‘They think it’s all over. It is now!’ Tories think Election final whistle has blown

As the election draws closer, one thing is becoming ever clearer, the Conservatives have resigned themselves, not only to defeat, but a big defeat.

I don’t know about England winning the Euros, but the Tories seem to have decided they have lost without ever really taking to the field. As the election draws closer, one thing is becoming ever clearer, the Conservatives have resigned themselves, not only to defeat, but a big defeat.

Grant Shapps set the ball of a bleaker-than-bleak defeat rolling last week when he suggested Labour could win by a “super-majority.”

Then, in response to Reform’s unfunded tax-crunching manifesto launch, a spokesperson for the Conservatives said that a vote for Nigel Farage’s party could put Labour in power for a ‘generation.’

And that was before another devastating poll surfaced showed the Tories are heading for their worst-ever defeat, with a string of senior figures, including Grant Shapps, Penny Mordaunt, Gillian Keegan, Johnny Mercer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, our old friend John Hayes, and even David Cameron, potentially losing their seats. In an astonishing front page on June 20, the Telegraph printed the scale of Tory losses, with a poll for the paper predicting the Tories will slump to just 53 seats.

Super-sub time

But wait… the party has an ace up their sleeve, something NO ONE was expecting, which will rescue them from a generation (15 – 20 years) of political oblivion.

Boris is back!

Seemingly incapable of fighting an election without him, the ex-PM was drafted in to help the crisis-hit party fight Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

First reported by the Telegraph, a long-standing Boris Johnson backer, the former prime minister has been called in to play a more active role in the run-up to July 4, as the party seeks to counter the threat from Reform. Tens of thousands of letters have been reportedly signed by Johnson and are being sent out to voters. A post on X seemed like a nod to voters considering voting for Reform, with the ex-PM warning of handing a ‘super-majority’ to Labour, and “higher taxes, more wokery, kowtowing to Brussels again, and of course more illegal migration.”  

Despite their tense relationship, with Johnson blaming Sunak for his demise as prime minister, Sunak endorsed Johnson’s return. Johnson’s support for the Tories’ general election campaign “will make a difference,” he said.
Oh, hang on, Johnson’s going on another holiday instead!

But no sooner had Johnson’s allies got all excited about his comeback, the Times, which was one of the few right-wing newspapers to have supported Sunak during his leadership battle with Liz Truss, put a dampener on the excitement, by announcing that he was going on another holiday.

According to the Times report, Sunak did not tell Johnson that he was planning a snap election and has not spoken to him for the duration of the campaign. Additionally, allies of Sunak are said to be “concerned that Johnson could prove to be a distraction because of the “media circus” that would surround him if he spent a day on the campaign trail.”

Johnson is expected to go on his second summer holiday within the next few days and is not due back until July 3, the report claims.

Typically indecisive Johnson, causing chaos and confusion, while swanning off on holiday and leaving the Tories facing crises on multiple scales. And that’s when he was in office!

The Tories may live to regret not taking the help though, as, bouncing from one PR catastrophe to another, they certainly need all the support they can muster.

Rocked by sleaze Tories, lose campaign director

And political PR doesn’t come much more disastrous than losing your campaign director more than halfway through a general election campaign. Tony Lee, who is married to Conservative candidate Laura Saunders, was forced to take a leave of absence from the campaign while a probe over bets on the timing of the general election continues. Saunders is also under investigation by the gambling regulator for allegedly betting on the timing of the election.

Braverman bombshells as she tries her hand at viral TikTok trends

Suella Braverman’s bid to win over young voters by trying her hand at viral TikTok trends took the meaning of cringe to a new level. Strutting in sunglasses and casual clothing, the Conservative candidate for Fareham and Waterlooville mimes the words to a recent viral video. A caption then pops up, saying: “Who is going to vote Suella on the 4th July?” The former home secretary proceeds to do something of a catwalk strut, as she’s surrounded by people flaunting ‘Vote Suella Braverman’ banners.

But voters were anything but impressed, with one X user describing it as “possibly one of the most cringeworthy things I have ever seen in my life.”

And Braverman wasn’t the only right-wing politician to humiliate themselves this week.

Ben Habib loses his cool (not that he had any) on Newsnight

Nigel Farage’s deputy Ben Habib appeared rattled on BBC Newsnight on Monday. When live on-air while discussing teaching history in schools, the Reform candidate blasted Victoria Derbyshire’s comments as “garbage” and repeatedly spoke over her. He appeared irritated at multiple points throughout the interview, as Derbyshire tore Reform UK’s manifesto apart.

As with Braverman’s discomforting TikTok antics, the interview was widely mocked online, with one viewer admitting:

“I had to mute this pillock.”

Reform’s manifesto ‘doesn’t add up’

No wonder Habib was rattled when being grilled about a manifesto that has been widely derided by economists as failing to add up.  A series of populist pledges including spending an extra £141bn a year on tax cuts, paid for by £156bn of savings in public spending and an assumption of increased tax revenue from higher economic growth, are part of Farage’s plan to establish a “bridgehead” in parliament with a view to a full assault in five years, culminating in the occupation of No 10 the after the next general election.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank said the plans were based on “extremely optimist assumptions” about growth and the sums “do not add up.” Referring to the manifesto as problematic, the IFS said: “Whilst Reform’s manifesto gives a clear sense of priority, a government could not implement parts of this package or would need to find other ways to help pay for it, which would mean losers not specified.”

Reform plays the schoolboy blame game

Staying with Reform, it emerged last week that nearly one in ten of the party’s candidates have links to fascist leaders. Farage attempted to pin the blame for his party’s failure to prevent candidates from standing who hold extreme views, including one claiming Britain should have remained neutral in the fight against the Nazis, on a vetting company.

Without naming the company, Farage told LBC Radio: “We paid a large sum of money to a well-known vetting company, and they didn’t do the work.

“We have been stitched up politically, and that’s given us problems.”

But many saw through the denying responsibility tactics.

“[A] monumental catastrophe for Reform who complain about inefficient spending but hand over a six-figure sum to vetting company who fails to identify over 40 candidates who are Nazi sympathisers leaving Farage crying foul and Dim Dickie heading to the lawyers,” wrote one bemused X user.

Farage also has live TV meltdown over tax plans

Following Ben Habib’s car crash interview on Newsnight over the party tax plans, Nigel Farage had a similar meltdown on Good Morning Britain over the same subject. Presenter Ed Balls challenged Farage over his party’s tax plans, asking: “Who would gain most from your personal tax proposal? Somebody on the minimum wage, somebody on average earnings, or somebody on £95,000 a year?”

A stumped Farage skirted the answer, claiming people on benefits would benefit the most as it would encourage them to work. Of which Balls interrupted:

“Facts are important here. The person who would benefit most from your personal tax proposal is someone who earns £95,000. They would gain far more than somebody on average earnings, who would gain much more than somebody on the minimum wage. Did you not know that?”

Chris Philp’s policing claims called into question during Channel 4 News debate

Chris Philp, Tory minister for policing was part of the seven-person panel of members of each political party on a live debate on Channel 4 News. Philps claimed that there have been “record numbers” of police officers in England and Wales since 2010. But Channel 4 was running a live fact-checking account during the debate, and host Krishan Guru-Murthy, added, for context, that the broadcaster’s analysis found there are actually fewer officers per head of the population than in 2009.

Tice loses it too!

During the same debate, Reform’s chairman Richard Tice saw red when the discussion moved on to stop and search. Tice argued that police should ‘dramatically increase’ the use of stop and search, which sparked a row with Green co-leader Carla Denyer who said: “Research from the Runnymede Trust has shown that black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped with stop and search.

“The way stop and search works, whether it is intended to be or not, is racist. And the Green Party would stop the routine use of stop and search.”

Tice flew back, saying: “If the Green party gets in, we’re all going to be stabbed and knifed even more. It’s called a deterrent. That is what policing is all about.”

Ed Davey keeps going to great lengths to get noticed  

While most politicians try to avoid gaffes but seem to attract them like flies to manure anyway – particularly in this election – Ed Davey has been doing the exact opposite.

With the aggressive populism of the hard-right Reform to contend, whose leader seems to be given unprecedented airtime, Davey has been forced to resort to some pretty extreme tactics to get noticed. From the offset, he’s been jumping into lakes, careering down hills on bikes, screaming on rollercoasters, making pancakes, and splashing down waterslides, deeming that all press is better than no press. His latest zany exploit was taking part in a wheelbarrow race in Somerset, which he lost to two Yeovil Town councillors.

Such tactics are not without risk, namely, they will put a question mark over whether voters will be able to take the Lib Dems seriously. And the campaign style has attracted mixed reviews. Tanya Gold, a columnist for the London Standard, accused Davey of debasing politics with “infantilism and irresponsibility.”

But recent polls show that the Lib Dems are making gains. In an analysis of seven recent polls, the UK’s polling guru John Curtice noted how the campaigning seems to have made a difference, as well as Reform making gains, the Liberal Democrats, with a 12 percent rating, are also up a couple of points.

Ed Davey might be overdoing his Boris Johnson tribute act but at least he is having fun which is more than can be said for the great British public at large. It is turning into a very strange election in that the elephant in the room is the collapse of public services, pretty well across the board, coupled to a seriously dysfunctional taxation system. The electorate can see the elephant while major politicians resolutely look the other way. Curiouser and curiouser as Alice would say.

Right-Wing Media – Tory newspapers dream up Labour tax scare stories

A raft of policy announcements has not managed to shift the Tories’ fortunes in the polls. As such, the party is going for a different approach – to relentlessly attack Labour’s economic policy, trying to force them to rule out one tax hike after another.

You’d think that after both the Treasury’s most senior civil servant and the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSN) had disputed Rishi Sunak’s claim that Labour would raise household taxes, the media would be a bit more reserved about the party’s tax plans.

Instead, they’ve been hellbent on parroting the line they believe might be the Tories’ salvation from a total election wipeout.

Desperation and dishonesty have plastered the pages of the right-wing press this week. On June 19, the Daily Mail led on Labour and tax, saying the party has a “secret tax rise dossier.” In a so-called ‘exclusive,’ the newspaper managed to dig up a document by the Tribune Group, a centre-left group of Labour MPs, which calls for ‘opportunity and aspiration’ to be placed at the centre of the party’s programme.

According to the Mail’s ‘exclusive,’ the ‘bombshell dossier’ laid out ‘dramatic tax rise’ plans, including six raids to raise £60 billion. These include the newspaper claims, “hiking inheritance and capital gains taxes, imposing a ‘jackpot’ levy on extreme wealth and introducing council tax reforms which could see families’ bills double.”

The conservative meltdown about Labour’s alleged tax plans was triggered after Keir Starmer made comments about not increasing taxes on working people. In a radio interview, the Labour leader described what he meant as working people – those who earn a living, rely on public services, and “don’t really have the ability to write a cheque when they get into trouble.”

Seizing the chance to exploit the comments for political gain, both the Telegraph and the Times quoted Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, as saying Labour’s true plans have been let slip, “to raise taxes across the board.”  The Daily Express, meanwhile, carried a warning from Sunak that Labour will “plunder savers’ accounts within weeks,” if Starmer wins.

On council tax, the Telegraph went further, shouting about Tory claims that Starmer will use a scheme like the one “hatched by Labour in Wales snooping on the size of people’s gardens via satellite for “Big Brother” re-evaluations.

The Welsh government has said it will introduce higher council tax bands and higher tax band rates to address “property wealth” and “rebalance” the current system. In February, the government launched a Consultation on a Fairer Council Tax system in Wales. The consultation explained how the £2.4bn raised from council tax in Wales every year helps raise funds for schools, social care, and other vital services, but the current system is 20 years out of date, and a higher share of tax is charged relatively to households living in lower value properties.

Sounds like a reasonable and logical explanation for reforming council tax in Wales, but Labour has ruled out changing tax bands. When pushed for clarification on Times Radio, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “We’re not changing council tax banding.”

He described the Conservative claims as “more nonsense from an increasingly desperate Tory campaign, probably the most desperate Tory campaign I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

What the Tories and their puppet press seem to be missing in their intense and flawed scrutiny of Labour’s alleged tax plans, is that voters are resigned to tax rises.

Recent polling by Ipsos showed that a majority of voters expect tax rises following the upcoming election, no matter which party wins on July 4. The real issue, of course, is what people mean by tax rises. They understand that decrepit public services require proper funding which means a serious conversation about who pays what and for what. That is precisely the kind of conversation that an infantilised right-wing media prevents politicians from having. Instead, there is the mockery of the sensationalised, agenda-setting headlines of the Tory newspapers. If people didn’t take them seriously before this general election, they are even less likely to after it.

Smear of the Week: Mail’s desperation reaches new heights with Starmer England shirt shun smear

Being just a couple of weeks from a general election, you’d think that the political editors of national newspapers would be fervently discussing candidates’ positions on critical issues like healthcare, education, foreign policy, and so forth. You’d hope they would be rigorously fact-checking campaign policies and statements, to provide transparent and reliable verification.

But no, not our right-wing media. Instead, it is throwing out rumours, falsities, and utter waffle, prioritising sensational headlines, childish smears, and emotional appeal over factual accuracy, at the expense of journalistic integrity.

As depressingly demonstrated by this story in the Daily Mail.

A selfie taken by Angela Rayner of herself, Keir Starmer, and comics Jon Richardson and Matt Forde watching England’s Euros’ debut against Serbia was dissected by James Tapsfield, UK political editor for the Mail, and Arthur Parashar, a news reporter for the paper.

As the authors inform, Rayner, Richardson, and Forde all wore England football shirts, while Starmer, heaven forbid, “donned a plain white t-shirt,” even though “he is known to own one.” (Yes, he was photographed wearing one in 2021, as featured in the article.)

The newspaper’s reasoning as to why the Labour leader wasn’t wearing an England-branded shirt? Because “aides warn it could harm his support in Scotland.”

Granted, Starmer is probably keen to avoid similar humiliation as his opponent Rishi Sunak suffered by asking people in Wales if they were looking forward to the Euros, even though Wales had failed to qualify for the tournament.

But not donning an England shirt through fear of upsetting the Scots is pushing it and is clearly an attempt by the right-wing tabloid to paint Starmer as some kind of unpatriotic coward, who is desperate not to offend Scotland because Labour is “increasingly hopeful of picking up a hatful of seats north of the border – gains which could guarantee Sir Keir the keys to No 10.”

According to the report, the Scots, always a bit suspect in the eyes of the ‘patriotic’ media given their tendency to support independence in large numbers, “could be particularly sensitive at the moment after suffering a 5 – 1 hammering at the hands of Germany on Friday.” (a nice little dig at the Scotland football team!)

The Mail then goes on to describe how Rishi Sunak watched the game without wearing an England shirt too, which kind of diminishes its whole argument about the Labour leader’s reluctance to don England attire.

So pathetic is this non-story that the rest of the article merely talks about England’s win over Serbia and how great a player Jude Bellingham is, which is the only shred of accuracy in the whole story.

Fortunately, Scotland put on a fine display against Switzerland on Wednesday with a 1 – 1 draw. That should have wiped the smirks off the Mail’s editors’ faces.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is author of Election Watch

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