The starting gun was officially fired on Wednesday on the first December general election in nearly a century, and instead of landing headlines around policies, both parties were rocked by big resignations.
For the Conservative front-runners, a stumbling start as day one of the official five-week campaign was punctuated by the first cabinet resignation during an election in modern history, withAlun Cairns quitting as Welsh Secretaryafter being accused of “brazenly lying” about what he knew regarding the collapse of a rape trial.
And another cabinet minister, Jacob Rees- Mogg, was facing calls to resign after he suggested Grenfell Tower victims should have used their “common sense” and ignored official advice to “stay put” during the fire.
The Tories in trouble, Labor shaken too as deputy leaderTom Watson announced he was quittingin the middle of Mr Johnson’s evening campaign rally in Birmingham for “personal, not political” reasons.
One of the party’s best-known figures who has repeatedly clashed with Mr Corbyn, he is the most prominent of a string of centrist MPs to quit the party.
A botched attempt on the eve of pa rty conference to ax his role, Mr Watson perhaps decided to leave on his terms rather than wait to be pushed from his post.
His departure will be seen by many as evidence that the Corbynites’ efforts to reshape the Labor Party as a left-wing movement is now complete.
The leadership will be hoping his is not a catalyst for other medium MPs to go. One departure is containable but a mass walk-out at the beginning of the election would be very damaging indeed.
As the first day of the 2019 election shows, these campaigns rarely follow a linear path, nor can their leaders always stick to their script.
Mr Johnson and his Vote Leave team in No. 10 believed they could turn this election into a one-issue poll in which the British public would vote Conservative in order to get his “oven-ready” Brexit served up in the New Year.
Tacked onto his Brexit center-piece is a promise to invest in hospitals, the police and schools. Mr Johnson pitching himself as a “One Nation” and “moderate” Conservative, even as the leading lights of that wing of the party – Nicky Morgan, David Gauke, Rory Stewart, Amber Rudd, Nicholas Soames – walk out of the door.
A prime minister trying to face both ways by winning over the leave-backing Labor voters’ support in the West Midlands, the North and Wales, while also asking Tory remain voters – five million of them in the 2017 election – to stick with him rather than turn to the Liberal Democrats.
As for Labor, Mr Corbyn is quietly getting on with the job of campaigning. He has already toured 14 constituencies in the eight days since the election was announced.
For all Mr Johnson’s shock and awe, the Labor election is running like a well-oiled machine and the Labor leader, whoI interviewed on the campaign trailin key target Telford on Wednesday, is in genuinely good spirits.
Unfazed by his dire poll ratings or Mr Johnson’s repeated personal attacks, Mr Corbyn told me he is “going to go flat out” to win this election and prove his detractors wrong.
“I don’t particularly follow poll ratings, “he said. “In 2017 there were queues of experts in TV studios lining up to write Labor off. What happened then? “
They didn’t win the election, but they did win the campaign and this time around Labor want to win both.
There are plenty in his party who don’t believe it can ‘ t be done, who fret that Mr Corbyn peaked in the last general election.
After nine years in opposition, Labor goes into this election double-digits behind the Conservatives with a leader that the public appear to have written off.
That, at least, is what Number 10 were banking on when they decided to push for a general election . And historic trends would point to a Tory victory.
In every election since 1964, the party ahead at the beginning of the campaign remained ahead at the end. But will this extraordinary December election in nearly a century overturn that trend?
This an election where voter volatility is the highest its ever been in the modern era, and neither party know yet what will shape people’s decisions over how to vote.
Mr Johnson is banking on a Brexit election to harness enough Vote Leave support to win a majority, Mr Corbyn knows his only real hope of victory is to fight this election on a broader domestic agenda.
But even if he does, can Labor really upend 50 years of history and come from behind to win?
The odds are stacked against Labor, but those Tories who feared this election will not be reassured after a very difficult start.
The Brexit Election: For the fastest results service and in-depth analysis watch Sky News live from 9pm on Thursday 12 December, with a KayBurley @ breakfast election special on Friday 13 December
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