There has been a sharpening in the polls in recent weeks and at one point last week a poll which seems to be a rogue had the lead down to two points and things seem to be averaging out at about 5 to 6 points. For now, it looks like hung-parliament territory but I personally do not think it will last. There are lots of things that have not happened yet, and I actually think that despite the narrowing it is still the Conservatives election to lose.
Here are my 10 things that have not happened yet that might happen or will happen that will benefit the Conservatives as we get nearer to the election.
1. The Election Has Not Actually Been Called Yet
There are millions of people in the country whose involvement and interest in politics does not extend beyond election time. Many of these people are who David Cameron has been busiest courting and positioning hiself for when they do start taking notice. When we know for sure when the election is, the polls and public debate will I think move to firmer Conservative territory. Until the election proper is called there is much that will not happen. The real business in sport is when all the players are on the same field and the whistle has been blown and this election will be no different. Get the election going and a lot of the narrative will change and people's minds will focus on Labours record versus Conservative promise. Labours record this time around hands the Conservatives a head start with undecideds who are yet to start considering things from a political point of view.
2. The TV Debates
This is obviously new and may yet prove to have a phenomenonal effect on the outcome (or not). The leaders of the three factions of the Westminster Party will go on TV and discuss the fag paper that separates them. For me this may not reveal much, but for others it may well competely and radically change their voting intentions. Expectations will be spun low for Gordon Brown but David Cameron and Nick Clegg will be expected to come across better and more in touch. It will represent a move away from speaking in front of Labour audiences and Parliament for Brown, something Clegg and Cameron are more accustomed to.
Gordon Brown was typically reluctant to accept and will view not losing ground as a win. Cameron and Clegg have ground they can seize.
3. The TV Debates
No, I am not repeating myself. I think there is a chance of a fourth debate being added as the other parties are rightly upset that the Westminster three are going to get three prominent slots on Prime Time. I would expect now the deal is done and the rules announced for the SNP and/or UKIP to get busy and organise a competing debate or debates that will exclude the other three, possibly on a smaller news or TV channel, or maybe over internet broadcast which is certainly possible in the Internet age and would even perhaps appear to put the others in a more modern setting. If the debate gets going, the primary focus will be on Labour’s record with no one from Labour there to defend it and attacks on Labour's record from any source will benefit the Conservatives.
4. The Sun
The Sun threw its weight behind the Conservatives during the conference season last year, but this support has been a little lukewarm since. They, like many are not fully convinced about Cameron, and I am not so sure that will change this opinion. However, having drawn a line in the sand, I fully expect that they have been quietly digging the dirt and have a few headliner stories ready to break once the election is called. I am expecting at least a couple of sleaze stories, and with MPs expenses having blown open this past year there is a near endless supply of material for a red top to use in its lampooning efforts. The Sun understands what to say to people whose interest in politics does not extend much beyond Election Day.
5. The Crunch
Every day, every week and every month things are getting tighter and tighter for families up and down the country. Few actually believe Labour when it comes to the economy. In 1979 the country was completely and utterly ruined, and everyone knew it. People took a look at two clear alternatives, more of the same or the Conservatives. In 2010, Labour have recognised this and are literally just trying to cover up how bad things really are and have applied a few band-aids to hide the wounds rather than to heal them. The economy is in many ways much worse than in 1979 and that is a message every party other than Labour will be repeating. People are feeling the pinch anyway, so Brown and Labour cannot spin this forever. Inflation is starting to kick in and prices are going up. The longer we wait, the more people will see more and more of the turmoil our economy is in and be feeling it more and more for themselves. The choice will again be for more of the same or a change.
The Conservatives are not well placed to talk about the EU, but Labour and the Lib Dems are in an even worse position. David Cameron and his shadow cabinet will be able to point to something EU Sceptic, even if people like me think it is a load of old pony. What they can also do is put out in front Daniel Hannan and William Hague who are still considered as people within the Tory Party who will somehow and some way eventually steer the party right. Europe will not go unmentioned during the election and though they will be taken to task here on the blogosphere, for those more inclined to make their decision from info gained from GMTV and This Morning the Conservatives will be seen as something of an EU Sceptic party.
7. Straw Poll
I did a straw poll in the office today, I asked my co-workers to imagine it was election day and they had the ballot paper in hand… who will you vote for? The resounding answer was “not Labour” all the people I asked have voted Labour in the General Election in recent years… The Conservative need to just show they are “Not Labour” to people who swung to Labour and now regret it and they are onto a winner.
8. The Phwoar Factor!
Apparently David Cameron is the most attractive of the three leaders to women. (Extracted as an unexpected answer to the aforementioned straw poll). The least unattractive candidate has some opportunities that the others will not with a dialogue to women when actually on a campaign trail. This has not yet been a major factor, but who knows. Brown definately isn't going to do well if things ultimately become a beauty contest.
9. People Just Don’t Know
People are genuinely confused about Cameron and the Conservatives, but this has not translated to mistrust or dislike. Well, not yet. So, with a clear and concise message, they can still win many battles, if not the war. The flip side of course is that everybody knows what Labour is about, and there is a tangible and shoddy record that can be pointed to. Even if the battle is between the definitely incompetent party and the not quite sure party the Conservatives will not necessarily do so bad and are still, just about in a position to build on this. Dave, better late than never but get yourself a dedicated general Election Co-ordinator!
10. Gordon Brown
Well Gordon Brown has “happened” but in terms of the campaign he is not in it properly yet; he is the Prime Minister and there are many who will not view him any differently yet. Clegg and Cameron can easily be described as campaigning whereas Gordon Brown will be described as governing. But, I think Gordon Brown is a liability to the Labour Party, we know he is disliked by people that have been appointed to work alongside him and in cabinet. Not even just disliked, but seemingly judged by those working closely with him as not up to the Job. Be it resigning the minute after a national election has taken place, or clear references to his incompetence in the national press, or the various plots against him which have all come from those who know him and have worked with him or even being on the unfortunate end of his office bullying. There is a clear verdict here from the people most closet to him, and it isn’t a positive one.
The UK population usually gets the decision right in General Elections, at least in terms of votes cast though that does not always translate across in terms of seats. It has almost be forgotten in recent weeks that Gordon Brown is the least competent, least liked, least trusted Prime Minister of recent times, if not in fact of all time; and he has got to be Prime Minister, and destroyed our economy without facing a national election and when it comes down to it and people focus their minds on it they will not like it one bit.
All of the above is my way of saying that I do not think an outright win is out of scope for the Conservatives yet, and that of the conceivable things that are going to happen between now and the election it is Labour who have more of an up hill battle, providing the Conservatives get themselves and their message straight.