The election campaign is only a few days old but it is already one of the most intense campaigns there has been in well over a decade. Added to the usual frantic efforts to get around the country knocking on doors and meeting voters on the street, candidates are taking advantage of the new social networking avenues that have opened up since last time round. Indeed, one Labour candidate has already realised the impact the site ‘Twitter’ can have.
So far, I think David Cameron will be the happiest of the three main party leaders. He has been able to secure the support of numerous business leaders. Whether his policy on National Insurance is the correct one is largely unimportant for the Conservatives at this stage as it is the imagery that counts for the Conservatives at the moment. It can only help persuade floating voters to see another group of business leaders throwing their weight behind one party. Cameron has also avoided possible distractions to his campaign; Boris Johnson straying from the official party line, the comments of Chris Grayling and Michael Caine urging that the Tories “give this government a second chance” at a party event. In addition, his comments in the Catholic Herald regarding his idea that the abortion cut off point should be 20 weeks (based on no medical findings) passed with limited comment. Of course it’s still early in the campaign and there is still plenty of time for the Conservative house of cards to collapse – they certainly have plenty of jokers in their pack (it wouldn’t be one of my blogs if it didn’t contain some partisanship would it?).
It has most definitely been a David Cameron campaign, with the Shadow Chancellor being largely sidelined. The same goes for Labour with Alistair Darling. When we compare it to how Nick Clegg is playing it with the prominence of Vince Cable and to how the Labour marriage of convenience between Blair and Brown dominated the 2005 election, we can conclude that Labour and the Tories feel as though the leaders are absolutely essential to their electoral chances. As much as I believe Brown is far superior in most respects to Cameron, I think Labour have let up the pressure on the Tory weak link Osborne. We had Peter Mandelson using the comparison with the young kid in the sweet shop on the first day or two. Since then, Labour have struggled to keep up this pressure, and I believe it is essential to expose him if Labour are to convince the public that a fourth term Labour government is a desirable outcome on May 7.
The Liberal Democrats will be looking towards Thursday’s debate to really hit home their message to voters who have liked what they have seen of Clegg & co. so far. It is true that Clegg is already the big winner from these debates – a chance for Mr. Who to establish himself as a viable alternative to the two main parties. They weathered the storm well over the poster about Tory plans to raise VAT despite the best efforts of the Tories to show it up as a deception. Clegg’s relaxed demeanour over the prospect of Lib Dem voters flocking to Labour suggests that he remains confident of the Liberal vote holding up. In fairness though, any party leader who can charm up to 30 women into his bed must have something about him…
So, thus far the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats can consider themselves to be in a healthy position as we go into the first weekend of the campaign. I still believe Gordon Brown can, and indeed will be Prime Minister after the election. They must target George Osborne in the way in which Peter Mandelson as the starting gun was fired, they must continue to focus resources in the marginals and of course to do what Darling did in his debate – to diminish the appeal of his Tory counterpart. My early verdict: Conservatives will be buoyed, but they should be wary of peaking too early.
*I should also note that I felt the Labour Party were absolutely correct in suspending Stuart MacLennan for his foul mouthed rants on Twitter. As Political Promise aims to show, the younger members of our society are mostly a credit to themselves and those who they represent. We are not all perfect but Mr. MacLennan, I’m afraid, let the party down big time. More importantly, as he said himself, he let himself down big time. Perhaps this experience will make him reflect on his actions