Campaign Watch: 19/05/17

Campaign Watch: 19/05/17

Benjamin Winter

Happy manifesto week! We hope you all got what you wanted…Ben Winter gives his take on the week’s campaign trail.

Key Policy Issue

The snap election demanded a quick turnaround on the manifestos, but despite that there were some genuinely interesting policies on show. The Conservatives have taken a calculated risk on proposing policies that require more elderly people to pay for their own social care, means‐testing winter fuel payments and abandoning the triple lock on increasing the state pension after 2020. Current polling indicates that the Conservatives are not as reliant on the elderly vote as they have been in the past, giving the party a little more wriggle room in formulating policy that addresses some of the biggest problems associated with an ageing population. Otherwise this was a manifesto positioned as a leveler between all sections of society. Whether it captures the all-important centre-ground remains to be seen (for more read Kieran O’Connell’s full analysis on the manifesto).

Labour took the opportunity to launch a populist manifesto, packed full of policies that make the party a genuine alternative. Being able to compare the final document with the leaked version from last week offered an interesting insight into the internal politics of the party. Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, got her way with a pledge to halt the closures of Sure Start centres, Keir Starmer won his battle over freedom of movement and there was even a softening of Corbyn’s previous policy on Trident.

Stephen Bush was spot on in labelling the Lib Dems’ manifesto a blast from the past, a departure from their “coalition-ready” document of 2015. It was bold and punchy in several areas, unsurprisingly placing Brexit front and centre. However recent polling by YouGov, showing the rise of the “Re-leaver” (those who voted remain, but now want the Government to get on with Brexit) may be the cause of some nerves in campaign HQ. The party now relies on the “hard remainers”, which YouGov estimates at 22%, turn out in force on Election Day. Policies such as the legalisation of cannabis serve as red meat for the Liberal vote – much in the same way that fox hunting might appeal to the more traditional Tory vote – but is unlikely to gain much traction.

Rising Star

Manifesto week is traditionally all about the leaders and this was no different. However, picking a clear winner when the aim from each leader was to deliver a manifesto without issue is tricky. Jeremy Corbyn is most effective in front of a large, adoring crowd, and as expected has benefitted from broadcast footage reporting from these events. Whether or not these are connected, Labour will be buoyed by a reported eight point increase (shrinking the Conservative lead to 15 points). Theresa May will be pleased with headlines too. The pledge to ‘govern from the mainstream’ landed well in the media – she will hope that it will add weight to her assault on the centre ground.

Message of the Week

Conservatives: Delivering a mainstream Government that will deliver for mainstream Britain.

Labour: The Tories have abandoned pensioners, swiping winter fuel payments and charging more for social care.

Libs Dem: People, not politicians, should have final say over the terms of Brexit.

Clanger/Gaffe of the Week

The otherwise “strong and stable” Michael Fallon had a tricky time on Newsnight last night, struggling to explain the cost of the Conservative Party’s immigration pledge. Under some direct questioning from host Evan Davis the Defence Secretary reverted to vague rhetoric on pledging to “bear down on immigration”, before admitting that the policy had not yet been costed.

Hot Take/Headline

The FT’s Seb Payne wrote a particularly good piece on the Conservative manifesto yesterday, on how Theresa May has identified a new voter – those who have little interest in ‘left’ and ‘right’, but will just vote for the policies that they think will work.                          

“Such ideas are a universe away from the free market ideals of Thatcher, or even the liberal conservative principles of Mrs May’s predecessor David Cameron. Mrs May has made the calculation that most voters, particularly Labour and UK Independence party switchers, have little interest in ideology and will go along with whatever sounds as if it will work. “There is no such thing as Mayism,” the prime minister said, exasperated, at a press conference on Thursday, but the manifesto shows there clearly is.”

Week in a Tweet

Happy manifesto week! Tories go mainstream, Labour go populist and Lib Dems go Remain. #GE2017