When you ask those at CCHQ why this election isn’t going to be like 2017, one of the answers they give is that Boris Johnson is a better campaigner than Theresa May. Tonight’s Tory launch was meant to show that off. The Tories held it in the evening so that they could have a crowd there—Johnson needs an audience to really get going as a speaker—and to create better pictures for tonight’s news bulletins.
Boris Johnson, unsurprisingly, hit many of the same themes in this speech that he made in Downing Street earlier. But in a sign of how nervous the Tories are about the idea they didn’t need to call this election, both Johnson and his warm-up act James Cleverly tried to argue that the Tories didn’t want this election but had to call it as parliament was paralysed and frustrating Brexit.
As well as his usual attack of Corbyn for wanting ‘two referendums’ next year, Boris Johnson tried to go after Labour on economic competence. He said that John McDonnell was more left-wing than Jeremy Corbyn and that Labour would tax pensions, corporations, and homes more.
By contrast, he said a Tory government would be a ‘tax-cutting’ one. It’ll be interesting to see how that squares with the fiscal framework that Sajid Javid has been arguing for which wants borrowing to be for capital projects, not tax cuts or day to day spending.
Another striking feature of this Tory launch was Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, warning about a ‘coalition of chaos’ if the Tories didn’t get a majority. With the result regarded as far less certain than it was in 2017, the Tories think they can successfully reprise their warnings about a hung parliament from 2015. The Tories also want to contrast their optimism with Labour’s pessimism. Their slogan is ‘Get Brexit done: unleash Britain’s potential’ and Boris Johnson finished with his usual litany about making Britain the best country in the world to live.
After a worse than shaky 48 hours, tonight’s launch will have calmed some Tory nerves. The challenge now for the party is to cut out the unforced errors, and get its actual message across in the coming days.