By Mike L Jarvis
Political leaders are scouring the UK today preaching to the converted and yet-to-be-persuaded, reinforcing and clarifying policies, and reassuring any doubtful party faithful (there are an unusually large number of them it seems this election), as a short but intense campaign winds down and the clock ticks inexorably towards the opening of the polls on Thursday.
This final political push to persuade and ‘hoover-up’ any floating and uncertain votes, underlines the knife’s edge on which this election is now poised.
At this late stage and penultimate day of the UK election campaign, there doesn’t appear be to any indicator suggesting a clear path to victory by either of the two main parties.
That it could result in a coalition involving several of the smaller parties is not as far-fetched as it might have sounded up to a few weeks ago, and that’s despite all and sundry affirming (or at least appearing to affirm) that such for them is out of the question.
Reality could dictate otherwise. Politics does make strange bedfellows. Although uncommon in the UK, it still happened as recently as 2010 (Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) and it could very well happen again.
Security has understandably surged to the fore of the campaign in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks. Other pressing remain although they have been overshadowed by the security concerns and whose are the safest hands for the UK in critical this period.
Although it might have been pushed into the background - this after all was supposed to be ‘the Brexit election’ - going forward, everything hinges on the UK getting unhinged from the EU: the economy, defence and security, health and social care, education, housing, the issue of Scottish independence, international relations, foreign aid...everything.
Within the past several weeks, the once thought unassailable 24-point lead in the polls that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives held over their nearest rivals, Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, has plummeted to single digits.
Some reputable polling organisations have it to within two points although in some other polls the gap is wider.
The recent horrific terrorist attacks in London, especially one in London just this past Saturday, have factored into the polls and political discourse in a significant way which could ultimately determine the outcome of the election, or at least have a major influence on the result.
Up to a few weeks ago, the election was the Conservatives to lose, if only given its advantage of being the party in power.
That they could now very well lose it or at least substantially lose their majority, is not quite far-fetched thinking.
It was the election that was not going to be, then was.
In the aftermath of assuming the reigns of power in the fractious fall-out within the Conservative party after the Brexit vote - which itself came just one year after a comfortable victory at the 2015 election - Mrs May had affirmed that she was not going to call a snap election. Then she did.
Her rationale? She wanted a clear mandate to lead the UK in the very difficult Brexit talks ahead with the EU. Remember ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’?
But politically, she was also clearly capitalising on the disarray within the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.
Notwithstanding its far-reaching implications for the British economy and relations with the EU, Brexit on which the election was called, has been very much on the backburner during this election campaign.
It’s been overshadowed by a plethora of other issues and self-inflicted strategy miscalculations by the major parties, especially the Conservatives and Labour.
Firstly, Mrs May and the Conservatives scored an own goal by stirring up considerable ire and resentment among their core voter base with their dementia-tax/social care payments debacle. That policy proposal almost derailed the launch of their manifesto and certainly pushed their campaign onto the wrong track.
Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party didn’t fare much better; undergoing heavy weather for lofty promises in their manifesto which their election opposites, the media and the public questioned the lack of clarity on how those were going to be paid for.
Labour struggled with its policy figures, but so did other parties’ candidates who seemed not able to recall vital manifesto pledges and policy details, or even or add-up what their policies would cost.
The Liberal Democrats have been trailing in the polls, as have UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party). UKIP’s sole claim to fame (albeit a noteworthy and verifiable claim) is that they, under former multiple-occasions-leader Nigel Farage, will go down in history as the party which triggered Brexit.
The Green Party, which promotes a strong environment agenda (it has one seat in the parliament, UKIP has none), brings up the rear.
Now, with security firmly on the front-burner, the pendulum seemed to be nudging again in Mrs May's favour.
On the other hand, despite his previous equivocation on critical matters regarding defence and national security, Mr Corbyn is now being more direct and forthcoming on how a Labour government would handle these matters.
In fact, his new-found assertiveness overall seems to have gone up by leaps and bounds. It’s as if he has undergone a personality and strategy make-over...or this late push is in direct relation to the closing margins of the voter surveys and policy shifts by the Conservatives over handling security which some fear go too far and threaten personal rights and liberties.
For the Conservatives, this could very well be Theresa May's Margaret Thatcher-moment or Mr Corbyn could very well be ‘the comeback kid’.
An unusually high number of party members are admitting that at this late stage that they are undecided.
Some others are openly stating that they are ditching party loyalty to vote to ensure that the person they feel is the best person to lead the country in this historically critical period is elected.
Similarly, a large percentage of first-time voters are stating that they too will be voting for the best leader rather than signing up with any party.
The silent majority indeed may very well have the final say.
And I am not ruling out at least the environment for a coalition.
It’s that’s close.
The next 48 hours waiting for the results are going be extraordinarily nail-biting.
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