Yesterday was a bad day for the Conservative’s nascent election campaign. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments about Grenfell victims supposedly lacking commons sense were both offensive and amateurish. The damage wrought by the JRM episode was doubled down upon by Andrew Bridgen, who in trying to defend Rees-Mogg only made things much worse.
Spending part of a whole day of the early election campaign having senior Tories defending comments on Grenfell was possibly the worst thing that could have happened to the governing party. Grenfell was a major political problem for the Tories in 2017 and bringing it all back up again for the nation to pour over can only do them harm. Being callous about the whole thing also reminds people of all the things they don’t like about the Conservative party. Given the number of Labour voters they need to win over, this was a deeply poor move.
What was particularly bad about the JRM comments and their follow up by his colleagues, all of them simply helping to keep the story alive, was that the gist of what they were all saying was that as privately-educated, posh man like Rees-Mogg just would have had better judgement than the victims of Grenfell. If the Conservatives have an Achilles’ Heel in this election, the fact that the Tories are perceived as the party of people who think are better than the common plebs is surely it.
If this was all the Tories had to contend with yesterday, then that would have been bad enough. But there was also the “cover up” of the Russian report getting bigger and bigger as a story; another item ran about the Tories taking away parliament’s right to have a say on extending the transition period; a doctored video of Keir Starmer put out by the party backfired on them when the doctoring became the story. All of this was bad, but keep in mind it is still early doors. The Tories are ahead in the polls and so long as they don’t go around constantly repeating yesterday’s errors, they are still favourites to win the election. Have said that, there was one thing that happened yesterday that I have failed to mention yet that made me wonder whether or not the Tories are destined to tank in this election. It happened late last night, when today’s Telegraph headline was trailed.
The Telegraph headline was long, ranty, weird and stank of the failed 2017 election campaign. There was a part of it about Stalin and kulaks that read “they (Corbyn and his mates) point their fingers at individuals with a relish and a vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks” – superimposed over a picture of Boris Johnson pointing! Did no subeditors pick this visual problem up? Really? You’ve also now made a whole bunch of right-wingers have to google “kulak” this morning as well, presuming they made it to the end of the epic headline.
The Tories tried the “Corbyn = Stalin” thing in 2017 and it failed, just as it will fail now. When people look at Corbyn, they don’t see evil incarnate – they either see Jesus, or much, much more commonly, a doddering old man who is inept. I cannot believe they are repeating this mistake from 2017; it makes me think they will repeat many more mistakes like it.
The whole Tory campaign already reeks of something designed in a bubble, by people who have spent their whole lives around Tories and no one else and simply do not understand the voters they are supposedly targeting, voters they absolutely need in order to have any hope of winning. Again, they have polling numbers on their side and some political capital to burn. They can still win the election, make no mistake about that. But it’s been a bumpy start to say the least, with unsettling overtones of 2017.