I got about fifteen minutes into the BBC “leaders” debate last night before I couldn’t take any more. The whole thing was just too depressing. The Labour Party sent out Rebecca Long-Bailey to fill the slot. I realise she is the heir apparent to the Labour leadership, but she’s shadow BEIS – not even one of the big four jobs. Then again, the Tories sent out Rishi Sunak, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Again, not one of the big jobs either. It’s like the Tories and Labour wanted to make the whole thing seem like it didn’t matter; as if it is strictly between the two of them and no one else is worthy of any attention. It worked.
This has been the most depressing general election campaign I’ve ever witnessed. What makes it so bad is that the Tories’ campaign consists of Boris Johnson doing and saying as little as possible and hoping he squeaks through with no one questioning whether what he’s proposing really will “get Brexit done”. What is amazing is that none of the opposition parties have questioned him on what he is proposing to do, something that will affect the rest of British history profoundly. Labour have been helpful to the Tories as the plan on their end seems to be to lose but not by too much, and that if the Tories get a majority that’s all right so long as the Lib Dems do really poorly. This is because if all of the Lib Dem defectors from the Labour Party lose their places in parliament, Labour can lose as badly as possible and the far left can still maintain control. For Labour’s leadership, this seems to be what the election is all about.
Farage has decided to destroy himself, making life easy for Boris Johnson, not just in the election but afterwards as well. All of this wouldn’t be as depressing as it is if the Lib Dems hadn’t run such a terrible campaign. The buzz seems to be their local campaigns are way, way better – all I can say is, they’d better be.
A fortnight ago, I made a bold election prediction. That we’d end up with a hung parliament with the Tories on 280-300; Labour on 210-230; the Lib Dems on 40-65. That now feels wildly optimistic, particularly the Lib Dem seat prediction. Even at the time, I knew I was being overly hopeful. But I really thought the Lib Dems would turn their campaign around during that period. It is now looking too late to do anything about the poor start.
It will now be a miracle if we somehow don’t end up with a Tory majority. Sorry to bring some of you down, but that’s the way it’s looking. I thought Labour wouldn’t do that badly and the Lib Dems would improve; both have gone backwards since the middle of the month. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Labour dip below 200 seats and the Lib Dems do even worse than the 13 figure the MRP model has predicted.
I desperately hope that I’m wrong. The one thing that gives me some glimmer of optimism is that in 2017 I was more sure than I have ever been of almost anything in my life that the Tories were going to end up with a sizeable majority. I thought so right up until the moment before the exit poll landed. All I know is that if Labour hold more seats than expected at this stage, combined with the Lib Dems managing to take enough seats off of the Tories to produce a hung parliament, it will be in spite of both party’s national campaigns and simply because there were enough people out there willing to vote against the Tories ending up with a majority. I will be watching the exit poll on December 12th without much expectation. In the interim, I can’t wait for this campaign to be over. Just bring on the Boris Johnson era if that’s what we’re in for – it’s the hope, as ever, that’s so hard to manage.