The last polls have been produced and the last #gotv leaflets are being delivered. If you live in a marginal seat I would urge you to vote early as you will be reminded to vote until you do by eager party activists. Getting the core vote out today will be the difference between winning & losing in so many crucial seats.
Today is a bizarre and slightly surreal experience for me. Since the mid 1980s I have been involved as a candidate in so many elections – including GElections in 1992, 97, 2001, 2005 & 2010. At the ripe old age of 50 it seems strange to have been retired from front line politics. But as you may have gathered from these blogs over the election campaign I have enjoyed watching from a slight distance, being careful not to intervene or get in the way of the world I left behind. Being able to understand how these things work and what my former colleagues are going through today makes it easier to be away from the frontline – especially in an election that is so difficult to call.
The latest polls produced basically seem to mean we have a tie at about 34% for both the main parties. Translated – even with the surge in SNP support – means the two parties will be roughly tied in the number of seats too! So all is to play for between now and 10pm.
From about 10pm tonight I will be mainly tweeting, although where required I may add some additional comments here in short bursts!
I had assumed these blogs would end tonight, but as the outcome of the election may so uncertain I think I will carry on until a government is formed. As I have said for the last two weeks May 8th onwards may well be the most exciting part of this election campaign!
The final ICM poll this afternoon has the parties heading into election day tied on 35%. It is almost as though the Campaign we have all endured for the last 6 weeks has done nothing to really shift the numbers
As you can see the actual numbers are 37-33 for Labour but ICM adjustments for accuracy make it 35-35. It also projects the numbers of seats will be neck and neck…but I am less convinced about applying this Universal swing to calculate seats. I think this will be an election of 200 mini by-elections!
What this poll probably does convey is that the SNP surge in Scotland may well ironically deliver a Tory government. It hasn’t been said very often so far during this election, but without the SNP surge Miliband may have not been far off a Labour majority without any deals. Given where the PArty was in 2010 on 29% of the vote and after 13 years in government this is a remarkable feat. If this is accurate too, it shows the Tories will have failed to win an election since 1992. Again for a Party that was regarded as the most effective political party in Europe and ruthless at winning elections this is remarkable too. The brand is damaged.
To react to this stalemate the Leaders have taken to their Battle Buses and are touring the key marginals. But of course they are not really touring are they? No they are dropping into some key seats where they will hold a brief rally with the party faithful, who should all be out knocking on doors – not back slapping each other. Personally whilst these are morale boosting visits for battle weary volunteers they don’t achieve a great deal. The voting public won’t even know Leader X, Y, Z is in town! Even if they did I am not sure unless they get a personal audience to be charmed by them that anything changes. When I organised Key Seat visits I did try to get genuine undecided voters along. As I have said before – even when Brown visited in 2010 it was a wide audience of students and staff not a pre-picked audience. The students I spoke to afterwards were all charmed by meeting the PM – even if it was Gordon Brown!
More later….. as I close the blog for the Campaign and open up the Election Day and Election result service!
Over the last few days I have resisted the temptation to use the ‘Groundhog Day’ title as I thought it would be a little obvious and lacking imagination. But after trying to see any real difference in the General Election campaign today I couldn’t find anything more suitable.
A quick look at the BBC Live summary looks a little too similar to all the other days this week. The Poll of Polls for today has Labour & Tories effectively tied on 33 or 34. The talk has all really still been about what happens after Thursday in the media. This does disrespect the fact that no count has been declared yet!
It has often taken non politicians to articulate why to vote and how to vote better than our over coached leaders. This article by Robert Webb is a good example. I think I have been as frustrated as much of the electorate at the ability of our national politicians to stick to their lines. I know them all so well by now I could easily stand in for Cameron, Clegg & Miliband on most interviews! It is one of the reasons I didn’t really want to climb the greasy pole. I actually liked the obscurity and freedom of being a humble backbencher to give a little more flavour to my interviews and actually say things I wanted to say. I am afraid social media and the reporting of every slight difference of opinion expressed as disaster has created this lack of debate the media and public then moan about. I don’t see a way out of this viscous circle.
I have been watching the national polls of course for my clients and for the Boards I sit on. The outcome of the election is important. But of course I take a particular interest in Loughborough! This was an interesting update from one election prediction website – just 43 votes in it! Yes just 43. I fee quite strongly that there are may Green voters and progressive Lib Dems who would be horrified by Cameron being PM again. I know tactical voting is a personal choice and I would struggle myself to vote anything but Labour, but there election vote swap sites that help ease the conscience. I am urging all my progressive friends to do the right thing in Loughborough.
I am back on the London run tomorrow and will miss all those eve of poll leaflets. From what I heard on Radio5 Live today people were monaing about the number of leaflets, but at the same time some were moaning they were not going to vote because they hadn’t heard from their candidates. It is your right to put the leaflets in the recycling. But remember they have all been delivered by hard working local volunteers (unless they are UKIP delivered by teenagers paid below the minimum wage!). Democracy works when you give some consideration to the issues and make a choice. If you are dissatisfied, do something about it. get involved, stand for election yourself. Don’t moan from the sidelines using the usual Clichés about them all being the same. It won’t take much effort – just 10 mins of your time. But Vote on Thursday. Even if it is to spoil your ballot paper. At least you will have showed you care enough about our freedom and democracy to give up 10 minutes of your time every 5 years. Non voters have none of my sympathy.
With just four days to go and most of us thinking about our normal Bank Holiday routines rather than the election it did seem it was another of those non-days of this campaign. Even from the politically battle hardened lobby journalists seems to be struggling to make sense of what should be the most exciting election for a generation, but which is still boring the pants off most of us and the electorate.
The BBC have tried to sum up today
A TV debate takes place among Scottish leaders – the last of the election campaign
Nick Clegg says public sector pay rises will be a Lib Dem coalition red line
Labour restates its pledge to cut tuition fees to £6,000
David Cameron warns against protest votes and says people must choose their ‘preferred prime minister’
Nigel Farage insists UKIP is growing in popularity and calls Mr Cameron ‘desperate’ for talking down the party
There are four days left until the general election
I guess the lack of focus today or any excitement sums up the campaign to date. The only highlight of my day (true I have been out at a Charity Rugby Game so have only relied on snippets of twitter and web news) was the social media reaction to the ‘Tablet of Stone’ unveiled by Miliband. It did seem a little too close to a “Thick of It” script. A bit of me rolled my eyes, but then I realised of course not everybody reacts to a twitter storm in the same way and the people Labour wanted to reach are those who needed some solid rock guarantees.
I think it seems a similar risk was taken by Ed going to see Russell Brand earlier this week. A story in the Guardian hinted that the Postal Votes were a disaster for Labour in the marginals and the anti SNP messaging from the Tories was working. Who said negative campaigns don’t work? the public hate them but then fall for them and vote accordingly. It is so depressing.
To make the deadlock worse the Poll of Polls is also showing a dead heat. Given the changes in Scotland and the Ashcroft Polling showing a large variation in the Key seats there is still all to play for on Thursday. An extra 5-10 seats here and there will put each party in a completely different bargaining position after Thursday so they will be out over these last 4 days chasing every vote in the 200 seats that matter.
So all to play for. I have shifted my predictions a little over the last week doing a little more analysis and taking into account the slightly hardening of the Tory vote and the inability of UKIP to get back up to the 20% that would really hurt the Tories.
We are in for a very messy political week. It is not even clear we will have a government by this time next week. For us political nerds this is all very exciting.
There is another week of this election to go. I am not sure how that makes you feel but I did get the impression from the Tory announcement today that they don’t trust themselves enough to keep a promise on tax so they would legislate not to increase tax (well VAT & Income tax for example). This is clearly a gimmick to have something to say for today. It wasn’t in the manifesto so we can only assume it’s one of those pointless policies that don’t mean much but send a ‘signal’. I can see why people are bored of this election. Despite the amount of detail allegedly given by the Tories about the ‘books for the next 5 years’ which allows them to make such an empty promise we know they have already got about £35-30bn of expenditure we don’t know where it will come from. Add to this the fact that GDP for last quarter fell to 0.3% growth and you can see why predicting 5 years growth to pay down the deficit and find the £30bn is really taking the electorate for fools.
Back to next week. As you know I have been keen to fast forward to the election result ever since I cast my postal vote. I am not sure I can take another week. It has been far too long. They are running out of photo Opps and repeated speeches. And from what I hear in all my conversations none of it is really helping make up peoples’ minds. Most people on my table at a dinner last night were ‘undecided’ despite all voting in 2010. They were shifting their thinking all over the place amongst the parties.
Usually about 12.30 was time for me to head to the ‘Count’ and look supremely confident, encourage my supporters and make the opposition worry. This time I will be sitting with my laptop and twitter enjoying every moment and messaging friends who have won or lost.
I will be watching the seats that will most likely change hands and what these mean for the final result. As we know only about 100 seats normally matter in a General Election and only a few thousand votes in each of these seats needs to change hands to change a government. I am a supporter of PR as I believe people should have their vote count wherever they live in the country. Being Labour in the South of much of England is pointless but those hundreds of thousands of votes should count for something.
The reason I got excited by the polls again today was twofold. First the Ashcroft poll suggesting (its a snapshot no a result) that nick Clegg and Farage may not win their seats. On top of this was a Scottish poll suggesting the SNP might win every one of the 55 seats north of the border. Extraordinary if that is true. But it would also deny the Lib Dems of Danny Alexander. Strip out Jeremy Brown who is already going and perhaps David Laws and the Orange Book (ie Tories) grouping is no longer the force to do the post election deals. With 55 SNP and a slightly lefter leaning Lib Dems and the maths starts to look difficult for Cameron. I think political commentators have been too quick to put the Lib Dems in the Tory column for reaching the magic 323 seats target. There is still lots to play for.
On a final note this evening as I blog – whilst trying to watch Leicester City defy the odds and beat Chelsea out of the corner of my eye – I have been keen to see how the media have covered this election. I think it has been a really low point for people who regard themselves as serious journalists in papers like the Telegrapgh. Yes we know they support the Tories and will say so but journalistic standards have just gone out of the window. But more objectively it is great that Loughborough University General Election Media analysis helps show just how biased the coverage has been and what Labour have had to contend with (negative attacks in the amount of coverage they get)
The latest over the top coverage that annoyed me today was the storeis around Ed Miliband daring to to an interview with somebody young people identify with – Russell Brand. Don’t people get that politics is no longer done through Radio 4 Today programme? I think this was brave and sensible way to try and engage. Thumbs up and it is stupid of the other media to attack him. But of course you can see why! social media makes it possible to by-pass the old media. Great!
As party affiliation or identification has weakened over recent years the question I am asked more frequently is about voting for the individual or the Party. It seems in 2015 this is even more prevalent as so many people are still undecided with just over a week to go.
Clearly I am biased. Despite being a nice gentle parliamentarian I do recognise the necessity for parties and am surprisingly tribal!! I would therefore always start from the point of view that you should be voting for the party that is closest to your values. As I wrote yesterday I don’t think voting at elections is about a shopping list of which party is best for me or just my family. However, I do understand that many people look to their short term individual self interest however depressing I find this practise!
Voting for the party closest to your values means of course you have to aware of your own values and those of the parties. Being based on the values and aspirations of a party means that people like me do forgive parties when they make mistakes or don’t quite get everything right. However, even in a knowledge driven world I am still surprised at how little people know about the parties policies and values. There are of course websites around that help…
So if you are not particularly tribal in your politics should you vote ‘for the person’. Again I declare an interest. I worked hard as an MP to generate a following amongst non-Labour voters who might at election time be so impressed by my work rate and effectiveness that they would put behind their party loyalty and vote for me personally. I was aware that even this was only ever worth a few hundred votes at most. But it did exist. I knew many people who personally backed me against their normal voting pattern. I even had Tory councillors vote for me!
So I can’t deny it is possible to vote for the person not just the party. But why would you do this? I would hope that whilst I was largely tribal and loyal to my party on big issues of conscious and issues of trust I would ‘rebel’ and represent my views and those of constituents. On big issues like Iraq, Tuition fees, Trident etc I did rebel – at the cost of always happily being a back-bench MP not on the Ministerial greasy pole. My successor for example has little ideology and was ambitious only to be an MP. Ambitious to climb that greasy pole has meant that there have been no rebellions – just party loyalty. If this is the case what is the point of voting for the ‘person’ if all you get is party cannon fodder with a smile? In a Party based parliamentary democracy you vote for the party because that’s what you get… party votes on party lines.
These days the level of public scrutiny is greater and the type of MP is changing. Across all the parties it is harder to see the old fashioned lazy MP survive. It used to be just MPs in marginal seats that worked hard, but increasingly I saw signs of the new post 97 generation working harder to be in touch and active in their constituencies. Therefore, there will be less areas to discern what is a good local MP and why you should vote for a ‘person’.
You might have a political or from my experience a faith based reason to vote for an individual. There might be something very specific or a local issue where the candidates have taken a different line outside the national party whip remit. So there are grounds in a few cases for going with a local candidate if you are not particularly tribal. But for me it’s Party first every time. Even if I lived in a constituency of an MP friend from a different party, I would vote against them every time. There are still friends in opposite parties standing this time and whilst I wish them well, I want my party to do well in their constituency!
All these thoughts came about from a Facebook discussion and a tweet from a well known Tory who said he would be happy to see the Labour Party reduced to 4 MPs – including me! So even the most tribal can put these feelings aside.