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The View from the Ridge: Bottler Boris is mark of Tories playing it safe

Grilling: Boris Johnson
last faced Andrew Neil

THE Conservatives aren’t trying to win this election — they are trying not to lose it. If you want evidence, look no further than the party’s manifesto.

Published last Sunday, the message seemed to be that the Tories would spend a bit more — but not as much as Labour.

It promised money for potholes and scrapping hospital car park charges — both things that affect millions of people, granted, but the manifesto read more like a Budget than a vision for the country.

By contrast, Labour’s radical manifesto — where an extra £28 has been spent for every pound shelled out by the Conservatives, and industry from broadband to water will be nationalised — is promising genuine change, even if it is change you profoundly disagree with.

And it’s not just the Tory manifesto that is steady-as-she-goes, but its media strategy as well.

I landed one of the first interviews with Boris Johnson after the election was called, and was struck by how carefully he was sticking to the script.

He was far more disciplined in his message than when I had interviewed him previously, and kept darting looks at his media advisers when under tricky questioning.

Now, a few weeks more into the campaign, the team is taking even fewer risks.

Jeremy Corbyn — along with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon — submitted himself to a forensic grilling from BBC interrogator Andrew Neil, who hammered him over his party’s record of handling anti-Semitism.

The newspaper headlines the next day were full of Mr Corbyn’s repeated refusal to apologise to the Jewish community.

Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, it transpires that Mr Johnson may be ducking out of the leaders’ interview series.

Labour, which was under the impression that Mr Johnson would subject himself to the same Andrew Neil interview, is furious.

Discussions are still ongoing between No.10 and the BBC, we are told. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

■ I’M LOOKING forward to interviewing Jeremy Corbyn on Sophy Ridge On Sunday this week, as he tries to convince voters he should be the next prime minister. Tune in to Sky News at 8.30am on Sunday morning.

Good golly Miss Molly, don’t hold back!

SKY NEWS correspondent Lewis Goodall met a particularly vociferous voter this week who really spoke her mind when asked her opinion of the election candidates.

Molly Bennet [pictured), 86, said: ‘I know who I’m not voting for — the red man [Jeremy Corbyn]. He doesn’t like the Jewish people and I don’t agree with that… I normally vote Conservative but I can’t bear the buffoon [Boris Johnson]. Anybody who doesn’t know he needs longer shirts is an idiot.’

■ ONE factor that could make the election result more difficult to predict is the poor performance of the Lib Dems. The YouGov model has them going up just one MP to 13, with all the defectors losing their seats. This could help the Conservatives battling marginals in the south — but if the Remain vote is no longer split between Labour and the Lib Dems it could benefit Labour too. This week I visited Cheltenham, where Tory Alex Chalk is battling a strong challenge from the Lib Dems, boosted by the Remain Alliance meaning the Greens have stood aside. If the Lib Dems can’t win in Cheltenham, then they really are in trouble.

Labour tipped to put their Foot in it at the polls again

Kicking: Michael Foot with wife Jill PICTURE: GETTY

IT’S the Christmas present political obsessives have spent the election campaign waiting for… and now it’s finally here.

In the 2017 election, when the polls were wildly out, the YouGov/Times seat predictor correctly forecast a hung parliament, so it has been the most hotly anticipated piece of data this time around. Once again it has set tongues wagging by forecasting a stonking 68-seat Conservative majority. Labour would make no gains at all, suffering its second worst defeat since the Second World War, with just two more seats than it had under Michael Foot in 1983.

It’s important to note, however, that the model is in reality a snapshot rather than a prediction, showing how current opinion would be reflected in parliamentary seats.

The electorate is highly volatile and there are still two weeks left of campaigning. A lot could change.

But it will only make No.10 more resolute to wage a safety first campaign. The election is theirs to lose.