“If they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
Margaret Thatcher didn’t say many things that are worth quoting, but she was dead right on that count. You only have to look at this general election campaign.
The Tories have absolutely nothing positive to say – all they do is launch personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.
Their campaign from the start has been all about Theresa May v Jeremy Corbyn as they clearly believed the polls that told them she was far more popular than him.
You’d think by now that everyone would be treating opinion polls a little more sceptically. You might even think that Tory strategists would have realised that those approval/disapproval figures were based on an extended honeymoon period of inactivity on the one side and two years of constant media attacks on the other.
You didn’t have to be a political genius to realise that those numbers would start to shift once both party leaders were given a chance to put themselves in front of the voters. And they have shifted. Elections expert Sir David Butler said: “The movement in the polls over this campaign is bigger than in any election I’ve covered since 1945.”
Have the Tories miscalculated by making the election all about their “strong and stable” leader?
We hear that they are now fighting among themselves over the direction of their campaign, but one thing seems pretty sure:
They are not going to start fighting more cleanly.
There is certainly little sign of their negative, abusive campaigning being toned down.
We have had several Tory “heavyweights”, including Amber Rudd, Michael Fallon and Boris Johnson, queuing up to suggest we can expect more terror attacks like the Manchester atrocity if Corbyn becomes prime minister. That is a disgraceful thing to suggest – and also a bit rich, considering the bombing took place on THEIR watch after THEY slashed the numbers of police, of armed officers, and of sniffer dogs and their handlers.
May lied openly and deliberately about what Corbyn said in his speech when she gave a press conference at the G7 summit. Is that an appropriate thing for a British prime minister to do?
We hear constantly too of Corbyn’s alleged support for terrorists around the world, especially in Ireland and Palestine, despite his constant patient denials.
And that is the interesting thing. Whatever is thrown at him, Corbyn remains patient and courteous.
It has been suggested that he could easily have sued for libel, as many of the claims about him are outright lies, though of course his opponents know perfectly well that a politician is unlikely to seek legal redress during an election campaign.
More probably, he could have defended himself by slinging the mud back – and there are plenty of issues he COULD have used if he wanted to get personal with his accusers. But he hasn’t.
He decided early on that he wasn’t going to go down that route, which is admirable, though it can of course be frustrating for those of us who support him.
Now, however, it appears to be paying dividends. His personal approval ratings are growing as May’s plummet, and Labour is closing in on the Tories in a way that few “experts” predicted.
Some voters, of course, will never see past the smokescreen thrown up by the papers they read, but many are now realising that Corbyn is a man of principle with a positive message to spread.
They see a man who is determined to change the views of those who say: “Politicians are all the same.” A man who is enthusing young voters – among whom Labour now hold a 57-point lead – with his refreshing approach to politics.
Everywhere he goes, he attracts huge crowds – while May continues to hide away.
Some feared that his speech after the Manchester bombing would be seen as opportunistic, and inevitably it drew further abuse from the Tories and their attack dogs in the media. It was a gamble, but because people could see that this was a long-held view and not a sudden change of heart in response to the atrocity, it seems that abuse has not hurt him.
I am going to quote Thatcher again here.
She once said: “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”
Corbyn has been honest and consistent over his three decades in Parliament and has rarely compromised. It hasn’t always made him popular, but maybe his time for that has now come.
Because here is another thing he might have said – though again it was actually said by Thatcher:
“I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil and I believe that, in the end, good will triumph.”
The Tories have been running an evil campaign of lies, slander and innuendo.
We can only hope that Corbyn’s campaign of honesty and positivity – a powerful force for good – will triumph on June 8.