When there are so many undecided voters, the last stages of the campaign matter more than any other.
I imagine most visitors to this site made their minds up some time ago. Since starting this blog, the majority of comments here, on Facebook and Twitter lead me to believe that most have decided to vote Labour. Hardly surprising.
The recent increase in Tory-supporting comments has given me heart though. Because it says not that my regulars are switching, but that the Tories are getting jittery.
No wonder. They had the best imaginable playing field going into an election. A parlous economic state. Politics reeling from an expenses scandal. A government that has been in power for 13 years. A Prime Minister with low ratings who has survived a series of coups against his leadership, and the batterings of a media so far up David Cameron’s backside it is a wonder the nation’s journalists can breathe, let alone live with themselves. The biggest negative poster campaign in modern electoral history which, allied to the media’s slavishness, allows Cameron to pretend he is fighting a positive campaign. Ashcroft’s millions pumping out direct mail into the home of every key voter in every key marginal. Two difficult and unpopular wars dominating the agenda in recent months (one of which, Iraq, the Tories are now seeking to exploit, despite supporting it at the time, in their desperate pitch to Lib Dem supporters).
I could go on and on. Suffice to say that if the Tories were any good at all, at policy, at strategy, at campaigns, they would have rested easy in their beds last night, rather than careering round the country annoying bakers and fishmongers.
They have seen a poll lead fritter away because they have been hopeless on policy, and because their campaign has been all about avoiding questions rather than answering them.
If there are any Labour supporters who know undecided voters out there, get onto BBC iplayer and sit down and let them hear David Cameron on the PM programme last night, or Michael Gove on the Today programme this morning. These people could be running the country by the day after tomorrow. They have had four years to think through answers to straight-forward questions. This was a double car crash, live on radio.
When you distil Cameron’s message from his carefully staged, beautifully manicured pit stops, it is basically that he is going to roll up his sleeves. I am sitting at my desk. I have just rolled up my sleeves. It was easy. Running a country isn’t.
He has had the wind blowing on his silken-skinned back every day of this campaign. Allegations of Andy Coulson involvement in criminal phonehacking. News blackout. Tory candidate praying to cure gay people of their disease. News blackout. Bizarre ramblings of Labour candidate in unwinnable seat. Sky/Sun/Mail multilple orgasm. Polls which show momentum to Cameron (including those conducted by the Aussies who ran the Michael Howard/DC campaign of five years ago) – lead the news with them. Polls showing momentum slipping back. Bottom of page 2.
And yet with all that, his message has weakened not strengthened. The question marks have grown not diminished.
Despite the battering over a period of months, despite the skewed polls claiming GB had lost TV debates he won, despite the awful day lost to his meetings with Mrs Duffy, despite everything that has been thrown at him, GB was not just standing last night, but standing tall and giving another brilliant and passionate speech, packed with reasons to vote Labour and stop the Tories.
I do not pretend to be as close to GB as I am to TB. Nor can I claim we have not had major disagreements down the years. We have. Nor can I say there have not been moments when I have willed him to do things he is not doing, or not do things that he does. And yes, there have been moments in the past few months when I have wished I could escape the political bubble for good instead of being drawn back in to the point where the campaign has been close to a full-time occupation again. All that is true. But the pull of Labour is strong, and this I know: if I had to choose between GB, David Cameron and Nick Clegg for PM, then it has to be Gordon every time. Heaven knows he has his faults – everyone does. But my God you have to admire the resilience and the depth of a man who just will not stop fighting for what he believes in.
The speech to Citizens UK, now one of the most viewed events of the campaign, and last night’s to a party event in Manchester, were streets ahead of anything Cameron or Clegg have delivered. The recital of Labour achievements alone – not to mention the role the Tories played in trying to stop them from happening – should be enough to give people pause for thought. The forward agenda was strong. The attacks on the Tories were powerful because they were rooted in what we know about past Tory governments and current Tory policies.
Nor should anyone forget the role he played in steering Britain from recession to a recovery which has the FT today reporting that whoever wins the election will inherit an economy already showing signs of strong recovery, with manufacturing and exports growing at the fastest rate for 15 years. Cue news blackout.
There has been the usual criticism of Labour’s campaign, inevitable when we have been lagging in the polls. But when you compare the difference in resources, the biased media and all the rest of it, the voice of the leaders has been as important as anything else. GB is finding his voice superbly as the campaign closes. The campaign has shown there is a progressive majority in Britain today. With Nick Clegg fading, the last two days have shown that Labour remains the best option for ensuring Britain stays on the road to economic recovery, and the path of progressive politics.
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.