Are Labour fighting back

Making the impossible, possible: Are Labour fighting back?

Monday’s tragic events in Manchester placed the election campaign sharply in perspective. Rightly, campaigning was suspended as a mark of respect and so that politicians could focus on security concerns.

This morning the campaign re-started, with a speech by Jeremy Corbyn in which he said that future UK foreign policy must not exacerbate the terror threat to the UK. It’s an interesting, perhaps risky, line to take in the aftermath of the attack in Manchester; particularly as for once in this campaign, it may be Corbyn, rather than Theresa May, who has something to lose.

After last week’s Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifesto launches, are Labour fighting back?

Since the Conservatives launched their manifesto last Thursday, laying out five ‘great challenges’ facing the UK, one serious challenge has emerged to Theresa May’s campaign: social care.

Last weekend, plans for a new £100,000 cap on social care, which for the first time would include the value of a person’s home, were quickly branded a ‘dementia tax’ by political opponents. On Monday the Prime Minister was forced to announce that there would in fact be an absolute limit on the amount a person would be required to pay for care, and proposals would go out for consultation. The announcement was dubbed a U-turn and May was visibly unsettled when receiving some searching questions from the press at the launch of the Conservatives’ Welsh manifesto. This reversal on a central manifesto pledge appears to be without precedent.

For a campaign based on ‘strong and stable leadership’, it’s a blow that the Conservatives could have done without.

And there appears to have been an impact. Polling in the last week shows the gap between the Tories and Labour narrowing to single digits (9 points; down from 18 one week earlier) for the first time during the campaign. In a YouGov poll last night, the Tory lead was just five points.

The same polling threw some light on reasons for the change. According to Survation, 50% of respondents opposed the Conservatives’ social care proposals, while less than 25% disliked Labour’s plans to increase income tax for those on more than £80,000 a year.

This of course is providing a boost to Jeremy Corbyn, whose focus appears to be on galvanising existing supporters. His campaign visits have tended to be in Labour heartland seats and the manifesto was a rallying call to party loyalists, with higher taxes for the wealthiest, more public spending and nationalisation of key industries. All this would appear to be with a view to maintaining his leadership after the election, should Labour lose. It’s already been suggested that if Corbyn were to match Ed Miliband’s share of the vote in 2015 (30.4%), he would claim to have a mandate to continue as leader.

While the polls clearly reveal Labour to be the big winners from the last week, the Liberal Democrats have enjoyed no such bounce since their manifesto was published last Wednesday. Centred on opposition to Brexit, it does not seem to have resonated with voters in the way the party hoped, with poll ratings flatlining around the 8% mark, where they’ve been for several weeks.

With just under two weeks still to go until polling day, the Lib Dems will not be panicking, and there are still plenty of opportunities for the Lib Dem’s, and the other parties’, fortunes to rise and fall. But significantly, while the Conservatives are still on course for a substantial majority, the gradual turn around revealed by recent polls will provide a boost to Labour activists knocking on doors across the country.

For them, perhaps, the impossible no longer seems quite so impossible.

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