General election 2017: May, Corbyn and their tiny charmed circles

Theresa May's centre stage tonight - again - so's Jeremy Corbyn - again.

They're both facing questions and a live audience on the BBC's Question Time, leaders special programme.

They couldn't do all the talking themselves in this election but few other major politicians on either side are to be seen.

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Conservative or Labour - the trusted circle of big players urged on air has been strikingly small.

Amber Rudd the Home Secretary's seen often. So's Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon. Brexit Secretary David Davis has been on a few times... then, very occasionally, Boris Johnson, and just one or two others.

It's visible proof of Theresa May's reliance on a handful of colleagues, and even fewer advisers behind the scenes.

Quietly, very quietly - there's an election on - senior Tories are telling me they want to see a more collegiate approach and more collective decision taking if the Tories win.

They cite the Tory tangle over social care policy as evidence of what goes wrong when so few take big decisions.

That means more listening to MPs and what's called the 1922 Committee - the Tory tribal elders at Westminster.

Privately, high-ranking Whitehall officials, too, want more collective cabinet government and more of a role for the government's policy machine.

Their hopes of achieving any or all of this rest, obviously, on whether the Tories win - and if so by how much.

Mrs May may not be so amenable to a change of style of she wins a landslide.

Labour's charmed circle is tiny for other reasons. So few ex-ministers - not inside the current shadow cabinet - are keen to defend a leader they judge a political liability.

Inside the top team, Team Corbyn looks to shadow chancellor John McDonnell, his closest colleagues and political kindred spirits in particular, and to a handful of others.

If Labour wins, those loyal to Mr Corbyn will claim that extraordinary triumph as their own - and achieved despite internal critics.

Even exceeding early low expectations will encourage Labour's inner circle to claim vindication and point fingers of blame at those outside for any failure to do better.

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