8 Days to go: Time for a wobble

If we've learned anything in the last couple of years, it should be to expect the unexpected. Even so, the front page of this morning's Times will come as a surprise, even to the tiny minority who've been paying close attention to this election campaign.

First things first. It's not actually a poll. YouGov has conducted thousands of interviews with voters, supposedly cross-referenced with age, social background, and how they voted in the EU referendum. Combined with population data, it's tried to predict the results in every constituency.

It's created best and worse case scenarios for each party. So while the central prediction is that the Tories could drop to 310 seats, the range of possible outcomes goes from 274 to 345.

It is far, far away from every other survey conducted during this campaign. Both Conservative and Labour HQs are deeply sceptical. All other indicators point to a substantial Tory win next week.

Labour campaigners on the ground in the north and midlands expect to lose seats, not gain them. The UKIP collapse has seen the Tories gain thousands of votes in dozens of target seats. These numbers simply don't seem credible.

But, while it may be an exaggeration, it does chime with a growing perception of this election. The campaign has highlighted Theresa May's weaknesses, while emphasising Jeremy Corbyn's strengths.

She has at times appeared aloof and out of touch. The manifesto launch, and the social care U-turn that followed, was disastrous. Aiming pain at the most loyal Tory supporters was an act of spectacular arrogance.

Jeremy Corbyn, by contrast, is far better on the stump than he is in the Commons. Many continue to feel he is entirely unsuited to the job of Prime Minister. But it seems that perception of inevitable defeat is what's encouraging some previously reluctant Labour voters to return to the fold.

A Tory victory remains the odds-on favourite next week. But for many, it may be a reluctant vote for Theresa May, who chose to build a personality cult around her, despite not being all that personable.

Angry at the wrong targets

Jeremy Corbyn apologised for his memory lapse on Radio 4 yesterday. But that won't calm the spluttering outrage of his most fervent fans.

Once again, the lunatic fringe turned its barely literate fire on the media, furious at their insistence on asking Mr Corbyn questions he really ought to know the answer to.

And so, as usual, the abuse began to flow.

Mr Corbyn's online cheerleaders have every right to be angry. But their fury should be focused on the people surrounding the Labour leader.

Time and again they have sent him, and other opposition front-benchers, into interviews woefully under-prepared. It is not outrageous bias to ask a party leader how much a major policy will cost. It is outrageous that no-one around Mr Corbyn thought to put that figure in his notebook.

How many times must senior Labour figures stumble through identikit interviews before the people around them start preparing properly?

Let's have a heated debate

At the time of writing, Mr Corbyn still hasn't decided whether to take part in tonight's BBC debate. He'd initially said he'd only turn up if Theresa May was there -- she's sending Amber Rudd, and Labour planned to field Emily Thornberry.

But a reasonable performance on the Sky/Channel 4 debate has apparently persuaded him to think again.

If he does take part, he risks becoming the target of other party leaders -- that's certainly what happened to Ed Miliband two years ago.

Equally, his presence would highlight Mrs May's refusal to engage in proper debate during the campaign, and at this stage Mr Corbyn has little to lose.

Perhaps he might hand over more home-made jam, as he did at the end of his One Show appearance last night. The Labour leader is relaxed in situations like this. It's just a pity he couldn't pull off the same trick on Woman's Hour.

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