The country goes to the polls on Thursday this week after a seven week campaign.
In our first Lansons/Opinium bulletin, on 2 May, we set out the fundamentals of the campaign as we saw them, and the extent to which that was likely to dictate the parties tactics. Looking back over this now our view of the fundamentals remains. This campaign remains one framed and made necessary by Brexit – where the Conservatives still enjoy a huge lead over Labour. On the other issues which tend to determine voting behaviour – leadership and economic competence – the Tories still retain a strong lead.
Against this backdrop, what is surprising is the extent to which the Conservatives allowed their campaign to go badly off track. Our 2 May bulletin set out that Labour desperately needed to “start delivering a slicker, more competent, performance which focuses on their strengths such as the NHS” and changes “the narrative away from Brexit in order to get cut-through”. Labour has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The Tory Party, which delivered a slick, disciplined, operation only 2 years ago, came to Corbyn’s aid with their disastrous manifesto policy on social care, voluntarily changing the agenda away from areas where they are strong to ones where they are fundamentally weak. That gifted Corbyn an opportunity which he has exploited to the full, turning out an impressively strong performance, and inviting contrast with a Prime Minister who appears comparatively wooden and limited.
There are signs that the Conservative campaign is back on track. The weekend’s terror attacks have also inevitably shifted the public focus back on to security issues, where Corbyn is seen as particularly weak. For the final week, the Tories will attempt to consolidate their position – ensuring the focus remains on leadership, Brexit and security. Where Corbyn figures at all on this, the Tories will want to ensure questions about suitability for office and his past associations with the likes of Sinn Fein are foremost. All parties will also focus on motivating their supporters to vote. Some of the polls which have most flattered Labour have relied on extremely generous assumptions around voting turnout – particularly among the young. In 2015, just 43% of 18-24-year-olds went to the polls. If Corbyn is to have a hope of delivering upon the potential the likes of YouGov have suggested he could reach, he needs to succeed in inspiring the young to vote where all his predecessors have failed.