The Tory press doesn’t have the reach and power it once did. Newspapers face more competition. Editors are less forceful. (Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail blazed a trail until very recently. His departure has left big shoes that haven’t been filled.)
There is an upside as well as a downside for the media in consequence. But one aspect of the latter is that Labour’s tax plans haven’t been taken apart in the systematic way that they would previously have been. The papers haven’t done it and TV doesn’t do it. The BBC or Sky News probe the parties’ manifestos when they are published, but mainstream broadcast is traditionally less partisan than print (with the exception of Channel Four). The internet is scattergun.
Claims that this election has presented voters with a clear choice should be seen in this context. As Mark Wallace pointed out when he put Labour’s manifesto under the magnifying glass, it understates the real cost of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme to taxpayers; doesn’t present the full costs in any case, and there will be further costs to come. Because of the changes we describe, fewer taxpayers know this than should do. Every single one of them stands to lose if Corbyn wins.
We believe on balance that Boris Johnson is likely to win today’s election, though victory is less likely than it was and, as he himself points out on this site today, the contest is “going down to the wire”. But the lack of sustained scrutiny of Labour’s plans may cost him dear.
Instead, we have seen a campaign in which only the Brexit Party’s part-withdrawal has stood out – in terms of an event that will definitely make a difference to the outcome. So for all the talk of voters making a clear conscious choice today, there is a danger of them sleepwalking into a Marxist Government. All political parties have cut corners with democratic norms in this contest. (Electoral law is ripe for a radical overhaul.) But the country has failed collectively failed to grasp the scale to which for today’s Labour leadership these don’t even exist.
Once again, we quote our columnist Neil O’Brien: “Where Corbyn’s ideas really differ from previous Labour leaders is that he doesn’t really believe in the rule of law. Your house, your business, your savings: all these things don’t really belong to you, in Corbyn’s eyes: you have them only as long as the government suffers you to have them, and they can be retrospectively taken away if he sees fit.” We hope that the voters don’t learn this the hard way – especially younger ones – like sinners in the old apocryphal tale: “Lord, we didna ken.” “Well, ye ken noo.”
Very simply, today’s choice is between Marxist extremists, whose institutional anti-semitism is an early warning signal, and a Conservative Government different from its recent predecessors only in that it wants to leave the European Union – as those voters instructed their leaders to so in the biggest-ever vote in Britain’s history.
Otherwise, the contours of its programme are familiar, if concentrated overwhelmingly on the “just about managing”, as few still call them. We believe that the decision is a straightforward one. Words are our business, but we need no more to make our point. In any event, the last one today belongs to you.