Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
And they’re off! Finally, Boris Johnson has got his election – and now we’ll see if he really is the winner his supporters keep telling us he is.
This may become known as the ‘do or die’ election. Or maybe the ‘shit or bust’ election. If Johnson doesn’t get a majority, it will all have been for nothing. And he will know that if he loses, and Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, he will be out on his ear and we’ll have a fourth Conservative leader in five years. God alone knows who that would be.
So, what are the chances of a majority? Well, you look at the polls and they show a Tory lead of up to 16 points. Home and hosed, you’d think.
Not quite. The Labour Party is polling 24 per cent or thereabouts, exactly where it was at the beginning of the 2017 election campaign. Corbyn supporters actually think this is a good place to be, given that they nearly won (their words not mine) in the end last time round.
I doubt that lightning will strike twice, though. The nightmare for Conservative strategists falls into two parts. Firstly, they worry that Tory votes will pile up in places where they’re going to win anyway. And, second, they are concerned that, just as in 2017, Brexit becomes a side-issue, and that Labour will be successful in moving the agenda onto issues more favourable to it. That will be one of the main issues for the Conservatives to deal with.
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In some ways, this is going to be a Groundhog day election. Labour will try to convince us (and Corbyn said this on Thursday) that it’s all about saving the NHS.
This mantra has been trotted out at every election since at least 1987. In 1992, we even had the war of Jennifer’s Ear. Neil Kinnock tried to tell us on the day before polling that there were only 24 hours to “save” the NHS.
This kind of scare tactic has never worked, but Labour’s election strategists think it should be rolled out again. This time they’re trying to convince people that, if the Conservatives win, they will sell it off to the Americans, and that NHS drugs will cost a zillion times more than they do now.
At least it makes a change from them pretending that the Tories will privatise it. You’d think if they were going to do that, it might have happened before now.
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Nigel Farage has so far been the dog that hasn’t barked. Some think he holds the key to the result of the election. If he decided to pull most of his candidates, and only fight 20 or 30 Labour Leave seats, that would open the way to a Tory majority.
But Farage loathes Johnson’s deal so much that I doubt whether he would countenance this. He would also have a revolt inside the Brexit Party on his hands: he may control it with an iron fist, but he won’t want any internal strife just as an election campaign gets underway.
Of course, he will also be conscious that if the Brexit Party doesn’t fight every seat, it won’t be entitled to the same amount of media coverage as it would have got otherwise. He would also have no claim to take part in any TV leaders’ debate.
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It is sad to see so many well-known Conservative MPs deciding not to stand at this election. The one I am saddened by most is Nicky Morgan. The body politic needs to do quite a lot of naval-gazing when people like her decide they’ve had enough.
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Given what I wrote last week about Liverpool, irony of ironies I’m heading off there this afternoon to take part in Any Questions. I wonder if they’ve ordered extra security.
I’ll also be doing an extra Sunday morning show on LBC in place of Nigel Farage, as he won’t be allowed to broadcast his normal show due to Ofcom impartiality regulations.
We’ll be doing hour-long, long-form interviews and phone-ins with senior politicians each Sunday, as well as in the 8pm hour on my regular Tuesday and Thursday shows. And Cross Question will now be twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. End of plug.