BeebMaster's Election Diary 2010
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
6th April 2010
|The worst-kept secret about the 2010 General Election is that everyone would be saying that the announcement on 6th April, right after Easter, of the General Election to take place on 6th May, was the worst-kept secret in British politics.|
And so we're off at last. Just before ten o'clock this morning, Her Majesty The Queen returned to Buckingham Palace from Windsor Castle by helicopter ready to receive Her eleventh Prime Minister in audience and to grant his request for a dissolution of Parliament for the election to take place on the day everyone has known about since Christmas.
David Cameron immediately disappeared off by Virgin Rail to Birmingham, visiting a new hospital, without Sharon Storer being anywhere in sight, and Gordon Brown legged it, also by train from St Pancras, to Rochester to shore up the Labour vote in the south-east.
Good job Bobby Crow's rail strike was declared illegal by the High Court or they'd all have been walking!
7th April 2010
|The election campaign is being dominated by the row over National Insurance. Labour are increasing NI next April, the Conservatives are promising to cancel part of the increase. David Cameron has announced that sixty-odd business leaders are backing his plans to cancel the increase. He's calling it a tax on jobs but Gordon Brown has annoyed a lot of the business community by saying that they have been "deceived" by the Tory Party.|
The final session of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons was hardly an enlightening affair, with Brown & Cameron trotting out fairly tried and tested lines rehearsed many times before, and Nick Clegg struggling to make anything of an impact by focussing on what he called Labour and Tory "collusion" to thwart voting reforms.
By the evening, Gordon Brown seemed to have retreated from his position of describing business leaders being "deceived" by the Tories; he says putting taxes up will secure the recovery, David Cameron says it will kill the recovery.
8th April 2010
|Just four weeks to go, and Labour have branded the Conservatives' economic plans as myths drawn up on the back of an envelope. The Tories have retaliated by adding a baker's dozen of business leaders' names to their campaign to cancel the National Insurance rise. This issue is becoming such a strong theme for this election that even Cleggy has had to stop talking about reforming the voting system and has come up with a poster which pillories Chris Patten's famous 1992 tax-bombshell adverts - this time the Liberals are claiming the "tax bombshell" will be imposed by the Tories in the form of a rise in VAT to pay for the NI cut.|
There's been no sign of the Labour Luvvies in this election campaign yet, but the Con Celebs are back today with Sir Michael "Not A Lot of People Knew I was a Tory" Caine sharing a platform with David Cameron to endorse the Tories' plans for a National Citizens' Service.
The Tories have pulled off a bit of a political masterstroke by sending out Mrs Cameron on her own national tour, starting today in Yorkshire. Whilst Sarah Brown sticks rigidly to Gordon's side, Samantha Cameron is out-and-about without her husband, helping to project the image that women are empowered and independent under the Tories but, more importantly than all that, ensuring that the Tories get two headlines for every one that Gordon Brown can manage.
The RAC have announced that petrol has reached a record price of £1.20 today - how long is it going to be before the Tories latch onto this? I give it 48 hours - maximum!
9th April 2010
|It's time to reach for the allergy pills, and it's not just election fever that's in the air! It really feels like the first day of spring today after the chronic winter we've had. Today is also a very important anniversary, which, if anybody can remember, should be weighing very heavily on the party leaders' minds. It's 18 years to the day since the Conservatives last won a general election.|
Many parallels have been drawn between the 1992 election and the current one in progress. Certainly it's true that 18 years ago, the Government party went into the election at almost the last possible moment after 13 years in power with a change of Prime Minister since the previous general election, but I think that's about it for similarity. This time round, the opposition are in the lead in the polls and the governing party have lost a good chunk of their strong reputation for economic competence which is such an important factor in winning elections. There are also many more fringe parties taking vote share away from Conservative and Labour which makes the electoral arithmetic much more difficult to analyse.
I think today Labour have fallen head-first into a Tory trap which was laid over a week ago. As the row over National Insurance continues, Labour have been taunting the Tories to spell out where their proposed efficiency savings would come from to pay for cancelling the N.I. increase. Yesterday, Gordon Brown held up the Conservatives' 4-page document on government efficiencies with a show of disdain, but today the Tories' efficiency adviser Sir Peter Gershon has been in the press putting some flesh on the bones of the proposals.
It might not all sound good for the Tories - Labour are claiming that the latest Tory detail shows that there will be 40,000 civil service job cuts - but that doesn't really matter in the cut-and-thurst of general election campaigning, because the Tories are stealing all the headlines and getting their message across.
Labour's message today was supposed to be about crime, but nobody really has been paying any attention to what Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson have been saying on the subject as all the focus is on the Tory tax plans.
9th April 2010
|It's funny how elections make celebrities out of non-entities. I went out for my walk after this morning's posting to return to discover that all hell had broken loose in Scottish Labour with a chap called Stuart MacLennan, Labour's PPC for Moray, having been sacked as candidate for some offensive comments he had put up on an interweb site called Clutter or Chirrup or something.|
If that was Labour's first gaffe of the 2010 election, then the Conservatives weren't far behind. This morning David Cameron went to the Royal Hospital Chelsea (note the name, not, as BBC and Sky reporters have rebranded it, the Royal Chelsea Hospital) along with London Mayor Boris Johnson. David Cameron was talking about his big idea, the voluntary National Citizen Service, and Boris said it should be compulsory.
So both parties have shown that they can be accident-prone at a time when every paragraph, every word, every nuance is being scrutinised closely by a frenzified media. The big difference is that Labour's gaffe has been bad for Labour but the Tories' gaffe has been good for them. The headlines about Boris's divergence from official party policy have given the Conservative Party a second day of positive news reporting about a key plank of their political programme whereas all the news about Labour is about the disarray in Scotland, with no sign of their most important Scot, the PM, in sight.
In fact, Gordon Brown has been in Stevenage and Watford today, which is rather telling of Labour election strategy. The PM is being sent to the seats Labour look set to lose, if the polls are to be believed. There's no talk in 2010 of Labour's target seats, their most winnable constituencies; that famous list of "the Labour 57" being a distant memory from 13 years ago. It's very easy to get the impression that all Labour can do in this election is try to hang on as best they can in the face of a strong Conservative challenge.
Transport Secretary and ex-Liberal Lord Adonis has appealed to Lib-Dems to vote Labour to keep the Conservatives out; Gordon Brown himself has appeared to endorse tactical voting by asking people to use their vote to prevent a Conservative government.
It comes across as a stark contrast to the Conservatives' surprisingly positive message - tax cuts, efficiency savings, help for young people - against Labour appearing to be treating a Conservative victory as a foregone conclusion.
10th April 2010
|Another day, another Tory policy announcement. This time, it's a tax break for married couples which will reportedly be worth £150 a year for four million couples. It's come in for some pretty withering criticism from Labour and Liberals, Nick Clegg describing it as "patronising drivel".|
And so we have the story of the election so far: day by day, the Tories coming out with headline-grabbing proposals about what they would do in Government. No matter how implausible, no matter how weak, no matter how uncosted, it's positive campaigning, and it instantly puts their political rivals on the back foot - Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg immediately falling over each other to denounce the latest Tory brainwave, in the best traditions of negative campaigning.
So who's winning the election? Well, we all know it's close, but as we enter the first weekend of the 2010 election campaign, it seems to me that the Tories are well in front. They went into the election in the lead, their poll rating appears to be gradually edging up and they are making all the running, with every word from the Cameron camp prompting its immediate gainsaying by the other side.
11th April 2010
|More Con Celebs today, with Sir Ian Botham running about in Sutton Coldfield with David Cameron. The main business of the day, though, appears to be advance warning of the parties' manifesto launches. It's Labour tomorrow, and Gordon Brown is promising no surprises - just like the budget - so it should be fairly dull with plenty of opportunity for the Tories to steal all the headlines again, no doubt by trailing their own manifesto launch which is due on Tuesday. The Liberals get their five minutes of fame on Wednesday, so it promises to be a very exciting week.|
As if three manifesto launches in quick succession wasn't enough, on the fourth day we gather for the spectacle of the first debate between the three biggest party leaders. It's unheard of in British political history for the opposing would-be prime ministers to get together for a collective jamboree, let alone on the telly, so this completely new form of campaigning might turn out to be the defining moment of the 2010 election, or it might be a damp squib. Nobody knows, and that's the exciting thing about it.
What is slightly less exciting is that the whole thing goes on for ninety minutes - and that's an hour-and-a-half - and there are three of 'em before polling day. The first one might draw a crowd, purely for curiosity value, but I think that by the third helping, the novelty will have worn off and people will be praying for the return of "Eldorado".
Of course, it doesn't matter in the slightest whether anyone tunes in, or even if they do, what they think about the proceedings, because every scintillating syllable will be analysed and reported endlessly for the rest of the election. It's important for the party leaders, because what they say and do will govern how they are perceived by the news-makers for the remainder of the campaign. It's also important for them because they will each set great personal store on their own performance and so their morale, and that of their parties, will expand or contract depending on how they think they've done - and how they think the media think they've done.
The Liberals do seem to have been saying some silly things today. Perhaps they always say silly things, but we only notice them during the enhanced media experience of an election campaign. Anyway, the Liberals have said that a small Conservative majority could lead to social unrest and rioting on the scale seen in Greece recently. It seems to be a new form of attack - vote for the other lot and there'll be a civil war within a week.