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Smith Square Review – 12 May 2017


It has been a strange week for the Labour Party; the Party’s entire manifesto was leaked to the press, Jeremy Corbyn’s car ran over a BBC cameraman’s foot and Corbyn inexplicably abandoned a planned campaign poster unveiling.

The good news is that Labour’s antics have finally managed to knock the Conservatives out of the headlines. The bad news is that, not only did the epic manifesto fail made the Party look a bit incompetent; it also meant a host of left-wing socialist policies were released early for scrutiny by the electorate.

So, how will these policies go down with the voting public? Some of the ideas, such as renationalising the railways and spending more money on schools, are undoubtedly crowd-pleasers in principle. But will anyone trust a party that couldn’t even manage to organise its manifesto launch properly to actually deliver anything?

Labour are also up against the inevitable questions about how they plan to pay for the wonderland the manifesto aims to create. Indeed the Institute of Economic Affairs claims the policies in Corbyn-Land would cost an eye-watering £40billion a year, plus an extra £250billion to spend on infrastructure projects. For a Party already viewed as irresponsible with the public finances, bandying around billions of pounds of spending commitments is unlikely to convince the average voter they can be trusted.


Hammond has no Phil-ter

Whilst Jeremy Corbyn may be presiding over a leaky ship, it seems all is not well in the Conservative camp either (apart from the polls).

Rumours have surfaced that relations between Theresa May’s team (aren’t we all Theresa May’s team now?) and the Chancellor’s have become somewhat fractious again. This time, Chancellor Philip Hammond decided to ditch the idea of raising VAT, tax and National Insurance before May had agreed to it. How dare he.

Particularly aggrieved is Theresa May’s top Special Advisor Nick Timothy, who was supposedly left ‘incandescent’ at the Chancellor’s team claiming he was ‘economically illiterate’. According to a source quoted in the Times, Hammond’s unilateral policy decisions were followed by “a lot of swearing and angry phone calls.” Malcolm Tucker would be proud.

In other Theresa May related news, plagued by criticism that she is only appearing in ‘controlled’ media events, she appeared on The One Show on Tuesday alongside her husband Philip. Apart from the jaw dropping revelation that it was Philip who takes out the bins, the interview was fairly free of incident.

However, May did turn some heads by her bizarre claims that she inspired someone into politics by the power of her shoes. Can we just get this election over and done with?


Green – the colour of money

Caroline Lucas’ Green Party has been embroiled in controversy this week over an alleged bribery claim.

The left-wing party have deemed “categorically wrong” any suggestion that their decision to stand aside for Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney in last year’s Richmond Park by-election was influenced by the offer of a £250,000 donation from a mystery donor.

When quizzed about the donation on the BBC’s Daily Politics show earlier this week, Lucas denied that the money was ever accepted, and confirmed the offer was made to the group after they had already decided that their candidate – Andree Frieze – would not stand against Olney. Liberal Democrats party figures rebuffed any insinuation that they were behind the cash incentive.

Anti-Brexit candidate Sarah Olney went on to beat Zac Goldsmith – who was backed locally by UKIP – by nearly 2000 votes, overturning a majority of 23,000.

Under British law it is an offence to pay candidates to withdraw from being a candidate at an election.


Crown not-Prosecuting Service

It’s official: the CPS declared this week they will not bring criminal charges against Conservative candidates for over-spending at the last General Election in 2015. Candidates and election agents from the 2015 campaign who were visited by the Tories’ ‘battle bus’ have been accused of not declaring this as related spending, in defiance of electoral rules.

However, the CPS found that among the fifteen alleged cases brought forward by local police, fourteen showed no premeditation, and so do not warrant a criminal investigation. The last and as yet undecided case is that of South Thanet, a seat which the Tories fended off from Nigel Farage.

The Conservatives had previously been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission in March, but can now breathe a sigh of relief. They will be spared the embarrassment of replacing the relevant candidates ahead of the General Election, with only four weeks to spare.

Is this as sinister as it sounds? Hardly. Labour and the Lib Dems were each fined £20,000 for undeclared election spending only last December. There is a reason Corbyn and Farron have been so mild in their reactions to the overspend. They’ve all been there, and they know it.

Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin has a bee in his bonnet over this affair, calling the claims “malicious” and proof of a “politically-motivated witch-hunt”, because the seats in question are marginal. Patrick, take our advice, quit whilst you’re ahead.


Souvenir of the week

British politics may have become a tad unpredictable these past few years, but with a General Election you are always guaranteed one thing. Jeremy Corbyn had his first this week, making the quite genius tactical decision of simply avoiding the question.