Jeremy Corbyn’s decision not to apologise last night for the way that Labour has handled antisemitism means his party will lose the air war again today. I’ve had less than encouraging experiences on the doorstep during this election campaign, but many activists say they feel Labour is doing well, especially those members knocking on doors in Remain-heavy seats. The line on Brexit – putting it back to the people in a fresh referendum, which is a democratic route unlike the Lib Dem solution of revocation – is easily explained and going down well there.
But the gap between the air war and the ground game has just gotten a whole lot bigger. And it’s happened at exactly the wrong moment: when party insiders wanted and needed to see a turning point in the campaign. There is still time for Boris Johnson to screw up, though he has successfully ‘Tefloned’ his way through the last few weeks. If there is a turning point, it must happen soon: polling day is fast approaching. Many hopes rest on the TV debates. Perhaps something will stick when the Prime Minister faces in his own Andrew Neil grilling – it’s not as if Johnson has the mastery of detail or straight-forward responses required to fare well in that situation.
Corbyn will make a statement on the NHS this morning that has been billed as “major” by the Labour Party. We don’t yet have any details on its content. What we do know about is Labour’s latest policy announcement, which is focussed on tackling violent crime and will go up against the Tory emphasis on law and order in this campaign. The proposal being put forward by Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon is to expand ‘violence reduction units’ by an average of 20 additional police officers each.
What exactly does that mean? Labour wants to direct resources towards areas with the highest rates of gang-related violent crime, and to take a ‘public health approach’ in that mission. Burgon as Shadow Justice Secretary comes into the picture because Labour also plans to set up a £20m annual ‘justice innovation fund’ that the party hopes will prioritise the views of experts and reduce rates of reoffending. Combined with the manifesto promise to introduce a presumption against short prison sentences for non-violent and non-sexual offences, this is another area in which Labour’s proposals are so obviously needed that the whole country will regret it if they are not implemented. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.