THE LAST LAP.
The Prime Minister didn’t expect it to turn out this way when she called her snap election in April. The campaign was meant to deliver her a majority of 100+ so that she could go and sock it to those arrogant Europeans.
In fact, there has been very little discussion about what sort of deal we might get from the EU negotiations. We can’t get past the slogans of hard and soft Brexit. That’s deliberate as Mrs May wants to go off for two years negotiating with little challenge from a parliament with a thumping Tory majority. Her speech in the North East on Thursday, specifically on Brexit, clarified little.
Unfortunately for her other issues have intruded into the campaign. Tragically terrorism and security came to the fore after the Manchester outrage, but also the future funding of social care. She came a cropper on this issue and there seems to be a lot of support for a general sharing of the cost of care above £72,000.
Then there’s Jeremy Corbyn who has campaigned well with policies that are individually popular. Also, bullying questions from Jeremy Paxman and daily vilification in the Tory press have provoked a closing of the polls.
All that said I think wider truths will bring a Conservative majority of around 50 next Thursday. Labour cannot be serious in asking the British people to elect as Prime Minister a man with an ambiguous attitude to IRA terrorism. Also, nobody believes Jeremy Corbyn would ever launch our nuclear weapons. He has very honourable feelings about the issue, but the whole concept of deterrence would be undermined with Corbyn in No 10. Personally disorganised, he does not have a credible team of Shadow Ministers around him to form a government.
Perhaps reluctantly the British people will elect Theresa May hoping that she can display the strong and stable qualities that she has not projected during this campaign
THE NORTHERN BATTLEFIELD.
So, which seats should we be watching out for in Downtown areas of the North? The gloomiest of Labour insiders think any seat with less than a 10,000 majority is potentially vulnerable to the Tories. Those would include Huddersfield (welcome back to the Premier League by the way), Leeds North East, Lancashire West and Ellesmere Port and Neston. In relation to the latter I have picked up strange rumours that Justin Madders with a six thousand majority could be in more trouble than Chris Matheson in neighbouring Chester on ninety-three.
If we come on to constituencies with a Labour majority of less than 5000 they include the popular Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lyndsay Hoyle, in Chorley, Bolton North East which is being heavily targeted, Wakefield and Wirral South where Alison McGovern is putting up a determined fight.
Right in the front line is Chester which I have already mentioned. The city is on the up, symbolised by the recent opening of the brilliant Storyhouse theatre complex. The seat went against the trend of the Cameron victory in 2015. Could it possibly stay Labour this time? Nearby another constituency that went against the trend was Wirral West. The 417 Labour majority should be overwhelmed by the able and popular Tory candidate, Tony Caldeira.
Other seats held on slim majorities by Labour include Lancaster and Fleetwood. The incumbent, Cat Smith, is a big Corbyn supporter which certainly can’t be said of John Woodcock in Barrow. His leader’s views on nuclear weapons are toxic in the submarine building town which went Tory in 1983 when Michael Foot was in charge of Labour.
I had hoped the Lib Dems would do well with their promise of a second EU referendum. It appears they have been squeezed as people polarise between Labour and the Conservatives. This means the Lib Dems are unlikely to reclaim Burnley or Cheadle. Indeed, they look likely to lose Southport where they only have a 3% majority over the Conservatives and have been damaged by the decision of the long serving MP John Pugh to retire.
Might this happen on Thursday night?
It’s ten o’clock and the BBC predicts the Conservatives have won the General Election with a comfortable majority.
Jeremy Corbyn vows to fight on for socialism.
Tony Blair and Nick Clegg announce the launch of a new centre party for Britain.
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