One day to go – can the last minute campaigning clinch support from floating voters?
With hours to go before polling starts and the level of support across the country still pointing to an inconclusive result, politicians are frantically trying to grab any votes they still can from the vast swathes of apparently (still) undecided voters. Many of these undecideds appear to pepper the all-important marginal seats the three main parties are hankering for, and this is where much of the campaigning is now being concentrated. A recent poll by ComRes has shown that 38 percent of people said it is “quite possible” they would change their minds by tomorrow, so there is still plenty to play for at this late stage.
Cameron has been pulling out all the stops with an all-night tour of important northerly marginal seats (here’s hoping he gets some rest before potentially having to assemble a cabinet or indulge in some coalition-dealing come Friday) to show his determination and vigour in the closing days of the election. Cameron reportedly sees the last-minute dash as a way of countering claims that he is taking victory for granted.
Meanwhile, Brown favoured a homely Mr & Mrs-style interview on daytime TV with wife Sarah, no doubt hoping to show his ‘human’ side in a bid to win over wavering female voters. He refuted the call from Schools’ Secretary Ed Balls that Labour voters should use their ballot tactically to keep the Conservatives out of government after more of the ‘Vote yellow, get Brown’ warnings from the Conservatives. Clegg has been visiting seats previously thought of as unwinnable for the party and targeting disaffected Labour voters in a bid to avoid the two-party “stitch-up”, as he described it.
In the national polls the softer Liberal Democrat support appears to be waning in the classic third-party squeeze feared by Clegg - this is almost always encountered by the party in general elections. The Conservatives remain in the lead on 35 percent, Labour move up to 28 percent and the Lib Dems follow just behind on 27 percent. If the national vote followed these polls then Labour would emerge as the largest party in a hung parliament, news which is bound to give a boost to Brown in the last hours of the campaign.
The bank holiday weekend also heralded the final televised debates held in Scotland and Wales.
First Minister and leader of the SNP Alex Salmond decisively led the field in the Scottish debate, with Conservative David Mundell scoring only 18 percent of the post-debate support and Labour Minister for Scotland Jim Murphy polling a meagre 5 percent. Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael came out of the debate with 33 percent of the support, well behind Salmond’s 45 percent win. Independence for Scotland topped the agenda for the First Minister who alleged that the nation would have fared better in the recession without Westminster, and listed the institutions and policies that he would favour cutting which included the House of Lords, ID cards, Trident and the Government Office for Scotland. Dig of the debate went to Mundell, who declared that Wayne Rooney had more policies for Scotland than Alex Salmond.
The Welsh debate was an odd mix of Westminster and Assembly-based politicians with Labour’s Peter Hain and the previously ‘MIA’ Conservatives’ Cheryl Gillan exchanging blows. Labour are leading in the Welsh polls on 35 percent, the Conservatives are second on 27, the Liberal Democrats are on 23 and the nationalist party Plaid Cymru trail behind on 10 percent.
Inevitably a significant amount of both the debates was taken up by discussions of who would deal with who in the event on a hung/balanced parliament. Given that it was the SNP voting with the Conservatives in the no confidence vote against the Labour Government which led to the 1979 General Election (causing the party to haemorrhage votes in the 1980s) Salmond has maintained a pragmatic ‘case-by-case’ line. A recent joint press conference held with Plaid Cymru demonstrated that PC will also adopt this stance in a joint effort to fight for ‘fair funding’ and protect services from cuts.
Given that Cameron’s appeal seems limited in Scotland where the Conservatives do not expect to make any significant gains it offers the prospect of an ‘English’ Conservative minority being forced to back away from cuts due to pressure from the united Celtic nations.
This also explains why Cameron has recently been fighting hard for friends in Northern Ireland where his comments earlier in the campaign implying that the province might suffer significant public sector cuts went down understandably badly.
There is speculation that a certain amount of coalition building may already be happening with rumours of a deal to spare Northern Ireland the brunt of public sector cuts in exchange for the votes of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs. With the only poll conducted in Northern Ireland indicating that the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP aka Conservative and Unionist Party) may lose their only Parliamentary seat to the DUP, such a hugely controversial deal might be necessary to ‘seal the deal’ for Cameron.
The most interesting election campaign for a generation is approaching its climax and it still can’t be called with any certainty. Don’t forget to vote.