Richard North, 24/11/2019  

As one might expect, the Sunday Telegraph is in triumphalist mode today, parading a headline that tells us that Johnson is on course for a 64-seat majority, having successfully "squeezed" the Farage's party.

This is not based on original work, though, but relies on a poll of polls by Electoral Calculus. Taking in research from five different surveys from 14-19 November, polling over 7,500 people, it finds that the Tories are currently polling at 42.8 percent against Labour's 30 percent.

The respective levels of support translate into 357 seats for the Tories and a mere 207 for Labour, which is what delivers the Tory majority. On the other hand, this analysis gives Farage just four percent. They are not expected to pick up any seats.

As far as YouGov goes, a milestone has been reached in its run of polls. The latest version, conducted on 21-22 November, has Farage's limited company drop to a mere three percent (down one point) exactly one tenth of its European election share – beaten by the Greens on four percent. That means it has lost 90 percent of the support it garnered in those heady days in May.

This poll has the Conservative Party level-pegging on 42 percent, with Labour on 30 percent. Here, the Tories thus are only given an twelve-point lead. But that is not the case with the Observer Opinium poll which has the Conservatives and Labour respectively on 47 and 28 percent, opening up what the paper calls a "commanding lead" of 19 points.

This poll too has Farage's party on three percent, reflecting the Tories' success in attracting support from "leave" voters. Three-quarters of them now say they would vote Conservative, leaving Farage with nothing but wreckage and fond memories.

A more nuanced position, however, comes from a BMG Research survey published by the Independent on Sunday. The paper's headline is, "Conservatives extend lead over Labour as Brexit Party loses support, poll says", but it goes on to say that the "apparent" swing to the Tories is likely to be due to Farage standing down candidates, rather than a "debate bounce" for Johnson.

Nevertheless, the poll records that the Tories have shot into a "commanding lead" having gained four points over the course of a week to hit 41 percent, 13 points ahead of Labour which is down one on 28 percent. The Lib-Dems in this poll made 18 percent (up two), with the Greens on 5 per cent (unchanged). But, as in other polls, Farage's limited company made a mere three percent (down six points).

But BMG's head of polling, Robert Struthers, adds an important caveat. The poll is the first in the company's series for the Independent which presented participants with the parties actually standing in their seats, following the decision of the Brexit Party not to fight 317 Tory constituencies.

As such, we are told, the apparent swing is likely to consist of Conservatives piling on more votes in seats which they may well have won anyway, while the key Labour-held marginals Mr Johnson must win to secure a majority in the Commons are (largely) unaffected.

In terms of determining the final result of the 12 December poll, the last-minute decision of Brexit Party candidates to pull out of 39 contests in Labour marginals may have as much impact as Farage's unilateral efforts in Tory seats.

Says Struthers, "much of this increase is likely a reflection of the Conservatives simply piling up more votes in seats they would have already won, and perhaps only making the difference in defending a handful of their own marginal constituencies".

No doubt, the Tories will take what they can get, especially as today is manifesto launch day. That should – in the normal course of election events – give the party a boost, although the ghost of Theresa May's disastrous launch looms large. Yesterday, of course, we learnt that the Tory campaign guide had been leaked to The Times, and it is now widely available. But, for all the light it sheds on Brexit, it is hardly worth reading.

There are, in fact, 34 mentions of Brexit, of which 11 are to "get Brexit done" while another 11 are to "after Brexit". The rest are framed in a similar manner which means that there is not one reference to how Brexit will actually be done.

We've ended up, therefore, with a huge elephant in the room. This is redolent of the Nixon campaign after Watergate had been reported. Most of the media took little notice until after he'd been elected and it wasn't until he was president that the real impact was felt.

The "future relationship" negotiations are going to be the main issue next year, and the response from government will dictate whether we go into just a recession or a deep recession. But, at the moment, nobody wants to know. The lip-wobblers prevail.

Today, though, it looks as if Johnson is planning a major misdirection exercise, promising to bring his Brexit deal back to parliament before Christmas. This is his "early Christmas present to the nation", getting parliament "working for the people".

The manifesto, we now learn, is entitled, "Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain's Potential", thereby cementing in the big lie, on which the whole Johnson myth relies. And, in addition to the meaningless Brexit pledge, there will be plenty of other distractions as, according to The Sunday Times, Johnson is to promise not to raise taxes, despite his spending commitments and his plan to drive us into recession.

Predictably, the Independent on Sunday is not impressed. It picks up on the admission by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, that no-deal preparations will continue even if the Conservatives win a majority in the election.

This, says the paper, shone a spotlight on what is really at stake in a general election "where many of the protagonists appear to be shadow boxing", exposing Johnson's sloganeering for what it is. Sunak's words, it adds, have exposed the flimsiness of Boris Johnson's central promise that handing him victory will in some way "get Brexit done" and allow the country to move on.

In reality, the paper warns, the withdrawal agreement which Johnson hopes to ratify soon after the election and put into effect on 31 January is merely the first stage in what are likely to be lengthy negotiations over the UK's future.

For all that, we really should not be having to rely on the left wing press to make these points. The IoS is right to talk of "shadow boxing", where everyone seems to be discussing every issue except the one that matters.

Sadly, by the end of this day, it is unlikely that anything will have changed. There is a willingness abroad to ignore the reality, as we are presented with a series of unappetising choices. But, while it is obvious that Corbyn is not providing any answers, it is equally obvious that Johnson isn't either.

Never, I believe, have we been so poorly served by our politicians – or the legacy media - and especially when so much is at stake.

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