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8 November 2019

Boris Johnson might be winning and I am very, very scared

Oh god, oh god, oh god, anyway here’s Evening Call.

By Jonn Elledge

So, that was week one. Senior Tories appeared on the radio to say the sort of things that’d look unrealistically heartless if cackled out by a panto villain. Labour lost its deputy leader, was attacked by its own MPs, and was the subject of a front page splash in Britain’s leading Jewish newspaper begging the non-Jewish community not to vote for it. Both parties have been forced to stand down some of their more abysmal candidates while they still have the chance. In summary, those of us who were dreading the thought of an election have had their worst fears confirmed, while those of us who were quite excited about it have run slap-bang into actual, awful reality.

On which note, let’s talk about the polls.

Earlier today YouGov released a regional breakdown, which makes absolutely terrifying reading for the Labour Party and, to be frank, anybody else who was hoping this election might go badly for Boris Johnson. In the north east, Labour is polling at 32 per cent, some 23 points down from its 2017 result. The Tories are also down, of course – but only by 6 points to 26. So, on balance: good news for the Tories.

It’s a similar story elsewhere. In the north west, the Tories are down 3, to 33; but Labour is down 25 to 30. In Yorkshire Labour are down 20 to 29; the Tories are down just 7, to 34. And on it goes, everywhere you look: the Tories are losing ground, but Labour is losing more.

Those votes are going, unsurprisingly, to the Lib Dems, the Brexit Party and, to a far lesser extent, the Greens. You wouldn’t call the polls great for the government. But they’re far, far worse for the opposition.

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Necessary caveats apply. This is one poll, from a pollster that tends to have a slight Tory lean. The same sort of poll at the same point in the 2017 campaign looked terrible then, too. The fieldwork was all done in the last week of October, since when Labour’s polling has improved. And a lot can change during the campaign.

If you need more reassurance than that (and frankly, you should), check out the chat the NS politics team held this afternoon, in which they pointed to a couple of other things that suggest the Tories shouldn’t get too confident quite yet. For one, they discussed their travels around the country, and noted that it doesn’t feel like the Conservatives are making the breakthrough they’d need in the Midlands.

For another, Stephen explained why he thinks Johnson is “absolutely crackers” for agreeing to head-to-head TV debates with Jeremy Corbyn. The latter “has done literally hundreds of these, enjoys them, [and] is good at this format”. Johnson, by contrast, “stunk out the joint in both debates he did in the Tory leadership”. So far, though, CCHQ are ignoring Stephen’s sage advice, and this afternoon the BBC announced another head to head debate between the two leaders.

At any rate: while it’s been a ghastly week for both campaigns, you’d probably rather be the Conservatives than Labour right now.

And there are 34 days more of this to go.

Oh god.

Good day for…

Getting out of the office, as I trotted up to Seven Sisters in north London to record an episode of my podcast Skylines with the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor Siobhan Benita. She chose Seven Sisters because it’s the ground zero of London’s gentrification problems, and the local Latin American market, which occupies a building owned by TfL, is under threat from developers and is falling apart from neglect. (Anoosh wrote a great piece on the place last February.)

My main conclusion about Benita, incidentally: even though she’s currently coming fourth, she seems genuinely to think that, helped by a decent Lib Dem showing in the general election, she could actually win. We shall see. The podcast, the first in a series in which I go for walks with mayoral candidates, will be out over the next few weeks.

Bad day for…

Cultural awareness, after news emerged that Gideon Bull, a Haringey councillor and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Clacton, had described someone as “shylock” in a room where a Jewish councillor was present. Bull said he didn’t know that the Shakespearean money-lender was Jewish. Okay. Anyway, he’s standing down.

Everybody’s talking about…

Shit-posting, and how the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg went on TV last night to explain what it means, in the process demonstrating that she doesn’t actually know. Wags on Twitter suggested that she was simply repeating a definition given to her by someone working for the Conservative Party.

If you want to know what it actually means, check out this piece from Sarah.

Everybody should be talking about…

The unpredictable and newly engaged people who could swing the election: the 2.7 million low-income swing voters, among whom turnout has recently increased. Anoosh explains more here.

Quote of the day

“Okay, boomer.”

The 25-year-old New Zealand MP Chlöe Swarbrick, dismissing another MP’s heckling while speaking in favour of the country’s Zero Carbon Bill.

Good to see memes finally getting the political attention they deserve. First MP to get “shitposting” into Hansard wins a banana.


Questions? Comments? Abuse? Tell me.

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