Brexit And The North: David Mellor On How Tories Can Pummel Labour

12 May 2017, 16:24

Corbyn thumbs up

If Labour’s 1983 Manifesto, which I remember well, was the “longest suicide note in history”, what is the one published yesterday, asks David Mellor.

It’s something which most of those Labour bigwigs, including Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who signed up to without a squeak of protest know is a surrender document put out before any serious shots in this campaign have been fired.

All but Corbyn’s closest acolytes are signalling that this General Election is over before it has really begun.

Evelyn Waugh once memorably said; “The trouble with the Conservative Party is that it has never been able to put the clock back a single minute”.

Corbyn has done much better; he’s put the clock back seventy years.  At least according to Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who says Labour’s document calls for “the state getting more deeply involved in much more of the private sector that it has been, perhaps since the 1940s”.

Despite this surrender note, Labour will still poll well in enough areas to confine the Tories overall majority, in my view at least, to 100 or less.  More than enough though.  And more than enough Labour MPs will be left to rebuild the party after Corbyn’s inevitable departure, whatever he says about staying on.

In a podcast soon to be put up here on LBC, David Owen tells me that whatever we may all think of Corbyn, he has been able to galvanise a lot of young voters, and they will turn out for him.

As will a lot of Labour’s traditional support, which is still there, as the recent Mayoral election in, say, Manchester proved, with Andy Burnham getting 63% of the first preference vote.

But Corbyn’s extremism, plus Brexit, does offer the Tories the opportunity to break into Labour’s traditional vote, especially in the North, for the first time in decades.

Mrs Thatcher had a strong working class following, but the core Labour vote never succumbed to her blandishments.

But the perception that Theresa May is the only one who can handle Brexit, which Labour’s core vote really wants; plus the collapse of UKIP; plus her own ability to communicate with such voters,  in their own language, unlike David Cameron’s lofty, upper middle class manner, gives the Tories a huge opportunity.

For me, the principal interest in this election, is to see what they make of it.