Inside Politics: Boris Johnson heads into Labour heartlands

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Adam Forrest
Monday 09 December 2019 08:56 GMT
General Election 2019: Opinion polls over the last seven days

There are now only three days until we go the polls

It’s almost over. The tension is unbearable. After all the tears and tantrums, after all the gossip and scandal, it all comes down to this. We finally have the finalists for Strictly Come Dancing: Emma, Karim and Kelvin will compete for the biggest prize of them all. What about the contest for No 10, the one involving our lumbering, leaden-footed political leaders? Well, it’s fairly exciting too, I suppose. Boris Johnson has a commanding poll lead, so he’ll stick to the basics in an effort to avoid any slips-ups – the equivalent of a simple-but-spirited rendition of the Charleston. Jeremy Corbyn may need to come up with something spectacular to cause an upset – an Argentine Tango whilst waving around more leaked documents? Keeeep dancing Jez! I’m Adam Forrest, and welcome to The Independent’s Inside Politics newsletter.

Inside the bubble

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick on what to look out for on the campaign trail today:

Boris Johnson will march into traditional Labour territory in Humber and north-east today, amid growing confidence that a repeat of the “roar” that helped deliver Brexit will carry him to victory this week. The PM will visit several Labour-held seats, including Sunderland, which shocked the nation when 61 per cent of voters backed Leave in 2016. Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, will visit some of Labour’s target seats in the south, as John McDonnell outlines his pledge to deliver a budget to “end austerity” within 100 days of taking office. The Lib Dems, meanwhile, will unveil “ready-to-go legislation” that could “stop Boris and stop Brexit” as soon as parliament returns.

Daily briefing

OK BOOMER: Boris Johnson is promising a baby boom if he wins the election. Not a one-man baby boom, you understand – he thinks we’ll all be bonking like mad. “Cupid’s darts will fly once we get Brexit done,” he said. “Romance will bloom.” If Johnson’s coy chat about sex sickens you, don’t worry. We’re going to see the fighter, not the lover, in the next few days, as anti-Corbyn rhetoric gets much nastier. The PM is today banging on about Labour’s “great betrayal” of Leave voters, and how the party “stuck two fingers up to the public”. In an echo of the Leave campaign, the Tories will use the home stretch to hammer home the anti-immigration message – with Johnson promising to bring down numbers with an Australian-style points-based system. He told Sky News how awful it was that EU citizens were “able to treat the UK as though it’s basically part of their own country”. That baby boom is for Brits only, okay?

POLL DANCER: If there’s a spring in the PM’s step, it’s probably because the Tories are shimmying up the polls again. The latest BMG Research survey for The Independent found the Labour surge has “stalled” – with the Tories nine points ahead on 41 per cent. A slew of polls over the weekend gave the Conservatives an average lead of 10 points. A major new seat projection by Datapraxis indicated suggests a solid-enough Tory majority of 38 seats. But Datapraxis boss Paul Hilder has a warning. With so many undecided voters, somewhere between 80 and 90 constituencies are still up for grabs. “A much larger Conservative landslide is still possible but so is a hung parliament.” Could an unprecedented level of tactical voting still deliver an upset? A Best for Britain survey found Johnson would be denied a majority if just 41,000 people voted tactically in 36 seats. Still all to play for, then. Still worth pounding the pavements in the cold. Spare a thought for Labour’s Karl Turner, who tweeted a photo in Hull: “Met this young man taking his pet ferret for a walk. Bit me.”

ON THAT BOMBSHELL: Jo Swinson wants you to know she ain’t no square. The Lib Dem leader had some of those doobie spliff-joints when she was student. “I did smoke a fair bit of cannabis at university,” she said. “It wasn’t just one, and I did inhale.” Sure Jo, sure. Swinson endured the toughest moment of Sunday night’s debate on Channel 4. She appeared momentarily taken aback when a young audience member told her: “You’re a Tory in disguise – state what you are!” But at least some Lib Dems have been getting to hang out with the cool kids. And by kids I mean 56-year-old Jason Isaacs and 54-year-old Steve Coogan. Isaacs knocked on doors with Luciana Berger in Finchley and Golders Green, while Coogan was out campaigning for the party’s candidate in Lewes as part of a tactical voting drive.

LAID BARE: After years of Brexit obsession, it’s been heartening to see the NHS front and centre of the election campaign. And yet health service leaders have not found various pledges made heartening at all. NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson said parties had “ducked” the main issues and created “unrealistic expectations”. Andrew Goddard, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, told The Independent he was “frustrated by the proposed policies and promises ... and their relationship to reality.” There was no denying the reality of the photo showing a four-year-old boy forced to sleep on a hospital floor as he waited for more than eight hours in A&E. Jack Williment-Barr Was pictured laying on a coat in Leeds General Infirmary with suspected pneumonia – a shocking image widely shared after it was first published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on Sunday.

LOSERS NOT WEEPERS: With the Tories in such a strong position, it’s time for the others to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Jo Swinson says she won’t quit, regardless of her party’s showing. Nigel Farage revealed he has already registered a new political group, the Reform Party, to replace the Brexit Party, promising to campaign to scrap the House of Lords. What about Jeremy Corbyn? According to The Sunday Times, the Labour leader is getting ready to stand down on Friday. The newspaper reported secret WhatsApp messages showing union officials discussing how to make sure a suitably Corbyn-like successor is in place as a caretaker, and proper leadership contest delayed until the autumn of 2020. Who would that caretaker boss be? Why, John McDonnell of course. Labour activists have reportedly received training on how not to cry on election night. No need for tears with Corbynism 2.0 about to begin.

On the record

“I worry that this has had its effect. We’ve done everything that I think we can possibly do. We’ve apologised to the Jewish community.”

John McDonnell thinks the antisemitism row may impact on the election result.

From the Twitterati

“So Boris Johnson wants to stop ‘low skilled’ immigrants. And Boris Johnson wants a ‘baby boom’. So, women of the UK, Boris Johnson basically wants you to breed peasants for him to put to picking fruit.”

UEA associate law professor Paul Bernal is disgusted by the the PM’s baby boom idea...

“In the Sunday Times today Boris Johnson predicted that Brexit would lead to a baby boom to parallel the 2013 boom following the London Olympics. 2013 actually saw the largest fall in births across England and Wales in 38 years.”

...while the Full Fact group is disgusted at the PM’s porkies.

Essential reading

Sean O’Grady, The Independent: Who are the parliamentary big beasts in danger of losing their seats?

Chris Allnutt, The Independent: I’ve spoken to a number of teenage candidates in this election and young people are ready to make a difference

Nesrine Malik, The Guardian: Many migrants once voted Tory. Now their loyalty is fading fast

Dana Milbank, The Washington Post: Trump just assured his own impeachment

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