Every election campaign has a wobble. But the Tories broke new ground in managing to wobble before they’d even launched their campaign. However, the formal start of the Tory campaign on Wednesday night does appear to have stabilised things, I say in The Sun this morning.
I understand that the Tories own polling still shows them on course to win the election and return with a working majority. But, in the assessment of one of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet allies, this contest is ‘the most complicated election we have had. Two minor parties that can take from both major parties’.
This dynamic means that this election will be more unpredictable than usual. There won’t be a straightforward national swing, rather a series of regional contests.
After the first few days of the campaign there is no uniform mood among Tory candidates. I am told the regional breakdown is ‘Midlands and North pretty chipper, Scots more bullish than expected, Welsh think they’ll make good gains. It is the Southern Lib Dem vote that is nervous.’
Another feature of this campaign is how dependant on Boris Johnson the Tories are. The disastrous start to this week shows what happens when he takes a low profile. As one leading Cabinet Ministers puts it, ‘He’s got to be the rainmaker. He’s got to make the weather.’
The Tories want to keep the focus on Brexit and the economy. Their hope is that Boris Johnson’s campaigning skills and ability to turn a phrase can keep their repetitive messages fresh and at the top of the news bulletins.
With the Tories so dependent on Boris Johnson, his own form matters a lot. Leading Tories are relieved that Carrie Symonds, his partner, is taking the campaign off from her job working for an environmental NGO so she can campaign for the Tories. I am told that when she went away on a work trip towards the end of last month, Boris Johnson’s mood dropped so precipitously that it worried the Number 10 political team. One senior Cabinet Minister tells me, ‘The PM has got to do the heavy lifting on this campaign’.
The Tories also want a Boris Johnson / Jeremy Corbyn contrast, which is why they are so keen on head to head TV debates between the pair. In an attempt to downplay the importance of the other leaders’ debates, involving all seven parties, the Tories are considering sending a junior Cabinet Minister to represent them rather than a senior figure such as the Chancellor Sajid Javid.