Was I wrong? Being a congenital pessimist, I love being proved wrong. The Manchester atrocity seems not to be playing into the Conservatives’ hands as I – and many others – presumed it would (https://bernardjporter.com/2017/05/23/manchester-and-may/).
Of course they’re still plugging Corbyn’s supposed ‘support for the IRA’ in the 1970s, misleadingly to say the least; and pretending that his argument, that British foreign policy bears some of the blame for enabling the spread of terrorism, is the equivalent of saying that the Mancunians ‘deserved what they got’. But it doesn’t seem to be getting through. The Tories are vulnerable here too: for their own links with Sinn Fein (i.e. talking with them), and for Theresa May’s drastic reduction of police numbers while Home Secretary over the last seven years. Added to which her public appearances and recent notorious ‘U-turns’ have not exactly burnished the image she is trying to project, of ‘strength and stability’. We can see why May is so reluctant to participate in genuine debates.
On the other side, Jeremy Corbyn is coming over as more stable, at least: calm, rational and empathetic under appalling pressure, for example from the vicious, almost unhinged Jeremy Paxman on TV last night; and displaying many of the qualities, like the ability to listen and think on his feet, which should make him a better ‘Brexit’ negotiator than the blinkered and hostile May. At the very least this should chip away at the size of the majority that May still looks like winning in the election – though I’d love to be proved wrong here too.
But maybe that would be the best outcome of all. Another small majority would deprive her of the overwhelming ‘mandate’ she called this election in order to win, which would re-open the question of whether it was really necessary in the first place – many people anyway resented having another election foisted on them so soon; would do nothing to strengthen her hand either in the Brexit negotiations or in Parliament; might greatly encourage Labour and the surviving ‘Remainers’; and – best of all – would force her and her team to conduct those negotiations, which would have the effect of heaping the blame on her head when it all went belly-up.
Is this all part of a cunning plot? Even many Tory Brexiteers never really wanted Brexit, but only to be seen to have been on the populist side when that cause lost. Everyone at the time remarked how shocked Boris Johnson looked afterwards. Brexiteers like Michael Gove must have been quite relieved when May sacked him from her cabinet. Boris might have been wise to crawl away too: but what ambitious self-publicist could possibly resist the lure of the Foreign Office? Maybe May is trying to lose this election in order to avoid the poisoned chalice of the EU talks. It looks a bit like ‘Pass the Parcel’. – But of course not. That’s too conspiratorial for my scholarly taste; and too clever, surely, for May.