Today’s the last day you can register to vote: if you’re uncertain that you’re not registered, then check and resolve, it takes a minute: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
We are in a very uncertain, very swing seat so your vote WILL be relevant: I hugely support electoral reform, but until we actually institute a better system I can take some solace that we don’t live in a safe seat.
Interesting morsel before I hand over to Chris Tregenza for the main meal: it seems several of the tactical voting sites have rescinded endorsements for Anna Soubry as the anti-Brexit candidate. I’m not sure what their assessment methodology is, or how it is subject to change, so can’t say what had precipitated this other than a rumoured private poll bringing up low numbers for the incumbent: any info on this will be gratefully received.
For our main piece today, Corbyn-sceptic Chris Tregenza went to see the Labour leader when he visited Beeston Rylands yesterday. If you were there, and have a different view, send it in to email@example.com
CORBYN IN THE RYLANDS
You cannot truly judge a politician until you’ve seen them speak, in person, to a live crowd. So many of the subtle clues we rely on to judge a person are lost when sounds and pictures are squeezed into a camera. Which is why I was standing in the rain outside a soaked brick building on the Trent-side edges of our borough (aka Beeston Rylands Community Centre)
Jeremy Corbyn’s battle bus was in town to drum-up support for Greg Marshal (Labour Party). Except it wasn’t drumming up support. There would be no opportunity for Greg & Jeremy to walk down the High Street, shaking hands with the public and posing for selfies. Instead this visit was firmly aimed at the Labour faithful in Greg’s political backyard.
That said, it says a lot for Greg’s campaign that he had several hundred supporters out on a wet Monday afternoon. I doubt Darren Henry could get triple figures of local supporters out on any day of the week, though he might if he called in friends from all the other constituencies where he has stood and lost.
This was my first time with Jeremy and I can honestly report there was magic in that room. I’ve never seen a politician so comfortable and natural chatting to members of the public. There was a genuine connection and Corbyn’s body language was empathetic and of someone in their natural environment. I doubt Jeremy appears this comfortable on his own sofa, watching Gardeners’ World. However once he began speaking to the crowd, talking to us not as individuals but as a collective mass, all the familiar problems came to light.
Corbyn in real life is surprisingly funny. Not professional comedian funny or even as funny as your mate down the pub funny, but decently funny for someone who does a serious job which occasionally needs some light-heartedness.
Yet this side of him also disappears when he switches from speaking with the public to public speaking.
A leading politician will give their stump-speech time and time again over the campaign
trail. Polishing and improving it like a comedian or band working on their act as they tour. Yet halfway through the campaign and Corbyn’s was dull. He often just lists the Government’s political crimes or how Labour will spend your money. As a speaker Corbyn doesn’t have a great vocal range nor is his body language dynamic but his true failing is his hard-left, comrades-I-wish-to-propose-a-motion, political up-bringing. He was formed and will be forever shaped in the faux-Soviet style of political discourse where the objective is to bore your opponents to death.
There is a fear of Blairism at the heart of Labour’s communication strategy. The logic goes like this – Blair was obsessed by image and soundbites, and started an illegal war which killed 100,000s of people. The hard-left don’t want to start a war so therefore they cannot be slick or use clever, media-friendly language.
And this is damaging both Jeremy’s and Greg’s election hopes.
It’s smart to go against Boris’ flimflam and waffle with in-depth proposals and intelligent arguments. The more serious Jeremy appears, the easier it is for the public to see Boris for the cad he is. But being serious and being boring are not the same thing.
The Blairite media machine produced some killer phrases which stuck in people’s minds and they condensed their 1997 manifesto in five definitive goals which ordinary people understood. With Corbyn we have a 140 page manifesto, which is the politicians way of throwing everything at a wall, and seeing what sticks.
Jeremy is great with people and his campaign is clearly based on talking to the public. Greg is great with people and he has a big team knocking on Beeston’s doors, talking to them one-on-one, making that human connection. But there are only so many people Corbyn can meet and only so many houses Greg can visit. A simple, understandable mass media message is vital for a party to reach all those other voters.
What sums it up is the end of Corbyn’s speech. He joked about the large size of the manifesto. He plugged the smart social media video where he does a 60 seconds summary of the manifesto. Then he said “Don’t worry if you can’t remember it all. There is only one thing you need to remember, one fundamental message …” and then went on to list six or seven – or was it eight? – different pledges. I don’t know. I’d stopped listening.
Chris Tregenza doesn’t have a real job so spends his time on Twitter as @Tregenza