The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may very well contact such a condition in the coming week before the voters of the United Kingdom cast their ballots in the December 12 general election.
This is an election that Corbyn for months dared former prime minister Theresa May to call as she sought to control Westminster with the aid of ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) members of parliament from Northern Ireland. Yet, it is an election that Labour dithered for weeks to call once Boris Johnson took the helm of the Conservative party and the keys to 10 Downing Street.
If there is one thing that seems ever so sure now — as sure as things can be in UK politics nowadays — it is that Johnson, a leader who is frugal with facts, parsimonious with veracity and liberal with loquaciousness, is somehow managing to convince enough Britons that he can get Brexit done — and then deserves an opportunity to lead the UK into the next decade.
This UK election campaign is only the second in December since the end of the Second World War — and over-ready meals are just what’s needed on the doorsteps
Come the early hours of Friday the 13th, Johnson’s Conservatives will likely have attained enough seats to form the next government. A range of recent opinion polls give Johnson’s party as many as 359 of the 650 seats at Westminster — more than enough to meet the threshold of 322 or so needed for a working majority.
At the lower end of those opinion polls, Johnson could be calling on the DUP once more for a working majority. Some might even suggest that the new parliament will be as divided as the previous one — and what a mess that would indeed be once more.
So why such a big difference in the predictions?
The short answer is Brexit: The long answer is Brexit too. In essence, there are many of the constituencies in southern England that would normally be considered safe Conservative seats. The trouble is that in many of these seats, particularly in and around Greater London, a majority of voters voted to remain in that ill-fated referendum on staying in or leaving the European Union. And in the north, where many traditional Labour constituencies voted to leave, casting a vote for Boris and his Conservatives would be overturning generations of voting habits enshrined since before the Second World War.
In the words of Shakespeare, now is the winter of our discontent.
North of the border, in Scotland, things are a lot clearer. The Scottish have always been ardent supporters of staying in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalist Party look certain to cruise to victory — and could even equal or better the 56 of 59 seats won in 2015. And most of those new seats will come at the expense of Labour, a party that has failed to counter the case for Scottish independence.
And Brexit is anathema to Scottish nationalists in any shape or form.
When it comes to Brexit, Labour’s position has hardly been clear. Officially, if there is to be a Labour government, Corbyn will head to Brussels and open another set of negotiations. He says that the UK would remain in a customs union with the EU, would be closely aligned on most legislative matters, but waffles when it comes to freedom of movement. That new agreement — the third that would be reached with Brussels — would then be put to British voters, along with an option to leave outright, in a referendum.
More talks. More Brexit negotiations. More dithering. And during that referendum campaign, Corbyn says he would remain above the fray and would not take part. Is it any wonder Labour’s obfuscation is going over like a lead balloon on the doorsteps of the disunited kingdom?
The ironic thing is that when it comes to every other issue, Labour has an effective answer that counters a decade of Conservative-enforced austerity. Labour would invest in more police officers, build more hospitals, hire more staff to run them, invest in social programmes, bring sanity to the UK’s train networks, have free tuition at third-level education.
But there is but one issue in this election. Brexit.
And for Brexit, there’s a simple Conservative answer. Get Brexit done.
The Conservative manifesto is short on details with lots of nebulous commentary rather than cold hard pledge and promises.
Johnson has largely avoided hard questions, carefully stage managed his appearance, ran a campaign that’s full of meaningless sound bites such as “over-ready Brexit” — just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds and it’s ready.
This UK election campaign is only the second in December since the end of the Second World War — and over-ready meals are just what’s needed on the doorsteps.
The weather is miserable and damp, rainy and cold. If you’re outdoors, it’s the kind of campaign where you put your hands deep into your pockets and pull up the collar of your coat and just wish it were over. Get it done. Get Brexit done. Just move on.