Theresa May: Unfit for Prime Minister

I expected more.

Theresa May’s campaign “re-launch” was billed as the only way to regain control of a (clearly failing) Conservative campaign.

After failing to run an efective campaign on her previous two re-launches, Conservative HQ was hoping for third time lucky.

They failed.

After a speech on Brexit aimed at striking a positive tone, Theresa May reverted to type in her closing remarks; again, choosing to emphasise “it’s either me or Jeremy Corbyn.”

Having spent most of her speech outlining a “12 point plan” for Brexit negotiations, she conveniently left-out any details, and later implied Jeremy Corbyn “has no plan for Brexit.” (One hour later, Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his Brexit plan, with detailed policy points around job protection, workers rights, investment, wages and immigration).

In a post-speech Q&A session, May refused to answer questions directly, leaving reporters such as Channel 4’s Michael Crick and Sky News’ Beth Rigby questioning their relevance.

But for the promise of “a brighter future,” Theresa May still couldn’t bring herself to defend her proposals.

Scheduled to appear on the BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” this morning, Theresa May has refused to attend, sending Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, instead.

Having refused to appear on the BBC’s televised debate earlier this week, Theresa May has now refused to appear on the same programme Jeremy Corbyn attended last week.

Maybe she didn’t fancy getting grilled in the way Jeremy did, for forgetting a figure from his 188 page, fully-costed manifesto. Or perhaps she simply doesn’t think Woman’s Hour listeners are important enough.

Whatever the reason for this Conservative no-show, one thing’s clear: the only leader worth having is one who is willing to be held accountable by the public, and willing to be examined and challenged on their policies.

Theresa May has failed this test on a number of occasions during her campaign and, as Yvette Cooper pointed-out last summer, Theresa May “hides when things go wrong,” helping her “survive as Home Secretary.” But, importantly, “if you are Prime Minister – the buck has to stop.”

I don’t want a Prime Minister who refuses to be held accountable. I don’t want a leader who avoids scrutiny at any cost. I don’t want someone who takes the public for granted; who would rather lose a general election than face the public.

Theresa May could send me to Disney World for a month and I still wouldn’t vote for her.

She is – fundamentally – unaccountable. And when you’re unaccountable – when you avoid scrutiny – when you are – clearly – scared of the public: You’re dangerous.

And I don’t want a dangerous Prime Minister leading Brexit negotiations. I want a Prime Minister who has the guts, decency and sense of responsibilty to negotiate a fair Brexit deal which protects our jobs, living standards and public services; a Prime Minister who will always be answerable to the public, who enjoys public interaction; who defends the journalists who interrogate them when they make a mistake.

I want Jeremy Corbyn to be my Prime Minister so that I know – no matter what happens – he has my best interests at heart: and he is not afraid to be held accountable by the millions of people who elected him.

So, vote Labour on June 8th. Not just because they have the policies to improve our lives – but because, even if you don’t agree with everything Jeremy Corbyn says – you can be sure he’s willing to discuss them, be challenged on them, and be answerable to you, the public. He will never shy away from scrutiny. Corbyn’s campaign – and indeed his 30 years in Parliament – have proven that.

This election is – increasingly – about who is willing to take responsibility for their actions – and who is willing to be held accountable by the voters.

So, on June 8th; vote for accounability, vote for responsibility and – above all – vote for change.

“The First Rule of Leadership is to Show-Up.”

Theresa May doesn’t think we’re worth it. She doesn’t want to talk to us. She doesn’t believe in public accountability.

She’d much rather hide in Downing Street, making the most of her final week: because that’s the way the polls are heading.

After projecting a Hung Parliament and with Labour just four points behind the Conservatives just 30 hours ago, YouGov released a second poll yesterday putting Labour on 39%, just three points behind the Conservatives.

If Labour continues to climb the polls at this rate, Labour is on-course for a majority.

No “Coalition of Chaos,” no “deals with the SNP,” but an outright majority. A stable government. A fair Brexit. For all.

Given Labour’s rise in the polls, last night’s debate was an opportunity; not so much for Labour, but for Theresa May to show she isn’t afraid of her own shadow and respects the political process of a modern democracy. Like it or not, TV debates are part-and-parcel of the political process, allowing voters to hold politicians to account in a direct, largely unfiltered, space.

The fact the leader of the Conservative Party was too afraid to show-up led to some bruising attacks from the six other Party leaders. But Caroline Lucas (Green Party) stole the show: “I think the first rule of leadership is to show-up.”

This was by far the most popular line of the night both in the studio audience as well as, it seems, via social media.

Indeed, if there was a clear winner of last night’s debate, it was Caroline Lucas. Her sincerity, passion and empathy will have won a lot of hearts – including my own – but whether this is enough to make a significant challenge in the polls is another issue.

Whether people decide to vote Green after this is not too important: the key point is viewers recognised the significance of Theresa May not being there. And they didn’t like it.

Coverage of last night’s debate in today’s news programmes has been focused on the Prime Minister’s refusal to take part and exchanges between Jeremy Corbyn and Amber Rudd (in Theresa May’s place).

Unless people watched the whole of last night’s debate, the snippets they see throughout the next couple of days will be of Jeremy Corbyn versus “Not-Theresa-May.” It shouldn’t matter too much that Jeremy didn’t have a great night. What matters is that he didn’t have a bad one, and it is Theresa May who looks untrustworthy, haemorrhaging credibility.

Corbyns’ team spent the rest of the night re-strategising the final week of the campaign (given recent poll changes), and I expect we’ll see a greater focus on Conservative-held marginals over the next week.

Having called Theresa May’s bluff (an important ability in the Brexit negotiations), Jeremy Corbyn is looking increasingly “strong and stable,” while the Conservative leader is looking increasingly, as Angus Robertson put it, “weak and wobbly.”

The Prime Minister is widely recognised as a liability in a number of areas. It is only a mater of time until people recognise this applies to Brexit as well.

Getting out-manouvered by Labour, her own Party – even her own self – is far from an ideal start to the Brexit negotiations.

The next TV event is on Friday at 8:30pm, BBC One, with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn answering questions from a studio audience in York, hosted by David Dimbleby.

Much like the Sky News/Channel 4 Q&A earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn should emerge victorious, which in-turn should narrow the polls further and maybe – just maybe – put Labour into the lead with less than a week to go.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. So let’s not let-up, let’s work hard and let’s make sure it is Jeremy Corbyn – not Theresa May – heading into Downing Street next week.

(For more on campaigning and what we can do, see my article here).

Labour On-Course to Win

Last night, YouGov released its latest poll, putting Labour just four points behind the Conservatives. Four points.

This was a gain of +3 on the last YouGov poll, which put the Conservatives 7 points clear.

But this is only half the story.

YouGov also came-up with a seat-projection, based on a “complex model and 7,000 sample over 7 days.” The result was alarming.

The Conservative Party would – if the poll is accurate – lose its majority, falling 16 seats short.

Labour would gain 28 seats.

Should the SNP, Northern Ireland, Green and Lib Dem projections hold, Labour could form a rainbow coalition on June 9th, and Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister.

But the polls have been wrong before. Brexit, with a turnout of over 72%, was widely expected to fail, given polls indicating a strong vote to Remain.

Donald Trump, similarly, suffered in the polls before clinching the presidency (despite losing the popular vote).

In the 2015 General Election, pollsters projected a Hung Parliament (much like today’s YouGov poll), only for the Conservatives to win a majority.

The point is this: there is a clear trend – which shows no sign of stopping – of Labour catching the Conservatives. There is also a clear trend that, in recent elections and referendums, the underdog has done better than projected (the exception out of the three examples above is the 2015 general election).

It is also the case that, the higher the turn-out, the more inaccurate polling tends to be.

So, if the polls are wrong, it could well be that they are wrong in Labour’s favour.

If you’ve been reading my blog posts over the past week, you’ll know that – clearly – I’m biased. But the poll trend is undeniable. Labour is gaining. Jeremy Corbyn is rising in popularity. And the more people see of Theresa May and the Conservative Party the more they realise they simply don’t like her.

In a day which started disastrously for Labour, with Jeremy forgetting a figure on childcare costs, the Labour leader turned it around with a speech on racial inequality, launching a “Race and Faith Manifesto,” and then an affable, endearing and personal interview on the BBC One Show.

It is this quality – this ability – which draws people to Corbyn: his willingness to admit his mistakes, his ownership of them, taking responsibility for his actions and his humility in learning from them and moving forward.

Had anyone else suffered the morning he had, they’d be locked away for the rest of the day, barred from appearing in public again. Corbyn finished his by appearing on prime-time TV, gifting BBC presenters some homemade jam from his allotment.

Tonight, the BBC will host a debate with senior Party members in what will be one of the final debates of the election.

Labour doesn’t need to win this debate. It just needs the Conservative representative to lose.

If all Parties unite against the Conservative rep. then Labour should – as the second biggest Party – win by default.

The SNP have been open about their willingness to join a Labour coalition. The Lib Dems have said they’d be open to joining the Conservatives.

But if Labour offered a second referendum on a European exit, the Lib Dems would quickly change their tune; joining a Labour/SNP coalition.

I therefore don’t expect any of the other Parties in tonight’s debate to attack Labour in any significant manner this evening.

tonight’s debate will be about undermining the Conservative lead, which benefits everyone, and keeps options open for a coalition government.

With the election just over 1 week away, only one thing is certain: this eleciton will radically change the way we – as a society (and as a country) – work.

The question is: how do we want it to change?

10 Election Strategy Points for Last 10 Days

The latest poll (Survation) puts Labour on +3 and 6 points behind the Conservatives.

As the campaign draws to a close, I thought it would be good to share some thoughts on improving our chances on June 8th.

With ten days remaining (including polling day), I’ve drawn-up ten areas we should focus on:

  1. Negative press. There’s a lot of it. But indulging this with widely-advertised defences of Jeremy Corbyn is not the solution. A defence of these issues is an advertisement for them. We shouldn’t publicise negative or damaging headlines without, a. having a strong defence and, b. unless the story is so significant or damaging that it won’t go away. (The danger is that we blow a small issue out of proportion and create a headline which didn’t exist beforehand, adding fuel to a largely insignificant fire). Case-in-point: defending Labour’s IFS figures. No one really cares. The Conservatives have their own IFS issues. Leave the defence to Corbyn, McDonnell and others. It’s part of a media narrative which the average person doesn’t particularly care about. It’s not a huge issue among voters and – if we talk about it in our social circles – we turn it into an issue which people “should” be worried about, instead of talking about the £10 minimum wage, renationalising the railways, protecting pensioners and scrapping tuition fees (i.e., policies with real implications for people’s lives).
  2. Issues. As above, the issues we choose to speak about – on social media, at work, with friends, family and others – shape the debate for those closest to us. By choosing issues the mainstream media “misses” (like those above), allows us to run another narrative, giving people something different to think about. Spending our time defending Labour against perceived shortfalls and policy criticisms is fine – but it is a complete waste of time if people don’t care about the policies being criticised. So let’s focus on policies people like; and expose the Conservative ones they don’t.
  3. Attack. When promoting our own policies we need to expose Theresa May’s actions in government and the Conservative manifesto. Example: Labour’s commitment to pensioners by protecting the triple-lock, winter fuel allowance, bus passes, etc., and the Conservatives doing the opposite by scrapping the triple-lock and removing the winter fuel allowance.
  4. Shaping the debate. Allow the debate to be shaped by Labour policies – not Conservative ones. We shouldn’t have to answer Conservative proposals. We need to shape the debate through our own policies; giving our policies more air-time and forcing the Conservatives to talk about their own manifesto, which acts against the interests of ordinary working people.
  5. Criticism. It’s important to criticise. But it must be constructive. Over the past two years criticism has – at times – been made for criticism’s sake, with no real aim other than attacking Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. So when we criticse Labour publicly, there needs to be a good reason for doing so. Much like the points on negative press, a negative story is a negative story: the point is whether it’s important enough to publicise and feed into a pre-existing (or creating a new) negative narrative.
  6. Association. No ballot paper will list the “Tories” as an option. They will list the “Conservatives.” So, when we criticise the Conservative Party, we call them precisely that: the Conservative Party. Theresa May is not toxic enough as a brand (although she’s certainly losing ground here). The Conservative Party is. So, when we talk about Theresa May, we need to talk about the Conservative Party; and when we talk about the Conservative Party, we need to talk about Theresa May. We need to make these two subjects inextricably linked. The Conservative campaign has spent months separating Theresa May from the Conservatives. It’s fundamentally important that we re-draw the link at every given opportunity.
  7. Translation. The language we use has a big influence on how we’re perceived. Fortunately, Twitter’s 140 character limit forces us into shorter. sharper. stronger sentences; and this is an asset. It’s why Donald Trump loves it and was so successful using this in his campaign. In the past, Corbyn supporters achieved strong results by dominating social media. It seems pretty obvious Labour supporters continue to dominate Twitter and Instagram, judging by social media poll results (recording significantly higher vote shares than mainstream polling). This is partly due to a greater presence of young people on social media than the largest voting blocks in the country: the over 60s. Facebook is used more widely across all age-groups, and presents a different opportunity: the space to write longer pieces, share more material and make issues like maternity/paternity rights, workers rights, the NHS, retirement and social care the centre of our narrative, given cross-generational appeal. So: different subjects on different social media, different subjects with different people, different subjects on different occasions. Example: free school meals and free childcare to new parents. Triple-lock pensions and winter fuel allowance for your grandparents.
  8. Campaigning. At the start of the campaign, Labour was focused on retaining seats, rather than gaining them. Now, with the polls narrowing and a more uniformed single-digit lead for the Conservatives, Labour should be targeting current Conservative-held seats across the country, with margins of under 10,000, giving us 123 Conservative seats to play-for; 64 of which have majorities of just 5,000. (I’ll write more on this later this week, ranking target seats in order of priority).
  9. Boris. Don’t talk about him. Whatever you think about “Bojo,” he remains the Conservative Party’s most likeable export, despite a steady decline in popularity. His job is to create chaos and detract from criticism, deflecting the real issues plaguing the Conservative Party. As he demonstrated in the run-up to last night’s “Battle for Downing Street,” Johnson’s job is to remove the heat from Theresa May when she comes under scrutiny. We must not allow this. Don’t give him the space. Starve him of air-time. Turn-over your TV channel. Ignore his incessant Tweeting and commentary in the press. He’s not worth it. And it damages us.
  10. Polling day. Even the smallest details can affect voters on polling day. So here’s what I suggest: if you can, wear red (preferably a red shirt). Be friendly. Smile. Your red shirt implies you’re voting Labour. Your smile says you’ve got something to be happy about. Your friendliness makes you trustworthy. Your manner exudes confidence. We must appear strong – and we must appear stable – on polling day. Details matter. Image counts.

I hope these points have been useful. There are a lot of things we tend to overlook; a lot of information which doesn’t occur to us. But this election could depend on even the smallest of details; and I’m not willing to risk losing it because someone wore a blue shirt to the ballot box.

Diane Abott: Luxury Liability

“Survive.”

The last word Diane Abbott hears before entering a TV studio. Or, at least, it should be.

Don’t get me wrong.

I like Diane.

I think she’s a principled, intelligent, hard-working and – frankly – useful MP; particularly in her vociferous support for Jeremy Corbyn which, if absent, could have spelled the end of the Labour leader just several months into his term.

But she is – without doubt – a liability.

I am now struck by a sense of imminent danger when she appears in public.

Everyone knows she’s an awful public speaker and buckles under even the most gentle questioning, creating new traps for herself along the way.

My cat could interview her and Diane would – somehow – undermine the whole campaign.

The Conservatives can’t believe their luck.

Given Monday’s attack, it would’ve been impossible for Diane to not appear in public. She is, after all, the Shadow Home Sectretary (or, as Jeremy Corbyn more aptly described: “our Home Affairs Spokesperson.”

Much like Jeremy’s foreign policy speech earlier this week, it was perhaps better for Diane to make her (presumably last) appearance before the campaign enters its final stages. People won’t remember.

But this does boast an important point: should Labour win the election, Jeremy Corbyn will need all MPs – finally – to accept their role in Cabinet.

Since his election as leader, Jeremy has spent his last two years encouraging people from all “wings” of the Party, especially those with previous experience of government, to join him and help lead an experienced and effective Opposition.

They refused.

Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Margaret Beckett, Caroline Flint, Chris Bryant, Harriet Harman – even Ed Miliband – refused (although, Ed’s refusal was probably an act of mercy, refusing to taint Corbyn with an “election-loser.”)

Corbyn was forced to promote young (and old) talent in the Party, in three separate re-shuffles due to two failed coups.

Barry Gardiner – a model example of how to handle a TV interview (and quickly becoming a fan-favourite) – once held two different posts because so few MPs were willing to serve.

This is the context for Diane Abbott as Shadow Home Secretary. Not that she is the best available candidate – but that, on the whole, she is the best available in what was a very shallow pool of choices.

Should Labour win the general election, Diane Abbott will become the first female ethnic minority as Home Secretary in our history.

She will have the platform – and the resources – to demonstrate that, despite her awful public relations, she is just as capable as any other Home Secretary.

Her thirty years in Parliament make her one fo the most qualified candidates for a government post in the entire House of Commons.

Until then, let’s keep her away from the cameras, and get-on with winning this election.

Poll Round-Up – Some Implications for Final Weeks

The Conservative lead continues to plummet.

In times of crisis, people are drawn to the “stability” of government. But not in this election.

Despite the horrific events on Monday, Theresa May and her Conservative Party have fallen further still.

A new Opinium poll shows Theresa May’s personal ratings have dropped by 60% in just six weeks.

As a Party, the Conservatives have dropped 1 point over the past week, whith Labour climbing 2.

In a separate ORB poll, Labour gained 4 points on the Conservatives, who dropped 2 points. The gap measured is now just six points. Again, this poll was conducted after the attack on Monday.

There are other polls showing Labour’s gain slipping, with YouGov – putting Labout just five points behind the Conservatives a few days ago – now showing a drop of 2 points (although this fall, crucially, did not swing to the Conservatives).

ICM Research logged a Labour fall of 1 point – but this was mirrored by a Conservative loss of an equal, one point.

The crucial point is this: despite a horrific attack on Monday which should – as normally happens – draw the public to the “stability” of government; it hasn’t.

In all polls since the attack, the Conservatives have not gained any ground on Labour and – on the whole – have lost it.

This isn’t normal, and shows just how much Theresa May is still struggling with the Conservative manifesto pledges (or lack of them).

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, is rising in personal approval ratings precisely because he is willing to be decisive, willing to stick to his principles (whether you agree with them or not), and the Labour pledges are – in fact – very popular with most people in the UK.

Increasingly, the “strong and stable” image of Theresa May is evaporating.

The Conservative Party looks increasingly confused, arrogant, mean – even lazy; given how much they have taken the campaign – and the public – for granted.

Labour is showing that it can defy the odds – that Jeremy Corbyn, who was 200/1 to win the Labour leadership, is a serial odds-beater.

The Conservatives are panicking.

It’s why they delayed resuming their campaign and its’ why Conservative social media has flooded the internet with character attacks on Corbyn.

If the Conservative meltdown continues, Theresa May will keep making mistakes; increasingly out-of-touch, irritated and reckless.

This will not play well on our TV screens on Monday, where both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn face a live Q&A audience on Sky News (see details here).

Jeremy Corbyn thrives in these situations. He answers questions directly. He refuses to launch personal attacks. He focuses on issues and policies which people care about.

If the Q&A is moderated fairly – and if both candidates are asked relevant questions to the current election – Theresa May will come out of this with some serious bruising, allowing Jeremy to rise in the polls further still.

Come the end of the month, we could be looking at a more uniformed 5 point gap across most polling companies, heading into the last several days of the election campaign.

If Jeremy can do this, then a Labour win may not just be a possibility – it might even be probable.

I’ll be heading out on the Labour doorstep to marginal seats in London over the next two weeks – and it would be great to see some of you there :-)

Message me @politicstim on Instagram or Twitter and we can discuss things further!