UPDATE: Farron (LibDem leader) has finally answered the Is-homosexuality-a-sin question, in the negative.
The House of Commons has yet to fire the starting gun in Election 2017 (as of 7:45AM EST), but that hasn’t stopped the four largest party leaders from taking aim at their own feet.
Not even the Prime Minister was immune from mistakes. She had barely thrown down the gauntlet with her call for an election yesterday when she also ruled out taking part in any election debates (Telegraph, 9:09AM). Leaders’ debates are relatively new in the UK, but like our version, they became embedded in campaigns from the first (when Nick Clegg used it to make the Liberal Democrats a serious contender). May is probably hoping to avoid a repeat of 2010, but one could argue that her predecessor (David Cameron) came out of the 2015 debates better than he went in. That the debates will go forward without her may also lead for some troubling optics.
Still, that’s nothing compared to her English opponents. Jeremy Corbyn began his first (and possibly only) general election campaign at a scheduled meeting of his MPs in which talked about everything except winning (“As a snapshot into Jeremy Corbyn’s mind, he never mentioned winning once” – anonymous MP to Politics Home cited by the Telegraph). Then again, that might just be refreshing candor by silence, as opposed to Neil Kinnock – who lead Labour from 1983 to 1992 and flatly ruled out ever seeing a Labour government in his lifetime.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Liberal Democrats – Tim Farron – begins this campaign hoping to make his party the voice of the Remain vote (and swipe a bunch of seats from the Tories and Labour in pro-EU areas). It took less than 24 hours for that to get waylaid by his refusal to state whether or not homosexuality was a sin (leading just about everyone to assume he thinks it is). I may be in the minority on the Jeff on this question (I don’t consider a sin, at all), but in the pockets of pro-EU cosmopolitan liberal Britain where Farron is hoping to revitalize his party, his refusal to answer is almost certain to be toxic.
So, that means another perfect day for the SNP, right? Wrong. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (who, from one angle, may have more to lose than the PM) almost immediately brought back her “progressive alliance” pledge from 2015 (Telegraph), despite numerous accounts of the previous campaign noting a shift to the Conservatives during the campaign in reaction to a possible Labour government propped up by the SNP. Now, Sturgeon has all-but-endorsed Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister – and in a Scotland where the Conservatives have become the lead alternative to her party and, as such, she can no longer count on anti-Labour voters in rural areas to vote for her party. Ironically, May’s debate error might actually help her Scotland comrades even further – as less Theresa May almost certainly means more Ruth Davidson north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Summing up, we have a Prime Minister unwilling to face her opponents on camera (outside of the Commons), an Opposition Leader who isn’t thinking about winning, a third-party leader whose entire campaign may have been upended by a refusal to answer a simple question, and a would-be independence crusader who gave a de facto endorsement for PM to said Opposition Leader, who isn’t seen as PM material by a large chunk of his own party.
Can you imagine how it will get when the election campaign actually starts?