Tory Target Keeps Moving
So is it ‘Red Ed’ or ‘Stud Ed’ or ‘Geek Ed’? Less than a month to go to the British General Election and the Tories and their newspaper allies still can’t make up their mind on how they should paint
Miliband. Is he ruthless – the kind of sneaky sibling who would knife his own brother in the back – or is he weak, an Islington Policy Wonk with no knowledge of the real world? This is a genuine problem for the Conservatives; they’re relying on Ed Miliband being the weak link in the Labour chain. In fact, it’s been a faulty campaign truism for the Tories; they’ve taken for granted that the Electorate would be so put off by the younger brother that labour would be tanking in the polls. Instead, Labour are, by some recent polls, ahead and in the driving seat to form a coalition, at the very least, in the next Government. If most voters aren’t scared of Ed, and remember there is still plenty of time for some Kinnock-style monstering from the Tory Press, then David Cameron’s goose has been well and truly cooked. There is, however, the chance that the Conservatives will go relentlessly negative; the evidence from this type of campaigning is mixed – negative can work in certain circumstances. Lynton Crosby is relying on a few more cards up his sleeve; whether it is enough to stop Miliband from heading into Downing Street, we will find out very soon. Many are saying this is the closest election in decades; at this snapshot in time, it is slight advantage to the Labour Party.
Scotland the Kingmaker
Labour’s woes in Scotland are substantial. The take from the Independence Referendum is that they might have won the battle but they are losing the war. Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP are resurgent. Never a really national party before, they are all set to wipe out the Labour ascendancy north of Hadrian’s Wall. Jim Murphy has been given the hapless task of trying to save enough seats from the wreckage to keep the Labour dream of an overall Westminster majority alive. There are some slim causes for hope – the odds still favour a Labour decimation – that will give Murphy fire in his belly in the adrenalin fuelled coming weeks. Firstly, Gordon Brown saved the Union and is still a hugely popular and respected figure; Scottish Labour would be mad not to have him out on the campaign stump and it would be a major surprise if this Big Beast doesn’t start roaring. Secondly, SNP policies on spending and the prospect of another independence vote are starting to come under the sort of forensic examination one gets during a general election campaign. Nicola Sturgeon is enjoying an electoral honeymoon but from here on in, the campaign is for her to lose. Thirdly, Scottish Labour have logistical experience and boots on the ground; you can have as many Twitter supporters as you like but unless people get out and canvass for you, your opponents can make hay at your expense. If Labour are destroyed in Scotland and the only practical coalition post-election is Labour with SNP support, then politically, we’re into almost completely uncharted territory. Perhaps the only comparison is back to before the First World War and the Irish Parliamentary Party supporting the Liberals. Whatever happens, the ‘Scottish Question’ hasn’t gone away; Scotland will shape the next Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Suppose David Cameron does it. He could. He could get enough votes in swing constituencies in the South to become the largest party by twenty seats or so. The polls are mixed on this. If he is just a nose ahead of Labour, then his moral authority to form a government will have been severely weakened. He may well get first approach on forming a government, but it would be difficult for a Left-leaning Liberal Democrats to re-enter a coalition. But if the SNP incapacitate Labour in Scotland and enough voters look to their wallet and UKIP peak and/or decline, then there’s a reasonable chance of Cameron getting back into Downing Street. He is relying on a lot of variables, more than the Labour Party are, for his clear path back to power. For DC to get back to Number Ten, Labour must fail disastrously in Scotland (likely but not guaranteed), UKIP most implode (possible but not probable) and the Liberal Democrats must hold their own in seat numbers and come back with either Nick Clegg as their leader (looking dubious) or with an ‘Orange Book’ new leader (this may be a step too far for the grassroots). A Tory minority government with Liberal Democrat ‘supply’ support seems unworkable and the Conservatives will need to storm ahead if they’re to get into Minority Rule with DUP/Ulster Unionist ‘supply’ votes. It is difficult, at this juncture, to see how David Cameron will be Prime Minister rather than Ed Miliband. Three weeks, however, is a long time in politics.