The magazine formerly edited by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has given a ringing endorsement of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But its cheerleading will be bad news for Theresa May’s campaign, as it joins a growing list of right-wing publications turning on the PM. Including one edited by her former cabinet colleague George Osborne.
The Spectator published a column [paywall] shortly after Corbyn announced that he would be taking part in a BBC leader’s debate. Written by Political Editor James Forsyth, it says [paywall] that “Corbyn piles pressure on May by agreeing to BBC debate”. Forsyth noted [paywall] that:
Corbyn’s move is clever politics. He has little to lose, and by turning up, he’ll be able to accuse May of being both too scared to defend her record and of arrogantly taking the voters for granted. It will enable him to continue his attack on her leadership style, an attack that has more of a chance of succeeding following her social care U-turn.
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The sense that the momentum is with Labour at the moment, means that Corbyn’s decision is being seen as a bold move rather than a desperate one.
The worm turns
This is not the first time The Spectator has both praised Corbyn and been negative about May. Columns like Corbyn turns in one of his best media performances [paywall] on the Sky News leaders’ interviews are in stark contrast to Theresa May forced to defend U-turn in her most difficult interview yet [paywall] when she was grilled by Andrew Neil on the BBC. But The Spectator’s stance is in line with some of the other right-wing media, which appear disenchanted with the PM’s campaign. And there’s a good reason for this.
Osborne not happy
The Conservative campaign has meandered from an abortive attempt to launch a personality cult around Mrs May to the self-inflicted wound of the most disastrous manifesto in recent history… Their campaign seems to have gone out of its way to avoid the very issue — Brexit — that was supposed to be the very reason we were having an election in the first place. The result can be summed up by what we imagine to be the conversation around the breakfast table in Downing Street: ‘Honey, I shrunk the poll lead’.
The Financial Times has also been firing shots across the PM’s bow, running a piece [paywall] on 22 May listing Theresa May’s 9 U-turns. And even The Sun managed to not only report on Corbyn’s 31 May speech without completely slating him, but it said of May:
An astonishing YouGov projection suggested the Tories could actually lose 30 seats– handing the keys to Downing Street to Mr Corbyn if other parties back him. While largely ridiculed it follows others which claim Theresa May’s lead has been slashed to as little as five points on the back of a disastrous manifesto launch and social care changes.
A deeper problem
This undermining of May by the right-wing media is symptomatic of the problems within the Conservative Party. The PM has sought to give the appearance of a shift away from the ‘boy’s club’, City-focused conservatism of David Cameron, where cronyism and the financial services industry ruled, to a more traditional Tory mantra of “country and community”. But those in the party and the press who are part of Cameron’s club are blatantly not impressed. Even more so when you factor in the Tories’ diminishing poll leads.
The BBC leaders’ debate is a prime opportunity for Corbyn to cement Labour’s position of having the upper hand in the election campaign. But whether this will translate into a victory at the ballot box on 8 June remains to be seen.
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