Like most voters, I know what I expect from politicians on the campaign stump. Photo-ops, sound bites, slick spin and oodles of massaged statistics, with a little bit of negativity towards opponents thrown in. That’s the formula.
There are differences between the parties, though. Those differences basically come down to two things – money, and the media. The money thing is only slightly constrained by the laws on election expenditure. These forbid parties to bribe voters with cakes and ale, and limit the amount that candidates can spend in a constituency during the official election campaign. But what the parties do nationally, well, that’s a bit of a free-for-all.
Except that it isn’t. Only the Tories have the dosh to run a Rolls Royce campaign. Bespoke polling, nationwide poster campaigns, a hundred grand a month spent on Facebook alone – and the big spend, Lynton Crosby, Australian spin-assassin, the Nabob of Negative Campaigning. I fully expected a campaign of slick brilliance, casually kicking Labour to a pulp, kebabbing the Lib Dems (as easy as drowning a kitten), and playing the grubby little Englander to stick one to the Nats. Through it all would shine Dave, the fragrant Sam Cam at his side, smiling indulgently at the plebs.
After all, as well as the money, they have the media. After Ed Miliband took on Murdoch – something the SNP has conspicuously failed to do (never forget Salmond’s wooing of Murdoch’s support) – and the outcome of Leveson, the Non-Doms and tax avoiders who own the press have been doubly up for being the Tories’ most loyal cheerleaders. Given that the newspapers set the agenda for the broadcasters, particularly the craven and cowed BBC, this ought to have left the Tories playing on a field aiming at a goal rigged to be three times as wide and twice the height of that faced by their opponents’.
But things don’t seem to be going to plan, do they? The electorate – unwashed ingrates all – don’t seem especially keen on “Aren’t I Prime Ministerial?” Cameron. When he bangs on about the “long term plan”, “Labour maxed out the credit card” and a load of other Aussie-authored bullshit, the bloody oiks don’t seem to be listening. When he bungs us some tax cuts, we yawn. So he raids the Thatcher songbook for the old tunes – like selling off social housing, or offering discounted Lloyds Bank shares (which we’ve paid for once already) – but nothing seems to please us.
But never fear – Nasty Nicola and the Mars Bar fryers can be deployed to frighten the English into running back into the safe, strong embrace of what used to be called the Conservative and Unionist Party.
Will this last ditch attempt at winning Middle England by conjuring up the Pictish hoards work?
It doesn’t deserve to. Scotland may be over-represented at Westminster (population-wise) but its MPs are still a small fraction of the Commons numbers. If this island is one state, which it is, it is a small-minded and constitutionally-illiterate politician who seeks to delegitimatise democratically elected MPs from any region. I’m not a nationalist, so the SNP, which is first and foremost a nationalist party, has no appeal for me, but to paint it as illegitimate and malign, as the Tories do, is nothing more than a silly, shrieking hissy fit that demeans them as a serious party of government.
I’m not in the prediction biz. Nothing in this election is turning out as I anticipated. But the Tories on the verge of a nervous breakdown over half way through the campaign? I really didn’t see that coming.