UK election: what you need to know
How has the campaign affected the likely outcome of the election? What role has business played? FT chief political correspondent Jim Pickard answers these and other commonly asked questions about the UK's upcoming national vote.
Filmed by Steve Ager. Produced by Seb Morton-Clark. Footage: Reuters.
So when Theresa May in mid-April called the surprise snap general election, she appeared to be the queen of all she surveyed on the British political landscape. Opinion polls at the time put the Conservative Party close to 50%, and put the rival Labour Party at something like 24 or 25.
And there were reasons for what appeared to be Mrs. May's commanding lead. The first of which was that she called that election saying that she wants to deliver a strong Brexit. And that saw an awful lot of support that had been going to the UK Independence Party switch right over to Theresa May's Tories.
And she was already seen as a fairly competent, strong character, according to the polls. And Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, had spent the last two years fighting his own MPs. There were questions about his appearance, his position on issues like the Trident nuclear deterrent, and his kind of old style brand of socialism. And a lot of people thought back then that this was going to be a wipe out for Labour, and that it would be a walk in the park for Mrs. May.
So at the start of this campaign, the conservatives appeared to be untouchable. But things have changed markedly since then. And the main thing that has changed is the launch of the party manifesto setting out their policy pledges.
And the Labour manifesto promised an awful lot of jam to just about everyone. It promised extra money for the NHS, for social care, for schools, for pensioners, for preschool children, and all the rest of it. Paid for by higher taxes on the rich and on big business. And it's gone down very well.
Whereas the Tory manifesto was written from the mindset that the conservatives thought that because they were going to win very easily, they didn't want to have any hostages to fortune. They didn't want any massively expensive pledges. So they kept things pretty tight.
And the policy that stood out from that document was a shakeup of social care. Which has left a lot of the public under the impression that they would have to pay more for social care. And they could even be more likely to lose their home if they have the misfortune of needing social care in old age. And therefore, the Tory manifesto has backfired.
And at the same time, there's been a change in perception of the two leaders, not least after Theresa May refused to take part in public debates. And Jeremy Corbyn has been relaxed. He's been a confident campaigner. And his polling as a political leader has ticked up substantially.
So business has featured heavily in the parties' manifestos. You've had labour promising to push up corporation tax to 26%, raising 19 billion pounds a year eventually. You've had them threaten to nationalise industry.
Now at the same time, you've also had some conservative proposals such as freezing energy bills, which has caused angst in the business world. But what's very interesting, is that you haven't heard many complaints from business leaders or many endorsements. And that reflects a real sea change in the way that politics is conducted in Britain.
If you go back 10, 20, 30 years, business voices were considered very reputable, very influential in terms of the public vote. I think since the credit crunch things have changed. There's a lot more hostility from the general public towards big business. And also since the 2016 EU referendum campaign where business leaders lined up one after another to warn the public not to vote for Brexit and they were ignored. And I think they've taken that lesson to heart this time.
The question has been asked quite a few times why Jeremy Corbyn's Labour doesn't appear to be opposing Brexit at all. Now, they would say that they did try and amend legislation, passing through Parliament a few months ago. But in essence, they aren't really opposing Brexit right now.
And the reason for that is that people who vote Labour tend to fall into two camps. On the one hand, you have liberal, metropolitan, younger, urban voters who backed the remain camp last year in places like London, Manchester, and Cardiff. But you also have Labour heartlands in former manufacturing areas of Wales, the Northeast, the Midlands. And they voted out. And they would not be very happy if Jeremy Corbyn took a gung ho anti-Brexit stance.
And when you look at the Liberal Democrats who have taken that kind of let's reverse Brexit points of view, they are doing really badly in the polls. They seem to be in danger of actually losing seats, and coming out even worse on June 9. And the reason for that, is that although only half the British public voted for Brexit, about half the people who voted remain now seem pretty much resigned to it. And just want whoever's in government to make a good fist of what they think is a bad deal.
Labour has had two leadership contests in two years. Critics of Jeremy Corbyn think that if he does badly in June, there could be a third leadership contest, and they could replace their figurehead. But whoever is the leader of the Labour Party, there are still deep structural problems that the party faces, not only on Brexit, but also on other issues.
And one of the issues that some people forget is that in Scotland it lost 40 seats in 2015, and went down to just one MP for the last two years. And until they can solve that problem, it's going to be an awful lot harder for them to get back into power in Westminster.