Lansons Conversations

Day 20 – Good day – bad day

A change in strategy As we enter the last full week of the campaign Labour and Tories have been forced to recalibrate their strategies to grapple with the defining factor of the election campaign so far – the Liberal Democrat surge. For both of these parties there is real cause for concern – David Cameron who a year ago could have expected a relatively trouble-free accession to No 10 has lost his most precious political asset – the monopoly on change. But politics is not a zero sum game and the Tories’ problems do not simply translate to benefits for Labour. As the Conservatives come to accept, not that they would do publicly, that some of the Lib Dem held South West marginals are now beyond their reach they have trained their guns on some winnable Labour seats in the North. Labour will face a stern challenge to hold some of these seats with the Clegg appeal threatening to peel some of the flakier layers of Labour support and give the Conservatives a real chance. It is now possible that we could see some high profile Labour decapitations or in the case of Mr Balls – a castration. So as we enter the final stretch of the campaign, the political landscape is creating new winners and losers in some of the more marginal seats. According to poll analysis conducted by Politics Home the Conservatives are more likely to win seats such as Battersea, Poole, and Woking – all three have been re-graded from ‘likely Conservative’ to ‘safe Conservative’. Nine that were previously too close to call (including Oliver Letwin’s Dorset North constituency) are also now projected as likely Tory wins. Conversely, a Labour win is now seen as less likely in several key seats. Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), Southampton Itchen (John Denham) and Cannock Chase (Tony Wright) have all been regarded from ‘safe Labour’ to ‘Likely Labour’. The electoral map in London also looks to be profoundly altered by the rise in the Liberal Democrat support. Research by YouGov for the Evening Standard suggests that Labour could lose both Hampstead & Kilburn and Islington to the Lib Dems as well as Richmond South (see pervious article). There are winners and losers in the party’s high command too as different tactics and personalities are drawn upon to boost poll ratings. According to a Sunday Telegraph story Harriet Harman, who has had an uncharacteristically low role throughout the election campaign, was told to shut up by Lord Mandelson. We should not expect to hear much from her in the remaining days. It could be legitimately claimed that the Prince of Darkness has had his wings clipped too with David Miliband appointed chief spinner after the last leadership debate. However, any such limits are relative to his imperious presence and pervasive influence as the de facto deputy PM and Gordon Brown’s life support machine. With the polls still suck in hung parliament territory and Nick Clegg making no secrets of his issues with Gordon Brown, David Miliband’s stock is rising. A faction of supporters known as the ultras who support Milliband as a leader in waiting, are said to have won the support of Douglas Alexander. The backing of this arch Brownite will significantly bolster David Miliband’s position. The Tory were love bombing and, well, just bombing the Lib Dems today. The proverbial (organic and ethically-sourced) carrot was dangled by the “Guardian” wing of the Conservative party with fluffy promises like planting a tree for every newborn child. And if love bombing doesn’t work, we got George Osborne earnestly predicting a litany of minor catastrophes that could beset us in the event of a hung parliament. As we enter the final stretch of the campaign there is now limited scope for new strategies and new faces at the helm. Further tinkering will start to smack of desperation, so the final battle lines have been drawn and their traction with the all important floating voters will determine who are the real winners and losers on May 6th.