So Boris finally got the election he was calling for.
All he needs now is a majority, and despite his lead in the polls it’s not obvious that it’s in the bag. It’s easier to see which seats the Tories look like losing in Scotland, London and the South West than it is to see where they win enough from Labour to recover those losses and not need the DUP. Absent a majority, his new deal with the EU is as dead as Mrs May’s despite it having been supported at least in principle by the last parliament.
But the key to this election will be the fragility of Labour support in its traditional heartlands. It is collapsing largely under the weight of the party’s own internal battles. Chukka Ummuna is one of three of its MPs to have joined the Lib Dems. Tom Watson’s resignation as deputy leader may be as much about his involvement in the Carl Beech affair as it is about his disputes with Jeremy Corbyn. It’s also true that his West Bromwich seat voted heavily to leave and is a key Tory target, but the timing of his resignation is acutely painful for his party and he knows it.
When John (now Lord) Mann, no friend of Corbyn himself, resigned his Commons seat of Bassetlaw, the constituency selected Sally Gimson to replace him until the party leadership elbowed her aside to appoint a hard-left Corbynite in her place. It has started a very nasty legal battle that will run throughout the election. And then of course there are former Labour MPs such as Ian Austin and John Woodcock who are actually telling their voters to vote for Boris because they say Corbyn is simply unfit to be prime minister.
We haven’t even mentioned the appalling issue of antisemitism, which has driven several Labour MPs out of the party and left others like Dame Margaret Hodge unwilling to back their own party leader. It’s hard to describe how extraordinary this internal collapse is.
Corbyn may still have the support of the party’s membership heavily dominated as it is by the hard-left Momentum machine, but he is losing traditional Labour supporters elsewhere who, while they would sooner stick pins in their eyes than vote Tory, do actually support the monarchy and the armed forces and dislike people constantly running their own country down.
My politics are well known so I just make the point that this is not an anti-Labour rant. What is happening here has little or nothing to do with how splendid the Tory party is and much more about what is happening to the other party of government that looks to be in terminal decline.
The Tories certainly do have their issues, not least having withdrawn the whip from more than 20 colleagues including party veterans such as Ken Clarke and Nick Soames. It’s good to see that some have had the whip returned but the party has lost experienced credible people who happen to disagree on the only issue that has dominated this parliament. One or two have also defected to the Lib Dems and many more talented people have just decided enough is enough.
Sometimes momentum in its true sense is all that matters and Johnson has it
But Johnson is clearly in his element. Whatever he may or may not be, he has reinvigorated his party, changed the Withdrawal Agreement the EU said could not be changed and abandoned the backstop the EU said was immovable. Sometimes momentum in its true sense is all that matters and Johnson has it, at least for now.
That said, this last parliament will go down as one of the most painful and damaging to both major parties ever. It will leave a scar that will be very hard to heal and we are all well rid of it.
Steve Norris is chairman of Soho Estates and This Land