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Campaign review: The highs and lows of the 2017 general election

Campaign review: The highs and lows of the 2017 general election
7 min read

Missing the cut and thrust of campaigning already? Thought so. Luckily PoliticsHome is on hand with some of the parties' highlights and low-lights over the past seven weeks.


On 18 April Theresa May stood outside No 10 and dropped the almighty bombshell that Britain would once more go to the polls. It seems only right that we look back on a montage of the good times - and the not so good for those at the heart of it all.

NATIONALISATION AND NUMBERS

It was all looking like a bit of an uphill task for Jeremy Corbyn when things kicked off, with Labour some 24-points behind in the polls. But a lively campaign with some solid, socialist policies would turn it all around, his team insisted.

In many ways the left-winger stuck to his guns, with a manifesto promising taxes for the rich and a major boost for public services. In fact, someone in the party was so keen to release the mission statement to the British people, they released the whole thing a week early.

The Labour prospectus had policy plans for just about every area of public life, paid for with higher taxes for those earning over £80k and a corporation tax hike back up to 26%. More bobbies on the beat, free school meals for all primary school kids and the abolition of tuition fees were just some of the big ticket spending plans in the little red book.

Where there's an apparently "fully costed" manifesto however, there are numbers... and many of them. Diane Abbott found that out to her detriment when she vowed to pay new Police recruits a mere, er… £30 per year.

Mr Corbyn then found himself in a muddle explaining just how much Labour's plans to extend free childcare would cost on the day he had set aside to plug the policy.

IRA AND HAIR

On top of policy detail, there was serious pressure heaped on the Labour leader to condemn the IRA - amid claims he had supported them in the past. He repeatedly refused to single them out for condemnation - pointing to those killed at the hands of loyalist groups. That is, until PolHome broke THIS STORY

Ms Abbott was drawn into the issue as well when it emerged she had said "every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us". Taken to task over the comments by Andrew Marr, she insisted her views on militant Irish republicanism had changed, just like her hair.

As the Tories continued to press the matter, Emily Thornberry made it her mission to focus the narrative on more recent affairs, notably Michael Fallon's meeting with Bashar Al-Assad. In a lively exchange, the Shadow Foreign Secretary also accused the Defence Secretary of talking "bollocks".

TERROR AND SECURITY

The topic of national security would later dominate the campaign, after the devastating attacks on Manchester and London Bridge. With campaigns suspended, politicians from all sides were able to unite against the horror. The sense that democracy should not be cowed by terror was unanimous.

Under that climate, Jeremy Corbyn received mixed reviews for a major foreign policy speech in which he insisted: "Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home."

The Labour leader insisted his message did not excuse the actions of the attackers, but Mr Fallon was outraged. He vociferously opposed a quote read to him by Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy, arguing the Iraq war may have "sharpened the resentments" of Islamic fundamentalists against the UK. 

The problem for Mr Fallon was that the quote was not Corbyn's. It was said by none other than… Boris Johnson.

And as the security debate raged on, there were more woes for Tories live on camera. Senior minister Karen Bradley clashed with TV presenter Piers Morgan after repeatedly refusing to say whether the number of armed police had fallen since 2010.

THE CHALLENGE OF SOCIAL CARE

Starting the campaign with a seemingly unshakeable lead in the polls, the Tories felt pretty sure they could go bold on policy.

There was a furore over plans to hold a free vote to repeal the ban on fox hunting, as well as concerns about their plans for the ivory trade and the proposal to means-test free school meals while instead providing primary kids with free breakfasts. 

However it was Mrs May’s U-turn on social care that really stirred the pot. First the party said people would have to pay for their care until they were down to their final £100,000 in assets - including their home, which would be sold after death if they receive domiciliary care. The plan sparked outrage and was quickly dubbed a 'Dementia Tax', as those with long-term illnesses would end up having to pay more. 

The party had ruled out putting a cap on the amount people would have to pay for their care, but after a tough weekend from the papers and with the issue becoming increasingly toxic on the doorstep, Theresa May was forced into yet another almighty U-turn.

POLITICS IS A DEBATE

Much of the criticism directed at the Prime Minister over the course of the campaign was about her refusal to debate her opponents. She point blank refused - and so did Jeremy Corbyn until a last minute change of heart

Mrs May also faced accusations of swerving questions from journalists  - or simply refusing to answer them. She proved to be unafraid of tackling the big issues when she and husband Philip appeared on BBC's One Show however, as the pair talked clothes and what life was really like dividing chores in the May household. 

Jeremy Paxman was somewhat less forgiving however, when he told the PM the negotiators in Brussels would see her as a “blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gun fire”. 

And with Mrs May spending much of the campaign on message, it was little surprise that she refused to describe a single positive about Jeremy Corbyn when asked to do so by PoliticsHome.

In the final big ticket TV event, the pair both survived a grilling from the audience - although Jeremy Corbyn had a tough ten minutes on Trident while Theresa May risked breaking the rules of the watershed

MULTI-PARTY POLITICS

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron tried his best to reignite the liberal flame by winning over the disgruntled 48% from last year's referendum - without much success.

One person Mr Farron was particularly unlikely to win over was Malcolm Baker, the ardent Leaver who frankly had little time for any move to review last year's vote.

But perhaps the low-light of the Lib Dem leader's campaign was his repeated refusal to say whether he thought gay sex was a sin.

Up in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon sparked some confusion about her referendum plans. And in a last ditch effort to drive up the Nationalist vote at the expense of Labour, the First Minister opened up a late 'stooshie-gate' row with Kezia Dugdale.

Meanwhile, Ukip's attempt to cling on to relevance included grand policies such as banning the burka, bringing back internment and a one-in, one-out immigration system. Not unsurprisingly, it was Ukip's manifesto launched that was most memorable for its rather animated tone.

The Green party raised a few eyebrows when they offered a three day weekend, receiving almost no attention for staging a dance event outside the Home Office and organising a piss up in Bristol.

Read the most recent article written by Nicholas Mairs - Public sector workers to get 5% pay rise from April if Labour wins election

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