A few days to go and we have all made it in one piece. Soon we will all know which if any of the masses of contradictory and inconsistent polls were right.
I have spent the last twelve months carefully monitoring the polls, what the bookmakers have been saying, analysing intelligence on the ground in the key marginal and looking at the various regional variants such as whether there are any incumbent factors or local campaigns such as HS2 or the closure of a certain hospital locally or a third runway at Heathrow to try and ascertain what the result will be.
So now I am really sticking my neck out. Here is my take on the campaigns of the main political parties and how I think they will all do on the 7/8th May.
The Conservative Party
By all accounts there have been major rumblings inside the Tory Party from the highest level to the grass roots on the state of their overall general election campaign. For many, it seems Cameron has been what he actually is in person in my view, ‘lightweight’ and ‘lacklustre’.
He showed characteristically weak leadership in failing to appear in the TV debates even the one he actually turned up for – he was not really at the races. Last night however in the BBC Question Time programme he performed much better in my view despite having a ‘Richard Nixon’ moment as he sweated his way through his half hour grilling by a very tough Yorkshire audience.
The Conservatives have put so much faith in their Australian campaign Chief Lynton Crosby that they really only had one strategy – The long term economic plan. Keep banging on about it and the polls will break in the last ten days in our favour. Well, the polls have shown a little movement to the Conservatives but nothing to write home about and they have not moved because of the long term economic plan mantra. No the Conservatives have stumbled over ‘Fear’ as their most potent weapon in this campaign. The prospect of a Labour/SNP love-in as a possible outcome of the election is starting to scare England to death – to what degree we do not know and will not know until election night itself.
But Cameron can breathe a sigh of relief – because the Miliband/Sturgeon dream team has had more influence than the now hated and derided long term economic plan (that is the last time I will mention it!). Two Achilles heals remain for the Tories, they have failed utterly to explain how their NHS spending commitment and their tax and welfare cuts will be financed and they failed on their immigration pledge from 2010 to such an extent that the Conservative Party have now nothing to say about the number one issue in this election campaign. Quite extraordinary.
Poor campaign, badly led, lacklustre and lacking in any real conviction and policy detail.
255-285 seats with a % share of the vote ranging from 32% to 35%. Cameron to resign as Leader of the Conservative Party should the Conservatives fail to become the largest party and agree a coalition to run the country.
The Labour Party
The bar was so low in terms of expectation of Ed Miliband’s personal performance in this election that he could not really slip any further. In reality, Miliband performed well in the Leader’s debates and he has seen through the election campaign without really putting a foot wrong – until last night of course, when he seemed to slip on David Cameron’s sweat as he left the BBC Question Time stage. No bacon sarnie shots, no awkward meetings and at one point, he became an internet sensation with a bunch of women on a hen weekend – selfies all round. The jury is still out on his chat with Russell Brand.
Labour have released a raft of policies but with very little detail on their deficit reduction plans and their extra spending has not really been fully financed so there are still some gaps in their overall finances.
The Conservatives have lamely tried to take the electorate back to 2008 and blame Labour for the global financial meltdown – Miliband assisted that narrative when he claimed to the audience last night that the last Labour government had not spent too much – cue derision and incredulity from the audience.
For months the Conservatives have personally attacked Miliband with their friends in the media – but nothing seems to have worked, indeed, Miliband seems to have increased his popularity but the Tories may have found their Kryptonite - The SNP.
Despite their best efforts to convince England they will not enter into a coalition or any other formal arrangements with the SNP, the voters in England so far do not seem to be convinced (if we are to believe the most erratic and unreliable polls in the history of polling are telling us). Miliband shot the Tory/SNP fox last night with a clear statement – ‘no deals with the SNP.’ The spin is now it will be SNP support on a vote-by-vote basis; well they had to come up with something to maintain the fear. We wait to see if the voters believe him.
Campaign and Ed Miliband much better than predicted but grinding to a slow halt due to the perception that they will do a deal with the SNP.
265-295 seats with a % share of the vote from 31% to 34%. They will have to face a wipe out in Scotland which deprives them of a majority in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats
They have been walking up a hill made of treacle for the last five years. According to the pollsters there is now no avoiding a very, very bad night on May 8th.
They have surprisingly come across well portraying themselves as a decent brake on any future Labour or Conservative led governments and detailing sufficiently their record in government.
Nick Clegg has appeared as the most energetic and capable of the three main party leaders. The problem is, nobody is agreeing with Nick this time around, in fact, it is worse, nobody is listening to the Liberal Democrats. They face the prospect of a real election massacre.
Last night on BBC Question Time, Clegg once again showed that he’s really good at debating but sadly for him, his credibility and that of his party has long gone.
Bless them, they have tried very hard to get heard and to appear relevant but the nation has fallen out of love with them in a very big way. My gut instinct is that Clegg may hold on to his seat in Sheffield Hallam due to the Conservatives collapsing their own vote to help him out – however, if the student vote in Sheffield Hallam is highly motivated then the Tory voters may not be able to save him. I think they may perform slightly better than the polls suggest but only marginally. If Clegg holds on that will be the extent of their success on the night but it could still herald the end of his political career at Westminster.
Good campaign, good leader but nobody is listening and nobody is interested in anything that the Judas Iscariot of British Politics has to say. They’re in for a bumpy night but perhaps not a ‘Portillo moment’ in Sheffield.
15-27 seats with a % share of the vote between 6% and 9%. Completely wiped out in some parts of the country, an irrelevance in the next Parliament and Clegg will be forced out.
UK Independence Party (UKIP)
How are they still standing, that is what I want to know? Twelve months of non-stop smears, innuendo and blatant attempts to discredit them by the left and right of the political establishment and media. Yet they are still standing and still polling on average at 13%.
They had probably the most interesting Manifesto launch of the lot. Fully financed and popular policies. Nigel Farage admitted that the overall campaign has been a bit flat because he as Cheerleader-in-Chief was not very well for the first few weeks of the campaign.
A hot favourite to win the leaders debate, Nigel Farage it has to be said, underperformed and was a tad underwhelming but that can perhaps be put down to being unwell. However, he still outshone his opponents as the only leader in the campaign that seems to truly believe in what he is saying. Excluded by the BBC from the Question Time programme last night, he appeared on the graveyard slot with his own show in which he did give a very good performance – but it would have been nice to have seen how he would have handled my fellow Tykes in the Question Time audience – they were taking no prisoners.
UKIP have done remarkably well to get to the final week in one piece. The People’s Army at times look battered and exhausted but they will attempt one last charge to break through the mud-slinging and the smears and who knows, the cavalry of the People’s Army (UKIP voters) may just come rolling over the hill on May 7th and rescue their beleaguered and tired Generals.
Good manifesto, campaign stuttered and was not as energetic as predicted but there’s life in the British bulldog yet. I suspect the People’s Army will do much better than the polls and pundits predict and much better than the media and the political class would like them to do.
4-12 seats, including Nigel Farage at South Thanet, with a % share of the vote between 13% and 17%. If they can achieve 4 million votes they will remain the pressure point on the body politic for the next five years and may well be better placed for a breakthrough in 2020 than they are in 2015.
The Green Party
Well they could not run a bath let alone a country IMHO. Although to be fair to them they have run a very passionate and energetic campaign. Their leader Natalie Bennett has recovered from her near fatal interview with LBC Radio and Andrew Neil at the start of the campaign to deliver more settled if tightly scripted interviews during the campaign.
They have set out policies and financing proposals that are so far out that you would probably find them on Saturn or Neptune. Total fantasy mathematics but they all appear to be nice people and I say that genuinely and sincerely and they truly believe the tripe they have been peddling for the entire campaign.
It could have all ended at the LBC/Andrew Neil interviews before the campaign had even started. Passionate campaign, passionate leader but away with the fairies on the Disneyland express.
0-1 seat with a % share of the vote between 3% and 5% The Green surge has stopped for a toilet break and I think they might be in there till polling day.
Our Next Government
The Conservatives will be the largest party and will run a minority administration. Knowing the party as I do, they will turn on David Cameron if not straight after the election then one night in the not too distant future the PM will come downstairs at No.10 to find Boris Johnson measuring up for new curtains. Within six months all three main party leaders will be gone (Farage will stay) and there will be another general election in 18 months.