Jeremy Corbyn arrives in Glasgow today in a far better position than we could have imagined when the snap election was announced six weeks ago. If the opinion polls are to be believed, the 20-point gap between the Tories and Labour has been cut to just five points, on the back of Corbyn’s manifesto defining Labour as a clear alternative to austerity, and also thanks to Theresa May making such a mess of her own manifesto. All the Prime Minister had to do was play a straight bat and she would win, but her attempt to rewrite policy on social care mid-campaign backfired spectacularly.
These two factors have thrust Corbyn into what might now be described as a contest. He is still not expected to win, but he now has a glimmer of hope.
Corbyn will tell a Scottish audience tonight that the SNP cannot beat the Tories, and that Labour will stand firm in the face of calls for independence. Eliminating child poverty, tackling injustice, setting a £10 minimum wage, and investing in our security services will also be outlined. His difficulty is that at this stage his powers of persuasion are more important than his policies, and this is not an area where he excels.
It is hard to imagine a barnstorming Corbyn performance on our television screens becoming the defining moment of this week, or of this election campaign.
However, this does not mean that he is beaten. Corbyn has nothing to lose, while May has everything to throw away. The Prime Minister’s only deviation from the script ended very badly, and we can expect her next ten days to be managed even more tightly than before. But there remains the possibility that she will run into trouble again, and after a second wobble, all bets would be off. Corbyn may not be capable of grasping victory himself, but another serious setback for the Tories could propel him into power by default – or by coalition.
This is a critical week for both Corbyn and May. By the end of it, we should know the lie of the land for polling day.