With less than one week to go, David Cameron has given his party much needed momentum by winning the last leaders’ election debate. Most of the major pollsters agree that the Conservative leader was the clear victor, while one, Populous, put Cameron level pegging with Nick Clegg. Gordon Brown, fresh from his travails in Rochdale, trailed the two younger men in every poll.
Seymour Major is sceptical, but Conservative supporters will be closely scrutinising tonight’s newscasts, and the Sunday papers, to discern whether Cameron will get a similar bounce when the polling companies survey voting intention.
Although their accuracy is questionable, it would settle Tory nerves considerably if the party’s poll figures began to edge out of the mid thirties, towards forty per cent. And I believe that, as election day draws closer, support for the Liberal Democrats will soften, to the Conservatives’ advantage.
In Northern Ireland we are accustomed to the distortion of opinion polls by a so-called ‘cringe factor‘. Rightly or wrongly, Nick Clegg has managed to attach a similar degree of stigma to the two main parties. With the media frenzy which accompanied his debate performances, the perception that it is nicer, or more reasonable, to express preference for the Lib Dems, has become popular currency.
On May 6th I suspect that reality will dawn on many people who have toyed with voting for the Liberal Democrats. There is a very real possibility that this election could deliver an indecisive result. If that happens, Clegg’s party will be in a position to blackmail Britain, with all its dotty schemes and its Europhilism.
The alternative is a straight choice between Brown and Cameron.
The Conservative leader made a good fist of driving home the reality of Labour’s record last night. The 10p tax debacle, the assault on civil liberties and the mismanagement of the economy. To this we can add the ’constitutional vandalism’, visited on the United Kingdom, which William Hague spoke about at the Conservatives and Unionists manifesto launch.
It all adds up to a compelling case for change at Number 10. Surely the country will do the needful?