Name that year

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5304

It was a tumultuous political time. The Conservative British Prime Minister wanted to consolidate their authority and called a snap General Election. The signs had looked good for an increased majority, but in a surprising result, they actually lost their majority and were forced to enter coalition talks with a minor party.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, it was a rare year in which a British General Election coincided with a French Presidential one. This election saw a centrist former Economy Minister win the election, and then go on to turn the movement that had won him the presidency into a full-fledged party of the political centre.

The year, of course, was 1974 with Edward Heath’s snap election losing him his majority and being forced into ultimately unsuccessful talks with the Liberals, while in France Valery Giscard D’Estaing became President and turned his Independent Republicans movement into the Union for French Democracy.

The year went on to have a second general election in the UK, and also saw the first ever resignation of a US President after a scandal about obstruction of justice grew to a point where he was likely to be impeached and removed from office.

All this, of course, bears no resemblance to anything that has happened in 2017.

Is it time for Liberals and Greens to work together?

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5301

Having taken a few days break from blogging after confessing my election punditry sins, I figured it was time to get back into the habit because who knows when I’m going to be called on to write a general election diary blog again? Will it be in September or October, or might I even have to wait until May next year for the whole thing to come crashing down?

It’s because that next election is so close that we don’t have the usual time we might have had for vacillation about things we’d like to see happen when it comes about. Not that any of them ever do, but perhaps those same good intentions that dissipate over five years might be focused into something more real when the next election might just be months away, and no one really fancies giving up another few hundred thousand pounds in lost deposits when it comes.

One promising development over the last few months has been electoral alliances between parties moving from the vaguely theoretical to the occasionally practical on a local basis. It started with the Greens withdrawing in the Richmond Park by-election in order to help Sarah Olney beat Zac Goldsmith, then was repeated in a number of seats at the general election, with the Liberal Democrats reciprocating by pulling out of Brighton Pavilion and Skipton and Ripon. Caroline Lucas was re-elected with her highest majority yet in Brighton, while in nine of the seats where the Greens withdrew, the Conservatives were defeated including the Lib Dem gain in Oxford West and Abingdon. (The Greens also withdrew from the contests in Richmond Park and St Ives where Lib Dems narrowly lost)

It feels to me that there is (despite resistance from within the parties) an appetite for more working together between Liberal Democrats and Greens, even if Labour’s attitude towards any progressive alliance is one where they insist they should take plenty but give nothing away. Especially since last Thursday, I’ve seen plenty of Labour supporters demand that other parties give them a clear run in seats where they’re second, but no signs that they’re willing to even consider withdrawing anywhere, let alone actually do it.

What also seems clear right now is that the next election, whenever it comes, is going to be framed as being a purely two party affair with every decision framed as being between Corbyn and whoever ends up with the chalice of Tory leadership when May is finally eased out of Number 10. Other parties are going to be churned up underneath that grand narrative, given just enough in the media to justify it being called fair coverage but nothing more.

In that light, would it not make sense for us to work together to not just ensure that we can survive the coming storm, but to build something for the future when the public grow disillusioned with the tired narratives of the two big parties and look for an alternative? The Liberal Democrats and Greens already have large areas of agreement: both parties are pro-European and pro-EU, both have a strong commitment to civil liberties, both want more emphasis on climate change and the environment in public policy, and both want radical reforms in the way our country is governed with power taken from Westminster and placed in the hands of individuals and communities. There’s enough agreement there, and across other policies, to provide a firm basis for exploring deeper co-operation a lot further.

Sure, there are differences between the parties – if there weren’t, they wouldn’t be separate parties – but every political movement has to make a trade-off between ideological coherence and size. I think there’s enough in common between the two parties to form a broad church that includes them both within a common alliance and show the public that we’re capable of talking out our differences and finding common ground rather than retreating behind fences and insisting that we don’t want to talk to others only those we already agree with. As ever, the challenge is that if we think our ideas are right, then surely any good follower in the footsteps of John Stuart Mill should want to grab the opportunity to persuade others of that rightness, not dismiss the opportunity out of hand?

It’s going to take a lot of political will, a lot of forgiving old slights and a lot of good intentions on both sides to make something like this happen, but isn’t it better to try and do something differently and build something new for the future? Both parties are at risk of being shoved to the sidelines as the narrative concentrates on the Tories and Labour, and this is a chance to stand together and pull the country towards a new, more hopeful, future. Who wants to try?

A tale of two leaders

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5299

Flash back eight weeks to Easter weekend, and consider the position Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron were in then. One of them was an experienced and safe pair of hands, riding high in the polls and with a small, but solid majority in Parliament, while the other was an outsider who’d never run in an election before, let alone won one and while he was doing well, there were questions about how whether he could hold off a challenge from a surging left-wing candidate, and even if he could win, how could he ever hope to put together a coalition that would allow him to govern?

Now move forward over the next two months and notice how the fortunes of the two of them have had an inverse relationship over that time. May called an election to see off a seemingly weakened left-wing and give herself a massive majority in Parliament, but instead she’s lost her majority and found that the newly enlivened and surging left are snapping at her heels. Macron, by contrast, saw off the threat of Melenchon in the first round, then crushed Le Pen in the second to win the Presidency by a clear margin.

Since then, he’s barely put a foot wrong, while she’s bounced from unforced error to unforced error, and now both countries are having parliamentary elections within a few days of each other (the first round of France’s Presidential elections happen tomorrow). The leader who had a twenty-point poll lead in April and was being projected to win a massive majority failed to even protect her small one and is now scrabbling around looking for allies, while her trusted advisers have quit. On the other side of La Manche, April’s untested candidate with little infrastructure around him has put together a coalition of support, drawn in a wide range of trusted advisers and is projected to win a massive victory in tomorrow’s elections, possibly with a majority of over 200.

One keeps on sliding as the other rises higher, and it’s definitely not the way round we expected them to be two months ago.

2017 General Election: The things I got wrong

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5296

I think it’s important, both as an academic and a politician, to look back at things and see where you went wrong in the hope you won’t make the same mistakes the next time around. It’s important to get rid of all those errors so you can make a whole set of brand new ones the next time around, rather than just repeating the same ones again and again. I’m lucky in that my chosen field within political science is parties and party systems which is related to and uses data from political behaviour and elections, but is much more about analysing things after the fact rather than trying to test theories by making predictions.

That’s why I wasn’t building a complex model to predict the election and didn’t really jump into making anything more than the vaguest predictions. However, that didn’t stop me being wrong about YouGov’s prediction which, along with the broadcasters’ exit poll, appears to have been the most accurate of all the models. I dismissed it because it didn’t match up with my expectations and perceptions, so I did the natural thing (as did so many other people) of sucking in through my teeth and muttering ‘dodgy methodology’ and ‘looking for headlines’, without thinking about why they might have come up with something that challenged my perceptions.

One importnt thing to learn is that big data crunching like this has a better perspective than you. From the bits of Colchester I’d seen and spoken to, I didn’t feel that Labour were in second place here, but until yesterday I’d never seen people queuing to vote in my local polling station either which was a clear sign of something unexpected going on. It does raise an issue I think we often elide in our discussions of voter behaviour where we assume that ‘the voters’ and ‘the non-voters’ are the same people at each election, and often neglect to consider movement between the two groups. We also – and this is something common to politicians and academics – forget that people don’t exist solely in terms of our labels. Just because we have someone down as a Tory, Labour or Lib Dem voter doesn’t mean that they consider themselves that in the same way and in some conditions – especially when the links between parties and voters are weak – they’re not going to behave in the way we expect.

I also missed the relative popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, though in my defence his election did seem to be following the same pattern as Miliband’s two years ago: the crazed revolutionary depicted in the right-wing media turning out to not be much like that when the public saw them, getting more confident as the election went on, but then a final onslaught of negative press burying them. Except this time Corbyn managed to keep that momentum up, and even if he didn’t shake it off to the extent that Blair did, he did achieve it better than Miliband.

I’ve only had a couple of hours sleep in the last thirty-six, so those are the errors that come to mind right now, but do feel free to go through my election posts in painstaking detail and point out anything else I got wrong in the comments. I’m still mulling over the questions of where we are and what comes next, but things aren’t unfolding with the same sense of post-election urgency that they did in 2010 and 2015 – possibly because everyone’s still shell-shocked from a bizarre night – so writing about that can wait until tomorrow when my brain’s capable of thinking in a bit more depth.

Tempted to call that next post Day 1 of the 2017 General Election v2, but I’ll probably resist that temptation when I’m better rested.

2017 General Election Diary Day 50: Far from golden

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5294

And so we come to the end. Seven weeks of electioneering enter their last few hours, and now we just have to wait for the people to go and vote (excluding all those who’ve done it by post already, of course). Several forests worth of leaflets have been delivered, millions of doors have been knocked (and some of them have even been opened), and thousands of carefully micro-targeted Facebook ads have been blindly scrolled past as people look for amusing things involving cats.

And what have we learned at the end of it all? On Brexit, the subject that the election was ostensibly called to settle, we know that Theresa May has a plan, but she won’t tell us what it is, and that Jeremy Corbyn would rather talk about anything but it, despite the fact that leaving the Single Market would likely lead to the Government having very little money with which to implement any of his ambitious plans. We know that other parties exist, but that they don’t really count as the media’s just too glad to be pretending that everything’s back to two-party politics again and all issues can be presented as arbitrarily binary. I have a feeling that this is going to be an election that we look back on in years to come and wonder just what we were thinking in not actually discussing important issues in any depth and allowing soundbites to no longer just describe a policy in simplistic terms but completely occupy the space that any policy would have fitted in.

But then, the other big news of the day is that Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of being behind a shooting in the parliament in Tehran, which coupled with the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar this week could lead to our general election being an amusing footnote in books about the war. Assuming there are historians around to write the books, and we don’t have to wait a thousand years for someone to uncover ‘strong and stable’ from the ashes and decide, as all bemused archaeologists usually do, that it was probably of some sort of ritual significance.

I don’t mean to sound angry and cynical about the whole process, but I am, so that’s the way it comes out.

Anyway, let’s look forward to tomorrow, when the media will be telling us that campaigning is over, and thousands of political activists will be saying they wish it was. They’ll be up at the crack of dawn to deliver leaflets, or sit on polling stations taking numbers, or drive voters to the polls, or phone people to remind them to vote, or lots of other things that make up the election day ritual. And at the end of that fifteen hour day, fuelled by cold sausage rolls and the last jaffa cake in the packet, a lot of them will be trying to make themselves look presentable to go to the count and experience the triumph or disaster that’s to be found there. Which is to say that if you do encounter an activist in the streets tomorrow, be nice to them because they’re doing this as a volunteer and they’re possibly not enjoying it but soldiering on regardless, just in case that little bit of effort might make the difference. And those people at polling stations asking for your polling number aren’t trying to use dark arts to determine how you voted, but just to know that you have so you won’t be disturbed for the rest of the day. A lot of them aren’t regular activists or even party members, so be nice to them, please.

So it’s time for our final Election Leaflet Of The Day, and people have suddenly decided to start putting lots of leaflets on the site which makes it hard to pick just one, especially as some were for elections that happened a while. I was getting excited that the Tories had a long-dead American TV star standing for them in Norfolk, but it turns out that Lorne Green has already been elected as their PCC. Then there’s this one, which hides some quite nasty views behind a jokey tone, and features ‘Note 1’ which should really be top of the list of things you don’t put on an election leaflet. However, our final leaflet of the day will have to be this one from Doktor Haze in Brighton Kemptown, who promises that we will be ‘stronger in chaos’ and that ‘in a world of horrors your country needs a ringmaster’. Finally a positive vision we cana all rally round and support.

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow (if you haven’t already), and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about the results on Twitter and here on Friday. See you on the other side.

2017 General Election Diary Day 49: Too far gone to turn around

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5290

What we could have seen on election day, December 2010.

Seven weeks since this all started, and now just a couple of days to go. I’m pretty sure it was a nice day back in April when all this began, warm and full of sunshine. Now, the weather seems to be reflecting the mood of the country after nearly two months of election related nonsense. Everything’s very grey and it feels like there’s a quest to wash us all away or at least cleanse of us of our misdemeanours. Or maybe it’s just a weather system brought on by the collective wish of the population to have a day without any leaflets being delivered, and this is the easiest way to bring that about? I’m just remembering the absolute drenching I got on the referendum day last year, and hoping that doesn’t happen again, though it’s worth noting that after 2010 returned a hung Parliament, some in the Civil Service were apparently expecting another election later than year, and pencilled in an expected date. On that date in December, much of the country was under a heavy covering of snow, which would have made things very interesting…

We’re in the stage of the election when parties are starting to shift into ‘getting out the vote’ mode, which isn’t something that just happens on election day itself. Hard as it is for us politics obsessives to believe, a lot of people need to be reminded that the election is happening on Thursday and that they have to go and vote then. That’s why you start seeing a lot of leaflets now that stress that, and we’ve also recently seen the ‘make a plan to vote’ message appear in a lot more political literature as studies have shown that if people do that beforehand, they’re more likely to remember on the day itself.

Some people’s thoughts are turning to what happens after the election and that also includes Jeremy Corbyn telling us of his plan for his first day in Number 10. Frankly, I find it all rather unbelivable in that he doesn’t appear to have included at least an hour for just wandering around the place and saying ‘holy shit, how did I manage this?’ with additional time for any conversations with new Cabinet members saying the same thing. (it’s important to use expletives at key moments of history).

And a reminder for those of you waiting until the polls settle before making your predictions: they’re not going to settle, so you might as well just try your best guess in my election prediction contest now. And while Corbyn is wandering around swearing for one reason or another, I’ll be poring over the new political maps to work out just who the winner of that contest is, and if it’s possible to visit all the tripoints during the next Parliament. If you want something to shape your prediction on, then the Britain Elects Nowcast might be handy as it’s an actual map of the country so you can see what borders with where. However, as with almost all election maps and predictions, it doesn’t attempt to give any details for Northern Ireland.

The election in Northern Ireland has been one of the hidden parts of this general election, getting at best only occasional and cursory coverage from anyone dealing with the election, and with all debates there squeezed into the same framework that applies to the rest of the UK. The potential of parties to win seats is more often depicted in terms of what that might mean to any potential coalition or minority government deal-making than it does to the political future of Northern Ireland. It’s entirely possible that there might be a third election there this year if no deal on the new Assembly is possible given the current numbers. I’m just as guilty as anyone of not paying enough attention to what’s going on there, but the results there on Thursday will matter as more than just some slightly different colours appearing on the screen but as seeing what the political makeup of the only part of Britain with an EU land border will be.

And so for Election Leaflet Of The Day we shall have what I think is the first leaflet from Northern Ireland of this campaign which helps to give an idea of the different political language and issues that dominate elections there. It’s from Gemma Weir, Workers Party candidate for North Belfast, and if you want to comprehend the different nature of politics there, ask yourself how you would explain the slogan ‘no sectarian headcounts’ to someone from the rest of the UK. Then when you’ve explained that, try and explain how the Workers’ Party evolved from Sinn Fein and the difference between ‘Official’ and ‘Provisional’. Then apologise when they tell you they just wanted directions to the train station, not a discussion on Irish politics.

Fifty-three hours to the exit poll and the big decisions are yet to be made – BBC or ITV for election night coverage?

On the Economist’s ‘endorsement’ of the Lib Dems and the ‘radical centre’

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5287

There were varying degrees of excitement amongst Liberal Democrats that the Economist had recommended a vote for the party this Thursday. Some were ecstatic at the idea of any sort of publication that people have actually heard of endorsing the party, while others actually read the piece in question and saw that the endorsement was, at best, half-hearted:

No party passes with flying colours. But the closest is the Liberal Democrats. Brexit is the main task of the next government and they want membership of the single market and free movement. (Their second referendum would probably come to nothing, as most voters are reconciled to leaving the EU.) They are more honest than the Tories about the need to raise taxes for public services; and more sensible than Labour, spreading the burden rather than leaning only on high-earners. Unlike Labour they would reverse the Tories’ most regressive welfare cuts. They are on the right side of other issues: for devolution of power from London, reform of the voting system and the House of Lords, and regulation of markets for drugs and sex.
Like the other parties, they want to fiddle with markets by, say, giving tenants first dibs on buying their property. Their environmentalism is sometimes knee-jerk, as in their opposition to new runways and fracking. The true liberals in the party jostle with left-wingers, including Tim Farron, who is leading them to a dreadful result. But against a backward-looking Labour Party and an inward-looking Tory party about to compound its historic mistake over Brexit, they get our vote.

It’s not a vote for the Liberal Democrats as they are, more for some ideal version of the party and liberalism that exists in the head of an Economist leader writer. It’s the same thing that had people a couple of years ago claiming that Tim Farron isn’t a ‘strong liberal voice’ and is a shibboleth amongst certain people in and out of the party. The ‘true liberalism’ they speak of (and never trust anyone who claims they know what ‘true’ liberalism is, as thought the whole history of liberalism wasn’t a story of resisting absolute dogmas) is a vision that only appeals to a small number of people of whom a disproportionate number are writers for the Economist and newspaper comment sections. It’s a liberalism of ‘my life’s quite nice but not perfect, and I went to a same-sex marriage once, so why should I have to pay more taxes to help anyone else out?’ not one that wants to challenge or change the system.

Further, they’re not really asking people to vote for the Liberal Democrats, but rather vote against the Tories and Labour and in faovur of some new nebulous centre party:

We know that this year the Lib Dems are going nowhere. But the whirlwind unleashed by Brexit is unpredictable. Labour has been on the brink of breaking up since Mr Corbyn took over. If Mrs May polls badly or messes up Brexit, the Tories may split, too. Many moderate Conservative and Labour MPs could join a new liberal centre party—just as parts of the left and right have recently in France. So consider a vote for the Lib Dems as a down-payment for the future. Our hope is that they become one element of a party of the radical centre, essential for a thriving, prosperous Britain.

(As an aside, out of the many explanations of voting behaviour a vote as ‘a down-payment for the future’ is a new one on me)

Here, they’re doing what many others have wistfully done over the past couple of months in looking wistfully over the Channel towards Emmanuel Macron and thinking ‘if only…’ but if your plan for resurrecting the British centre is nothing more than hoping for a Macron then you don’t have a plan, you just have political fanfiction. They’re hoping for ‘a new liberal centre party’ or ‘a party of the radical centre’ to miraculously emerge and subsume the Liberal Democrats as ‘one element’ of it. They always put ‘radical’ in front of ‘centre’ when describing this type of hypothetical party, but it’s a doth-protest-too-much move as the vision is anything but radical as it’s about those who’ve always had power in some form or another – and for whom the Economist is the in-house journal – wanting to ensure that no one scares the horses or damages their position. What liberalism there is in there is entirely coincidental to the cause and described with the smallest ‘l’ possible. When proponents of this form of centrism look towards the Liberal Democrats it’s not with any misty-eyed fondness for the party’s radical past or with any acknowledgement that’s what now consensus had to be fought for and won, over and over again, but rather with the eye of a predator wondering which parts of the party can be cannibalised and repurposed into a quick-fit infrastructure for the new ‘radical centre’.

All votes count the same in the ballot box, of course, and no one can tell which were cast for this election and which were down-payments on a future, but even in a time when praise for the Liberal Democrats is rare, we should be wary of the motives behind some of it.

2017 General Election Diary Day 45: The home stretch

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5285

It’s odd to think after so many weeks of uncertainty that this time next week we’ll finally know something for sure. The people will have spoken, and then we can try and work out exactly what it is they’ve said. Or we can just accept that it was another poll and even though there was a very large sample size, it was self-selecting and so doesn’t provide an accurate representation of public opinion, so is really just one more data point to be added to the model. It’ll be a slightly less scary version of Die Lösung, in which the people are not dissolved, but merely accept that all they can ever achieve is at best to be an emulation of the important findings of a statistical model, which will obviously be much more accurate than they can be.

Six days is still a lot of time for things to change, though, and there are lots of factors out there that just might influence people’s vote next week. One simple one is the weather. If something similar to the thunderstorm currently happening outside as I write this post happens at the right time next Thursday, it could depress turnout in key seats at key times as people decide not to vote, or just don’t get the knock on the door from their local campaigners telling them that they need to go out and vote. (Trust me, the number of people who intend to vote but don’t realise they have to do it on that particular day before 10pm will surprise you – why not go out campaigning next Thursday and see for yourself?) Who knows what effects the massive storms in south eastern England had on the referendum result last year?

Two things that might have an effect have happened in the last twenty four hours. First we had the spectacle of Trump declaring the US will be pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change because he thinks that it might somehow affect Americans’ God-given right to make as much money as they want. The reaction from the rest of the world was a giant rolling of the eyes and yet more joint action from the main European powers who rushed out a joint statement critical of the move. Those main powers were of course Germany, France and Italy, a reminder that the big four powers of the European Union are now the big three, and Britain’s saddled itself clinging to a special relationship with a country run by someone who believes money is more important and more real than the planet. That’s probably priced into a lot of voters’ beliefs anyway, but for others the reminder that Theresa May – who told Trump’s Republicans she “believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your party” – has aligned herself very closely with a man who’s very cavalier about melting glaciers for someone who owns a lot of sea-level properties.

Meanwhile in Kent, everyone’s favourite hashtag #toryelectionfraud has been brought back into life by the announcement that the Craig Mackinlay, who won Thanet South for the Tories in 2015, has been charged with a number of offences under the Representation of the People Act relating to that campaign. It’s not top of the list of things you want to happen six days before an election happens, is it? The question is how much attention it will get both within Thanet and without, and how many votes it might swing. There’s also the question of how over-excited certain more clickbaity sites might get in reporting this and if any of them might foind themselves up on charges themselves and discovering ‘ but it got thousands of shares on Facebook’ isn’t a legitimate defence when accused of contempt of court. Which is my way of saying I’m not going to make any comment on the detail of the charges.

And as we get closer to election day, the deluge of leaflets intensifies across the country giving us much more choice for Election Leaflet Of The Day, which today features my favourite election slogan of the campaign so far: Ability, Bees, Community. That’s the slogan of Jandy Spurway, an independent candidate for the Stratford-on-Avon constituency. Her leaflet reveals she’s had an interesting life and is interested in ‘changing the way we do things’ and I’m not sure if the bees link into that, or she just wants to remind people that she keeps them, though I suppose candidates have to be careful when mentioning their stocks of honey in case it’s seen as treating the voters.

With that, we shall close for another day and wait for the next hundred and forty-eight and a half hours to pass until we can all be surprised by the exit poll, because whatever it says it’s going to be a surprise, isn’t it?

2017 General Election Diary Day 43: And now it gets interesting

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5283

You know when you’re trying to think of a way to describe how things are going in the election as things turn a little weird and then someone hits the perfect metaphor? That:


I know I promised back at the start of this diary, all those weeks ago, that I wouldn’t spend it following 2015 into the dark corners of polling obsessions but YouGov threw out a little hand grenade of a projection last night, suggesting that things might be about to get weird on us. Rather than putting the Tory majority in the ‘how far back do we have to go to find a comparison?’ range, it instead suggested they might lose seats (and their majority) while Labour would gain to put us firmly in hung Parliament territory. The interesting thing about this was that it wasn’t based on applying a uniform national swing across constituencies but instead looking at how different demographics have said they would vote and then working that out constituency by constituency. It’s a controversial method, that didn’t come up with the right projection for the US Presidential election in the elecoral college last year, but it would be something that produced contrary results to other pollsters if this is a realigning election where there’s mass movement of voters between parties. If that happens, then it will make election night very interesting as results won’t be easily predictable by extrapolating from the first few.

It also offers up the joyous prospect of the Tories gaining votes while losing seats. If any of them were to then complain about this as being an injustice and the voters not being properly represented, I may well die laughing.

Of course, this is the point in election campaigns where people can get over-excited and all sorts of wild speculation can break out. It’s where people spend time debating whether the Edstone will need planning permission to be erected in the Number 10 garden, where we wonder which Liberal Democrat candidates might be able to be appointed straight to ministerial office in the Clegg government or any other number of scenarios that seem likely in the heated air of an election campaign, then afterwards are forgotten about as everyone remembers that the result was the one they predicted and expected all along. It’s a national outbreak of candidatitis, sweeping out from party activists to infect the whole country, then disappearing some time around 10pm next Thursday.

And if a wild projection wasn’t enough to excite you, the country – or that bit of it that obsesses over politics on social media, at least – has got debate fever. Yes, tonight is the BBC election debate, which has been suddenly made an event of interest by Jeremy Corbyn today announcing that he would appear in it having previously said he wouldn’t. This means the Conservatives will now be the only party there without a leader representing them as Amber Rudd will be standing in for Theresa May while the Prime Minister goes off to speak to a small rally of Tory activists in a carefully sanitised warehouse somewhere off the M4. Sorry, I meant campaign and ‘meet the people’ because luckily, she’s not campaigning for a job that occasionally requires you to meet in public and debate with other people.

It’s a clever move by Corbyn, as he does have the momentum in the head to head battle and unless he breaks down and declares ‘all power to the Soviets!’ in the middle of the debate (not that quoting Lenin is necessarily harmful nowadays) he can continue to disarm the Tory strategy against him. They’ve been painting him as a crazed Marxist revolutionary wanting to bring down the system, but his recent appearances (especially against Paxman) have been more sardonic history teacher who the students love because he keeps going off on tangents in lessons and never sets any homework. Everyone’s now frantically re-preparing their tactics and points for tonight, which might even make it interesting. That’s why I’m writing this beforehand, when it might still be interesting, rather than afterwards when the reality sets in and commentators intone ‘we are all Ruddites now’.

As ever, we shall conclude with Election Leaflet Of The Day which today comes from an interesting independent – Tim Lord, standing in Cities of London and Westminster. Like many independents he has one big issue he’s standing on but his is an interesting case of the national becoming local in a distinct constituency. ‘Voted Remain? Vote for Tim.’ is his message, pointing out that the Cities’ current MP, Mark Field, is signed up to May’s Brexit strategy, and as it’s a place with lots of interests in maintaining close ties with the EU, he’s hoping that will motivate them to switch to him. (This article spells it out in more depth) It could be an interesting tactic that delivers a shock, it could be yet another damp squib, but it makes a usually safe seat somewhat interesting.

Eight days left until activists who’ve been up since the crack of dawn gird themselves for a push at reminding people getting home from work that it’s time to go vote.