So a bit like Brexit, the election comes down to the old versus the young. The old, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, will back Theresa May and her largely invisible team. Many will do so not because they have any great faith in her or the Conservatives but because the alternative is too awful to contemplate. After all, the old remember the 1970s and the 1980s. They know what it is like to live in a country with an economy on its knees.
But for the young, the past is another country. They have fallen for Corbynomics. If they could do any maths, which they cannot, they appear to believe that a Labour government could borrow an extra hundreds of billions on top of current borrowing of £60 billion a year and a national debt of nearly £2 trillion without crashing the economy all over again. Bring back “an end to boom and bust” Gordon Brown, who only racked up the deficit to a modest £150 billion a year.
Pundits and politicians like to talk about a divided country. Well, this one is divided – divided between those who can add up and the ones who cannot. The former know it is fantasy to suggest that any government could borrow £350 billion for a national investment bank then spend another£240 billion on nationalising industries such as rail, water, energy supply and the Royal Mail, and still have £11 billion left over to scrap university tuition fees and £30 billion more for the NHS. (The list goes on.) The latter believe in Father Christmas. But then children do believe in Father Christmas. They write him a letter every year asking for a spaceship and a Ferrari. They can be disappointed when they get the small plastic versions of such wonders, made in China.
The Brexit vote was much the same. The grown-ups were fed up with their country being run by a foreign power complete with a foreign flag, anthem and court. They were fed up with their towns and neighbourhoods being swamped by foreign newcomers who took many of their jobs. They were fed up with being lectured by Eurocrats of whom they knew little. They were fed up with being at the back of the queue for school and hospital places. They opted to take back control.
Many also had a memory. They knew that for roughly 1,000 years, up to 1973, Britain had been an independent, self-governing country. And quite a successful one at that. One that had taken control of a quarter of the earth’s surface and had twice in a century beaten off the threat of Continental domination. Even more remembered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. They remembered that their Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had had a hand in that. And she had taken back control of the Falklands.
The young, those under the age of 35, have no memory of such momentous events. And even the folk memory is fading under the pernicious effect of what now passes for education in our schools and universities. The young are not taught any more; they are indoctrinated in the permanently apologetic, anti-Western values of the BBC and The Guardian. No wonder they believe in Father Christmas and that he is a mild-mannered bearded chap who lives in Islington, tends his allotment and believes that if only he could strike up a “dialogue” with everyone from the thugs in Moscow to the savages in the Middle East, they would not get blown to bits at pop concerts.
“Sometimes the snow comes down in June”, as the song has it. Well, our resident snowflakes, many millions of them, are due a disappointment this June. They may be writing letters to Father Corbyn asking for their tuition fees to be written off and for the return of steam trains, but it ain’t going to happen. The reason is contained in pollster Matt Singh’s column in the FT at the weekend. The young may write their letters but they always forget to post them. It is called differential turnout.
At the last election, turnout among the 18-24 age group was about 57 per cent and among those aged 25-44 it was about 55 per cent. Contrast that with the figures for the dreary old pensioners (78 per cent) and the 45-64 age group (72 per cent). What’s more, this pattern has been pretty much consistent for the past 25 years. Next, the oldest and the youngest age groups differ wildly in their voting intentions. Among the 12 million pensioners, the Conservatives enjoy a 50 point lead; among the 18-24 age group, Corbyn is ahead by a similar margin. If historic turnout patterns are repeated this week, May will win comfortably. She could even get the landslide predicted at the start of the campaign.
Cue, yet more tearful twenty- and thirty-somethings posting hysterical tweets and claiming that they have been robbed of their futures all over again.
That said, it has been a lousy Conservative campaign. The decision to pit “strong and stable” Theresa against “chaotic” Jeremy has flopped with the Queen of the U-turn looking weak and wobbly as she enters the home straight. Corbyn, meanwhile, has emerged as Teflon Man. Blundering from gaffe to mishap and back again, he emerges from the wreckage of the Labour campaign with barely a scratch. He is now on course to score more than 30 per cent of the vote (the Ed Miliband high water mark) and claim a kind of victory, enough with the backing of his Momentum louts to keep him at the Labour helm for some time.
Afterwards, the Tories will need an inquest. Why did they go through a whole campaign without barely mentioning the economy, tax and spending and Labour’s insane economic policies? Why did they put their Chancellor under lock and key (because Phillip Hammond is to be sacked the day after June 8?) Why didn’t they give the Tory base a reason to vote for them? Why was their manifesto a “Red Tory” effort mimicking many of the worst features of leftism? Why was the Cabinet largely hidden from view until the final weekend? Has anyone seen Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Sajid Javid, Patrick McLoughlin, Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss, Karen Bradley and Justine Greening? Have they all been sent to St Helena for the past month?
As for Brexit, that has been another dog not allowed to bark. Doesn’t anyone in the Government believe in it?
True, the campaign has been disfigured by two hideous terrorist atrocities. But even before Manchester and London, the Cabinet had been disbanded and the populace invited to gaze in wonder at “Theresa May’s team”. Not so much a cult of personality as a cult of no personality, as one wag put it.
A final word of warning about Thursday. Historic voting patterns are confounded. The young put down their smart phones, turn off Twitter, forget Facebook, get out of bed and figure out how to get to a polling station. Attempts by pensioners to direct them to trains to nowhere are ignored. They stop saying they will vote and actually do so. Then things could turn very nasty. Pray for rain, wind and snow. And for a mega celebrity (of whom you have never heard) to do something very stupid and very outrageous.
It’s called throwing a dead cat on the table. Let’s hope Lynton Crosby’s got one in the cellar.