May 22, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
As journalists have been traipsing around the country covering the election, they have come across a particularly interesting potential voting behaviour phenomenon. Lifelong Labour voters are committing to voting, just this once, for the Conservative Party, saying they will go back to Labour at the next election. More accurately, they are committing to voting for Theresa May to deliver Brexit, just this once. This is happening all across the country, but particularly in the North of England, and in Wales. In other words, where Labour voters voted to Leave the EU.
The Conservatives, as you can imagine, are cock-a-hoop about the implications of this apparently one-off switch in party loyalty. It will likely lead to them having over 400 seats and a majority of three figures, particularly when you add it to UKIP’s decision not to even put up candidates in 300 or so constituency where the Conservative candidate was a Leave supporter.
But the situation has also led to some incredibly odd election campaigning going on. Labour candidates have decided not to include a pict re or even a reference to their leader Jeremy Corbyn on their election leaflets. This includes even supposed Corbynista (and supposed future leadership contender) Rebecca Long-Bailey. Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ campaign isn’t even the Conservatives’ campaign. Rather, it is about Theresa May. Whether it be the battle bus, or posters, or any other national literature, you will see May’s name, and the words ‘Conservative Party’ is buried in the small print like the terms and conditions of a particularly dodgy direct marketing campaign.
The point, as has been drummed into everyone by now, is that Theresa May offers the ‘strong and stable’ leadership that allows the UK to get the best deal from the EU. She has asked to personally be given the mandate, even using the term ‘me’ when she asks for it, rather than the name of her Party. This campaign, governed again by the electoral campaign supremo Lyndon Crosby, is dominated by that one message. You are choosing Theresa May to deliver Brexit, not Jeremy Corbyn.
This is why barely a single Conservative Cabinet Minister has been spotted anywhere on the campaign. Boris Johnson might be wheeled out to call Corbyn a ‘mugwump’ but he wasn’t allowed on Andrew Marr on Sunday morning, even though Labour put up their Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry. Instead, the ultra reliable Michael Fallon was put in front of the cameras, as he always is when the stories need someone to stay on message under all kinds of enemy fire. But if it isn’t Fallon, it’s May.
May, as we have seen, has very little to say over and above the ‘strong and stable’ message. It is boring for the public, excruciating for journalists, but it is working.
In years to come, the General Election of 2017 might be seen as a massive shift in voting behaviour from red to blue. But more lilkely it will be seen as a one-off historical anomaly, focussed purely on one issue, with people voting on that issue, for once.