We’re at that stage of the football season players and managers call ‘the business end’. In election campaigns, the business end comes earlier in the cycle, with the launch of the manifestoes, Labour’s today, the Tories’ tomorrow, then the Lib Dems.
It has been interesting to dip in and out of the papers and online and see the comments of undecided voters. Of course to political tribalists like me, the concept of an undecided voter is an odd one. Labour are so blindingly obviously better for the country than the Tories – what’s not to decide about?
But there we are … We are not all made the same way, and truth be told there are more undecideds than in any election I have ever been involved in.
That is why this week, with the manifestoes and the first leaders’ debate, is more important than the last one with all the skirmishing that went on.
But if there is one over-riding impression from the undecideds’ comments it is the sense that even if they’re not as keen on Labour as they once were, they’re really not sure about the Tories.
David Cameron, helped by the media, has made much of detoxifying (sic) the Tory brand. But I’m not sure he has succeeded.
Also, the nature of his campaign is exacerbating the doubts people have about him rather than easing them. The more he speaks, the less he seems to say. To quote a letter in The Guardian this morning on Cameron’s words in that paper yesterday ‘Our solution is to use the state to remake society, to build the Big Society, enabling people to come together to drive progress.’ The letter writer, Tony Rhodes, said ‘I read the statement several times and still find it utterly without any meaning. Am I alone in this?’ No, Mr Rhodes, you are not. And remember this is not something said off the cuff. Cameron wrote this drivel.
I have every confidence in Labour’s manifesto being serious, substantial and focussed on the big challenges facing Britain, and every expectation that the Tories’ will be full of glitz and gloss and a few nice distractions to get them through another news cycle or two. I’m thinking something like an actor from Casualty appointed to run the NHS.
But I think people are beginning to notice that Cameron never actually says anything. So yesterday he goes for a walk with Ian Botham for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (great charity) and goes all indignant about a perfectly accurate Labour leaflet on cancer. What he didn’t do was deny that he will not keep Labour’s cancer guarantee. But the picture was all that mattered. The same as his walk with Michael Caine was all that mattered. And tonight it is an emotional interview that matters. And on it goes, policy barely in sight, because he wants to make it all light and fluffy and hope the media don’t press too hard with difficult questions.
But my last word as we reach the business end goes to ‘blue-collar voter’ Jeanne King, 64, one of the ‘voters’ verdict panel’ in the Guardian.
‘I think Gordon Brown is sincere bit he doesn’t know how to get it across on television,’ she says. ‘I thought he was good when he announced the election … I’ve always voted Conservative but I think David Cameron would wreck the place. He was jogging earlier this week – who is he trying to kid? He’s trying too hard and he’s just got a face you just want to hit. I’d love him to knock on my door, I’d give him what for.’
Is it only me that hears that kind of thing from people everywhere I go?
The Tories want to frame this election as ‘do you really want five more years of Gordon Brown?’ I think the idea of three more weeks of David Cameron is starting to push a lot more people than Jeanne King in GB’s direction.
People know Britain is on the road to recovery, and worry he would wreck it. He hasn’t sealed the deal … because they sense he is not the real deal.
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