Election diary: “This is the most boring election for decades”

PUBLISHED: 11:02 31 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:02 31 May 2017

Iain Dale

Iain Dale

Archant

Our Brexiteer diarist still can’t quite work out how the Tories got themselves into such a pickle over the funding of social care

Writing a mildly amusing diary column in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack is not the easiest task in the world, so in this first chunk I’m not even going to try. When I first heard that the main party leaders were suspending their election campaigns until the end of this week my immediate reaction was ‘quite right too’. On reflection, though I wonder if Labour’s Mike Gapes was right. He tweeted on Tuesday evening, in defiance of his party leadership: “We must not allow murderous terrorists to undermine our democratic society. I will be resuming political campaigning tomorrow morning.” It is good that all the major party leaders are singing from the same hymn-sheet and united in their outrage. However, to those who call for radical measures to be introduced to counter future acts of terrorism, I just say this: If you weaken our democracy, if you diminish our civil liberties, if you attack our human rights you play into the hands of the terrorists. The way to defeat them is to make very clear that we won’t do any of that. The way to do it is to defeat the ideology that lies behind this terrorist evil. It can’t be done in the short term but we have to develop a long-term strategy to expose the wickedness and wrongness of this Islamist form of fascism.

*****

The first duty of any prime minister is to defend the realm. Yes, I know that’s an old-fashioned way of putting it, but there you go. So, when an aspiring prime minister is asked – five times – if he will condemn the IRA and on the fifth occasion says ‘No’, the electorate will draw their own conclusions. Just when some people were thinking they might take a second look at Jeremy Corbyn, he completely blows it. His position on the Troubles in Ireland requires further examination. The SDLP say he never met with them, while at the same time he’d happily meet with IRA representatives. He says he met with Unionist politicians in Stormont, yet so far none can recall doing so. He says he met all sides from the conflict but he clearly didn’t meet loyalist paramilitaries while meeting Republican paramilitaries. It played right into the Tory playbook that he can’t be trusted on defence and security issues. This goes down very badly with working class Labour voters. Just the sort of people the Tories need to win over to get their landslide. It was amateur hour from Corbyn, and totally avoidable. Expect Sir Lynton to ensure that this issue raises its head rather a lot during the final days of the campaign. You can’t really blame him…

*****

Yes, Emily Thornberry has to feature in this diary for the second week in a row. Last week I regaled you with my positive views on Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary. This week I have to tell you that her latest appearance on my LBC radio show seems to have left her holed below the water line. After a bit of badgering from me – it is, after all, what I’m paid for – she admitted that Trident could be up for grabs in Labour’s Strategic Defence Review. Later that night her Shadow Defence colleague Nia Griffith repudiated Emily’s view live on Newsnight. “I am in charge of defence policy, not Emily.” Ouch. The next morning I was presenting my Saturday show and as I introduced a phone-in on which party has the best defence policy, up popped my face on the BBC News Channel, followed by La Thornberry. And so it did every hour for the rest of the day. Quite disconcerting really. Just as well, I’m not in any way a narcissist. Even if I did quite enjoy it.

*****

I still can’t quite work out how the Tories got themselves into such a pickle over the funding of social care. They came up with a policy so complicated that I had to read that section of their manifesto at least five times before I understood it. And even then, I couldn’t properly explain it to my listeners. Pity to the poor sod of a Tory canvasser on the doorstep, trying to convince a 70 year old voter. And it is all so unnecessary. If they need an extra £2.5 billion a year to fund social care why not increase employees’ national insurance contributions by 0.5%. Job done. It would have saved so much heartache, and about
30 seats on their majority I shouldn’t wonder.

*****

Is it just me, but would you agree this is the most boring election for decades? I started being interested elections in 1979. Each campaign since then has had some excitement about it. Well, with the possible exception of 2001. But this time around I haven’t yet seen a poster in anyone’s window or garden. I live in Tunbridge Wells and, so far, we’ve had two Tory leaflets, nothing from Labour or the Lib Dems or UKIP. OK, I know Tunbridge Wells is hardly a marginal, but even so. I’m ‘disgusted’.

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