Theresa May has "reset" her election campaign by talking about the "best deal" for Britain. Why does the Tories' fighting talk on Brexit work so well?by Stephen Fisher / May 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
The forthcoming general election was ostensibly called in order to help Theresa May secure a better Brexit deal. Since then there have been the manifesto launches and the horrific bombing in Manchester. The election campaign has become about much more than Brexit. Now, the Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby has apparently ordered a return to the party’s main message that only Mrs May can be trusted to negotiate Brexit.
Why Brexit? The opinion polls, such as Sunday’s ICM one, show that Theresa May is much more likely than Jeremy Corbyn to be trusted to “get the best Brexit deal.” This is clearly a strong card for the prime minister, but it’s not the only one. Mrs May has similarly commanding leads over Mr Corbyn in perceptions of trustworthiness and competence on the economy, defence, nuclear deterrence and security against terrorist threats.
Those other issues each have their potential problems as a potential primary focus for the Conservatives. Nuclear weapons and defence do not appear to concern voters as much as many other issues. Overtly politicising terrorism in the wake of the Manchester attacks is insensitive and indecent.
Highlighting economic management might remind voters about the pay squeeze and raise questions about the NHS, schools and other public services—all issues on which Jeremy Corbyn apparently enjoys similar, or even slightly higher, levels of trust as Theresa May does.
Brexit, by contrast, seems to be an issue on which the public are clear that they prefer the Conservatives to Labour.
Why Brexit works for the Tories
But how come? Labour’s ambitions for the Brexit negotiations are not substantially different from those of the Conservatives, in ways that the public is clearly aware of. There’s certainly little evidence that voters prefer the Conservatives because they have a preference for the particular details of their negotiating aims over those of Labour.
The issue of whether to immediately guarantee or negotiate over the rights of EU workers to stay in Britain after Brexit is a rare instance of a clear policy divide. But rather than driving vote intention it divides opinion within parties. Both Leave and Remain voters want both free trade and immigration control; so do both the Conservative and Labour parties.
A focus on perceived…