It's started

The Labour fightback begins

A week is a long time in polling coverage, especially at the Guardian/Observer.

First, the Guardian -- which, along with the Sun, has declared that Labour cannot win under Gordon Brown -- managed rather awkwardly to present a poll showing a two-point fall for the Tories and a two-point bounce for Labour as a triumph for David Cameron.

Then, only days later, a poll in the Observer (carried out at the same time as the Guardian poll and published yesterday) showed that Labour has closed the gap to only 6 points, with 31 per cent against the Tories' 37.

It is the poll Gordon Brown has been waiting for.

Suddenly, and belatedly as usual, it has become the conventional wisdom to talk of a hung parliament. Now, some of us have been arguing for months that this is likely. My colleague Mehdi Hasan and I went into it in some detail back in June, when Mehdi was, if anything, surer. (I thought then and -- shock horror -- still think now, that a small overall majority for Labour is the most likely outcome.)

Indeed, yesterday's poll and the apparent trend reminded me that, after I dared to suggest in my New Year predictions (some wrong, some right), that the two main parties' positions in the polls would switch by the end of this year, Iain Dale, the amiable and popular partisan Conservative blogger, reacted with "cackling laughter" and said: "In your dreams, sunshine."

In fact, private polling commissioned by No 10 is today showing just that.

UPDATE: The right-wing blogosphere, often loose with the facts, is once again misinterpreting what I said. I did not say there is polling showing that Labour is now "ahead". I said, and you can see it above, that private polling is showing a trend that will show a reversal of the parties' fortunes by the end of the year. OK? I hope this is clear to those who cannot see the difference between the journalistic view that Labour could still win -- a view apparently shared by David Cameron, incidentally -- and supposed Labour "spin".

 

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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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