of 2017 where not only are the Libertines still a thing, they can also get massive crowds of people along to watch them.

As everyone is fond of pointing out, election wobbles happen to every party in every campaign. Everything up to then has been smooth sailing and easy going, then something comes out of left field – who knew they were going to care that much about one manifesto promise? – and suddenly you’re under pressure, the polls are looking a lot closer than you thought and campaign HQ is inundated with reports of candidates and canvassers being chased down driveways by people saying they’ll never vote for you again. Now, there’s a lot of suggestion that this is essentially meaningless, that campaigns change nothing and elections are decided on fundamental impressions and perceptions decided long before. All campaigns – even Blair in 1997 – have wobbles, they say, and then go on to win and look back at them with a happy nostalgia at their naivety, but we forget that there are an awful lots of campaigns that went on to lose who have similar tales without the rosy tint. If there’s one thing we should have learned from recent years, it’s that politics and public perception can change very very quickly. We don’t know how many hammer blows it takes to knock down a strong and stable wall, but it’s probably not as many as you might think if the first few gentle taps reveal that it’s actually pretty weak and wobbly.

(At present, that final sentence is my entry in the Most Tortured And Painful Metaphor category of this year’s election blogging awards)

And for a question now that may turn out to be oddly prescient in the next Parliament. The Salisbury Convention says that the Lords won’t block any policy that’s in the new Government’s manifesto. What happens if the Government disowned part of that manifesto during the election campaign in favour of something else? (The best answer to that so far involves the Lords killing a cat, and I don’t really wish to find out if there is an official ceremony for doing that somewhere in the bowels of the great uncodified British constitution)

Also from the weekend, here’s the Foreign Secretary being caught out in a lie on national TV:


But don’t worry because the interviewer decides it’s all a bit of laugh and doesn’t go on to press him over it. Maybe if people stopped referring to him by the middle name he only uses for political purposes and went for ‘Mr Johnson’ or ‘Foreign Secretary’ instead, this would stop seeming like a fun little silly game with a comedy character, and serious politics with a man in a position of real power and influence?

For all those who claim that referendums are the settled ‘will of the people’ and can’t be turned over by a mere election manifesto, would you care to explain why the Tories are talking about changing the way the London Mayor and Assembly are elected? They’re actually talking about switching all Mayor and PCC elections to single member plurality systems (the system some refer to as ‘first past the post’ despite it lacking anything that even resembles a winning post), but London’s was agreed as part of the referendum that approved the Mayor and Assembly and overturning the will of the people on Mayoral referendums…is something the Tories have form on, so why are we surprised?

And with things hotting up on the election trail, we now have a decent selection of candidates for Election Leaflet Of The Day, though the winner has to be this one from Lee McCall, independent candidate for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who has stumbled on an unintentionally creepy slogan. ‘I’m not running for office, I’m running for you!’ he promises his electorate, bringing up the image of him chasing them all over the Isle of Sheppey. It could also work as the closing line of a political-themed rom-com, where the protagonist suddenly realises what’s important in their life and tells them so.

Maybe we all just need to hope in a happy ending. Eighteen days till we find out if we’re getting one…

2017 General Election Diary Day 31: Death by nostalgia

There’s an assumption politicians often make that they are perfectly in tune with the electorate. Elections are often a way of finding out whether or not this is true and seeing just who knows best bout what the electorate wants, but underlying this on all sides is an assumption that the political awareness of politicians and the electorate has the same cultural base. One of the more interesting side-effects of this was in the last election where the debates featured numerous politicians talking about austerity and its effects, and the resulting effect that one of Google’s most popular searches in the UK was ‘what is austerity?’ as a large amount of the viewing audience had no idea what they were talking about.

The same thing comes about with politicians (along political commentators and, to be fair, academics) assuming that everyone has the same detailed knowledge about the history of politics that they do, and so can easily remember the swing in their constituency in 2001, and the key slogans that were being used in that election, when a lot of people have trouble remembering what constituency they’re in (let alone council ward) and even when the last election took place. Nowhere is this level of political nostalgia revealed than in the field of billboard posters. So, when Labour released their new poster this morning, the commentariat were quick to go ‘ah-ha, it’s a homage to an old Tory poster’ because they remember this sort of thing. Meanwhile, any member of the public seeing it is more likely to wonder just how someone is wearing three boxing gloves at once, rather than having any memory of seeing something similar twenty-five years ago.

(Whether any member of the public ever sees 90% of posters that are ‘unveiled’ by parties is an interesting question, given that most of them only exist as images for press conferences and the occasional poster van that does a couple of circuits of Westminster before heading off to hawk something more profitable.)

There is continuing trend in political campaigns to launch advertising campaigns that are somehow a response to something that happened years or even decades ago (consider how many times people have referenced the ‘Labour isn’t working’ poster) and it’s definitely a new phenomenon. I can’t recall anyone’s 1992 election campaign featuring posters that referenced election campaigns from the mid-60s, for instance. There’s a feeling of it being part of a political re-enactment society, where everyone likes all the ritual and rigmarole of poster launches even though they know they don’t mean anything anymore, but who wants to go to report on the start of a new social media targeting strategy?

And while we’re talking of obscure and possibly outdated methods of election campaigning, let’s turn to Election Leaflet Of The Day, where my absence has finally opened the trickle gates and allowed a decent number of new leaflets to appear on the site. So, let’s turn our attention to Boston and Skegness, where as well as the usual array of candidates, there’ll be a small party with no MPs and little support standing. However, we don’t have any leaflets from Paul Nuttalls of the Ukips on the site yet, so we’ll have to look at another small party, calling itself ‘A Blue Revolution’, with the subheading of being ‘The Worker’s Party’. (I suspect the latter is what they really wanted to call themselves but were thwarted by there already being a well-established Irish party with the same name) Their manifesto appears to be a mix of populism and some form of socialism (cut bureaucracy and more workplace democracy, but only in the public sector) and they call for Britain to maintain strong links with ‘the real countries of Europe’ which appears to be an odd bit of rhetoric, rather than an assertion of there being some fake countries in Europe. Or perhaps they think all the bureaucracy is being used to maintain Ruritania’s EU membership? We shall have to await their appearance in Parliament to find out.

Twenty days to go, and the finish line is creeping ever closer…

UPDATE: Being an idiot, I forgot to put in a link to today’s leaflet of the day. It now has one.

2017 General Election Diary Day 29: How far do we have left to fall?

It’s late, and I need to sleep so I should probably skip this update, but I’m probably not going to be able to do a post tomorrow either, as I’m going to an event at the LSE in the evening. And that’s why I want to write something now, because the event I’m going to is called “Illiberal Democracy in unstable times”. It’s focusing on Central and Eastern Europe, but it’ll be interesting to hear if any of the countries talked about have a policy proposal like this:

Firms will be asked to pay more to hire migrant workers and they in turn will be asked to pay more to use the NHS.
Theresa May will make a commitment to bringing immigration down to the tens of thousands target, which has been missed since 2010.
She will warn that “when immigration is too fast and too high, it is difficult to build a cohesive society”.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said that the prime minister would put forward an “uncompromising” message that immigration is too high and would come down under her leadership.

There’s your new Global Britain, folks. Open to the world, as long as none of them actually want to come here and work or study, and if they do then we’ll make sure they pay through the nose for everything, bury them in paperwork to allow them do it, and then expect them to be grateful for it. And it’ll cost us £6bn every year to do it. That’s strong and stable government for you. That’s about £120m a week they’ve got to find even before they start looking for the extra £350m a week the NHS is meant to be getting because of the supposed benefits of leaving the EU.

This isn’t strong and stable government, this isn’t even conservative government, it’s petty nationalism and a sign of just how debased our political culture has become that the media are just nodding along at nonsense like this.

Illiberal democracy in unstable times? We’re going to show them exactly what that means, aren’t we?

2017 General Election Diary Day 28: The title-writers’ union have gone on strike

Sixteen years ago today, John Prescott punched someone. You probably remember that, but do you remember anything else from the 2001 election? In my mind, it’s always been politics as scripted by Samuel Beckett: there was a lot of talking by bizarre and unreal characters, but at the end very little of consequence had actually changed. Unlike Beckett (or like him, depending on your perspective), there wasn’t any desire on anyone’s part to see it happen again.

Now, this election doesn’t feel like one where nothing much is going to change after it, but it does feel like one that’s been devoid of much in the way of interest. Despite the way I’ve managed to drop a day or two from the numbering of these entries, it’s been four weeks since our collective dull post-Easter Tuesday was interrupted by ‘the Prime Minister will be making a surprise announcement at 11.15’ and yet since then, it’s felt like we’ve all been just going through the motions of an election, and no one’s really that enthused by it. Perhaps it’s because the last two elections came at the end of five-year political cycles and we were all hyped up to fever pitch by the time they happened, or maybe we’re all just tired out politically after so much happening in the past two year or so and enthusiasm is in thin supply. Or maybe it’s just me and everyone else is having a whale of a time while I’m just having a week of busy days and nights with little time to actually plunge myself into the full election madness?

Which is all a long-winded way of me saying I can’t think of much to write about today as even Labour’s manifesto launch feels a bit of a damp squib because we saw everything that was in it last week, and with well-known positions on Brexit being the main theme of the election, the manifestos are somewhat of a sideshow especially as they’ve been rushed together in haste for a snap election, not prepared and tested over time in expectation of a scheduled one.

Even Election Leaflets has been pretty dull this election, probably because the rushed nature of the election means we haven’t got as many fringe candidates as we have in previous years, so I’m forced to pick through professionally produced leaflets from the major parties which provides slim pickings for Election Leaflet Of The Day. So, we’ll go for this Liberal Democrat leaflet, which is recorded as being delivered in Cornwall but has also been seen elsewhere. It appears to come from the Overly Literal Design Agency, where someone’s picked up on the phrase ‘the election’s in your hands’ and run with it, even though the metaphor appears to stop before you get to the copy on the inside, unless it’s a subtle primer to get people to look at Trump and May’s hands together in the picture. Trump’s entirely normal size hands, of course.

And by counting on my fingers, I see we have twenty-three more days of this to go. Never has June seemed so far away as it does now.

If your plan for resurrecting the British centre is ‘Macron’, you don’t have a plan

When everybody from Conservative Anna Soubry to Vince Cable, through to those on the Progress wing of Labour is talking about the need for a new centrist party, it is logical to assume someone has a plan to form one.

Sometimes Paul Mason manages to stumble towards the truth. When I wrote about the problems in creating a new centre party a few weeks ago, I was aware that it was being discussed by various people, and while those thoughts and discussions may have been somewhat muted by the election, they’ve not completely come to an end.

One thing above all has been adding the fuel to the centrist flame: the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French Presidential election. It’s played out like a centrist fairy tale as the young technocrat minister spots an opportunity, forms his own political movement and then capitalises on the flaws of the tired old parties of left and right to rise above the extremes and become President in the first ever election he’s contested. And it is a remarkable achievement, for no matter how much luck Macron had as the Socialists and Republicans imploded, he still had to show enough political nous to actually win the election. It’s just not one that holds too many lessons for those hoping to emulate him in the UK.

For a start, French politics is intensely personalised around candidates at an order of magnitude beyond anything we see in Britain. It’s tempting to look at the Gaullists and Socialists as being roughly comparable to our Conservatives and Labour Party, but both are not really parties as we understand them, more convenient labels for the cats-in-a-sack factional infighting that characterises much of French politics. En Marche! (now known as La Republique En Marche – REM) was different in that it was separate from the Gaullist and Socialist movements, but not in that it was an organisation heavily focused on its leader (and whether EM! was targeted at the Socialist primary or becoming a separate movement was an open question around its foundation). Because so much of the power in the country is held by a directly-elected President, French politics encourages this level of personalisation. Even formal party structures have tended to follow the needs to individuals, with parties forming and dissolving with much more rapidity than any other Western democracy. The Socialist Party was the oldest organisation in this year’s elections and they may well deal it a death blow before it’s even reached fifty years old.

It’s this personalisation and factionalisation, coupled with the power of the Presidency, that will likely earn Macron a majority in the Assembly elections next month. Even if REM doesn’t win a majority in the elections themselves, his appointment of Edouard Philippe as Prime Minister has driven a wedge into the Gaullists, pulling those close to Alain Juppé into alignment with him. Macron is benefiting from fissures and divisions already present in French politics, and an understanding amidst politicians and the public that factions will move in and out of different party groupings as they see fit in their quest for power. Macron has surprised by showing a centrist can win in France, but he’s done it by exploiting the way the French system works in ways that can’t be simply transposed to Britain.

For a start, politics in Britain isn’t based around the individual the same way it is in France. As the relative sizes of ‘Theresa May’ and ‘Conservatives’ continue their inverse relationship in election branding, we may talk about an increasingly presidential style in our politics, but that’s firmly based on the control of existing party structures, not supplanting them and remaking and/or fundamentally rebranding the party every time there’s a new leader. (Momentum is somewhat of a departure from this, but it still came about as an offshoot of a traditional leadership campaign, rather than predating it)

There’s simply no way for someone to ‘do a Macron’ in Britain as the processes are the opposite way around. In France, you win the Presidency and then try to win a majority in the legislature, whereas in Britain you can’t become Prime Minister until you’ve won that majority. There’s no shortcut to power, it has to be the long slog though the trenches of winning a majority in Parliament, and to do that you need to build a real organisation that can find and campaign for candidates, rather than just creating a campaign movement to get one person elected.

Macron also had (and will have, in the Assembly election) an advantage thanks to the French electoral system. The French two-round system is a massive boon for centrists who are popular enough to get into the second round as in any head-to-head contest with a non-centrist, they can expect to hoover up the votes from the side not represented in the runoff. If voter distribution follows a vaguely normal pattern with a centre, than a centrist is likely to win any two-way contest, but the trick is being able to make it a two-way contest in the first place. The problem in Britain is that our system doesn’t create that situation (hence why Liberal Democrats play up the ‘two horse race’ in constituencies to try and artificially create it) and any new centrist party is going to find that winning from the centre in one jump is harder than doing it in two.

“Ah,” comes the objection, “but people like the idea of a centrist party with centrist ideals, so they’d vote for it in large enough numbers to win.” The problem with that is that people like a lot of things in the abstract, especially when they’re being asked what’s little more than ‘would you like nice things or nasty things?’. People’s views on most things political are effectively a nonattitude, especially when they’re dealing with hypotheticals. There might be lots of people out there who think a centre party is a good idea, but each of them has a different idea in their head of what it’s like, and aren’t guaranteed to support each others’ vision of it. How many people who say they like the Party Of Guaranteed Nice Things For All will change their minds on it when they discover its leading lights are Tony Blair, George Osborne and Nick Clegg, for instance?

The circumstances may seem right for a realignment of British politics if things go the way a lot of people expect in the election, and all the nebulous plans floating around before it might gain some solidity. However, it may be that all this talk of realignment in the middle of the election campaign may go the same way as the millions of words that were written about potential coalition deals and arrangements in 2015. If something is to happen, though, it needs to rely a lot more on the practical details of just how one would create and build a new party in the British political system, not just assuming you can copy-and-paste something from France to here.

2017 General Election Diary Day 27: Peaking too early?

One thing I saw today, and naming no names, was someone questioning why the Tories stepped up the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an evil terrorist sympathiser’ over the weekend when we’re still so far from polling day. Were they concerned that Labour were doing better than they thought and hitting the panic button early? On the face of it, doing something like that with over three weeks to go until polling day would seem a little over the top, except it’s not three weeks until polling day.

Sure, we’re all waiting for June 8th, but the first votes in this election will be cast in about a week’s time as that’s when the postal votes will be dispatched and a lot of them will be filled in and sent back straight away. In 2015, about one-sixth of the electorate were registered for postal votes, and they were an even larger share of actual voters because they turn out (or post in) at a higher rate than people at polling stations. Consider how many seats have majorities that are less than one-sixth of all voters and you’ll realise just how crucial it is to get as many key messages as possible out before the postal votes do.

And let’s face it, being able to cast your vote and then forget about anything election-related until the results start coming in does have a certain appeal.

Theresa May’s finally been allowed out to meet real people, but as well as wondering how much play it will get in the media, it’s worth noting where it happened. One of the signs in 2015 that the Tory polling was showing them making big gains in Lib Dem-held seats was that David Cameron and George Osborne started doing campaign visits to seat like Yeovil which weren’t considered under threat, but toppled with the other yellow dominoes on election night. This time, though, May’s not out in a seat the Conservstives are hoping to gain, but in Abingdon, part of the Oxford West and Abingdon seat they took from the Liberal Democrats in 2010 and held in 2015. Now, it could be Tory strategists feeling it’s so safe it’s OK to send her out in public there, but it might also be an indication tht there are shifts going on beneath the headline polling that could lead to some interesting results on election night.

And if you can predict where all those shifts are going to go, don’t forget my prediction competition.

And another plea: please upload any leaflets you get to Election Leaflets, because I’m seriously running out of material for Election Leaflet Of The Day as there’s not much fresh going up there. (It also provides a good resource for other people as well, if you’re not so keen on helping me) So, for today we have a leaflet from a former party leader challenging for a seat in Sheffield. Not the one you might be thinking of, it’s the Greens’ Natalie Bennett who’s asking voters to make her ‘the North’s first Green MP’. I guess ‘the first Green MP for anywhere outside Brighton’* was a bit too unwieldy to fit. Still, nice to see the ‘leaflet that can also be used a window poster’ design still being in use.

*If you want to argue about the precise status of Cynog Dafis, the comments are open.