Whisky Tango Foxtrot?
Well, gosh eh? Hands up who say that one coming. It’s too early to say whether the Lib Dem bounce is entirely a blip, an exaggerated move, or the start of a new era in British politics. Sudden and dramatic swings in public opinion have a habit of reversing themselves pretty swiftly (and it’s worth reminding ourselves that the entire lifespan of the Lib Dem surge is less than a week so far – outside an election campaign it might not have been picked up at all). But then sudden and dramatic swings in public opinion don’t often happen a fortnight before polling day.
The Conservative message, all the way from 2005, has been ‘time for a change’, ‘lets get rid of Gordon Brown’. This was, after all, pretty much the sum of New Labour’s charge in 1997 – there was a fluffy backdrop of D-Ream, and an undefined fuzzy feel-good message about the new young leader, but the overwhelming focus of the campaign was on the negatives of the Tories. This time round the Tories have made their key message stick – people want change, and they want rid of Brown. They’re just not sure that they want Cameron and the Tories instead.
For politics geeks like me there is something distinctly amusing about the idea that the Liberal Democrats should become the repository of the anti-politics vote. These chaps, after all, are so steeped in politics that they all joined a party with no prospect of power, just so they could do lots of politics stuff. There’s something quite funny, in a slightly gritted-teeth way, in seeing them swept away on a tide of enthusiasm when their actual policies are a combination of the unpopular, the unaffordable and the unrealistic. If any other party had promised to magic up a £17bn tax cut paid for by reducing tax avoidance the laughter would been long and loud.
But we are where we are (and I, for one, welcome our new sandal-wearing overlords). If May 6th sees a vote share along the 35-25-30 mark, then we’ll probably see a minority Conservative Government, looking for co-operation with the Liberal Democrats on a case by case basis. We’ll also see another election sooner rather than later...