Polling day is here! The PRCA General Election Panel has been asking senior public affairs practitioners to comment on how the campaign has been going so far. The panellists have been expressing their views on gaffes, the debates, performances by party leaders, and campaigning tactics.
We are joined by Gill Morris FPRCA, Founder and CEO, DevoConnect, and Lionel Zetter FPRCA, Managing Director, Zetter's Political Services and PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Group Chairman.
The #GE17 has been a very strange journey for Corbyn and May. Indeed, it has been a strange election all round; full of twists and turns, highs and lows and punctuated by two horrific terrorist attacks. Theresa certainly started on a high - up that mountain in Wales - seizing the day and calling a snap General Election to strengthen her arm and give her an unequivocal mandate.
From the get go, this General Election was dubbed the Brexit Election but by the end, Brexit was on the back burner and national security was pushed to the front. In theory all Team May had to do was prove Theresa was the right person to sit round the Brexit negotiation table and a landslide would result. But ‘events’ made her look increasingly weak and wobbly in her kitten heels. She lacked a confident performance and looked uncomfortable on the campaign trail. In contrast Jeremy looked authentic and stood at ease in his comfy shoes. She lost points on the dementia tax, police cuts, U turns and no shows and looked exposed, isolated and vulnerable. Where was the back up support? No Chancellor fielded, not much of Boris and leaving Amber Rudd and Karen Bradley to take the flack only fueled her diminishing lead.
That’s not to say Team Corbyn played a better hand. Arguably, Jeremy started on an all time low and many thought this would be the chance to prove he was completely unelectable but strangely he has confounded his critics and is tipped to exceed expectations. Like Team May, Labour’s campaign lacked a visible team effort with their star players, Dianne Abbott and Emily Thornberry, doing Jeremy no favours. Strangely the more Corbyn did his own thing, the more the crowds rallied and the more the polls worked to his advantage.
#GE17 will be remembered for being an almost Presidential two horse race between an unlikely winner and a firm favourite. If May wins she will not achieve that landslide mandate she set out to. If Corbyn does as well as some polls predict then what next for Labour? Despite the calamitous campaigns and the narrowing odds, Theresa May is most likely to be the Prime Minister to lead us out of Europe but be sure it will be a bumpy ride for one “Bloody difficult woman”.
I am writing this slightly bleary eyed, having been on the streets since 4.00am delivering reminder leaflets to those who pledged to vote Tory. This is an old tradition in Enfield, but the trick is to deliver the leaflet without waking up the household – something which is not calculated to endear campaigners to voters!
This has been a bizarre, stuttering campaign – interrupted by two terrorist incidents. No party has really had a good campaign, although Jeremy Corbyn’s energy and passion has surprised many. The problem with the Labour campaign is that it has been too scattergun. Corbyn has visited many seats he has no chance of capturing – sometimes twice. Promises to scrap tuition fees have – not surprisingly – enthused many young voters (who knows, some of them may actually vote). I suspect that Labour’s vote share will go up from 2015, but its seat count will go down.
The Tory campaign was nearly derailed completely by the ‘dementia tax’ debacle, and subsequent screeching u-turn. However in the closing days they succeeded in getting the focus back on to leadership, Brexit and the tax. More importantly, the Tories have been using sophisticated algorithms to micro-target potential voters, and the accuracy of the system has more than made up for their lack of foot soldiers. Theresa May has survived a gruelling campaign, but needs to re-establish her image as a strong (and stable) leader with some section of the public.
As for the Lib Dems, they had no choice but to try and catch the anti-Brexit wave. Unfortunately for them, it is a wave which has lost momentum, and their campaign has never really taken off. They will make gains, and those gains may not be strong enough to prevent a challenge to Tim Farron’s leadership.
And I think I can confidently call ‘peak SNP’. Deprived of their IndyRef2 bazooka, they have been forced back on to defending their record in government. Ruth Davidson has succeeding in de-toxifying the Tories north of the border, and may well have saved the Union.
So, to the hardest part, the dreaded predictions. I have predicted a Tory majority of 60-80 from the start, and I will stick with that. Inevitably that would mean Labour losing seats, and they will. Which does not of course mean that Jeremy Corbyn will resign as Labour leader – I suspect he will stay, on at least until the party’s autumn conference.
Next stop, Brexit negotiations…..