With two weeks to go until Britain decides what the next Westminster Parliament looks like, we are still waiting patiently for the polls to move one way or the other. For months the two main parties have been stuck in gridlock, both eagerly expecting a late surge in the final days that may or may not come.
Thus far, it is fair to say that the Conservatives have run a mediocre campaign by their standards. Some of this has been down to arrogance and an expectation that they are now ready for the majority that they were denied five years ago. After all, the alternative has hardly captured the imaginations of the electorate. They have also rested on the same arguments that they feel will slowly hammer home as we approach polling day; so much so, that large parts of Britain can probably reel off Tory one-liners from the manifesto in their sleep. It’s boring but the Tories obviously feel that it is a solid strategy to keep plugging away at their economic record and the fears around a Labour/SNP coalition.
The problem for me is that this isn’t likely to provide a late spark in Cameron’s, especially if he wants to win a majority. On the Sunday Politics this week, he calmly suggested that they only needed 23 seats for a majority. Yet, he must know that it is far from this easy, and anyway; talk about trying to just scrape over the line! My bet is that the Tories have resigned themselves to not surging ahead in the polls at this stage. Their hope is that the same messages will retain their core vote, fend off UKIP and possibly win them the odd Lab/Con marginal. They can then form another coalition with any remaining Lib Dems that they haven’t wiped out themselves. This strategy will probably work, but it’s not really a positive attempt to win an election.
In contrast, any significant movement in the polls seem more likely to happen for Labour. Miliband’s approval ratings have improved in the last few weeks after a string of good performances in the leader debates. The party also seem to be engaging with voters over important issues such as the NHS and the EU, while offering a positive alternative to austerity. It’s by no means a strong campaign, but certainly not the struggle that many expected. The big test for Labour remains in Scotland, and it is the saving grace for the Tories at the moment. If there is to be a swing to the left before May 7th, Miliband needs it to happen north of the border more than anywhere else.
It is not out of the question either. While the signs for the SNP are very good, Sturgeon knows better than to relax in the midst of a General Election. Without fail, Labour has always performed well in Scotland despite previous reasons that should have told us otherwise. In particular, while the SNP went from strength to strength between 2007 and 2011 in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, Labour still bludgeoned them in the 2010 General Election.
There are two important reasons to explain why this has always happened until now. Firstly, voting Labour is the only realistic option for Scots to prevent a Tory Government. They don’t have to worry about this in Holyrood but geographically Scots need to use Labour in General Elections as the SNP logically can’t do it. Therefore, Scots associate Labour with Westminster more than Holyrood. This could yet come into play in the next two weeks if the polls continue to show Labour 50 seats short of a majority and the SNP sitting on that number themselves. This is why Sturgeon is pushing Miliband so much for a coalition arrangement during the campaign because she is aware of the potential loss otherwise, and why Miliband is keeping his hand to himself for now.
Secondly, Labour has strong and well-known MPs in Scotland, compared to their MSP counterparts. This contrasts to the SNP, who have put their bigger names in Holyrood until now. It will be interesting to see if Scots will indeed have the nerve to push out the household names in favour of some lesser known SNP candidates or if they stick to what they know with the polls proving to be so tight.
Therefore, if we are to see any changes, it will probably be for Labour. The Tories have put up their stall for now and are content with where they are, even if it doesn’t seem like winning them a majority. With UKIP fading of late, voters on the right have probably made their choice. Whereas, the voters on the left still have a bigger decision to make as Labour continue to fight for their approval. Do they stay where they are, or will they jump to Miliband to evict Cameron from number 10?
In true political fashion, I’m going to avoid that tough question and leave it there…
By Jon Adamson, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.