Richard North, 12/12/2019  
 


Yesterday, we are told, Johnson clocked up 542 miles criss-crossing the country in seven bus journeys and two flights from Bradford to Southend on Sea. For his flights, though, I was amused to find that he was relying on a Danish registered ATR72-500, operated by Air Alsie – self-identified as "one of the world's leading business aviation service providers".

Based in Sonderborg in Denmark, it is highly ironic that these flights could not be operated in the UK after Brexit, without an air services agreement, which we have not as yet negotiated.

However, in terms of the current operation, Johnson must have been highly reassured to learn that Air Alsie's Danish catering facilities are regularly inspected by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

For the rest, after a policy desert that spans the entire election campaign, the rest of manic Wednesday has been devoted to the expected inane stunts and last-minute appeals to the faithful.

Interestingly, The Times is making a big deal of the Farage "threat", publishing a YouGov survey which has identified 16 Labour marginals where the Tories could fail to make a breakthrough because Farage's hirelings are splitting the Leave vote.

The pollster has identified nine Labour-held seats which are winnable only if the Brexit Party stands down. These are Bolton North East and Warrington South in the northwest; Bradford South in West Yorkshire; Wolverhampton South West in the Midlands; Delyn in North Wales; Gedling in Nottinghamshire; Stockton South in the northeast; Lincoln and Bedford.

Then, a further seven Labour marginals where the Tories are forecast to win narrowly would be "bolstered", coming away with stronger majorities. These include Bolsover in Derbyshire; Crewe & Nantwich in Cheshire; Dagenham & Rainham in Greater London; Sedgefield in the northeast; Great Grimsby in Lincolnshire; and Wrexham and the Vale of Clwyd in North Wales.

This leads Adam McDonnell, associate director of YouGov, to say: "The Brexit Party could be hurting the Conservatives more than Labour in some neck-and-neck marginals". He adds that, in such seats, "if the Brexit Party didn’t stand, and all of these voters returned to the party they backed in 2017, this could boost the Conservatives more than Labour".

Such warnings, however, are by no means unique to The Times. The Telegraph recently listed no less than 49 seats where the Brexit Party was splitting the "leave" vote "and risking a hung parliament".

Seats such as Alyn and Deeside, Batley and Spen, Bedford, Birmingham Northfield, Dagenham and Rainham and Kingston upon Hull East could all (in theory) fall to the Tories if Farage wasn't also dipping in the same pool – assuming of course that the Brexit Party votes go to the Tories.

Even though the polls are showing that the Tories are still in the lead, therefore, this dynamic could still be enough to rob Johnson of his expected victory, especially as the Telegraph is reporting the results of a Savanta ComRes survey that puts the Conservatives on 41 percent and Labour on 36 percent – a mere five percent lead, the smallest since mid-October.

Then, although no-one wants to talk about it in this latter stage of the election, there is the ethnic vote, and particularly the effect of the South Asian vote to take into account.

Here, there is a possibly significant article in the Leicestershire press, headlined, "Labour Leicester East councillors accuse Jeremy Corbyn of being 'anti-Indian' and 'anti-Hindu'".

This has six Leicester city councillors from the Labour group writing to Jeremy Corbyn saying the party has treated the British Hindu Community with "disdain and disrespect". In particular, they are expressing their "deep and overwhelming anger about the direction the Labour Party is moving in in respect of the Hindu community".

Many people, they write, are now seeing the Labour Party as anti-Indian, with the councillors arguing that Labour should not have debated and discussed a motion on Kashmir earlier this year.

While I would not in any way recommend this as a source, it is a powerful illustration of how, in some quarters, the issues of Palestine and Kashmir are linked. And, in that, one might hazard that Corbyn is not so much "anti-Indian" as pitching for the Kashmiri Moslem vote.

There is no dispute that the Indian communities are far from homogeneous and there is still a strong reservoir of Labour support in some constituencies. There is also, apparently, some movement towards supporting the Lib-Dems.

However, with the current Labour stance alienating sections of the Anglo-Indian community – in order to consolidate the Kashmiri vote – while the Tories are pitching for the Indian vote, there may be sufficient movement to buy the Tories some extra seats.

Perversely, that could offset the Farage influence, although the overall effects are difficult to measure. But they do add to the general uncertainty, especially as the polls themselves may be wide of the mark. I will certainly be watching the Bradford South result to see whether local factors over-ride the more general predictions.

To all this we can add another prediction – the weather forecast. Now we're closer to the time, the forecasters are confident that we will be seeing wet and windy conditions, with even a hint of snow in some areas. It is so long since we've had a winter election that no-one can say for sure how this will affect turnout, although heavy showers in the evening are said to have reduced the vote in London during the 2016 referendum.

The great entertainment of the day, though has been "look at me" Laura Kuenssberg letting slip early results of postal votes, revealing that she has been told it is "looking pretty grim for Labour in lots of parts of the country".

Despite this, one can detect some nervousness in the rhetoric of the Tory leader. Johnson has issued a direct appeal to potential Brexit Party voters, saying that they were risking the "terrifying prospect" of Jeremy Corbyn moving into Downing Street.

Corbyn, however, is insisting that Labour would win "no problem at all" despite the polls. "We stand at a fork in the road", he says. "The choice facing you, the people of this country, tomorrow is truly historic. The establishment doesn't want Labour to win. They don't want a Labour government on the side of the people, shaking up how this country is run".

Today, however, it is our turn. The inane stunts have ended and the politicians fallen silent – until 10pm when an exit poll is expected. I will then be starting up a live blog which I will endeavour to keep going through the night. Greater love hath no blogger for his readers than to suffer this.






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