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General election: Labour and the Tories have everything to play for in the final 72 hours

BayRadio | December 10, 2019

Three days to go and this election race is Boris Johnson’s to lose.

His task in the final days of campaigning is to consolidate the voter base he’s managed to build with his “Get Brexit Done” message.

Jeremy Corbyn has to try to close the stubborn gap between the two parties by trying to convince voters that this election is about the bread and butter issues too – living standards, wages, the NHS.

We have had five weeks of intense campaigning and yet nothing much has really changed in the Conservative-Labour run-off.

Mr Johnson still has, on average, a 10-point lead in the polls, which is where he started at the beginning of the campaign.

The Conservatives have gained ground at the expense of the Brexit Party while Labour has taken share from the Lib Dems.

But – in contrast to the closing stages of the 2017 election that produced the shock hung parliament outcome – there hasn’t been consistent tightening in the polls, nor has Mr Corbyn enjoyed the uptick in his personal ratings that confounded his critics in the last snap election.

There has been a bitter culture war around Brexit in the past couple of years – and that has hardened Brexit identities, while diluting party ones.

In 2017, Labour won the campaign but lost the election, this time around, the Tories’ safety-first operation has insulated the prime minister from risks – and gaffes.

Mr Johnson’s simple and much-repeated promise to “Get Brexit Done” has resonated with a public frustrated by the paralysis that has dominated the past two-and-a-half years of British politics – and the Conservative team has been successful in shifting the blame away from themselves onto parliament.

Team Johnson has consolidated the Vote Leave base, with 70% of those who back leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum prepared to support Mr Johnson in this election – “lending” him their vote if necessary for what he has tried to frame as a single-issue election campaign.

What he is actually trying to do is finish the job Theresa May began back in 2017 when she too sought to win over Labour marginal seats across the Midlands, North Wales and pockets of the North on the back of her pledge to deliver Brexit.

A few of these seats shifted to the Conservatives in the last election – Middlesbrough South, East Cleveland, Mansfield – while the majority stayed red, but only just: seats like Ashfield, Bolsover, Dudley North, Great Grimsby, Workington, seeing big swings to the Tories.

Mr Johnson hopes he will take them this time around.

The red wall, which stretches from the Vale of Clywd in North Wales through to Great Grimsby in Humberside is wobbling.

One Labour candidate trying to defend their seat told me last week that it was “very tough” on the doorstep.

“The Get Brexit Done message is very strong. My rebuttal is that you’ll get five years of Tory government if you vote for their Brexit,” they said.

And that is the message the Labour machine will try to churn out on the doorstep as it concentrates its resources and activists in those red wall seats – particularly in the Midlands – which are under real threat.

Mr Corbyn will be trying to convince voters that backing Mr Johnson’s Brexit comes with a price tag of putting the NHS and living standards at risk.

Back to the bread and butter issues of who will leave you better off and put more money in your pockets.

Such little time for Labour to shift the dial, but there are still unknowns in this race. Tactical voting is one of them.

Mr Johnson’s success is predicated on consolidating the Vote Leave base while remain support has split between Labour and the Lib Dems.

But this weekend saw a push from a cross-party alliance of opposition politicians to try to encourage tactical voting to deprive Mr Johnson of his majority.

The Conservative campaign will be hoping very much that this doesn’t cut through.

And there are also the 13% of the population who are still undecideds, according to YouGov. Who they break for could be critical.

“If the pattern of the 2017 campaign is repeated, then undecided voters (who are more likely to be women) will tend to break for Labour,” said Sky News election analyst Professor Will Jennings.

So, for both sides there is everything to play for as we enter the final three days. Expect 72 hours of non-stop campaigning from both leaders.Mr Corbyn knows that if Labour goes backwards from 2017, he will have to stand down.

Mr Johnson knows that if he doesn’t win a working majority his ability to govern is near impossible – the Conservative leader doesn’t have any allies amongst rival parties, so a tie-up like Mrs May with the DUP this time around doesn’t look viable.

And if Mr Johnson does win a working majority, what will come next?

“Get Brexit Done” is such a seductive phrase for a nation that is fed up of the parliamentary discord, the gridlock and the division.

Mr Johnson is promising voters a panacea in which Brexit falls off the news agenda and the British government can get back to the day job of running the country and paying attention to domestic issues once more.

The reality will be rather different.

Getting Brexit done isn’t a three-word slogan, it’s a complicated and painstaking trade deal that must be done at breakneck speed for Mr Johnson to fulfil his promise to get Brexit deal done by Christmas 2020.

Brace for more Brexit wars – and perhaps broken promises, whatever the result on Friday.

Written by BayRadio

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