In our over-sophisticated way, we don’t take Theresa May’s talks offer to Jeremy Corbyn all that seriously. Like Daniel Hannan, we believe that Labour is unlikely to be lured into leaving its fingerprints on a “Tory deal”. The Prime Minister knows this perfectly well. Her overture is a feint. With one hand, she gestures at Corbyn – the move that people follow. With the other, she quietly rubs out her red lines.
No doubt Downing Street’s polling shows that politicians sitting down constructively together to solve a problem is popular with voters. In a tactical sense, then, May’s move makes sense. But in a strategic one, it does not.
On this site today, Ian Lewis explains how Conservatives in Wirral are campaigning to prevent the takeover of the local council by Corbyn’s supporters. Its voters cannot reasonably be expected to interpret the ebb and flow of each bit of news from the Westminster village. They are not political commentators or MPs or think-tankers. What most will be seeing, if they follow politics at all, is simply May’s offer to Corbyn.
So will voters elsewhere as they prepare for the local elections. As far as are concerned, the Prime Minister first denounces the Labour leader as the devil. And, next, invites him to dine in Downing Street without preparing, apparently, to use a long spoon.
For the life of us, we can’t see how the campaign in Wirral, or anywhere else, is remotely helped by May’s initiative. “Don’t go anywhere near Corbyn – or his supporters,” Tory canvassers will be saying on the doorstep. To which voters will surely reply: “why not? Your own leader is.” Smart tactics is sometimes stupid strategy. As in this case.