The banking industry continues to reward itself for its failures, while the poor continue to take the punishment.
c/o David Hencke

David Hencke

HSBC pic credit BBC HSBC. Five senior executives due to share £33.4m Pic credit: BBC

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The day  after the general election the House of Commons library released a flood of papers which had been held up because of  purdah rules until after the result was known.

One of the most revealing papers was one on Banking Executives’ Renumeration in the UK. It drew on two sources – Britain’s submission  ( required by EU rules ) to the European Banking Authority and British sources such as company reports and details from the banks themselves about long term incentives for senior executives.

The facts revealed in the annexes to this report confirm what a lot of people have suspected but have not always been able to prove. There is-a widening gulf between the top and the bottom that has been going on during the fiercest period of austerity which has seen real…

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by Martin Odoni

Roll up! Roll up! Have I got a deal for you?!

If you are looking for a holiday to the Bahamas, and you have slightly more than enough money to afford it, but want a bit more left over afterwards, this is your lucky day.

Because I am prepared to offer you an arrangement where you give me all of that money, and in return, with absolutely no strings attached, I will give you slightly less than enough to afford the holiday back, and then you can try and borrow the rest of the cash off of a few religious fanatics from Northern Ireland.

How does that sound? What a great offer, right?

So far, I have had one enthusiastic customer taking me up on this generous deal – I shall refrain from revealing her identity except to let you know that her name is Theresa – but I am sure that plenty of you lucky people will leap at this chance too. I mean, you were happy enough to take up an offer of £350 million for the NHS last summer….

Theresa May has committed the biggest blunder in British political history. That is not an exaggeration. I have thought hard about this over the last forty-odd hours and, terrible though some were, I can genuinely think of no other that was this bad. She needlessly called a General Election late in April, in an attempt to dig a very deep hole in which to bury Jeremy Corbyn. But when she tried to push him into the hole, he simply stepped to one side, causing May to over-balance and fall into it herself. Somehow, from a starting lead of twenty points in the polls, facing a deeply divided and dysfunctional Opposition Labour Party, and with the confident expectation of winning a one-hundred-seat majority in the House of Commons, May managed to lose the smaller majority she already had, and is now trapped in a Hung Parliament.

With this mistake, Theresa May has turned herself into the greatest laughing stock in Europe. While polite noises of concern have been expressed by leaders in the European Union over the fresh confusion Thursday’s Election result is likely to cause, there have also been plenty of contemptuous noises. One cannot help suspecting that the contemptuous noises – especially from Radoslaw Sikorski or Guy Verhofstadt – are the more truthful ones.

Brexit is becoming more and more a form of self-harm

A Dutch cartoon highlighting how the British, and in particular Theresa May, are becoming increasingly self-destructive.

The whole pretext for calling the Election was that May wanted a proper mandate for negotiating withdrawal from the EU. This was not as untrue as it might appear. There were a few reasons for it, but it would genuinely have been useful to her to have a larger majority for the negotiations, but not for the reasons she presented. She made it sound like she wanted it to increase her credibility when dealing with EU leaders. In truth, it was more about trying to protect herself against rebellions by Euro-skeptic MPs in her own party, should the eventual deal extracted from the EU prove not to their liking.

But the reality is that, whatever the reason for calling the Election, May has simply wasted six weeks of precious negotiation time, and surrendered three more years of governing with a small-but-workable majority, just to be hamstrung by operating a minority Government propped up by a party of homophobic sectarian terrorists.

(NOTE: If any supporters of the Democratic Unionist Party happen to read this, and find the terrorist references objectionable, I feel it only fair to point out that they have never hesitated to call Sinn Fein ‘part of the Irish Republican Army’. Given the overlap between the DUP and Loyalist Paramilitaries in Ulster, especially the Ulster Defence Association, is at least as great as the overlap between Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA, it really is time Unionist fanatics grew up a bit and accepted that they cannot have it both ways.)

I struggle to think of a more meagre return on an investment in the history of British Elections than what May has sifted from this one. So when she arrives at the negotiating table, if the EU delegates want to push her around, she has handed them fantastic material with which to do so.

As for May’s prospective alliance with the DUP, it is unlikely to remain stable for long at all, given genuine differences between the two parties on social policy, and on leaving the EU. The DUP want a ‘soft Brexit’, retaining access to the single market and keeping the Irish border open, whereas the Tories, perhaps at the insistence of the lunatic, UKIP-bordering fringe in the House of Commons, are looking for a total severance from the Union.

Furthermore, with the DUP’s crazed attitudes to homosexuality, climate change, creationism, and abortion, soft-right Conservatives will really struggle to stomach an alliance. There are already very public rumblings of alarm from some of the (relatively) moderate members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party.

Screenshot from 2017-06-10 17-15-46

The unhappiness of Tory MPs about working with the DUP will be heightened by the narrow margin of some of their constituency victories in the Election. The swing towards Labour across the UK was very dramatic, and even in seats the Tories retained, the winning margin at the ballot box was often slight. The most prominent example of that was Amber Rudd in Hastings, who only retained her seat after two nail-biting recounts. But she was by no means the only one to survive a close shave. A range of Tory MPs are now only in place by knife-edge margins, and none of them will therefore be enthusiastic about supporting any controversial policies. But given the throwback nature of the DUP, it is hard to imagine any policies May can come up with that will simultaneously be uncontroversial enough for her own backbenchers while still being hard-line enough for the DUP to see as worth the bother of continuing to support her.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, May’s handling of her chosen approach has done her and her party no favours. While it is understandable that she sees an alliance with the DUP as the only way of establishing some kind of majority – it is objectively true – she really needs to be more careful about how she speaks about it. On announcing that she was looking to form the alliance on Friday, she dropped yet another clanger by referring to the DUP as “friends”.

Given the endless tidal waves of accusation aimed at Jeremy Corbyn over once, purely as a diplomatic nicety, referring to Hamas as “friends”, it is frankly nauseating that May has not been taken equally to task in the media over referring to the paramilitary-allied DUP in the same terms. This is doubly unsettling given what a serious danger Brexit poses to Northern Ireland and the peace process there.

The alliance itself also creates problems for Northern Ireland. Its legality may be in doubt, due to the Tories’ own ‘English-Votes-for-English-Laws’ rules, and due to the Good Friday Agreement’s requirement for non-partisan British governance within Ulster. For the DUP to exercise an influence on Westminster’s administration that Nationalist or Republican parties, such as the Social Democratic Labour Party or Sinn Fein, do not is a probable violation.

There are so many obstacles, both to setting the alliance up, and to maintaining it, that I find it very hard to believe that May’s new Government will see in the year 2018. If there is, as I currently suspect, a second General Election to happen later this year, I can only see the Labour Party winning it. Theresa May has been made to look hopelessly inadequate, while her party has no serious alternative candidates to put forward to replace her, and their public image is already being further-harmed by association with the DUP. Meanwhile, Labour’s support is continuing to surge without a post-Election pause for breath. If May’s new Government has to resign, Jeremy Corbyn will, after so many people insisted he could not, become Prime Minister.

Here are a few other, miscellaneous conclusions I have drawn from an extraordinary Election Night; –

1) YouGov should abandon its usual model of polling and focus on the one they used for the Brexit Referendum. It correctly projected all the way through that Leave would win, and it was also the first model to predict a Hung Parliament for the General Election. The final poll of YouGov‘s standard model, by contrast, proved to be hopelessly wrong.

2) The Hung Parliament could embolden a lot of MPs in the UK who have long been much too afraid of upsetting right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch. (This failure-of-influence is probably why Murdoch apparently threw a childish hissy-fit when the BBC/Sky Exit Poll was announced). For Jeremy Corbyn to run the popular vote so close after two years of unending smears by the Tory red-tops and even the supposedly ‘liberal-left’ media like The Guardian, it is becoming obvious that the influence of mainstream newspapers on public opinion is on the wane.

3) Following on from 2), my hypothesis when Corbyn became Labour leader was that social media was beginning to erode the grip of the traditional press. The  General Election appears to confirm this. Not only is social media effective as a high-speed ‘debunking’ tool, it is also far better at getting through to and mobilising younger voters. When it comes to tapping the potential of the Internet, Corbyn’s Labour (especially support groups like Momentum) appear to be streets ahead of the Tories, whose campaigning style in cyberspace seems not to have advanced since about 2010.

4) A lot of Blairites and ‘soft-left’ Parliamentary figures in the Labour Party have not only been made to apologise to Jeremy Corbyn – and what delicious fun it has been watching them squirm – they are also coming to realise that a very central article-of-faith they have followed for half their lives and more was wrong. They have insisted for years and years that old-style Labour policies will never chime with the British Electorate anymore. But, while Labour still have work to do before they can secure an actual majority in the House of Commons, the Blairites have nonetheless seen that the ‘Real Left’ does have considerable appeal to the public. The last General Election in which Labour secured over forty per cent of the popular vote was Tony Blair’s first as leader in 1997. In Blair’s two subsequent victories, in Gordon Brown’s defeat in 2010, and in Ed Miliband’s humiliation in 2015, the total Labour vote declined sharply and consistently. Thanks to Corbyn’s invigorating campaign, for the first time since 1997, Labour’s vote-share has gone up again, nay, surged up, from a dismal twenty-nine percent to over forty per cent in the space of just two years. In terms of vote-count, Corbyn’s performance is even more startling. With nearly thirteen million votes going to Labour, in most Elections he would have had plenty to secure Number 10 there and then. All of which means the Blairite ideologues have a toe-curling question to ponder; just how much potential support have these fools spurned over the last fifteen years or so, by ignoring the young and disengaged, and insisting on trying to poach Tory voters with half-baked offers of queasy-conscience neoliberalism instead? How many supporters might they have earned by offering a more daring policy-platform? Or indeed, how much better might they have done by trying to engage with the public in a less-television-centred way? Now in fairness, Blairite campaigning approaches worked in the infant age of the modern Internet, because social media still did not really exist back in the late-1990’s. Looking good on television and sounding suave on the radio were still sufficient. But that mainstream-only style is now obsolete, and until Thursday night, the Blairites appear to have missed that development completely.

5) Corbyn’s own campaign-style, in some respects, is even more old-fashioned, but unlike the Blairites’ mainstream-media-dominated approach, it remains effective. Corbyn was going on rallies, talking to people face-to-face, getting on the soapbox and addressing crowds in their thousands. In short, he showed up. He was there in person, which is always good politics. That side of his approach is no different from the campaigning style of politicians from the distant past, such as Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. But for all its oldness of style, it still works consistently, and probably always will. Indeed, hand-in-hand with modern social media technology, providing live video streams of big events, and avalanches of digital photos that can be shared around the world within seconds, it is probably more effective now than ever. By contrast, radio-and-TV-only skills are really quite hit-and-miss these days, because a lot of the electorate will only have passing contact with them.

6) The main argument for retaining the hopelessly-outdated First-Past-The-Post system for British General Elections is that they are more likely to “create strong Government” than Proportional Representation systems. However, the post-Credit Crunch era in Westminster has given the lie to that once and for all. There have been three General Elections in just the last seven years. Two of them have led to Hung Parliaments, and one of them led to an overall majority of just twelve – with the Prime Minister therefore left at the mercy of the extremist fringe of the governing party. So clearly it is high time to dump the assumption that the older system protects the Government from instability, because the facts do not substantiate it.

7) My my, but Tony Blair has been awfully quiet, has he not? Has there been some development from this General Election upon which he now finds it embarrassing to reflect? I wonder what that might be…?

Screenshot from 2017-06-10 23-11-41

No, nothing springs to my mind either. So maybe Blair is just too busy preparing his defence case for when he is standing in the dock in the Hague in the fairly near future?

Reblogged from Tim Hayward.

Tim Hayward

Terrorist acts on British soil have been committed by people revealed to have been not only known but actively supported by British intelligence agencies.  They were supported in carrying out acts of violence in other countries, including Libya and Syria, because it was in accordance with UK foreign policy objectives. Those objectives themselves were highly questionable, and the methods still more so.  Meanwhile, we have started to learn – and at a bitter cost to those killed or injured, and their friends and families – what goes around comes around.  What went around was not fair or deserved in Libya or Syria, and it is cruelly arbitrary for lives to be lost or terribly changed in our country too.

Blowbackis, I fear, a word we may find ourselves using increasingly and for some time to come. We should certainly try to get as focused, rational, mature and…

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by Martin Odoni

The harrowing news of the London Bridge Attacks on Saturday has meant that the 2017 General Election campaign will probably be most remembered as the ‘Terrorism Election’, coming as they did less than two weeks after the Manchester Arena Bombing. I am genuinely worried that there may be more attacks planned for Election Day tomorrow. Speaking for myself, I submitted my postal vote over a week ago, so I should be safe, but to everyone reading this, I ask that you please take extra care when at the polling stations, as they are an obvious target.

I should emphasise at this juncture that paranoia about terrorism is not really merited; the odds remain far shorter on dying in this country on the roads than in a terror attack. We have had three successful attacks in a little under three months, and the combined death toll is below forty. Nearly forty too many of course, but in a population of over sixty-four million, it is a really low proportion, so do get out and vote. Just be careful; it can hardly hurt to do so.

GE2017

Please do vote though. For one very important reason; –

The Labour Party go into tomorrow with a genuine hope that simply was not there a month or so ago. The polls are now far closer than they were. But I fear another let-down when the exit polls are announced at 10pm tomorrow. I remember the disbelief I felt at the same time two years ago, when it was projected that the Conservatives were going to be nearly eighty seats ahead of Labour – a disbelief that gave way to despair as the night wore on and it became clear that they would in fact have an overall majority. This time around, for all that Labour have apparently closed the gap in popular support, I have grave doubts whether their support is distributed adequately beyond London to take enough seats under our benightedly obsolete electoral system. I also fear that many people who are genuinely thinking of voting Labour, but who are always taken in by the completely fictitious notion that Tory Governments run the economy better, will take fright at the crucial moment and vote for the Conservatives, somehow missing that all they can offer is more of the same shambolic cruelty.

I hope I am wrong. I hope the British people are capable of more courage and more critical thinking than that. So many people in this country have nothing left to lose worth keeping anyway.

Let the host of one of my favourite childhood television series say it for me; –

Treguard, the most democratic Dungeon Master of Knightmare Castle

Treguard, the most democratic Dungeon Master of Knightmare Castle

So vote Labour tomorrow. Vote for Jeremy Corbyn tomorrow.

In support of Diane Abbott…

(Written by Jack Monroe.)

JACK MONROE

This is not a recipe. I wrote this as a series of tweets today and readers asked for it as a blog post, so here it is. Our politics may differ, so feel free to skip straight back to the recipes if that’s what you’re here for.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DIANE ABBOTT.

Right one of us political writer people needs to do this and it looks like it’s me. Grab a seat. I wanna talk about Diane.
Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it.
Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have…

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by Martin Odoni

There are just six days until the General Election, and the Prime Minister’s already-shambolic campaign has been struck by two fresh, self-inflicted body-blows in about fifteen hours.

Last night, the United States President, Donald Trump, withdrew the USA from the Paris Accord on Climate Change. It was an outrageous decision that has received condemnation from all around the world. (It is genuinely disturbing to see Communist China, at least on this issue, actually showing greater honour and morality than the self-proclaimed ‘best country in the world’.)

Oddly, at a crucial stage of the Election campaign, this presented Theresa May with a real opportunity to demonstrate her vaunted ‘strong-and-stable leadership’, and to prove that Britain is not just an obsequious follower of the USA’s every whim. So naturally, May seized upon the opportunity, and did not add her name to a letter signed by other world leaders condemning Trump’s decision. Instead, she telephoned the President to tell him she was ‘disappointed’.

Wow. Effective. Really seizing the initiative there, no cowardly or feeble half-gestures from our nation’s inspirational leader, dear me, no.

Now I am not entirely convinced May even made the phone-call, but if we give her the benefit of the doubt on that, I am still led to ask, “So what?” What she said determines whether her response was strong, and it clearly was not. She is merely ‘disappointed’ in a decision that could ultimately devastate wide stretches of land across the surface of the Earth? Really? ‘Disappointed‘? Did she ‘shake her head in disapproval’ at the Rwandan Genocide?

‘Disappointment’ is yet another lazy, mechanical ‘get-out’ word, used as a substitute for expressing anger with an ‘ally’ when anger is merited.

May claims the letter was drawn up before she had had a chance to speak to Trump. I have no doubt of that; I expect it was originally drawn up around the time Trump was sworn into office, as the move was one of his Election promises, and other countries would have wanted to be ready for it. So May could easily have added her name to it any time she wished, simply by forwarding an electronic signature by e-mail. It can be done in seconds.

So, having probably cost the Conservative Party another point in the opinion polls by allowing herself to appear spineless over international affairs (not good when your main Election posture has been that you will be a ‘strong’ negotiator during withdrawal from the European Union), May needed Friday to be free of any more bumps-in-the-road.

theresa-may1

Enter Craig MacKinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet. Now, the Tories appeared to have dodged a major bullet early last month, when the Crown Prosecution Service initially ruled that there would be no charges over the Tories’ Election Expenses Fraud. Smugly, and very deceitfully, May claimed in the aftermath of that announcement that this ruling meant that no one in the party at a constituency level had done anything wrong. That was categorically not the meaning of the CPS’ ruling, but more importantly, May overlooked one other detail; the ruling only applied to the rule-violation of the misuse of the Tory ‘Battle Bus‘ for local campaigning, while reporting it as a national expense. The individual case of the very bitterly-fought campaign for South Thanet was still being investigated separately.

Now – with truly agonising timing for the Tories – the investigation has been completed, and the CPS has found enough evidence to be confident of a successful prosecution. MacKinlay, his election agent, Nathan Gray, and a party activist called Marion Little, have all been charged with violating the Representation of the People Act of 1983.

I would just like to offer a mild observation at this point, with no implication intended. The timing of these charges is reminiscent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s bizarre, and as it turned out rather pointless, public declaration that it would re-open investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal just before the US Presidential Election back in the Autumn. I would certainly argue that there is more point to what has happened today, than what happened then, given there is apparently sufficient grounds this time to press charges. But even so, there are so many parallels between what it happening in Britain now and what happened in the USA last year that it is almost eerie.

MacKinlay’s alleged conduct is probably not May’s fault, and this is one occasion where her inability to control the Election campaign is not down to her own incompetence. But her rash and dishonest declaration that no one had done anything wrong is now likely to do her and her party yet more harm, with the Election now dead ahead. A declaration like that is usually a reputation-gamble. Given the savaging May’s reputation has already suffered over the last few weeks of campaign chaos, it could be argued that it was a small gamble to make. But it is not, because the destiny of 10 Downing Street is on the line as well right now. With Jeremy Corbyn and Labour closing rapidly in the opinion polls, and May’s entire campaign banking on the public perception of Tory competence, the final death of her reputation could also be the final death of her bid to remain Prime Minister.

After all, who would want a party in power that has shown itself to be both incompetent and, in all probability, corrupt?

Save

by Martin Odoni

The televised leaders debate last night was too chaotic and cluttered again, and it often got to the point that the opposing participants were talking over each other so much that no one could be heard. I was originally in favour of enlarging these debates to include more parties, but I am starting to wonder whether it makes the process a little pointless. All the candidates to a greater or lesser extent were repeatedly guilty of speaking out-of-turn, interrupting, and not respecting the others’ space to speak. If candidates will not follow the rules and let others finish speaking, there will have to be a reassessment of the format for these events in future. One option the producers could try is to shut down all the microphones bar the one of the candidate whose turn it is to speak.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the performances; –

Paul Nuttall – – – The UKIP leader continues to say stupid things, even repeating stupid things he said at the ITV debate, without apparently realising they were stupid. Someone needs to sit him down and explain to him that the Australian Immigration System will not reduce the number of incomers, as the points system lets in more per head of population than Britain’s current set-up. Also, does Nuttall really not recognise the absurdity inherent in saying, “[Donald Trump] is the leader of the free world whether we like it or not”? If Trump leads a ‘free world’ – of which Nuttall presumably imagines Britain is a part – how can we not have a say in who the leader is? Nuttall also did himself no favours at all with an inaccurate cheap shot at Corbyn about Hamas.

Caroline Lucas – – – The joint-leader of the Green Party spoke well again, sounding a lot more positive than most of the others, and she avoided making any silly remarks. I am just starting to wonder whether there is any point in her being there though, as most of what she says echoes the Labour and Liberal Democrat positions very closely, and as Green is the smallest party, it would have to be the one that gives way to reduce the numbers and confusion on-stage.

Tim Farron – – – The LibDem leader was probably the top performer on the night again. He did well in both large debates, although it has to be conceded that, as no one else was targeting him at all, he was a lot freer to go on the attack than some others were. His ‘Bake-off’ line at the end to take a swipe at Theresa May was very funny.

Angus Robertson – – – The deputy leader of the Scottish National Party started somewhat poorly, sounding like his every word was read off a teleprompter. But once he got past the early nerves, he improved dramatically and began to speak far more assertively and effectively. Unlike Nicola Sturgeon on the ITV debate a couple of weeks ago, Robertson remembered at all times that he was speaking to the whole of the UK and not just to Scotland, which meant he was a lot less prone to the appearance – fair or otherwise – of drifting into irrelevance.

Jeremy Corbyn – – – The Labour leader did reasonably well, given he was, as one might expect, targeted by the others an awful lot. He seemed to struggle at certain points, especially on the subject of the renewal of Trident, due to being constantly interrupted, especially by Robertson. But Corbyn can hardly really complain about that as he did his share of interrupting too. I doubt this performance in itself will have gained him significant ground on May in the polls, although he may gain a point automatically by virtue of simply being the one who had the guts to show up.

Leanne Wood – – – This seemed like an uncharacteristically tetchy performance from the leader of Plaid Cymru, sometimes bordering on rude. Maybe she was still feeling irked at Nuttall for repeatedly getting her name wrong during the ITV debate. Wood’s performance was not bad as such, but you get the feeling that her normally-cooler head was needed at times, and it just never quite seemed to be there. As a result, she was as prone to interrupting and speaking out-of-turn as anyone, and one or two of her answers sounded somewhat ratty. Unlikely to have won too many fresh admirers on this occasion.

Amber Rudd – – – It was quite wrong that the Conservative leader was not there, of course, but I will come to that later. Looking at Rudd’s performance, she cannot be faulted on her speaking voice, which is certainly stronger and less monotonous than ‘Blowhard-the-U-Turn-Queen’s’. But the content of what Rudd said was shaky, and she did drop a couple of real clangers during the discussion. Her most disturbing transgression was dressing up Britain’s amoral sales of weapons and aircraft to the House of al-Saud as somehow ‘defending Britain’. Meanwhile, her near-obsessive pursuit of Jeremy Corbyn throughout the debate turned some of her answers into non-sequiturs, as she tried to twist every question into an attack on Labour. Rudd’s insistence on soundbiting repetitively about a ‘Magic Money Tree’ (highlighting the economic illiteracy of her own party) probably did the Tories no favours, and she came across as a little down-the-nose and obstreperous throughout. Allowing for the fact that her father had passed away at the start of the week however (that she was sent to the debate as the Tories’ ‘sacrificial lamb’ only underlines how frighteningly lacking Theresa May is in human feeling), Rudd held it together quite well. She was a bit blundery, and used some very odd metaphors – someone needs to explain to her the rules of Monopoly – but a bit like May’s scratchy performance on Monday, at least it was not an outright disaster. Given the month the Tories have had, that may be a relief to them in itself. But what a sad reflection it is on their campaign that ‘not-an-outright-disaster’ could be seen as one of its high points.

blowhard uturnqueen

Moving on, I discussed May’s absence from the debate at some length yesterday, but I would like to draw attention to a video that has gone viral on social media. It was created by Momentum from an excerpt from a press conference May gave yesterday evening in Bath. It can be accessed via their Facebook page here.

The horrendous forced laugh that May put on in response to the opening question from Faisal Islam was actually disturbing. It was reminiscent of the notorious Natalie Portman laugh at the 2011 Golden Globes. Islam asked her, if May is strong and Corbyn is weak, why was Rudd at the debate instead? May followed up her laugh with a totally evasive answer, layered over with another of her favourite robotic catchphrases of “best possible deal for Britain”. The look in her eyes as she spoke was one of mortifying terror.

It shows what an unbridled pig’s breakfast that the Tories in general, and May in particular, have made of their campaign, that even the BBC’s Chief Tory-with-a-press-pass, Laura Kuenssberg, can no longer tolerate trying to defend it. When she asked the second question, she simply re-iterated the first one, suggesting flat out (and correctly) that May is frightened of going head-to-head with Jeremy Corbyn.

Watching this moment, it is clear that May was unable to stop fidgeting throughout. Her response, in a voice that sounded just a little too high-pitched and a bit too fast, was one of the most profoundly stupid, self-undermining remarks I have ever heard from a Tory politician – and the competition for that title is fierce. May said that taking questions from members of the public is part of the electoral process, hence why she was at this event in Bath, and not going to attend the televised debate.

The reason this answer was so stupid should not need pointing out, but just to be on the safe side, I shall explain; the questions at the televised debate were all going to be asked by members of the public. There was also a likelihood that far more members of the public would get to see the televised debate than to see this press conference in Bath. Furthermore, the implication was rather insulting to Amber Rudd; if televised debates are really so unimportant, why is it fair to waste Rudd’s time by making her take part in them?

May then followed up this imbecilic moment with a very nervous and painfully-unfunny attempt at a wisecrack about Corbyn not attending the ITV debate. The response of the ‘audience’ was so quiet, you could have heard an amoeba clearing its throat in embarrassment.

I honestly get the impression that May is not only scared, she appears to be suffering from hyper-tension. She thought this campaign was going to be a breeze, but it has turned into a horrible, exhausting struggle, one in which she has lost every battle that she has been made to fight. The news in the opinion polls has been increasingly unhappy for the Conservatives over the last three weeks, and there now appears to be a serious danger that they are going to lose seats at the General Election next week. Perhaps even fall into a Hung Parliament. Given that May had three more years available before she had to call the Election, were the outcome to be a Hung Parliament, or even a reduced majority, this campaign would have to go down as one of the greatest-ever backfires in British politics.

The stress and strain of being in a situation that May does not know how to control is clearly weighing very heavily on her, and it looks like she is not quite coping.

I am not making fun here, by the way. I am no stranger to the misery of stress and depression, and to my surprise I was starting to feel oddly sorry for May as I watched the video. But at the same time, her misery is not exactly what I would call ‘undeserved’. She has brought it on herself by her mixture of hubris and cowardice. And if her inability to cope with the demands of an Election campaign, in which she had every advantage it was possible to have at the outset, is anything to go by, just how ‘Strong-&-Stable’ can her leadership really be, should she remain Prime Minister? Just how effectively can she negotiate a deal with the European Union? (Not that the Prime Minister will really be doing that; these details are sorted out by civil servants and lawyers, the politicians will largely just sort out the press conferences.)

May knows that she is in trouble. Her party has suffered more damage this week, and the latest YouGov poll from last night puts the lead over Labour down to just three points.

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May’s campaign has been about her, not the Conservative Party. “Vote for me!”, not “Vote for us!”. But at the same time, she has desperately tried to avoid engagement with the media or the public except at the longest-of-arm’s-lengths. Therefore, she has tried to make the campaign into a kind of ‘personality-cult’ of herself without offering any of her real personality – I am generously assuming there is far more to her than we see from her public image – for people to follow. (This makes it doubly confounding that she sent someone else to debate in her place last night; if the Election campaign is about May, it needs to be May who speaks for it.) So the Tory campaign has inevitably been a whole lot of nothing, apart from ill-defined soundbites talking up May’s own capacity to lead, which in this isolation just sound horribly superior.

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Contrast that barrenness with Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have been out-and-about, talking to everybody they can, taking every opportunity to engage with the wider public, full of energy and ideas, not afraid to talk about policies in detail, and always bringing a firm and consistent message that their campaign is about the people and not about any one man or woman, or even one political party. Now some parts of this are a good deal less substantial than others, sure, but the point is that it does engage people, not least because it gives people something positive to hope for, other than just someone who will negotiate ‘Brexit’. People are given something to get hold of when they listen to Corbyn.

May, being a sort of ‘dull-but-sound’, pre-manufactured politician, has nothing to compete with that. She often looks very uneasy when mixing with people, at least when it is not a stage-managed meeting, she shows mediocre energy, lacks sufficient principle to realise when she is doing something immoral, is easily frightened into backing down subsequently, and is too scared of verbal slips to risk articulating policy details. The result is a campaign of chaos and public alienation. Her assumption that this was an Election she could win without even trying has made her vulnerable, while her innate powerlessness to change the tide has put her under growing strain.

May knows that, if the current trend continues, then by the Election next week, Labour may well have enough support to guarantee a Hung Parliament. Then, all that talk of a ‘Coalition of Chaos’ is sure to rebound on her, as she looks around desperately for a partner to prop up her Government, while her own backbenchers start wondering why they are making do with a leader who could not win a majority from a campaign in which she started with a twenty-plus-point advantage.

She is entitled to feel overwhelmed. I know I would in her shoes. But then, recognition of the brutality of politics is precisely why I have never seriously considered standing for election (many people have suggested to me that I should). I truly do not believe I could cope with the hostility. I therefore do not condemn May for struggling to cope, but I should point out that my inability on that score is why I am not a politician.

If May has that same inability, why is she in Government at all?