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Three weeks, two days to go…

It has always seemed to me that, so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matters little

As usual, the devil will be in the detail. However, I don’t think this election is being fought on the detail, nor will it be won on the details. Perhaps more than any other election I can remember, this is about the headlines, about the sizzle rather than the steak.

Ask pretty much any of the electorate what their first image is of the three main party leaders before they became leader and chances are the first thing that pops into anyone’s head is the image of Boris Johnson hanging from that zipwire in Battersea Park, waving a union flag and grinning like it was the best fun he’d had in ages. Think of Jeremy Corbyn and most of us immediately get the image of the bearded Marxist type, snuggling up to Sein Fein and Hezbollah. Jo Swinson, alas, unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool LibDemmer is a bit of a blank space in many heads. To be honest, I think they are still suffering from the student-loans thing, unfairly, perhaps.

The latest Conservative election broadcast where Johnson invites the audience to follow him down the corridor, answering all the questions, making the choices all about the audience, drawing them into him,  is pure Dominic Cummings at his best. Like him or hate him, the man is a strategist and what he does well, he really does well. It probably helps that it reminds me of the single-camera-shot in Good Fellas, one of the best films of all times.

Labour are talking a good talk from one point of view: respecting workers in their workplace, abolishing zero hours contracts, piling money into the NHS, schools, free broadband for all by nationalising BT Openreach….OK maybe not that one. The trouble is, every time I hear one of the Labour broadcasts, I feel I’m being lectured. Corbyn simply reminds me too much of people I knew at university in the 80s, whom even then, seemed to be a decade out of time. The Labour landslide of 2007 was because the party recognised that after 20 years of Tory rule, the electorate had moved away from that.

One problem the Lib Dems will have is that they haven’t worked out how to deal with those among their core supporters who, for whatever personal reasons, voted to Leave the EU. I know several people who have voted Lib Dem all their adult lives, yet can’t bring themselves to do so on December 12th because they don’t want Article 50 revoked. Nor do they want a Second Referendum, but can’t bring themselves to vote Tory. The party also still hasn’t got enough critical mass to do anything very much other than cause issues in marginal seats, despite the all-in-it-togetherness of alliances with other Remain parties, and despite Swinson’s claim in her acceptance speech that she is ready to be Prime Minister. It’s good to have ambition.

I have no idea how this is going to pan out, but Sir John Curtice, who has called every one of the last few elections correctly – even the Cameron landslide – has said that the chances of a Labour majority are so close to zero as to be to all intents and purposes zero.

It’s a mess, but then it was always going to be a mess, right from day that the wretched referendum was announced in the first place, through every time that Parliament chucked Teresa May’s deal back at her, covered in red pen marks and ‘could do better’ to Nigel Farage’s ‘standing-not standing-standing- no, still not standing’ shenanigans.

With the Get Brexit Done angle, Cummings and Johnson have decide to try and appeal to that Dunkirk Sprit part of the British psyche that can’t be doing with all the fuss and faff any more, on the grounds that it’s the not knowing that’s killing us. Maybe.

 

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Editor-in-Chief across the BMJ portfolio.

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