29 November 2019

Free Exchange: Tales from the campaign trail


With the general election just two weeks away, we wanted to get the inside track from three party political experts on how their side’s campaign has gone, and what they expect to happen on December 12.

From the Lib Dems we welcomed Mark Pack the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire. From Labour, Sienna Rodgers, the editor LaboutList and completing the line-up was the regular CapX contributor and assistant editor of ConservativeHome, Henry Hill.


People in the Labour Party think the campaign actually has gone very well. The Andrew Neil interview excepted, everything has really gone right for Labour and this election.

A legacy of this election will be a parliamentary party that actually will be boosted by a lot of Corbynites. There have been a lot of selection contests where either Labour left candidates won outright with a constituency vote or they were imposed by the National Executive Executive Committee. And that led to a lot of people who supported Corbyn getting in to quite safe seats.

I’ve heard Labour sources say look, if it’s going to be a Conservative majority, we want it to be quite a big Conservative majority. Because that way it would mean that Boris Johnson could sell out the hard Brexiteers, which is what they anticipate he’d do if they gave him the chance and he could pass some kind of Brexit in name only. And second, it would discredit Jeremy Corbyn and the people around him and hopefully force Labour to confront the anti-Semitism issue.

On…the Lib Dems

I think a Lib Dem result of say 30 MPs and a hung parliament so that Brexit doesn’t go ahead will probably leave Lib Dems feeling much happier than, say 60 MPs, but the Tory majority.


Prior to 2017 if if a Tory government went into an election with double digit polling and had retained it three weeks out from polling day everyone would be fairly confident of a big majority. But after 2017 of course, nobody really thinks that.

On…the doorstep

The anti-Semitism issue and the question about how enthusiastically Jeremy Corbyn is actually fighting it comes up very, very, very regularly.

On…the Conservative manifesto

The guiding principle of the conservative manifesto was if in doubt, leave it out.

Once you’ve ‘Got Brexit done’ in January, and you’ve delivered your spending pledges, this manifesto might go stale quite quickly, if we’re anticipating this parliament, theoretically lasting until the mid 2020s.

It might be that if this big window was here for the Conservatives to break the red wall and run home through the Northwest and the Midlands, it might be actually that this manifesto, was a bit too conservative, and it just didn’t have enough of the bold, imaginative retail offers necessary to get some of those voters over the line.

On…life after the election

My assumption is that in 10 years time (or maybe sooner) then the heat will start to go out of the Brexit question. And it will look a little bit like the row over Home Rule 100 years ago, which absolutely gripped everyone at the time, and then a few decades on, it’s just utterly alien landscape, because the world had moved on.

On key indicators such as what is your attitude towards people who are in some way different from you, it’s clear society is actually moving in a more tolerant direction, a more liberal direction. And in in that sense, you know, that sense of, do we get on reasonably well with people who are in obvious ways different from us? The long term trends continue to be quite hopeful.

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John Ashmore is the Editor of CapX