Chris Moncrieff: No room for Tory smugness as polls narrow

THE suspension last week of general election campaigning in the wake of the Manchester attack could hardly have come at a more crucial time for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

Theresa May needs to guard against complacency.

They were suddenly halted in their tracks as they were creeping up on the Conservatives in the opinion polls, largely because of the Tory muddle over home-care costs for the elderly. It remains to be seen whether they can regain that momentum between now and June 8.

However, the gap between the two main parties is still considerable in the polls (which have been proved wrong on many occasions) and a Conservative majority looks likely although, given recent political upsets, it would be wrong to be dogmatic about that.

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The cautious Theresa May continues to warn that the Tories need lose only six seats for what she calls a “coalition of chaos”, of anti-Tory parties, to come into being and put the Prime Minister on the opposition benches.

The last word May wants to hear is ‘landslide’, because that encourages complacency, and what may have looked at the start of the campaign like a foregone conclusion, no longer applies.

Meanwhile, under Tim Farron’s energetic leadership, the Liberal Democrats may well improve on their present dire position. They are helped by the fact former leader Nick Clegg, who led the party to disaster in 2015, is now little more than a Mr Nobody.

So the Tories need to watch their step and not be too smug between now and polling day, less than 10 days away.

MANY people are increasingly concerned at the chipping away of many parliamentary traditions, all of which are valuable pointers to the history of the place. One is the refusal of John Bercow to wear the historic robes of the Speaker. Other public servants, such as soldiers, have to wear uniform on parade, so why can’t Bercow be ordered to do the same?

Instead, he has had made a ludicrous gown for use on grand occasions. It makes him look like Ronnie Corbett (minus the flat cap) playing a hardware shopkeeper in the famous “fork ‘andles” sketch with Ronnie Barker.

And Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is fighting to regain his old Somerset seat, has expressed fears that the striking uniforms of Commons doorkeepers will be the next to go. He said: “All this matters. It shows they are protecting something special. They are not store detectives at Grace Brothers.”

Well said, sir.

THE Palace of Westminster has been closed to the public in the wake of the Manchester atrocity. This should save the taxpayer a bit of money in replacing purloined cutlery. Visitors to the Palace are notorious for stealing small items as souvenirs.

That is why after every Commons sitting, officials scour the staircase leading up to the public gallery, and pick up salt cellars, pepperpots, cutlery and the like. What happens is that visitors are searched on their way into the building. They go for a meal in one of the cafeterias and some of them nick these items from the tables as souvenirs.

It is when they climb the stairs into the gallery that they realise they will be searched again, and they drop the purloined items on the staircase going up. Hard to believe, but true.

VOTERS should beware politicians who are increasingly and cunningly using euphemisms to disguise their mistakes and conceal the harsh truth.

‘Clarity’ is one used by Theresa May the other day to mask what was said to be her gaffe over home-care costs for the elderly. What she didn’t admit was that she got it wrong. Then there is ‘mis-speaking’ for ‘lying’, used by Hillary Clinton when she was caught out saying, untruthfully, she had been met by a gun battle when she once landed in the Balkans.

Now the word ‘censor’ has been censored. Documents are now no longer censored but ‘redacted’, a weasel word that simply means ‘edited’. And then there is our old friend ‘quantitative easing’, Whitehall-speak for printing money. So be on your guard.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political editor of the Press Association.