Belfast Telegraph

Cautious May fears complacency in Tory ranks

A new weekly column by the Press Association's veteran political insider

By Chris Moncrieff

Labour's narrowing of the gap in polls has caused some alarm at Tory HQ, but the events in Manchester mean terrorism and security may dominate the rest of the campaign to the virtual exclusion of all else

The suspension last week of general election campaigning in the wake of the Manchester attack could hardly have come at a more crucial time for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

They were suddenly halted in their tracks as they were creeping up on the Conservatives in the opinion polls, largely because of the Tory muddle over home care costs for the elderly. It remains to be seen whether they can regain that momentum between now and June 8.

However, the gap between the two main parties is still considerable in the polls (which have been proved wrong on many occasions) and a Conservative majority looks likely, although given recent political upsets, it would be wrong to be dogmatic about that. The cautious Theresa May continues to warn that the Tories need lose only six seats for what she calls a "coalition of chaos" of anti-Tory parties to come into being and put the Prime Minister on the Opposition benches.

The last word May wants to hear is "landslide", because that encourages complacency, and what may have looked at the start of the campaign like a foregone conclusion no longer applies.

Meanwhile, under the energetic leadership of Tim Farron the Liberal Democrats may well improve on their present dire position. They are helped by the fact former leader Nick Clegg, who led the party to disaster in 2015, is now little more than a Mr Nobody.

So the Tories need to watch their step and not be too smug between now and polling day.

- Many people are increasingly concerned at the chipping away of many parliamentary traditions. One is the refusal of John Bercow to wear the historic robes of the Speaker. Other public servants, such as soldiers, have to wear uniform on parade, so why can't Bercow be ordered to do the same?

Instead, he has had made a ludicrous gown for use on grand occasions. It makes him look like Ronnie Corbett (minus the flat cap) playing a hardware shopkeeper in the famous fork handles sketch with Ronnie Barker. And Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is fighting to regain his old Somerset seat, has expressed fears that the striking uniforms of Commons doorkeepers will be the next to go. He said: "All this matters. It shows they are protecting something special. They are not store detectives at Grace Brothers."

Well said, sir.

- Voters should beware politicians who are increasingly and cunningly using euphemisms to disguise their mistakes.

"Clarity" is one used by Theresa May the other day to mask what was said to be her gaffe over home care costs for the elderly. What she didn't admit was that she got it wrong. Then there is "mis-speaking" for lying, used by Hillary Clinton when she was caught out saying, untruthfully, she had been met by a gun battle when she once landed in the Balkans.

Now the word "censor" has been censored. Documents are now no longer censored but "redacted", a weasel word that simply means "edited".

And then there is our old friend "quantitative easing", Whitehall-speak for printing money. So be on your guard.

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