Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The phoney election campaign (and other over-used phrases)

So what are we to make of the first week of the year and the rush to political action?

David Cameron and the Conservatives have been quick off the blocks with their NHS mini-manifesto and poster campaign. (I now have to live with Dave's airbrushed image on a wall about two minutes from my flat). Unfortunately for them, it appears that they didn't wait until they had all their facts and figures sorted out and so they have been having to issue corrections and clarifications ever since.

The moral seems to be that if you are first out of the blocks then the media will concentrate all their attentions on you - which is not always a good thing.

Was this massive Tory bombardment a thought through strategy for the voters or was it aimed at showing off towards Labour (We're considerably richer than yow). If the latter then David Blunkett has certainly bitten.

Nick Clegg got plaudits for his well thought out piece saying that the Lib Dems are not for sale. His argument is that both the others are moving to the centre and that voters should choose the real centre party rather than a fake version. It's definitely reassuring to see that he has resisted the temptation to move away from the centre. An aspect of his article in the Times that I particularly liked is that he has made it clear what will form the basis of a Lib Dem shopping list should the voters force parties to (god forbid) talk to each other after the election. It's not yet a negotiating list of three or four key policies, but we are still as much as six months away from polling day and so I think it would be unreasonable to expect that as yet.

But both Clegg and Cameron have been wiped from the bulletins by today's latest ferrets-in-a-sack episode with the Labour Party. The decision by Hoon and Hewitt to publish their demand for a leadership contest seems quite incredible to me, but will force Brown's hand one way or another. He could, as Iain Dale suggests, walk straight to the Palace and ask for an election now. With the Tories proving that they do not walk on water, an election now might wrong foot them and would mean that Brown would avoid any question of a leadership contest. It is also the only hope Labour has of matching the Tories in campaign spending.

Alternatively, Brown could try to bolster his resolute image by hanging in there and seeing off the rebels in his party. Any such strategy would surely mean an election is some way off.

Of course, if Hoon and Hewitt do get their way and Labour gets a new leader then expect an instant election as the new PM desparately tries to capitalise on the shortest political honeymoon in history.

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