Parliament has dissolved, there are no more MPs, and the general election campaign is about to be officially underway. And it is not going well for the Tories. Jacob Rees-Mogg, aided by Andrew Bridgen, revealed arrogance and lack of basic empathy when the former said it would have been “common sense” for Grenfell residents to ignore Fire Brigade advice and flee the fire (via the staircase being used by firefighters) and the latter suggested Rees-Mogg was simply “more clever” than the victims. Both have been forced to apologised. In the LabourList review of the last PMQs, I wrote about Tory MPs laughing at Jeremy Corbyn’s bright green tie, which was clearly a Grenfell tribute, and how that kind of moment would be amplified during an election campaign. Exactly that has already happened, exposing the worst of the “nasty party”.
There was some anxiety back when Boris Johnson was first elected as leader, on my part at least, that he would bounce with optimism in a general election and Labour would focus on the impact of Tory austerity without drawing attention to its proposed solutions. The opposition party could have easily put across a broadly negative message looking back at the last decade, trying to depress people into voting Labour. That has not happened. Instead, Corbyn has promoted a hopeful vision of the country under his leadership with plenty of detail as to how it will be greener and fairer, while activists on the ground have injected huge energy into the campaign. Labour is brimming with ideas, and it is Boris Johnson who has turned sour in his messaging, supplemented with horrifying comments from colleagues.
The Conservatives have launched their campaign with a Daily Telegraph front page that is wholly centred on opposition to Labour and Corbyn. It doesn’t work on any level. The layout is horrific, for a start. The content is much worse: ridiculous, offensive and unrelatable. As Sunder Katwala points out, it claims that Corbyn is worse than Pol Pot, Idi Amin and the Holocaust. It talks of “profit motive” and Stalin persecuting the kulaks, as if those are concepts with which most voters can connect. This out-of-touch start makes Corbyn’s speech today particularly appropriate. “I will be a very different kind of Prime Minister,” the Labour leader will say in Telford. “Not the kind of prime minister who believes he was born to rule.”
Both Scottish and Welsh Labour will be launching their campaigns today. Richard Leonard is kicking off with a new pledge to build 120,000 council and social rented homes over a decade, while Mark Drakeford is visiting a training centre to highlight Labour’s commitment to skills and opportunities for young people. Activist network Momentum are unveiling ‘Become an Organiser’, which borrows US-style ‘distributed organising’ tactics to democratise and grow Labour’s campaign. Compare all of that to James Cleverly being empty-chaired by Kay Burley this morning, and Labour has good reason to be exceedingly cheery at this early stage of the election campaign. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.