Tory shambles: A portrait of weak leadership
The mask has finally fallen from Theresa May’s face. In truth it had been dangling precariously for weeks now. However the complete chaos surrounding the release of the Tory manifesto and the botched attempt to roll back from her flagship policy, the “dementia tax,” reveals once and for all an utterly shambolic leader, devoid of principle and lurching from one crisis to another.
The eventual release of the Tory manifesto turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. In it was a promise to make the elderly pay for their care by forfeiting their children’s inheritance. Radio phone-in shows have been bombarded by angry voters, calling in to complain. Even the Tory Bow Group described it as the biggest stealth tax in British history. To add insult to injury, The Spectator declared that people earning under £85,000 per year would be better off under Labour.
Lynton Crosby’s decision to turn the Tory election campaign into a North Korean style deification of May as ‘glorious leader,’ probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Today it’s looking like an act of political sabotage. If I was him I’d ask to paid now.
Faced with such an implosion, right leaning commentators and editors pulled out the only weapon they had left in their arsenal, and embarked on a weekend of smears and false accusations against the Labour leader. In truth it was nothing more than an attempt at distraction and manipulation, which reached its nadir in the horrendous Sophie Ridge interview with Jeremy Corbyn on Sky News. It contained the depressing and long since debunked claims that he was a terrorist sympathiser.
It was clear that regardless of Corbyn’s actual answers the headlines had been preordained. Despite the Labour leader repeatedly condemning bombing campaigns waged by both Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries, the broadcaster and other outlets claimed he had refused to condemn the IRA. Such tactics are abhorrent. Essentially they’re about using the pain experienced by victims of conflict in order to garner political advantage.
As repugnant as this strategy is, it is a telling reflection of the chaos and fear gripping the Tory party and their supporters right now. Unable to challenge Labour on policy, they have resorted to fabrication and gutter politics. And it could have worked too, if it wasn’t for that meddling May; and to be fair an electorate who are growing sick of such atrocious practices.
Despite a little help from her friends in the newspapers, Theresa May has managed to look yet another media gift horse in the mouth. The Tory spin machine had spent an entire weekend telling us that this policy had the Prime Minister’s personal stamp on it (apparently she dropped it into the manifesto at the last minute without consulting other cabinet colleagues). This was an example, we were told, of a courageous leader telling a grateful public the truth.
On Sunday Damian Green, Tory Work and Pensions Secretary, emphatically stated that there was no way the party would reconsider their flagship policy. Then on Monday they did. Well almost.
In truth this isn’t a u-turn at all. Theresa May can’t even get that right. Instead it’s little more than a cynical attempt to quell a growing insurgency among Tory voters. People will still need to sacrifice their legacy in order to pay for their care in old age. It is still a “dementia tax”.
In truth, lurking within that Tory manifesto of chaos, lies a glimpse of a bleak future, in which the young are saddled with debt and the elderly face growing insecurity and risk. No attempts at political slight of hand can erase that from our mind’s eye.
However, the debacle does represent an unprecedented unravelling of a leader, her vision and her programme; just four days after she presented it to the country. Journalists have reacted with incredulity, desperately searching google to find another example of such a hopeless mid-campaign volte-face. Of course they would draw a collective blank.
It seems “strong and stable” May is incompetent on a historic scale; or weak and wobbly as Michael Crick spectacularly put it to her, during a press call. This is the politician who based her whole election pitch on being a tough negotiator with Europe. How hollow do these claims sound, now we know she is likely to crumble and backtrack at the first sign of opposition.
What kind of Brexit would we end up with, if Theresa May, or worse still Boris Johnson, was sat in the negotiating chamber? Surely voting Tory is now just too big a risk for voters to take. Surely we now see them as they truly are, a coalition of chaos and weak leadership.
In truth we could and should have seen this coming. After all, this is a Prime Minister who wobbled on national insurance contributions, before the ink had even dried on Philip Hammond’s budget. Theresa May campaigned for a remain vote, before becoming a staunch advocate of hard Brexit. And she told us there would be no snap election just before, well you know the rest.
There is a long way to go in this campaign but, for Labour, there is absolutely everything to play for. The Tory Party has revealed its self as a total shambles, bereft of ideas and built on a vision that wold not be out of place in a Dickens novel.
In complete contrast, Corbyn is offering real hope, as well as a set of fully costed policies, that could genuinely transform the way we all live our lives. The choice could not be more stark and, with their opponents floundering on the ropes, its time for Labour to unite behind its manifesto as never before and deliver that government for the many.