It comes to something when one of the key figures who signed off on the 2015 Tory manifesto uses his editorial in a metropolitan newspaper to denounce the key pledge on immigration in the 2017 version. We’ll leave aside the fact that the ‘liberal centrist’, George Osborne, twice campaigned on the exact same pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, and gawp instead at the sheer mindless skulduggery of Theresa May’s ‘offer’ to the British people.
Last night I asked some sensible Labour people how they would attack this ridiculous document if they were in charge of Labour’s campaign. The first theme they pretty much all returned to was the Tories’ bizarre, unprovoked attack on the elderly. Considering that older voters are perhaps the key Tory constituency, Theresa May’s plan to water down the triple lock on pensions (introduced by her predecessor) seems like a strange gamble to take. It is a betrayal of one of the few good things about the last government, and more than that, it is a betrayal of Britain’s pensioners. Here, then, is a major opportunity to turn this key Tory voting bloc towards Labour.
As already mentioned, on immigration, there is a huge cleavage within the Tory party that a disciplined Labour party would be able to exploit. George Osborne’s outright, though hypocritical, criticism of the random pledge on immigration numbers is, I’m told, shared by the overwhelming majority of Theresa May’s Cabinet. The Tories have once again chosen to make reducing immigration one of the key themes of their campaign. Labour should be able to absolutely hammer the Government on this, for the simple reason that they’ve failed to get numbers down in the past and will clearly do so again. It’s a basic question of trust…
Then, of course, there is the naked fact that the Tories say pretty much nothing of substance about how they will actually implement Brexit. So much for strong and stable. Try lies, damned lies and not even the small mercy of statistics. An explicit plan from Labour, with three key negotiating aims (how about a triple lock on Brexit?) would expose the dangerous vagueness of Theresa May’s vapid ‘Red, White and Blue’ Brexit. If the Tories want this election to be about Brexit, then Labour should be able to expose how little they have thought it through.
As mentioned in the previous editorial on Labour’s manifesto, elections are not won and lost on the detail in manifestos. As the great New Labour mantra went, “We campaign in poetry and govern in prose.” Labour need not rebut every line, dot and comma in the Tory manifesto, but in politics, every strength is a weakness and the Tories’ supposed strong suits at this election – older voters, immigration and Brexit – are all potentially massive weaknesses.
There are three weeks left of this campaign and there’s a golden opportunity for Labour to expose the dangerous lack of forward-thinking in this Tory manifesto. This is a document full of cliches and soundbites which says nothing meaningful about the future of our country. A genuinely progressive party would smash this crooked Tory offer to pieces. Let’s see how Labour does.