Thursday, 1 June 2017

Life in Remainville: at the Hustings

To St Clements, scene of the 2015 hustings, for a re-run. With the Big Two back again with much the same views I didn't learn a whole lot that would sway my vote, although Jeff Smith's vow to keep fighting for the interests of pro-Europeans was welcome. He had a neat line on a second referendum, being sympathetic to one but noting the necessity of a change in public opinion first, which he predicted would happen. Smith's vote against Article 50 has indeed innoculated him against a clear line of attack from John Leech, and Brexit was far from the dominant theme of the evening, putting a question mark over the very name of this blog series.

Much more focus was on questions of tax and spending, which is exactly where Labour needs the debate to be and very bad news for the Lib Dems. Leech's other main attack was that a vote for Smith is a vote for Corbyn Chaos, but the lack of reaction confirmed my feeling that Withington is not the most receptive area in the country to this argument. I can understand the need for Leech to try to make this the dividing line when they agree on so much else, but it feels like he's playing a weak hand (particularly of course with a newly resurgent Corbyn).

With UKIP absent, the pantomime villain role went to Sarah Heald of the Conservatives, particularly when she came out in favour of grammar schools and accused other party manifestos of being poorly costed. It fell to Laura Bannister of the Greens to point out just how hypocritical this is coming from the party with the completely uncosted manifesto. Heald was keen to make crime the issue of the day but amusingly the crime questions on the list didn't make the cut. She also claims to have polls showing her to be the main opposition to Smith in this seat; I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Best line of the night went to Sally Carr for noting that white goods purchases come with a cooling off period and therefore so should Brexit. The Women's Equality Party were out in force in the audience and Carr certainly highlighted/crowbarred their agenda into virtually every question, so perhaps it was worth setting the party up in the first place after all. I'm suspicious of any party that describes itself as "non-partisan" however.

Overall nothing that would give Jeff Smith any cause for worry, and I remain convinced he'll win big next week despite the ongoing Lib Dem leaflet assault (two more this week).

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