So, here we are. In 100 hours time, we’ll be half-way through election-day. But at the moment, the polls still remain deadlocked.
Yet, there remains a sense that there’ll be some kind of late shift towards the Tories. Is there any grounds for this? Well, I argue in the Mail on Sunday that there are a few things that point towards this.
David Cameron has finally hit his stride. His performances have improved markedly and the public appear to have concluded that he clearly won last Thursday’s Question Time, YouGov have the public giving it to him 42% to Miliband’s 26%. As Tim Shipman points out, Cameron’s lead as preferred Prime Minister has risen from 7% two weeks ago to 14% today.
Ed Miliband had one on his weakest outings of the campaign on Thursday night. On top of this a Labour campaign that up to now has been surefooted has made some bizarre calls in recent days, the Russell Brand interview and today’s announcement that there’ll erect a stone monument to their manifesto commitments in Downing Street if they win being two of them.
The Tory message about the SNP does appear to be cutting through. It is striking that Miliband felt the need to try and shut this whole question down on Thursday night. But his problem is he can’t, as his argument doesn’t add up. If you lead a minority government, you have to rely on the support of other parties to get your legislation through. This means that the Tories can continue to use the SNP question to squeeze both undecided and the softer element of the Ukip vote.
Combine all this with the ‘incumbency effect’, the bounce in their own seats that MPs get if they work their own patch hard, and the Tories think they can get 290 plus seats. If they can do that, then Cameron should be able to put together a Commons majority in partnership with other parties.
But we don’t know if this late shift to the Tories will materialise. Labour also argue that their ground operation is worth twenty seats to them and so will go a long way towards cancelling out any Tory incumbency effect.
On Friday, we’ll know what has happened in terms of seats. But I would be very surprised if a new government is even close to being formed by this time next week.