POLITICAL predictions have never been made with less confidence than at present.
The biggest shocks - the UK Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s presidential victory - have widely been seen as part of an anti-establishment trend across the western world. This explains two things about Jeremy Corbyn’s opening speech as the Labour Leader kicked off his party’s snap election campaign.
The first, is the very overt anti-establishment tone. The second is his defiance and apparently sincere optimism that he can defy the pundits and the pollsters and win.
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Mr Corbyn was on better form than some had feared. He has long believed public perceptions of his leadership could change if people had more of a chance to hear from him direct, rather than via editorial agendas he sees as largely hostile. The election should give him - and the public - that opportunity.
He also appeared more ready than some had suggested for this battle - as shown by his willingness to face questions after the speech, an opportunity not afforded to the media by Theresa May. His message was clear and focused on that pitch to voters disaffected by business as usual. Labour is for the people, not the establishment, he said, as he railed against irresponsible employers, comfy cartels and the “morally bankrupt” Tories.
He will not play by the normal rules of politics, he insisted, explaining that by that he meant “doffing your cap to the powerful” and accepting that nothing can be changed.
This message, and many of the policies Labour looks like advancing in its manifesto such as rail renationalisation and a crackdown on tax-evasion, could find favour with some in the electorate. For all that many will see Corbyn’s policies as backward and unrealistic, it is more than 30 years since voters were offered such a left wing agenda and their reaction is unpredictable. Yet even the most cautious observers would say victory for Labour is a ridiculously tall order.
Mr Corbyn’s own flaws were still evident - while passionate in parts, he was never truly inspiring and the final moments of his speech - a pledge that Labour would build a country for the many, not the few - were flat and anticlimactic.
He also continues to face internal strife with the departure of more MPs who are choosing to retire rather than stand again and face possible electoral wipeout.
It was notable that Brexit was barely mentioned in Mr Corbyn’s speech. This is understandable given Labour needs the support of both Leavers and Remainers to win, and given its leader’s own ambiguous position on Europe, but cannot hold even during a short election campaign.
The Conservatives have a straightforward pitch - Theresa May offers strong stable leadership in challenging times. Whatever his merits, Mr Corbyn cannot say the same. His record belies it as does the likelihood that if he were to reach number 10, some form of coalition is likely to be necessary.
That means Mr Corbyn needs to offer something so compelling that voters are prepared to overlook the need for stability. He has not done so yet and it is hard to see where that turning point could come from.