With the general election now less than one week away, the campaign is in its final stretch with the Conservatives still comfortably ahead of Labour in the polls. As the old phrase goes however, "a week is a long time in politics" and a Conservative majority is far from assured.
Trump's in town
When the general election was announced for 12 December, there would have been a few concerns raised by Tory staffers about the prospect of President Trump arriving in the UK the week before polling day for the NATO Summit. The supposed cosy relationship between Johnson and Trump has played a major part of Labour's campaign, with the party accusing Johnson of plotting to sell off the NHS as part of a post-Brexit trade deal.
In what seems like an extraordinarily successful piece of stage management, not only did Trump do the Tories' bidding by stating he wouldn't take the NHS even if it was offered to him "on a silver platter", he also resisted the opportunity to endorse Johnson's re-election. Had Trump done so, or aimed one of his infamous Twitter rants towards Corbyn, the Labour leader would have certainly used it as "proof" that the President favoured a Tory government that was more likely to offer concessions on the NHS.
In fact, the only real controversy came when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught on camera mocking Trump's erratic press conferences, in front of other world leaders (including Boris Johnson). Trump's ire unsurprisingly turned against Trudeau, who he labelled as "two-faced" following the incident. With Trump's attention focussed on Trudeau and the cancellation of his press conference, the Tory campaign will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that they escaped relatively scot-free.
100 day plan
From one US President to another, in an attempt to channel his inner Franklin Roosevelt, Johnson this week announced his ten point plan for the first 100 days of a Tory majority government. While the pledges, which included plans to end the automatic halfway release of violent criminals, were unsurprising, it is interesting that the Conservatives have decided to put a definitive date on the delivery of their promises given the infamous "do or die" pledge about Brexit on October 31.
The plan focuses on polices to woo Brexit voting traditional Labour voters, included gimmicks such as a law requiring an extra £33.9bn is put into the NHS each year, alongside extra funding for schools. This focus demonstrates how much the Conservatives have placed their policy agenda firmly on Labour's lawn, and the increasing confidence the party has of winning seats like Ashfield and even Tony Blair's former constituency of Sedgefield.
An exit from the Brexit Party
In a sign of how much Nigel Farage's Brexit Party have slipped out of the headlines following its decision to stand aside in Tory-held seats, this week four of the party's MEP's stepped down and endorsed the Conservatives. The group, which includes Jacob Rees-Mogg's sister Annuziata stated that her former party were now "risking Brexit" by not fully endorsing the Conservatives in all seats.
While this is notable in itself, what this decision shows is the degree to which Johnson has consolidated the leave supporting vote behind him, with the Brexit Party only registering 3% in the latest ComRes poll. It is important to remember however, that this vote is now concentrated in a smaller number of Labour held seats, and the party could still take votes away from the Conservatives and make it harder for them to win a majority.
However, with the remain vote split among six major parties, there is still an opportunity for the Tories to exploit the first past the post electoral system and pick up a large number of seats. The use of tactical voting, is also set to further influence the election results, with a recent report in the i newspaper stating that 25% of voters are set to vote tactically. While the remain supporting Lib Dems, Green Party and Plaid Cymru are all engaged in an electoral pact, it seems unlikely that it will have anywhere near the same influence as the Brexit Party standing down for the Conservatives.
Antisemitism crisis deepens
With the Tories fretting over the arrival of Trump, you would have thought that Labour would have sought to move the media agenda on rom Brexit to more favourable territory. While Corbyn initially managed to seize the news agenda by writing to Trump asking him to confirm the NHS will not form any part of a future trade deal, a familiar story then took over the headlines.
As part of the antisemitism scandal that has engulfed Labour, 70 current and former party staffers gave statements to the Equality and Human Rights Commission's investigation on alleged racism within the party. One party staffer is quoted on the front page of The Telegraph as saying "Corbyn has made Labour a welcoming refuge for anti-Semites. The party is cast in his image". This is yet another example of how the issue has blighted the Labour campaign, and it even managed to turn what should have been a softball interview on This Morning into a tetchy affair where Corbyn once again was forced to apologise for antisemitism within the party. The scandal has prevented the party from putting their manifesto polices centre stage in the way that they did so successfully in 2017. With only a week to go, there seems little the party can do to remove antisemitism from the headlines and help them to reduce the Tory poll lead.
Over the last few days of the campaign, Labour will be forced to come out all guns blazing against the Conservatives if they are to have any chance of preventing a Tory majority. Tonight's head to head debate is the last real opportunity for Labour to land a decisive blow against Johnson, so expect some fiery encounters on the NHS and Brexit. For the Conservatives, the plan will be to get through the debate unscathed and say nothing that could sink the campaign in the final days. The much anticipated Johnson vs Andrew Neil interview will be avoided at costs, and the Tories will hope to coast to the victory that was denied to Theresa May two years ago.