With just eight days to go and the end in sight, the campaigns are ramping up a gear. The economy is now the key battleground. In a politically astute move that is likely to win them votes the Conservatives have today trumped the other parties in announcing legislation guaranteeing no rise in income tax, VAT and national insurance before 2020. Whether they would be glad of this economic straight jacket come the next Government, is another thing.
But as we head into the end game is worth reflecting on how the campaigns have gone and the impact they’ve had. After all the polls have barely moved. Weren’t we in virtually the same place before it all began?
As we said last week, other than a few exceptions, including the announcement today, the Conservatives campaign has been poor. The respected pollster, Peter Kellner on Monday called it ‘inept’. It’s been surprising. With the much feted Lynton Crosby at the helm we’d expected more. The campaign has lacked coherence, an evident strategy, had often been impulsive and negative with little in the way of new policies which have resonated with voters. In typical essay crisis mode, Cameron has now rolled up his sleeves and broken a sweat. At the same time, Boris Johnson has been dispatched to the TV studios in a thinly veiled attempt to show that if you vote Dave you’ll get Boris. The Conservatives are now just nudging ahead in the polls and they may well end up the largest party, particularly as the incumbency factor kicks in, but this is in spite of not because of the past few weeks.
Labour’s campaign on the other hand has been surprising in that it’s not been too bad. Not great, but OK. Party strategists told us the more we saw of Ed the more we’d like him. And we did. On policy their pronouncements on non-doms, housing and tackling vested interests have captured the public mood. While the campaign hasn’t enabled them to push ahead, to the surprise of many, Labour’s polls have held up better than expected, with a relatively good campaign behind them.
Poorly perceived and struggling in the polls, the Lib Dems had a lot to do. But outside of the manifesto launch and the odd nursery visit, where have they been? You presume they’ve been fighting local battles in an attempt to defy not assuage the polls. The same can be said of UKIP, the surprise here has been how little we’ve seen of Farage and his warriors.
Whatever you think of their policies, of all the parties, the SNP have undoubtedly had a tenacious and in many ways tactically brilliant campaign. Despite not even standing for a seat herself, Nicola Sturgeon has given the impression of being strident and offering a fresh approach. Taking a leaf from the Hillary Clinton school of fashion, she has restyled the SNP as a credible challenge to the mainstream. It will perhaps be SNP party strategists rather than Lynton Crosby and David Axelrod next crossing the Atlantic as election gurus.
But as we’ve seen today, it’s not over yet. The polls are neck and neck and according to YouGov over six million of us are still to decide who to vote for. While we’re in the end game, it’s all still to play for.