People and events will decide what this election is about

ELECTION COMMENTARY: The publication this week of the Labour and Conservative Party manifestos could see the narrative of the campaign change significantly.

And as JOHN BRAGGINS, a former campaign adviser to Tony Blair, discovers, the LibDems could win seats in London

“Who governs Britain?”

That was the slogan on which Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath called the February 1974 General Election in his fight with the miners whose industrial action had brought the country to a three-day week. This was the same election that saw Enoch Powell urge voters not to vote Tory because of Britain’s position inside the European Economic Community.

I mention this only to demonstrate that regardless of what the Prime Minister of the day wants the election to be about, people and events will decide it for them.

So Boris may want this election to be about “Getting Brexit Done”, but we’re talking about the NHS, public expenditure, free broadband, tuition fees, police numbers, freedom of movement, and that’s without the main party manifestos yet to be announced.

Some voters will still vote for Leave or Remain, regardless of what the political parties policies are, but I’m certain those numbers are declining as the campaign goes on.

If I’m right and Brexit isn’t centre stage, then what both parties announce in their manifestos will be important. How important will depend on whether the images of Johnson and Corbyn change.

When Ted Heath asked ‘Who governs Britain?’ in 1974, he didn’t get the answer he expected

Reports from the doorstep say that “floating” voters don’t like Johnson but see Corbyn as scary. In any other election, this should help Jo Swinson, but I don’t believe across the board it is. The Liberal Democrats are doing remarkably well in many of the marginal seats (but not all), but their numbers are not dramatically improving in the national polls.

Since last week, Britain Elects report a movement of +1per cent to the Tories, just under 1per cent to Labour and 0.5per cent to the LibDems.

The Brexit Party are down nearly 2per cent since their deal with the Tories.

Little has changed overall, with poll averages of Tories 44per cent, Labour 28per cent, LibDems 14per cent and Brexit 6per cent.

But, and it’s a big but, movement in individual “marginal” constituency polls continue to surprise. Two more have come out – Kensington and Wimbledon and a further poll in Finchley and Golders Green.

In all three, the LibDems have movements of around +23per cent with Labour falling back by -18per cent.

Finchley and Golders Green have a vastly different poll from last week, with the Tories only losing 1per cent to be on 46per cent, the LibDems on 32per cent and Labour on 19per cent.

So sticking my finger in the air, I’d say the LibDems will gain Wimbledon and Kensington and Labour will fall well short of challenging in Finchley.

And a hung parliament is still my prediction.

  • John Braggins, pictured right, worked for the Labour Party for 37 years. He was the first head office staff member to take charge of by-elections for the party, running all by-elections between 1988 and 2000. He worked on Labour’s 1997 and 2001 General Election victories. He is the founder director of BBM Campaigns, whose client list includes ASDA, Heathrow, Smart Energy UK and other major infrastructure projects

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