“We won the campaign,” says Gove. “Er, no,” says everybody else

Shadow schools minister struggles with his sums.

An odd claim from Michael Gove, the Tory shadow schools minister, on the Today programme this morning. In an interview with Evan Davis (starts around 00:45:00) he declares:

We won the campaign. We ended up with a higher share of the vote at the end of the campaign than we did at the beginning of it.

Er, no actually, Michael. Here are the polls that came out either on the day Gordon Brown went to the Queen or, more generously perhaps, the day before:

 

Harris/Metro (6 April)

  • Con 37
  • Lab 28
  • Lib Dem 20
  • Others 9

YouGov/Sun (6 April)

  • Con 40
  • Lab 32
  • Lib Dem 17
  • Others 8

YouGov/Sun (5 April)

  • Con 41
  • Lab 31
  • Lib Dem 18
  • Others 10

Opinium/Express (5 April)

  • Con 39
  • Lab 29
  • Lib Dem 17
  • Others 10

Now let's compare those results, which give an average Tory share of the vote of 39.3 per cent, with the actual share with 23 seats still to come:

  • Con 36.1
  • Lab 29.2
  • Lib Dems 22.9

Somewhere along the way, the Tories lost just over 3 per cent of the vote share, this when the party was supposed to be "sealing the deal".

The reality is that neither the Tories nor Labour won the campaign. And, although it won't feel like it right now to Nick Clegg and co, if anyone made progress in the past four weeks it was the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems were averaging 18 per cent a month ago and, when all the votes are counted, they are likely to get around 23 per cent of the vote share. Never has such progress felt so disappointing.

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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