The team and I have knocked on about 10,000 doors so far this Campaign, and recorded something like 3500 Voting Intentions, so it’s a pretty good survey. We have also been doing a fair bit in neighbouring constituencies- what is called ‘Mutual Aid’ although it sometimes feels a bit one sided! It’s a fascinating sociological and political experience. Here are a few sample responses:-
“Always been a Conservative/Labour/Lib Dem.” (No problem there for the entry on the canvass card). Pro/anti Brexit, although the voting intention nonetheless sometimes bit hazy. “Want to leave the EU. So voting LibDem” is one of the most curious. Very few Corbyn lovers- in fact none that I have met. A great many Boris lovers, although a few doubters even amongst good Tory voters. (Marmite.) The funniest, and music to my egotistical ears came when I was canvassing a neighbouring marginal seat. “On no. I’m not voting Conservative. Can’t stand xyz the local Tory MP because he always supports the Government. I’d vote for that James Gray if we had him here.” Er, thank you so much, Madam. You have just made my Campaign.”
There’s a myriad of reasons for voting in any particular way. But only one thing is truly central, and trumps all other considerations: do you want a Conservative Government and all that we stand for, or do you want a hard-left Socialist Government led by Mr Corbyn? Those are the only two possible outcomes. Any kind of hung Parliament or minority Government would just be a continuation of the paralysis we have seen over the last two or three years. There won’t be a Lib Dem Government, no matter what their Leader may ludicrously claim. (‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government’ as my friend David Steel told the Liberal Conference in 1981, yet achieving only 23 MPs at the General Election. History may be repeating itself.)
So flattered as we local candidates may be at praise (or saddened by criticism); easy as personal liking (or hating) of the leaders may be; the fact is that this is not a Presidential election. You are not electing the PM. You are electing a Government; therefore, all that matters are the respective Manifestoes.
Now I suspect that precious few voters actually ever see the Manifesto, and all bar the very well informed never read it. So here are a few easy headlines from each:
Labour plans to spend a colossal £83bn more on current spending each year, apparently financed by ‘re-writing the rules of the economy’. This would represent the biggest hike in taxes ever recorded in peacetime. It would impact not just on those areas identified such as higher rate taxes, corporation taxes, death duties and windfall taxes on the oil companies, but also on almost everybody else who would have to pay the higher prices which would result. Removal of the single person’s discount for Council Tax would hit single people particularly hard and would include many people who are certainly not the wealthiest 5% as Labour claim. If all this was not enough, Labour promised on Sunday another £58bn would be spent on effectively reversing certain pension changes – this last promise was not even in their manifesto and is in addition to all the other tax rises planned. They would nationalise Water, Energy and Royal Mail at vast and unquantified cost; create a state-owned drugs manufacturer; provide free long-term care for the elderly, and abolish university tuition fees. Its good Old Labour Tax and Spend. Private schools would be “integrated into the comprehensive education system,” rent controls imposed on private landlords; they would build a million new Council houses; and undertake a Brexit renegotiation followed by a second referendum in which the PM would be neutral. (Good negotiating tactic, eh?)
Lib Dems would: Cancel Brexit (democratically ignoring the Referendum); splurge £130 Billion on infrastructure; give £10,000 to every adult to improve education and training throughout life; they would legalise marijuana, raising £1.5 Billion in tax (a lot of spliffs there.) And they would do a load of other worthy enough stuff which they know perfectly well they will never have to implement, since they cannot form a government.
And the Tories? Our Manifesto will get a full Column all to itself. So watch this space.