Tory leaflet accuses government of committing a “saga of atrocities”

Conservatives forced to withdraw opportunistic leaflet targeted at Muslim voters.

The Tories have been left red-faced this morning after being forced to withdraw a leaflet, targeted at Muslim voters, which claims that the British government is responsible for a "whole saga of atrocities" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In language reminiscent of George Galloway's Respect, the leaflet, distributed in Jack Straw's Blackburn constituency, also launches a crude and opportunistic attack on the Justice Secretary over his remarks on the veil.

It claims:

We should not forget that to day [sic] they are criticising our women's veil, tomorrow it will be our caps and our beards they will attack. What shall we do then? It is time to think before you vote.

The leaflet is perhaps most noteworthy for not making a single positive policy suggestion. Has David Cameron pledged to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan? Did the Tories do anything to prevent Israel's "inhuman killing" of men, women and children in Gaza? If the leaflet is intended to present the Tories as an anti-war party, it makes little sense.

If, however, it is simply intended to whip up tensions in the Muslim community in an attempt to "decapitate" Straw, then it makes perfect sense. This is electioneering of the most grubbby and cynical kind.

Were a Labour leaflet to suggest that British troops were responsible for a "saga of atrocities", it's not hard to imagine how the right-wing press would react. The Sun, for instance, would run a front-page splash accusing Labour of a grave insult to "our boys".

But can we expect to see such headlines tomorrow morning? Funnily enough, if I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath.

UPDATE: A Conservative spokesman has emailed me to say: "We completely disown this unauthorised leaflet. It does not represent the party or the candidate in Blackburn."

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why the Tories' falling poll lead is believable

Jeremy Corbyn has fought a good campaign, while Theresa May's has been a series of duff notes.

Taxi for Theresa May? The first poll since the Manchester bombing is out and it makes for grim reading in CCHQ.

The numbers that matter: the Conservatives are on 43%, Labour on 38%, the Liberal Democrats are on 10%, while Ukip are way down on 4%. On a uniform swing, far from strengthening her hand, the PM would be back in office with a majority of just two.

Frankly a PM who has left so many big hitters in her own party out in the cold is not going to last very long if that result is borne out on 8 June. But is it right?

The usual caveats apply - it's just one poll, you'd expect Labour to underperform its poll rating at this point, a danger that is heightened because much of the party's surge is from previous non-voters who are now saying they will vote for Jeremy Corbyn. There's a but coming, and it's a big one: the numbers make a lot of sense.

Jeremy Corbyn has fought a good campaign and he's unveiled a series of crowd-pleasing policies. The photographs and clips of him on the campaign trail look good and the party's messaging has been well-honed for television and radio. And that's being seen in the Labour leader's popularity ratings, which have risen throughout the campaign.

Theresa May's campaign, however, has been a series of duff notes that could have been almost designed to scare off voters. There was the biggie that was the social care blunder, of course. But don't underestimate the impact that May's very public support for bringing back fox-hunting had on socially liberal Conservative considerers, or the impact that going soft on banning the sale of ivory has in a nation of animal-lovers. Her biography and style might make her more appealing to floating voters than David Cameron's did, but she has none of his instinctive sense of what it is that people dislike about the Tory party - and as a result much of her message has been a series of signals to floating voters that the Tory party isn't for them.

Add that to the fact that wages are falling - no governing party has ever increased its strength in the Commons in a year when that has been the case - and the deterioration of the public realm, and the question becomes: why wouldn't Labour be pulling into contention?

At the start of the campaign, the Conservatives thought that they had two insurance policies: the first was Jeremy Corbyn, and the second was May's purple firewall: the padding of her lead with voters who backed Ukip in 2015 but supported the Conservatives in the local elections. You wouldn't bet that the first of those policies hadn't been mis-sold at this point. Much now hinges on the viability of the second.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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