Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
Manifesto launch season is well underway. As I type this, I’m listening to the fag end of Labour’s launch in Birmingham. There’s no doubt that the leak of the party’s manifesto in 2017 transformed their campaign. It was leaked three days before the official launch. Whoever leaked it performed a major service for Labour – although it may not have seemed so to its head honchos at the time.
It will be interesting to see if the 2020 manifesto creates the same sense of momentum and interest. Lightning may not strike twice, but there’s no doubt that Labour have announced a lot of eye-catching promises. Jeremy Corbyn calls it the most “radical” manifesto ever.
What he means it’s the most left-wing manifesto ever. It makes Michael Foot’s 1983 offering look moderately sensible by comparison, and that, of course, was described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history”.
Time will tell whether this manifesto will go down in political history in the same way, or whether it will be seen as an election campaign changing moment which will propel Corbyn into power. I think I know which my money is on.
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The Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto on Wednesday at the bizarre time of 5pm. It meant that they couldn’t dominate the news agenda for the day, which, had they launched it earlier in the day, they would have. Their luck proved to be really out when, at just after 5pm, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Andrew would be stepping back from royal duties.
In addition, they didn’t have enough spokespeople lined up to do the media rounds. For our Newshour on LBC, we were initially told we couldn’t have anyone to talk about the manifesto. Eventually, I pulled a few strings and we were given Ed Davey – but the point is that they should have had a whole raft of people available.
In addition, launching it at 5pm meant that their main spokespeople had no time to digest the content. Sam Gyimah, in a phone-in with my colleague Eddie Mair, had a “Nightmair” of a time and was exposed time after time – not having a clue about the manifesto promises or how they would be funded. Alistair Carmichael had a similar car crash with Tom Swarbrick a few hours later.
These were not ‘gotcha’ interviews, but if you go into one not having a clue what you’re talking about, you should expect to be exposed. I’ve had similar interviews with LibDems over the last few weeks – Wera Hobhouse and Luisa Porrit spring to mind – in which they hadn’t done their homework, and I exposed them for it. Hopefully, they will learn the lesson.
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The Conservative manifesto is apparently due to be launched on Sunday, which again seems rather odd. It’s almost as if they want to hide it away.
Can’t think why. There’s no point in trying to ‘outradicalise’ Labour in terms of policy promises. I’d just stick to three or four main ‘retail offerings’ concentrating on delivering Brexit, tax cuts for the lower paid and an ambitious play for housebuilding. Everyone will be looking to see what is said on social care, given the shambles of a social care policy in 2017. I sense the advent of a Royal Commission…
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The ITV leaders’ debate suffered from being far too short. Once you take into account its late start, that there was an ad break, and that it finished at 54 to the hour, it wasn’t an hour long – it was 48 minutes.
The host, Julie Etchingham, felt it necessary to thank both participants after each of their answers, which must have wasted at least another minute. Each of those answers was no more than a minute long.
I know we are all supposed to have the attention span of a gnat, but this led to a very sterile hour in which neither candidate for prime minister really sought to engage with the other. I hope the BBC learn from this for their debate, a week before polling day.
My analysis was that Boris Johnson was the clear winner, but that doesn’t seem to be the consensus in the ‘punditerati’ or in the online polls. The fact is that Corbyn had score a zinger to change the course of the election campaign, and he didn’t. I thought he looked bored, uncomfortable and unnatural throughout the whole thing. He sometimes sounded mean, and couldn’t crack a smile during the whole thing.
The best line of the evening came right at the end when they were asked what they’d give each other for Christmas. Johnson eventually offered Corbyn a jar of Damson jam, which apparently was refused. “He doesn’t even want my Damson Jam” was the Prime Minister’s off-screen moan right at the end, which the microphones picked up.
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We are now three weeks from the morning of the day after. I’m still not confident enough to make a firm prediction, but the polling trends are relatively clear. They show a collapse in the Brexit Party vote and the LibDems on a downward spiral too.
I’m not wholly sure that the latter is a good thing for the Conservatives since, in some constituencies, the Tories need the LibDems to perform well by taking away Labour remain votes. Were polling day tomorrow, the Conservatives appear to have a big enough lead to win an overall majority, but a lot could change in three weeks, especially if tactical voting becomes “a thing” in this election.
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The BBC hasn’t yet announced its election night line-up, although we know what Huw Edwards will be presenting, with Andrew Neil doing the big interviews.
ITV’s coverage will be headed by Tom Bradby, while Sky News has proudly announced that John Bercow will be their main pundit, alongside Dermot Murnaghan.
Channel 4 has gone full tonto with its “Alternative Election Night” which will be fronted by Rylan from the X Factor. In 2017 it was Jeremy Paxman. And who said dumbing down was a thing of the past? Luckily, he will have Krishnan Guru-Murthy to keep him on the straight and narrow. Perhaps on LBC we’ll invite Timmy Mallett to join us… Or maybe not.