The British election takes place on December 12th and most polls show the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn trailing Boris Johnson’s Tories. In fact, the most recent poll shows the Tories with an 18 point lead. But things could change dramatically over the next few hours as Johnson and Corbyn debate each other on television. CNN reports that going into the debate with the lead means the pressure will be on Johnson:
For the Prime Minister, who enjoys a lead in opinion polls and is preparing to hammer home his well-worn Brexit message, tonight’s debate represents both a chance to land a knockout blow — as his boxing ring photo op earlier today not-so-subtly reminded us.
But there’s great risk too: with Johnson heading into the debate as the favourite, with higher expectations and more room to disappoint, the event presents the very clear danger of a slip-up that could change the narrative of the campaign…
Tonight, he’ll have to defend his inability to deliver on his signature pledge as Prime Minister — securing Brexit on October 31…
If he can avoid disaster, though, he’ll clear a major hurdle in his bid to return to Downing Street.
Meanwhile, one reason Corbyn is trailing is that he continues to create controversy. Yesterday he defended his plans to nationalize sectors of the UK economy saying “It’s the norm in European countries.” Cobyn wants to nationalize parts of British Telecom in order to offer free broadband to the entire country. Corbyn also wants to nationalize rail and bus operations and the Royal Mail (see below). He claims he doesn’t have plans to go beyond that but doesn’t quite rule it out either. Yesterday, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industries warned Labour’s policies could “crack the foundations” of the economy:
Confederation of British Industry director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said December’s election is an “extraordinary” one for business, hailing 2020 as the most important year in a generation due to recent uncertainty over Brexit…
Dame Carolyn, speaking ahead of the CBI annual conference, was asked if Mr Corbyn was a “friend to business”, said: “We look at the policies on the table and we have real concerns that they are going to crack the foundations of our economy.”…
Referring to “bolt from the blue” nationalisation plans, specifically with BT, she said: “That will freeze investment. I have talked to businesses who are already sitting there thinking ‘maybe we’re next’.
The election there sounds a bit like the one here. In both cases you have socialists promising free services for votes and scaring the wits out of business leaders who wonder where it will end. The Guardian has a primer on the debate which offers a section on the questions each man is probably dreading the most:
Johnson: For the PM, it could become very uncomfortable if he is pressed on either of two personal issues: his relationship with the US tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri, and how many children he has fathered. The answer will be straightforward – no comment – but on both he is vulnerable. In particular, voters might find it eye-opening that their prime minister refuses to be pinned down on even a basic element of his family biography.
Corbyn: Labour’s record on tackling antisemitism seems certain to be raised, but it is a hugely difficult area. Corbyn can, as he does when it is raised, insist he opposes all forms of racism and is doing all he can to root out antisemitism among members. But when your party faces a formal investigation from the equalities watchdog, and groups of celebrities write to newspapers urging people to not vote Labour because of it, this is very perilous ground.
Corbyn would be a disaster for the UK so I’m hoping he falls on his face during tonight’s debate. Finally, here is his interview with Bloomberg defending his nationalization plans.
Update: I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet but the BBC says it was a boring debate. Advantage Boris Johnson:
A lot of huffing and puffing. A lot of over eager attempts to land and repeat their stock lines.
But the first head-to-head clash between the two men who could be the next prime minister did not transform the landscape of this election…
It is still early in this election campaign and likely that swathes of the public have quite understandably only started to think vaguely about the choice in front of them.
But at this stage, with Labour behind in the polls, tonight the danger was for Boris Johnson, to throw away his lead, and that didn’t happen.
And the opportunity was for Jeremy Corbyn to start closing the gap and he didn’t manage to take it.