I HATE to be the one to tell you this, but there is a real possibility that in two weeks’ time, Jeremy Corbyn will be our prime minister.
Maybe you think that is unlikely; perhaps you also thought Donald Trump would never be president, or that Britain would always remain in Europe. But he is, we won’t and, yes, he might be.
The position on Monday, before what happened in Manchester put everything else into perspective, was that Theresa May had dispatched us to the polls at a time when the opposition was unelectable, in order to secure a new mandate on her own terms.
Those terms, we now learn, include a policy on social care that will see regular people like you and I, who fall somewhere between the poles of extreme poverty and obscene wealth, having to sell our most valuable assets – our homes – to bankroll an old age we may not want.
It is a miscalculation as fundamental as the one Margaret Thatcher made on the poll tax, and it could yet end Mrs May’s career a week on Thursday.
She has said – almost as often as she has told us how strong and stable she is – that a Prime Minister’s first duty is to the security of the country. That is hard to reconcile with holding open the door to Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn, a man whom she calls a “clear and present danger” to the United Kingdom.
Corbyn’s manifesto is superficially more attractive than she expected. He wants more spent on health and education. And he promises to end the culture of tax dodging by a few fortunate fat cats like Sir Philip Green.
But Mrs May’s policy will make Philip Greens of us all.
I include myself. I had believed that my assets would go to my family, not to the state. But if that is to be the case now, I will have to hand over the keys to the Behrens pile, along with my premium bonds and my signed Ashley Jackson original, to my descendants while I am still in possession of my faculties.
If they are feeling kindly disposed, they might allow me to live in said pile until infirmity takes hold, at which point, I have made it abundantly clear to them, I wish to be left out with the bins. I hope the council doesn’t come along and have them up for fly tipping.
It’s a serious matter; I don’t mean to be flippant. I don’t want the state to fund my care. I don’t want to be cared for. But no-one is going to rely on his family to say, when the time comes: “We want the old fool dead.”
Does that make me as anti-social as Philip Green? I fear so, but I won’t be the only one. In any case, I won’t be in a position to worry about it!
The problem here is that while the maths behind Labour’s back-of-a-Woodbine packet policies don’t begin to add up – even if Diane Abbott is not the one holding the calculator – many voters will not read that far. They will be seduced by the headline promises, which are, on the face of it, appealing.
The Conservatives’ manifesto, on the other hand, is a direct attack on millions of their core supporters and on others who might have considered supporting them this time around.
I don’t know if they have turned away enough people to affect the final outcome. They might have done. On Monday, it was looking a distinct possibility.
And what will happen if they have? Who will run Britain then?
Not Corbyn, for he has built a career on never having to run anything. He will be a puppet prime minister, his strings pulled by those we used to call union barons, who will expect Labour to bend over and bow to every new, selfish demand, no matter what the cost to society, the economy or – ultimately – the long-term security of their own members.
That’s what happened in the 1970s, when the result was industrial anarchy and spiralling inflation. If you want a snapshot of daily life in that decade, here’s one I have never forgotten: having to consult the front page of an evening newspaper each day to see what time the power was going to be switched off in my street.
In calling an election now rather in than in three years’ time, when it could no longer be avoided, Theresa May has squandered the best asset any politician could have, which was that we knew relatively little about her. The campaign has forced her out into the light – and the light isn’t flattering.