If you’re bored by the election campaign, just be thankful you’re not the leader of a political party.
Here’s how their day goes: You spend most of your day on trains or coaches, shuttling between half-a-dozen or more target constituencies. At each you emerge, blinking, onto an unfamiliar high street, have your photograph taken with the local candidate, deliver the same speech you’ve given a-hundred times before, remembering to insert the name of whichever town you happen to be in right now, then you get back on the coach.
And pretty much every person you meet has been pre-screened, approved by the party machine and guaranteed not to produce embarrassing or uncomfortable headlines.
Ordinary voters have more chance of bumping into Elvis Presley than David Cameron or Ed Miliband.
Pray for a gaffe, because otherwise this election campaign will lumber on to May 7th in a manner identical to the last month.
It’s the unexpected events that make an election memorable. The moments that spin off in an un-spun direction.
In 2010, it was Gordon Brown calling one woman a bigot, five years earlier it was Tony Blair, cornered outside a hospital. Four years before that it was John Prescott punching a bloke.
The Phantom Menace
The polls have barely moved after 4 weeks’ campaigning — and another 4 months of electioneering. If the politicians are bored, won’t someone think of the voters.
Actually, the voters have twigged that no-one’s going to win outright — and they don’t understand why so many party leaders campaign as if a Commons majority is still a realistic aspiration.
What the voters now realise is that the real decisions will be made after the election, in negotiations they’ll be largely shut out of. Why won’t the politicians catch up with that reality? Why are they fighting this phantom campaign?
Chiefly, because of the uncomfortable questions that would follow. Who will you do a deal with? How many of your promises will you be willing to ditch?
No politician’s going to answer those questions this side of polling day — just like no politician will explain exactly what they will cut and when.
Maybe, just maybe...
But then again…. In almost every election in the last 50 years, the Conservatives have gained votes in the final week of the campaign, while Labour slipped back. (In 2010, though, Labour gained around 2% in the final days).
Expect the Tories to play their Boris Joker sometime next week, putting London’s Mayor at the heart of the campaign’s closing stages.
Many analysts expect the Tories to finish ahead of Labour, certainly in terms of votes cast, possibly in the number of seats too.
But that doesn’t make David Cameron’s job safer — because however many seats he ends up with, there could be 40 or more SNP MPs, with a stated determination to kick him out of Downing Street.
Here’s another reason why some Tories are dismayed — having spent 5 years dismissing Ed Miliband as weak, feeble, and unfit for government, they can’t build a lead over Labour.
And were it not for the SNP surge, we’d be speculating on whether Mr Miliband could pull off a Commons majority.
The campaign may be tedious at times, but at least what comes next should be a bit more exciting.