IF this is a snap election, where is the crackle and pop?
The best reaction to the news that Theresa May had called a surprise election came from Brenda from Bristol when she was interviewed by the BBC’s Jon Kay. The clip of her saying: “You’re joking? Not another one. Oh, for God’s sake” has gone viral, partly because of the Bristol twang to her incredulity, and partly because her exasperation speaks for many people.
Brenda, who is 75, is said to be enjoying her accidental moment in the spotlight, even though she doesn’t understand social media or the ways in which her words have bounced around the internet.
Elections, even unnecessary ones, have their slogans and memes, so perhaps this election should belong to Brenda. Maybe we could even vote for Brenda instead, as the alternatives are not that enticing.
It is even possible that Brenda could turn people against Mrs May. We had an election in 2015, the referendum vote last year and another election this year: we are in danger of being all politicked out by a prime minister who pretends she doesn’t play political games.
But this is an election, even if we didn’t need one, so I suppose we should look at the politics. Jeremy from Islington was also in the news the other day after he gave his first speech of the election. To be fair, the Labour leader gave a good account of himself and looked less of an electoral liability than usual.
The trouble is, his attacks on the establishment and the ‘cosy cartel of politics’ still seem aimed more at his supporters than a wider audience. He certainly spoke well and some of his beliefs are ones that anyone who leans to the left ought to embrace. But if he doesn’t convince all lefties, how in a short election campaign will he attract floating voters?
To those of us who have been around a while, Jeremy Corbyn has similarities to Michael Foot, whose manifesto for the 1983 election was described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history” – a view which turned out to be spot on.
From the same era, the Labour MP John Golding – the sort of centrist who would be booed by the disciples of Jeremy – despaired of Foot’s chances as Labour were doing so badly in the polls. He told his leader this and Foot is said to have countered: “You’re wrong. There were a thousand people at my meeting last night and they all cheered.” To which Golding said: “There were 122,00 outside who think you’re crackers.”
The danger is that Corbyn is replicating that pattern, and that like Foot – a good and decent man, but a man who had no hope of winning – he will continue to woo his fans and followers, while others are turned off by him.
One problem with Corbyn’s attacks on the establishment and the media is that this can sound like getting in his excuses first; it’s almost as if he is laying the ground for his defeat by saying that the system is stacked against him.
And, yes, there is the Citizen Smith difficulty, too. Even if some of what Corbyn says is true, and even if he hits the mark occasionally, he can sound like a caricature leftie. And that observation comes from someone who has been a bit of a caricature leftie down the years too, although without joining any party
As a leftie who has always worked in the media, Corbyn’s constant moaning about the media grates, too. He has a point but it’s always been that way. Instead of regarding the newspapers and the BBC as his enemy, he should learn to play the game a little better, shouldn’t he?
Anyway, that’s enough politics for now. I’m off to run that clip of Brenda from Bristol again. I like her style.