The two parties have become a bunch of cults. But the country is worshiping at the court of Good Queen Tess

9 May 2017 at 08:46

Dear God another month to go. How much more can a sentient being take? Oh, I forgot. This is a aimed at voters. It is strange how the two parties have turned into cults. The Corbynistas genuinely worship him. He has come down from the mountain with his slab of granite and ten democratically curated composite motions. The trouble is that they are the playbook from another forgotten and rejected era. Big business bad, workers good. Anyone earning over £80,000 is rich, so tax them until their pips squeak. Tell that to hardworking head teachers and doctors. It is all wonderful worthy stuff. The sort of fluffy, warm, dreamy idealism that Swampy and his chums would debate hanging from their trees the night before laying in front of bulldozers. The trick in politics, if you want to win, is not just to make yourself feel great but to make those you want to vote for you feel even better.

But it would be foolish to deny the genuine affection that Corbyn’s followers have for him. For the first time in years they have been given a voice. The sneering middle classes, the Westminster effete, the once rulers of the galaxy have been cast into eternal darkness. In short, Labour enthusiasts are having fun. ‘People are listening to us’, they cry in misty eyed disbelief. ‘If it wasn’t for the wicked, biased, enemy of the people, the Tory bloody media led by the fascist BBC, our message would get across.’ What they don’t seem to have realised is that their message has got across and people don’t much care for it.

In times of crisis the British like strength. They didn’t love Thatcher. But they believed she could sort out our mess. She was humourless, had a voice that could curdle cream and wasn’t particularly bright. But she surrounded herself with intelligent people who could translate her instincts into policy. And her instincts were mostly in tune with the public. Most important of all she transcended party. She had a direct line to the public. Her party was merely the apparatus for getting her message through. And for a while it was very effective. But when trust transformed into worship and worship demanded loyalty, disobedience led to punishment. And the realisation that she was a mere mortal after all.

I am not trying to make too much of a comparison between May and Thatcher. They are both very different people. Although I don’t know May at all, despite her clankyness and horror of the media her instincts tend to be right and I detect a genuine sense of warmth. Tonight on the One Show we will see her with her husband Philip. My advice is to forget the slogans the petty party politics and show the real May, which I suspect is far softer than we think.

But back to the campaign. The Crosby playbook is breathtakingly simple. Find the strengths of your candidate and bang over the message over and over again. Then some more. Be relentless. Keep every spokesman on message. Allow no dissent. So far it has worked very well. This has become a Presidential campaign. The Conservative Party is merely the structure for getting her elected. The interminable Strong and Stable may drive us scribblers insane, but it is effective. What is the Labour message in a sound bite? None of us have a clue. Who Cares Wins might work. But it’s too late. Nobody is listening. It’s worship at the court of Good Queen Tess.

And the Lib Dems? Farron has been a disappointment. His message of attracting the 48 per cent is not translating into the polls; yet. His personal campaigning skills are not as effective on the media as I expected. But anecdotally I am utterly convinced that they will do much better than the pollsters think. Iain Dale is right to predict that the Tory majority will not be a landslide but about seventy. We will see.

So when will May’s wobbly Thursday be? To find the answer look at where she is most vulnerable. Answering probing questions. She will survive the Question Time approach, although expect a small bounce for Corbyn and Farron. But if I was Crosby I would be particularly concerned about Andrew Neil. He is far more forensic than Paxo ever was. He interviews like a top barrister cross examines, with the golden rule of never ask a question unless you know the answer. Stable and Strong sound bites won’t work here. She really needs a day of someone playing the role of Neil roughing her up.

It is now the Theresa May show. All Tories will have to remain on message. They must be like the Borg (Star Trek) collective hive. They have one thought, one direction, one personality. ‘You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.’ And for heaven’s sake keep Bozo in the attic. He is like Roger Rabbit. He can’t help himself from saying or doing something really, really stupid. On the other hand release him for just one day. Just to break up the boredom.

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