AS we stumble towards the general election, even some of Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are saying the Labour leader is about to fall into that trap in the ground laid by Theresa May.
This morning Len McCluskey has been managing hole-falling expectations by saying that Labour is unlikely to win the election. McCluskey is general secretary of Unite, Corbyn’s biggest union backer and a key political pal. His gloomy prediction rather takes the gloss from Labour’s election manifesto, which yesterday boldly set out spending pledges of £50bn and higher rates of tax for high earners.
McCluskey does not believe Labour will win. You and me both, mate. The only reason Mrs Maybe called this election was because all the signs were that she would win easily. Forgot all that cant about a bigger majority giving her a stronger hand in the Brexit negotiations. Nothing more than a cunning ruse. She wanted this control-freaky election so that she could win big.
That’s politics for you, naturally. A Labour leader with a similarly strong lead in the opinions polls would probably do the same. And it would be just as wrong in that instance, too.
Although this is now a pointless distraction, it is still worth remembering that the Fixed-term Parliament Act – as introduced by David Cameron under the coalition government – was designed to prevent the calling of elections for flaky reasons. There was and is no reason for this general election, other than the fact that Mrs Maybe fancied her chances (after piously droning on for months about how there was no need for a general election).
That fixed-term act was one of the few good things Cameron did – and yet it turned out to be useless.
McCluskey is managing expectations downwards by saying that Labour will be successful if the party keeps 200 seats or so. What would be the party’s worst result since 1935 is being reimagined as a victory – how marvellous. If Labour wins 30 fewer seats than it managed under Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn will have done well.
Sorry, but that’s like me saying that when I lose at squash again tonight, I will have done well under the circumstances. I won’t; I will have lost again
Naturally enough, McCluskey in part blames the hostile media for the impossibility of Corbyn winning. When Corbyn loses, we will hear much more muttering about the villainous media. One glance at my Facebook feed usually reveals assorted examples ‘proving’ that the media, and especially the BBC, is being vile about Jeremy.
Yet when his supporters booed journalists asking questions at his manifesto launch in Bradford, Corybn said that it was important for journalists to be heard and to do their job.
Blaming a hostile media doesn’t really wash – not because it isn’t true, but just because that’s the way it’s always been, and successful Labour leaders find a way through the media thicket.
Jeremy Corbyn seems to be having a good election campaign, and he certainly comes over better on the BBC – stop booing at the back there – than the risk-averse Theresa May, with all her dull slogans and stage-managed gatherings of blue meanies.
But he is still almost certain to lose. And when that happens, talking up his defeat, or endlessly blaming the media, won’t get around the sorry fact that the Corbyn experiment will have failed. Not that his acolytes are likely to accept that for a moment.
Frankly, I’ll be glad when it’s all over and I can flick the political switch to off for a while.