As expected, the campaign is on and, as usual because it only happens every four or five years, people have already forgotten that this is a marathon not a sprint. The three main leaders are already out and about and the activist blogosphere is commenting on every nuance of every word of every sentence.
None of it matters at this time – the first key event is the first televised debate on April 15th. Until then, it will be all posturing and presentation.
The pro-Tory press are in confident mood and the YouGov poll in the Sun with a 41% Conservative rating and a 10-point lead was widely and selectively reported. The ICM poll with its four-point Conservative advantage got much more coverage outside the Tory press.
Again, polls at this stage matter very little though I am now tending to the view that, volatility notwithstanding, what we see now won’t be too far off the final result.
The Conservative Party will win the General Election on May 6th and form a Government with a small overall majority of between 1 and 20 seats and David Cameron as Prime Minister.
Why, as a Liberal Democrat, do I think this will happen ?
1) The Conservatives have a huge advantage in terms of national funding and resources over the other parties. While they can be matched locally in terms of the “ground campaign”, in terms of posters, targeted mail shots and a raft of other activities, they are miles ahead and this will pay dividends later in the campaign. Nothing will be left to chance that money cannot affect or influence.
2) The mood is for “change”. Gordon Brown is widely hated and held responsible for the recession (unfairly) and the disastrous state of the public finances (fairly). Let’s be clear – there is limited enthusiasm at best for the Conservative message but as they are NOT Labour that won’t matter and the message is very hard to fight against as, to be honest, the record isn’t much to defend.
3) The Conservatives have a huge advantage in the print media with the Sun, Mail, Times and Express all on their sides leaving only the Mirror to fight the Labour corner. Day after day, the Tory press will waste no opportunity to put the boot into Brown and Labour and magnify every Labour “gaffe” while giving the Conservatives an easy ride.
The one thing I think is already evident is that many people are disinterested and wall-to-wall coverage of every nuance of the campaign isn’t going to engage a disillusioned electorate. Past experience also indicates that Tory-Labour feuding turns off the electorate and plays well for the Liberal Democrats and other parties. With the two spin and rebuttal machines in full swing, there will be plenty of opportunity for campaign spats to become major rows from which neither of the two main parties benefit.