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You’re a fake, baby
Just two sleeps to polling day, and once again this election seems to boil down to the issues of Brexit, the NHS and fakery. It’s thin gruel for an already emaciated body politic, but the main parties don’t seem too inclined to shift from their core messages.
Boris Johnson guaranteed TV news footage with his bulldozer stunt, smashing through a fake wall with the word ‘Gridlock’ written on it. The wall was made up of styrofoam bricks, which are a lot lighter and flimsier than a hung parliament. They were also white, not red, probably because the PM is nervous of bragging he really can smash through the ‘Red Wall’ of safe Labour seats.
Johnson is often as subtle as a brick (he famously used one as a prop in a conference speech), but his team think that’s no bad thing when it comes to Brexit - especially when Labour’s offer has seemed too nuanced at best, and confused at worst.
The party is clearly acutely aware of the need to reassure its Leave voters. Jeremy Corbyn today stressed his Brexit negotiating team would be made up of Leavers and Remainers. And last night, Angela Rayner said: “If we get a deal that protects the economy and jobs, then I would vote for it.”
As for the NHS, Corbyn rammed home his favourite message on the stump today after another photo emerged of a child waiting in A&E. “They say you’re politicising the NHS, but the NHS was created through political action!” That’s a classic Corbyn message, and both the health service and the pivot on Brexit in Leave areas are aimed at all those ‘undecideds’.
And those ‘undecideds’ are being picked up in big numbers both by Labour canvassers and by pollsters. If they just stay at home, that could still be very damaging in lots of marginal seats. If they switch to the Tories, they could provoke a huge Johnson majority. Some Labour activists have been seeing some shifting as these people ‘come home to Labour’ (as Unite’s slogan puts it).
Even today, a new Lord Ashcroft poll showed that more Labour Leavers have started supporting their party and leader. Polling guru John Curtice said that the party’s Brexit backers were staying more loyal than some assumed too.
Corbyn’s line today about a PM who wants to “hide the truth in his pocket” did however get overshadowed by his own party’s say-one-thing-mean-another problem. That leaked tape of Jon Ashworth’s remarks, saying his leader was a possible security risk and was bombing in northern seats (plus his lame ‘banter’ explanation), just added to the overall impression that few politicians are telling the truth in this campaign.
“John has my full support,” Corbyn said later, but it feels like Ashworth will be put in the same sealed safehouse that currently houses Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry.
The whole fakery narrative became depressingly familiar with overnight bots on Twitter suggesting that the photo of the boy on the Leeds hospital floor had been staged by his mother. Thankfully, local journalists called that out superbly and professionally.
I have responded in good faith to Margaret. I do hope we are not too late to help people like her, so unfairly manipluated and discombobulated by cynical social media messaging driven by dark forces. pic.twitter.com/VNhe89dZxz— James Mitchinson (@JayMitchinson) December 10, 2019
But the fake news claims continued apace when a campaign group called The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising 31 bits of campaign material have been “indecent, dishonest or untruthful’ (11 LibDem, 10 Tory, 6 Brexit, 4 Labour). A separate study by First Draft found that 88% of the Tories’ most widely promoted Facebook adverts were either partly or wholly incorrect. The Lib Dems got a kicking for hundreds of potentially misleading ads with unlabelled barcharts. But the group said it could not find any misleading claims in ads run by Labour. In reaction, Labour supporters attacked the BBC for failing to headline its story on this with that ‘88%-0%’ comparison.
The group Who Targets Me tonight also produced new stats claiming that Facebook ads worth £748,626 had suddenly gone ‘missing’. But just as importantly, the Tories’ much-anticipated final push for Labour heartlands is now happening - they are heavily targeting Labour leave seats through Johnson’s Facebook page. And north Wales Tory targets like Clwyd West seem to be realising it.
Traditionally, ‘don’t knows’ becomes ‘still don’t knows’ and simply don’t turn out in elections (many of them have been assumed to be leaning Tory too recently). If Corbyn is to turn his own ‘undecideds’ into Labour voters, rather than Tory voters or stay-at-homes, he may now have little left other than a sense that as polling day approaches it really is Make Your Mind Up Time.
The headline vote share results are what matter most of course. Yet turnout, especially if it’s chucking it down on Thursday and especially when few people want to traipse out in the dark to pick ‘the least worst’ choice, could be the most important statistic on election night.
Quote Of The Day
“We fucked it up in 2016 when we went too early. People like me were internally saying ‘this isn’t the right moment’ but I got kind of ignored.”
Jonathan Ashworth on why the PLP got it wrong with its Corbyn coup attempt.
Tuesday’s Election Cheat Sheet
Labour’s Jon Ashworth was caught on tape by the Guido Fawkes website telling a Tory friend: “I’ve been going round these national places, it’s dire for Labour… it’s dire.”
Boris Johnson said that he was “temperamentally very much inclined to want to go ahead” with the HS2 rail project, his warmest words yet on the issue.
Dave Merritt, the father of a London Bridge terror attack victim Jack, accused Boris Johnson of exploiting the tragedy to “score some points in the election”.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson accused Johnson of “an empathy bypass” in his attitude to others.
Extinction Rebellion activists glued themselves to the Johnson battlebus.
Figures for voter registration showed the biggest increases were in cities and university seats, with few in marginal seats in the north and midlands.
What I’m Reading
Why Black Brits Are Considering Leaving UK After Election - Nadine White
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.