The Conservatives’ refusal to give journalists access to senior politicians and policy makers bodes ill for our politics – whichever side of the EU Referendum debate you were on
I woke up to this tweet from Gaby Hinsliff
As expected, Team May’s control freak tendencies+ruthlessly minimalist Lynton Crosby approach=most hermetically sealed election ever. https://t.co/ngsr5BHJFl
— Gaby Hinsliff (@gabyhinsliff) April 20, 2017
…followed by this from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
First heckling of the campaign at this event – let’s hope it doesn’t become a feature of this election when reporters are doing their jobs
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) April 20, 2017
…followed by this extraordinary exchange with Adam Boulton being taken to task by former Mayor of Cambridge, Barry Gardiner of Labour.
…finished off by a Conservative no-show on a flagship national news programme.
Tonight on #c4news one of the topics Theresa May doesn’t want this election to be about : the NHS. No Health Minister available
— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) April 20, 2017
That’s to say nothing of the rightwing tabloid press with one headline inciting fascism
— Al Murray the318 (@almurray) April 18, 2017
…and then telling everyone to calm down, clarifying that it wasn’t calling for mass killings…which is nice to know.
Compare the stage-managed politics to what John Major was doing in the early 1990s
So it looks like…
- The Conservative top brass will sit back and let the print media do their campaigning for them…
- …while giving the broadcast media nothing but the Labour campaign to focus on – hoping that Corbyn and co will be given enough media rope to metaphorically and politically hang themselves on (and with Seumas Milne running the operation, the chances of that are raised given his record of media relations since Corbyn came in – see Paul Waugh here)
- …and hoping that the Liberal Democrats are still too small and financially stretched to have any impact on the final result, despite their recent spikes in membership – including…
Over 5,000 new Lib Dem members yesterday, more than 50 of them in Cambridge. Join us! https://t.co/NCDkbyYPTm
— Phil Rodgers (@PhilRodgers) April 19, 2017
…an additional 50 in Cambridge according to Cambridge blogger and Lib Dem, Phil Rodgers.
Daniel Zeichner vs Julian Huppert – the rematch in Cambridge
This will be a fascinating rematch between two of Cambridge’s most high profile politicians of recent times. This was my take just before the election in 2015.
In the end, Mr Zeichner edged out Dr Huppert – the latter being the incumbent – by 599 votes. The Greens historically got their highest share of the vote in the city’s history – 7.9%, while the Conservatives got their lowest in their history – 15.7%, shortly after which they were to lose their only seat on Cambridge City Council. An incredibly long fall from the 1980s when the Conservatives controlled the City Council and held the parliamentary seat with the historian Robert Rhodes James.
Cambridge Universities Labour Club played a huge role in getting Mr Zeichner elected. The cynic in me says that the Conservatives chose 08 June as the polling day because so many young people will be slap bang in the middle of exams. Thus the ability for anyone doing A-levels or university exams will be extremely curtailed campaigning-wise because they’ll be revising. Or potentially putting their future careers at risk if they campaign at the expense of revising. A horrible, horrible decision by those in power to put young people in such a position. It only goes to reinforce the view that the political establishment views young people with contempt.
The bookies predict Lib Dems, but don’t underestimate Labour’s deep community roots
Social media chatter alone indicates a surge of support for Julian Huppert as an individual, one not matched by Daniel Zeichner. But as I commented in 2015, the election campaigns here was very much Brand Julian vs Labour Steamroller. Despite the problems Mr Corbyn has faced, I don’t get the sense that the Cambridge Labour Party has been significantly damaged by it. They have too many councillors and activists who have been active across the city over an extended period of time for them to be dislodged easily in a single general election. Furthermore, for those on Labour’s left wing, this is their moment: Their leader of choice with their manifesto of choice are now going to the polls. Time to get out of the doors and campaign, because another chance like this for them may not come around for another generation.
In one sense, Labour has a slight advantage in that their team is already large, trained and functioning. The Liberal Democrats have, like The Greens last time around, taken on a huge number of new members, many of whom will not have been through such a campaign/will be new to party politics, so will take time to train up. That said, in terms of numbers of campaigners and morale of the campaigns, both parties are in very different places compared to 2015. Mr Zeichner inevitably has to respond to criticism of his leader’s performance in the EU Referendum, while Dr Huppert is no longer burdened by responsibilities of his party in government, while at the same time knowing that his party is going into this election on the back of an impressive run of victories in local council by-elections across the country.
Return of some experienced hands?
We saw a number of announcements of former MPs restanding, the most high profile being former Business Secretary Vince Cable announcing his candidature in Twickenham.
I plan to lead fight back to recapture Twickenham for Lib Dems. Brexit. Heathrow. School cuts. Social care. Plenty to campaign on.
— Vince Cable (@vincecable) April 18, 2017
There are a host of former Lib Dem MPs re-standing – see Mark Pack’s post here. In a “Puffles knew them before they were famous!” spirit, I’ll be keeping an eye on Kelly-Marie Blundell (Lewes) and Daisy Benson (Yeovil) who stuck with the Lib Dems through some very dark times to land the chances to regain seats previously held by Lib Dem MPs in areas seen as their party’s heartlands.
I was delighted to read of Jo Swinson’s intention to stand for election in her former constituency.
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) April 19, 2017
I interviewed her when she visited Cambridge. Here’s her message on getting involved in politics.
One of the nicest people in politics, as a former minister, should she be re-elected she’ll be a huge asset to the Liberal Democrats, to the House of Commons, and to the cause of women in politics generally.
I was also glad to see Heidi Allen announcing her intention to re-stand too, as well as Stella Creasy.
“For Remain-leaning people, what’s the best outcome?”
Professor Mary Beard asked this question earlier in this blogpost.
So I’m not hoping for Labour landslide in June, but what’s best the election might bring? https://t.co/J5WK0HwC4j No patronising us, please!
— mary beard (@wmarybeard) April 20, 2017
She ends on this:
“So lets trust us citizens to have some serious, informed, technical discussions beyond the slogans of ‘taking back control’, or ‘making Britain great again’ — or patting us on the head.”
The problem is that the print media at least, don’t seem to trust the citizens. The same seems to be the case for too many of the party handlers. Hence why for me, the Democracy Club’s Who Can I Vote For? site becomes more important – along with civic society institutions that are organising public debates in constituencies. For me it’s even more important that these are filmed – even if it’s just the opening statements from candidates. That way local people can see and hear the candidates in their own voices and judge accordingly. It’s why I filmed one hustings in Queen Edith’s for the Cambridgeshire County Council elections earlier, and will be doing the same the day after in Petersfield for the same elections.
They say freedom isn’t free and that democracy is not a spectator sport. With my filming of local hustings, I hope that as many of you as possible can see and hear the candidates standing for election in their own voices. If you can afford to contribute to my costs of filming and editing, I would be most grateful. Please click on the button below.