There are endless theories about why the 2017 general election, which had been assumed throughout to be heading for a large Tory majority, ended in a hung parliament. The main factors that are usually cited are: the Tories’ bad campaign, in particular May’s poor performance; Remain voters gathering behind Labour in order to try and halt Brexit; people being sick of the Tories after seven years and wanting something new. There is one factor that doesn’t get discussed enough, in my opinion: Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in that general election campaign.
I have never been a fan of Corbyn. I expected him to fall flat on his face in 2017; for his grouchy persona to make an appearance as soon as he was heavily questioned, for his grasp of detail to be cruelly exposed, for his Brexit position to be torn apart. None of that happened, and that was all down to him. He performed amazingly well. Yes, May was terrible and that helped him a lot, but he still had to hold his end up. I remember before his interview with Paxman thinking he was about to be torn to shreds. Yet he emerged from that interview not only unscathed but in a stronger position given May had been so poor. And it wasn’t because Paxman went easy on him; the interviewer gave it his all but couldn’t break Corbyn down.
Corbyn’s performance in 2019 is everything I thought it was going to be in 2017. Grouchy Corbyn isn’t so much making the odd appearance as becoming ubiquitous. He looks tired and fed-up on the campaign trail. The mauling I thought he was going to get from Paxman in 2017 came twice as hard last night with Andrew Neil.
If the Tories end up with a majority, Corbyn’s poor performance will have a lot to do with that. There would be other factors, of course: the Lib Dems’ poor campaign, the Tories going for a bland manifesto this time round, Johnson managing to avoid major gaffes (if he does get through the next fortnight without making a major gaffe, of course). But Corbyn being nowhere near his 2017 standard will be big one if Labour does much worse than even some of the gloomy forecasters expect. Even if the Lib Dems somehow perform reasonably well on December 12th, we still won’t have a hung parliament if Labour are completely annihilated. After last night, that’s starting to look very possible.