The emergence of a letter from Labour candidate Joan Ryan to voters in knife-edge Enfield North acknowledging Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity and disparaging his election hopes is interesting for two reasons: one, the candour of its message about the Labour leader; two, the timing of its publication to a wider audience.
“The polls are saying that the Conservative Party will win a large majority, possibly with more MPs than they have ever had before,” Ryan wrote. “Realistically, no one thinks Theresa May will not be Prime Minister, or that she will not have the majority she needs to negotiate Brexit.” Her point was that people could, therefore, vote for her without worrying that doing so would help put Corbyn in Downing Street. Ryan asked for their support, “whatever your misgivings about the Labour leadership”.
Big deal. There is nothing there that hasn’t been in the heads of Labour candidates across the city – indeed, across the country – ever since the general election was called, and may well have been expressed by them on doorsteps. The Labour big name those defending marginal seats have seen as an asset is Sadiq Khan. Corbyn has been the last person they wanted showing up in their backyards. Despite his party’s poll surge I doubt that has changed.
Less clear is when the letter was sent out. There is no date on it, but the reference to a possibly record-breaking Conservative majority suggests it went through letterboxes at least two weeks ago, certainly before Theresa May’s campaign began to fray and her poll lead began sharply diminishing.
Yet it wasn’t published until two days ago, by a right wing website following the release of the first opinion poll of the campaign to find that Londoners think Corbyn would be a better prime minister than May. Before that poll, the letter simply stated the obvious, albeit with notable candour. After the poll, it could be portrayed as embarrassing for the Labour candidate. Intriguing.
Also unclear is how many residents Ryan sent the letter to and which ones. Was it targeted at Enfield North electors thought to have particular reasons for disliking Corbyn? If so, this was done with rather more subtlety than Zac Goldsmith displayed in his disastrous mayoral election campaign last year when he warned Sikh and Hindu voters in Outer North London that Khan, a Muslim, had secret plans to tax their jewellery.
Ryan’s Tory challenger in Enfield North, by the way, is Nick de Bois, who chaired Goldsmith’s mayoral bid. What a small world London can be.