According to several pundits, the Leave vote in 2016 would precipitate a realignment in UK Politics. Whilst Brexit has dominated the political discourse ever since, the main parties remain intact and the voters are faced with the same choices they faced before the referendum.
The first National Assembly of the Renew Party may herald the beginning of a challenge to that status quo. The event taking place in Westminster today welcomed around 200 activists who gathered to discuss ideas and plan the disruption of the status quo, with the primary goal of pushing a second referendum. Party co-leader Annabel Mullin revealed that the party already has around 120 candidates in place to fight the next election with that number expected to rise significantly. “We are planning for elections… local, regional and national,” Mullin confirmed.
Whilst the party is still small, the resounding applause for every single speaker, indicates that The Renew Party may well be the most unified party in the country.
Two polls appeared yesterday (Sunday 21 May) which halved the Tory lead and took it down to single digits. Whilst it’s still a big margin, it’s the first time since the PM called a snap general election the polls have suggested anything other than a Conservative landslide.
Many people have suggested that the big blue lead has not just been an opportunity to get a hard Brexit mandate but it was a chance to get a blank cheque on a series of potentially unpopular policies. The Conservative Manifesto unveiled last week did little to quash that theory. Centre stage was a policy that was quickly dubbed the Dementia Tax. Those needing care in old age would have to pay if they had assets, including their home, that totalled £100k or more.
Today Theresa May said “nothing’s changed” whilst making an extraordinary U-turn. The PM announced the Conservatives would pledge to introduce a cap on lifetime care costs as she launched the Welsh Conservatives’ manifesto, in Wrexham.
But Ms May refused to admit she had performed a U-turn whilst announcing a “consultation will include an absolute limit on the amount that people have to pay for their care costs.”
Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s election co-ordinator, called the PM “weak and unstable”, adding: “She is unable to stick to her own manifesto for more than four days.
The Lib Dems launched their 2017 general election manifesto today with the title: Change Britain’s Future.
Brexit is the top issue. The LibDems are committing to a 2nd referendum on the Brexit deal, with the choice to reject the deal and remain in Europe.
There is also a promise to invest £7bn in schools and colleges and help for young people to buy their first home for the same cost as renting. They are pledging an £6bn a year for the NHS paid for by raising income tax rates by 1p, with £1bn of that money ring-fenced for mental health care.
Tim Farron the Lib Dem leader says “Theresa May and Nigel Farage have put our country on a perilous path, towards a bad Brexit deal and weaker public services. This election is your chance, your choice, to change the country’s direction. Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has a famously testy relationship with the BBC. Events earlier today won’t have improved things when the Corbyn’s car ran over the foot of BBC Cameraman Giles Wooltorton.
Corbyn was arriving to discuss the Labour manifesto when his driver applied the break. Laura Kuenssberg, who has a reputation for backing the Labour leader into a corner, rushed to the aide of her colleague. She was no doubt planning to ask Corbyn if he accepted that Theresa May was a ‘shoe-in’ on June 8.
Critics of the leader of the opposition were quick to put the boot in on-line. Labour will no doubt be issuing a statement later to heal the wounds. Cameraman Giles was taken to hospital where he is said to be strong and stable.
The front pages and the broadcast bulletins have been awash with news of the leaked Labour election manifesto. It wasn’t leaked to just one news organisation it went to all of them. It was also leaked in a way designed to make the morning bulletins and the national press. You need media skills for that.
The blame has been levelled at disgruntled Labour party staff who have remained unhappy with Jeremy Corbyn. It had to come from near the centre because not many people had access to the draft. There was a Clause V meeting scheduled for 10am today to discuss the launch of the document in a week’s time. It’s a meeting attended by the party’s most senior figures, including the deputy leader, Tom Watson and all of the shadow cabinet. They are joined by the Labour NEC and selected MPs, trade unionists and some councillors. It’s said that all those attending would receive a draft at the meeting, so many or most won’t even have seen it.
Yesterday Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell revealed a platform policy to scrap university tuition fees. The Shadow Education Secretary also hinted at the initiative. Interesting timing in retrospect.
The leak has gained more media coverage than a conventional launch. Labour’s election chair Andrew Gwynne (pictured) just happened to be in the BBC Radio 4 Today studio for an 8am interview. During the interview the Manchester based politician pleaded that the 10am Clause V meeting was “the sole reason why I’m down in London”. I’d have booked a later train.