The election campaign began in earnest this week and based on the campaign so far you would be forgiven for thinking we were being asked to elect President May, rather than choose between the various political parties. Whilst from Labour we have seen many figures showing their faces – Corbyn, Thornberry, McDonnell, Healey – from the Tories you can have any shade of politician as long as they’re called Theresa May. The Chancellor (Philip Hammond, in case you’ve forgotten – easily done) is nowhere to be seen, whilst Home Secretary Amber Rudd is equally invisible. Boris Johnson was allowed out once, but given the mess he made of attacking Jeremy Corbyn, we wouldn’t be surprised if he was back in his box for a while now.
But this is no accident, and probably not a mistake either. The key message is leadership, and they are inviting the electorate to choose between a woman who the public view as strong, versus a Labour leader whose most recent position of responsibility involved Chairing the Planning Committee on Islington Council in the 1970s. From the doorstep, both Labour and Tory politicians report very strong feedback for Mrs May, leaving Labour to try to emphasise the wider Party and policy platforms. A tough ask at the best of times, and near-impossible when you’re already trailing 20 points in the polls.
If Labour need a miracle to avert a heavy defeat on 8 June, the first ten days of the campaign have offered little to suggest it is on the way. The Tory campaign has been policy and personality light, and – to be frank – quite boring. But when you have the lead they have, boring will do just fine. The Labour campaign has been richer in policy – with ideas ranging from new bank holidays to a new Ministry for Housing – but with nothing that has really cut through. And nothing which addresses their fundamental lack of credibility on economic stewardship, competence and leadership.
In each election campaign the trailing party is desperately hoping for a game-changing moment, whilst the truth is they seldom ever come. Labour need one, and they need it fast.