Now Reading
General Election: The Dirty War

General Election: The Dirty War

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn during a leaders debate

With election day almost upon us, fear and loathing stalk every party’s campaign headquarters. The narrowing polls suggest the Conservatives are slipping closer to the danger zone, and their private research may be painting them a yet bleaker picture. So, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, they’re planning a last-minute surprise attack.

At a crucial point in the Battle of Waterloo, British troops hid in the long grass so the advancing French couldn’t see them. Then at the last minute, they sprung up and cut them to pieces.

Ou la la. Or, as the enemy put it at the time, ‘Sauve qui peut’.

In other words, it did the trick. Both for Wellington in 1815, and for Vote Leave in 2016.

Dominic Cummings was behind the strategy then, and is now at Bojo’s right hand.

Quite simple. In the days leading up to the referendum, they flooded social media with enough material to get their side over the line, just about.

And the Tories plan the same thing in coming days. Having consistently underspent the other parties over the past few weeks, they’re throwing everything at it now.

Stand by your smartphones, folks!

And prepare to be amazed/dismayed/bamboozled, as it’s coming your way, whether you like it or not.

The logic’s impeccable. Most people have got other/better things to do than follow every twist and turn of this most chaotic and mendacious of elections, and, it’s estimated, around thirteen per cent of people have yet to make up their minds.

That’s enough to swing it, one way or the other.

And remember, in 2017 Theresa May started with a twenty-point lead in the polls and ended up only just holding on to power. Whoops-a-daisy or what?

Fact is, when it comes to party allegiances, fings ain’t wot they used to be. It’s estimated that between the last two elections a third of voters switched sides.

Cummings is called a lot of things, but Mr Smiley is not one of them. In fairness, he has got a lot to be afraid of.

But he’s banking on people with only a passing interest in politics only really remembering stuff for a few days. At most. Ergo – hit them just before the go to polling station.

And why social media? Simple. That’s where the majority of folk get their news from these days.

In a first-of-its-kind election monitoring project conducted by the Guardian and a research agency called Revealing Reality, a group of voters allowed their phone use to be recorded for three days.

Rather depressingly, from the point of view of grubby old hacks such as yours truly, the findings suggested traditional ways of getting the news are changing and disintegrating.

For example, one bloke in Sunderland got much of his info through memes on lad humour Facebook pages, and spent more time looking at posts of Bojo saying ‘boobies’ than reading actual stories.

A woman in Bolton checked out claims about Jeremy Corbyn’s wealth by going to a website called Jihadi Watch, then shared the far-right material to annoy her leftie friends.

Also, someone in Sheffield followed the BBC leaders’ interviews just by watching videos of the comrades chanting Jezza’s name outside the venue.

Ok, this is only a snapshot, but if it’s anything like representative then the Tory tactics are spot-on.

Besides, even among voters who might have been following things anything like properly, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Consider what Bojo is promising. Loads of extra cash for health and education but at the same time keeping income tax, national insurance and VAT flat or falling. And, somehow, reducing debt.

Er, how does that work then?

And then there’s the central promise, to get Brexit done. Yes, with a comfortable majority he would get it past parliament. But no, the EU doesn’t think the next phase can be completed within his stipulated timeframe.

Twelve months down the line, then, we’d be looking at a no-deal. And the damage almost all economists believe that would do to the British economy.

Whatever happens, it’ll be followed by up to a decade of tortuous trade talks.

They say politics is theatre. And, in theatre, audiences have to suspend disbelief. Believing Bojo’s blueprint means getting them to buy into a full-scale Martian invasion on a stage the size of a playpen.

And you wonder why he’s still not up for being eaten alive, like the other party leaders, by the Beeb’s top rottweiler Andrew Neil?

The rest of them got spat out, but he just could be eaten alive. And, after all, with a head start at the polls, this election is his to lose.

Dunkirk, never forget, was not a rout but a strategic withdrawal. Ahem.

But all sides are playing fast and loose with language here. Remember when the Lib Dem leader was going to be Prime Minister? Take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud.

Not as if Labour hasn’t got a couple of credibility issues, mind. The tales of anti-Semitism within the party get more lurid by the day. And Jezza’s stance on what is, after all, what this election is all about, remains fuzzy.

He gives Remainers hope, by promising to negotiate with Europe a new, softer departure deal, then putting it to the people. But at the same time he’s refusing to back it. Or be against it. Er …

At least he’s enthusiastic about his manifesto promise to splash such huge amounts of cash, at just about everything, that experts don’t see how he could spend that much that fast.

There’s also the matter of where it’d come from.

Maybe there’s a cunning Corbyn plan that’s eluded us. He has, after all, pledged to plant two billion more trees. You never know, perhaps, he’ll pop in the odd copse of money trees. Every little helps, as the saying goes.

Actually, the poor dear’s in need of rather a lot of it, judging by Ipsos MORI’s final pre-election polling on leader approval.

It puts him on minus forty-four, which confirms he’s the most unpopular major party leader going into an election since data was first recorded.

Not like he’s alone, though. Specialist interest groups on both sides of the Brexit divide also have one or two problems.

Different Remain factions are wailing at one another like underfed babes in the wood, while what’s left of the Brexit party shows increasing signs of falling to bits.

At least there’s unity between a couple of former Prime Ministers. Both Tony Blair and John Major are calling on punters to save the nation by depriving Bojo of victory. Crazy times, or what?

Perhaps that’s being a bit hard us poor little Brits. Not as if we look the tiniest bit silly to outsiders.

Take Denmark, for example. At Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, this year’s pantomime is called The Three Brexiteers.

Based on The Three Musketeers, the playbill promises ‘a nobleman David Cameragnon and a boisterous band of three Brexiteers. Atosser, Aloser and Porkpie, who fight against the dictates of dangerous Maylady de Whichway.’

Some panto. This election’s not about who’ll be strutting their stuff in Downing Street for the next few years but the role the rest of us play, in the world, for a generation.

Which brings us right back to Bojo’s biffo promise. Vote for me and sort Brexit.

It’s behind you? Oh yes it is? Oh no it isn’t …

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top