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May's been clumsy but she will still be PM on 9 June

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With only a week to go before polling day things are looking a lot less comfortable for Theresa May than they did when she decided a 21-point lead in the polls was a certain guarantee of success.

Steve Norris

Jeremy Corbyn has surprised many by having, at least on his terms, a good election. He likes nothing more than haranguing a cheering crowd and that’s what elections are about.

Despite constant attacks on his links to the IRA, to various appalling South American dictators and some very questionable Middle East groups, not to mention the fantasy economics on which his endless promises of more spending are based, he appears unperturbed, rarely losing his cool.

For all this laidback amiability, however, Corbyn is still a liability for Labour. Voters simply don’t see him as prime minister material.

The main reason the gap between the two parties has closed to single digits is that Labour has gathered support from the minor parties while the Tories have stayed firmly above 40%.

This will have serious ramifications after the election, because the majority of Labour MPs who don’t support their leader are now likely to find he’s won more votes than his predecessor, thus blowing apart their claim that his leadership has been a failure.

In truth he is likely to pile votes up where they won’t win him more seats, but for the Corbynite wing of the party that will be irrelevant. They will point to the building of this great new socialist Valhalla as a huge success.

And that leaves the bulk of his party tearing even more of their hair out. What happens to Labour after this is all over will be the big story of the next parliament.

Fight of his life

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron is facing the fight of his life in his own seat of Westmorland & Lonsdale, which was Tory for decades until he took it in 2005, and the party may also lose Richmond Park to Zac Goldsmith.

The much-vaunted “party of the 48%” seems to have had little impact not least because many who voted ‘remain’ now just want to get on with leaving the EU. Paul Nuttall’s Ukip is polling dreadfully as voters go back to where they came from.

In the North East that will be to Labour rather than the Tories, but for all his talk of holding the government’s feet to the fire over Brexit, Nuttall knows people simply don’t see the point of his party now the deed is done.

Strong and stable now looks more like weak and wobbly, less like the leader the country needs to get us through Brexit

But let’s not disguise the fact that this has also been an uncomfortable few weeks for May. She is clearly the most left wing Conservative leader for generations and that has not gone down well with the party faithful.

Set aside that there’s precious little - if anything - for the property industry to cheer, May has been seriously harmed by the clumsy mishandling of her social care policy, not just because she appeared to backtrack on it within days and after some of her closest allies had put their necks on the line defending it, but because it damaged her fundamental pitch.

Theresa May

This has been an uncomfortable few weeks for May - Source: Flickr/Jim Mattis/Creative Commons

Strong and stable now looks more like weak and wobbly, less like the leader the country needs to get us through Brexit in one piece.

It also called into question the way May manages the party. Her two closest aides, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, are already the stuff of legend. They protect her like priests at a sacred temple and that is not healthy. May has to learn to trust her Cabinet and to recognise that making policy around a single small table is dangerous.

That said, she will still be prime minister on 9 June. This is not Trump/Clinton, nor is it a rerun of the referendum. But my bet is her majority will be closer to 50 than 150.

Steve Norris is chairman of Soho Estates and BNP Paribas Real Estate

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