First of all many thanks to Mark Wright aka Elvis for putting a bit of life into the campaign coverage yesterday. ‘Best pictures of the campaign so far,’ said ITV’s reporter, so we will live with that, especially as they got GB to the top of the news talking about the future of the NHS.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the squillions of tweets and Facebook messages getting all-of-a-twitter about who our megaceleb backer might be, and then watching the divide between those with a sense of humour and those who live up their own backside.
Meanwhile onwards and hopefully upwards. Lots of polls in the Sundays as usual and for me the most interesting element is the one that says 42 per cent of people who say they are voting Lib Dem also say they might change their mind. That is far higher than for those who say they will vote Labour or Tory.
It means the Lib Dem vote is soft, and that the scrutiny on policy since the first TV debate is beginning to have a real impact. It is also interesting how Vince Cable, until the Clegg surge the most visible Lib Dem face with a sage-like reputation for credibility, has vanished, and how also his economic observations are less respected than they were.
So for both Tory and Labour, there is an interest in stepping up the policy-based attacks. Trident, illegal immigrant amnesty, cutting tax credits, sums not adding up, there is a lot to go for. I would be very surprised if the Lib Dem ratings stay where they are.
Of course for some the election has already happened and another interesting stat is that one in five of us are voting by postal vote. I have always done so since working for TB because I spent the last few election days in Sedgefield and the habit has stuck with me. I can hereby reveal that, having thought carefully about all the policies being put forward by all the parties, I shall be voting Labour. So will Fiona and, voting in a general election for the first time, our two sons. So it’s a bit of a landslide round here.
What of course the rise in postal voting means is that for many the post postal vote campaign becomes somewhat irrelevant. But I don’t think I have ever known an election where there are so many undecideds at this stage of the race.
So for all the parties there really is everything to play for, and I am convinced that the more it is focused on policy, and really hard argument, the better it is for Labour.
I thought David Cameron looked small and a bit silly yesterday with his plan for a law that says anyone who becomes PM without a general election has to face one within six months. It was so obviously no more than a dig at GB, which is fair enough I suppose, but it was somewhat blind both to history and to the significance of such a constitutional change.
Pressed on it in The Observer, and asked why it wasn’t in the manifesto, Mr Cameron, as ever talking through the PR man’s lens, says ‘I don’t think there’s any law against announcing plans in an election. Normally you guys are saying “Come on where’s the news, where’s the beef?”‘
Indeed there is no law against announcing plans in an election. But there ought to be one about concealing them. We saw during the second debate, in a carefully prepared outburst of anger over Labour leaflets, Cameron announcing a policy and spending commitment on pensioners’ eye tests and prescriptions that was not in his manifesto.
And today, we see another policy not in his manifesto, but this time one he would prefer not to talk about. Again, with thanks to Labour’s media monitoring report. ‘Conservatives will end guarantee of free nursery places’ (Observer p5) – The Tories will allow nurseries to charge parents of 3 & 4 yr olds millions of pounds in “supplementary fees” if they form a govt. The party has kept the policy out of its manifesto, but in a letter seen by Asthana shadow ministers have assured nursery providers that under a Tory govt they will be allowed to charge top-up fees – at least temporarily. The move wld require the party to suspend a code of practice put in place in 2006 that ruled out any additional fees. Charities have warned that it could lead to a two-tier system in nursery care.’
Happily, GB is making a speech later today on how so many Tory policies are not just wrong, but unfair. This is but the latest example, and of rather more significance than that piece of nonsense DC came out with yesterday.
Meanwhile, despite the rival attractions of a day of meetings, I have decided to head to Burnley v Liverpool. If we lose, we are down. But we fight to the end and where there is hope, there is everything to play for.
A lesson that might be learned by whichever ministers appear to think their or Labour’s interests are served by briefing against the campaign in the Sunday papers. Will they ever learn?
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.