Our political correspondent The Rebel looks at why the characters of party leaders are under scrutiny in this General Election, as the anti-Semitic controversy engulfing the Labour Party rumbles on and the Prime Minister attempts to present himself in the mould of Churchill despite the fact that he is a serial philanderer and been accused of lying, while a hard left leader of the opposition has put his party way behind in the polls.
The Rebel is a leading figure close to senior politicians in London as well as Cardiff Bay, and will always give readers the inside track on what is being discussed in the corridors of power.
The party leaders are proving more of a liability than an assistance in this General Election campaign.
Boris is being kept away from the media in case he makes one of his famous faux pas. Last night he was replaced by a melting ice sculpture in Channel 4 TV’s climate change debate. The Tory manifesto is deliberately vague and follows a safety-first path.
Bojo is known as a serial philanderer and there is gossip in Westminster about the number of children he has fathered. He has been accused of lying and the ‘£350 million’ claim on the Leave bus has been described as ‘bogus’ in the press.
He has also helped a friend who needed the telephone number of a journalist he wanted beaten up.
The Tory high command do not want him being grilled about any of this.
Boris was accused of being “running scared” after he refused to set a date for an interview with BBC TV’s Andrew Neil who had been due to interview the leaders of all the main political parties in the run-up to polling day.
Meanwhile it is just as bad for Labour. The anti-Semitic crisis gripping Labour simply won’t go away for Jezza.
Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, said Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, was “wrong” when he wrote in The Times earlier this week that anti-Semitism in Labour is a “poison” which has been “sanctioned from the top”.
The bearded lefty tried to move the agenda on to the NHS this week to no avail. At a press conference he published a document he claimed proved that the Conservatives were preparing to put the health service on the table in a trade deal with the United States. But he was dogged by questions over anti-Semitism, leading to an intemperate exchange between journalists and Barry Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary.
The Labour leader was asked by ITV news whether he wanted to apologise for anti-Semitic incidents that had “happened on his watch”, which seemed a perfectly reasonable question.
Mr Gardiner intervened to ask the journalist whether she had a question “about the issue we’re actually discussing” or whether it was just “an opportune moment to get a dig in about something else”. He added: “I thought that as a journalist attending this event you might have a question about that issue, which is also something of real importance to the British public”.
This is an old one.
Politicians want to talk about what they want to talk about, while irritating journalists want to ask them about things that are in the news. The comments from Mr Gardiner rank alongside ‘this was a long time ago and our processes have changed’ or the words/pictures ‘have been taken out of context’ as well as ‘this email is not what it seems’.
Some candidates are not even putting a picture of Jezza or referring to him, on their campaign leaflets. He is leading his party to what may be the worst election result since 1983.
A poll yesterday suggested the Conservatives would win 359 seats, Labour 211, and the Liberal Democrats 13. That result would give Bojo a majority of 68 as he made gains at Labour’s expense, particularly in the Midlands and north of England. Labour would suffer its second-worst postwar defeat, with Jezza’s total two above Michael Foot’s.
The signs are not good in the Bolsover constituency of Derbyshire which has been Labour since the dawn of time. Dennis Skinner, aged 87, hopes to be re-elected and become Father of the House of Commons. But a majority that was 27,000 in 1997 and down to little more than 5,000 in 2017 is going to get worse, the poll has suggested. “Jeremy (Corbyn) is not popular here,” one Labour canvasser has admitted.
It looks likely that voters everywhere will punish Labour on December 12 because of, as one popular newspaper put it, the bearded lefty’s “muddled stance” on Brexit.
But the new leader of the Lib Dems, Jo Swinson, is not viewed as having a good campaign either.
She came under attack yesterday for “fake crying” during a speech in London, and was asked by one voter online “why don’t you resign?”.
Ms Swinson has changed tactics by launching a highly-personal attack on Boris, in stark contrast to her approach at the outset of the campaign, when she said that she could be Prime Minister.
She said: “Boris Johnson only cares about Boris Johnson. He will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever or whoever is needed to get what he wants“.
It has been reported in newspapers that she should do more, and her party’s policy was recently changed from an outright revoking of Article 50.
Party activists are concerned about its unpopularity on the doorstep, and they have switched to asking voters to deny Boris a majority.
A traditional cry from party’s way behind in the polls (particularly Labour) is that it is about the policies not the leader.
Unfortunately (for them) the voters believe it is about the leaders as well as the policies of their parties.
This may be something they don’t want to hear…
Also on The Eye – the disturbing right wing background of a new extremist Welsh independence party.
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary 36-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!