Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Theresa May in Stoke

The Prime Minister managed a double whammy of the unexpected yesterday. First, she visited Stoke, which is something PMs rarely ever do. And second, her presence and parade in front of the local media means she's effectively campaigned for a Conservative candidate who doesn't stand a realistic chance of winning, which is usually a no-no when it comes to playing the Westminster game. How to explain this most unlikely of high profile interventions?

Very quickly, part of it has to do with May's One Nation/Shared Society nonsense. Given the consistency in which the PM talks about this stuff, it is definitely something she's ideologically committed to, even if - like any good Conservative - she doesn't let principles get in the way of power and politics. And so, with nothing to lose in Stoke, her breeze through the Emma Bridgewater factory and saunter about The Sentinel's offices (both "non-political" Conservative-supporting outfits, coincidentally) during the most high profile and important by-election in decades burnishes them One Nation creds. For years Tories have opined about no-go areas, and here's Theresa May herself leading from the front and making the case that Conservatism is for everybody.

She wouldn't have done this if the Tories weren't expecting to turn in a creditable performance this Thursday, and there's every chance they could. UKIP are in long-term decline and have been since before last June's EU referendum, and if there's any justice the lying lies of Paull Nuttall will do for them this Thursday. Furthermore, the polls and deflating performance in local council by-elections suggest chunks of kipper support are returning to the Tories. As far as May is concerned, to hold on in 2020 all she has to do is carry on being the super serious grown up politician, keep her fingers crossed Brexit negotiations don't have a disastrous outcome, that Trump and the economy behaves themselves, and triangulate to retain those fairweather UKIP votes. Her Stoke-on-Trent trip is a field test for that strategy. If the Tories can take extra bites from the purples and improve their position vis a vis Labour, this will be the course she steers between now and the general election.

3 comments:

Mark Livingston said...

Stoke Central's not yet in the bag for Labour. Mandelson could visit between now and Thursday. Imagine that!

Anonymous said...

That's one explanation for the PM visit. Let me suggest another possibility - if UKIP had 2 MPs in Parliament they would get more rights and privilege in Parliament and I don't think the PM wants that as it could cause more problems for her. As you say the Conservatives cannot win, but taking votes from UKIP and having Labour win is probably a better option for the PM.

Anonymous said...

The PM wants to keep Corbyn in place,A UKIP win would be the end for Corbyn.