“Boring is good” argued David Cameron as he addressed Conservative MPs back in January. This short phrase appears to succinctly sum up the Tories’ approach to election campaigning so far. Ask any Conservative a question and the answer, regardless of the actual context of the question, invariably relates to the notion that Britain requires a strong and stable economy in order to achieve anything at all. Appear mundane and never fail to mention the economy and voters will think you economically literate and politically competent. This is the Tory election strategy and, to be fair, it does seem to be succeeding.
The monotonous nature of the Conservative message has presented Ed Miliband with the opportunity to conduct an exciting, positive campaign; one which promises change and generates a sense of hope. Hope for a better, more prosperous society than the austerity-plagued one the past five years has paid witness to. Yet the Labour election campaign has failed to grasp this opportunity. There is little in the way of a positive message for voters to focus on; the campaign so far has predominantly been restricted to negative attacks on Tory policy and a preoccupation with David Cameron’s elusive stance on the proposed televised leader debates.
The tedious nature of much of this election campaign was captured by the recent Ask the Chancellors programme on Sky News. The format of the programme, with George Osborne and Ed Balls being interviewed separately instead of facing-off in what would have surely been a more exciting head-to-head debate, meant that there was very little, if anything, to stir partisan sentiment.
And yet, through the dull grey mist of boring electoral politics, there is the sense that the forthcoming General Election on May 7th could be the most enthralling for a generation. The polls are almost unanimous in showing that there is virtually nothing between the two largest parties. Meanwhile the rise to prominence of UKIP, the Green party and perhaps most importantly the SNP means that both Labour and the Conservatives are likely to be 30-40 seats short of the 326 seats required for a majority.
Any number of coalitions or informal agreements are possible. Whilst some might argue that this serves to undermine our status as a democratic country, given that the electorate has little power to decide the precise composition of the next government, it certainly makes for an intriguing election. Could David Cameron retain his present incumbency or will Ed Miliband manage to seize the reins of government? What role might Alex Salmond’s – sorry, Nicola Sturgeon’s – Scottish National Party play?
The SNP question is a particularly intriguing one. The surge in support for the party, largely at the expense of a floundering Labour Party in Scotland, has given rise to some of the most exciting aspects of this General Election campaign. The bizarre, farcical and frankly somewhat creepy Tory animation depicting Ed Miliband dancing to Alex Salmond’s tune is perhaps the highlight of the election campaign so far, although it only narrowly beats Danny Alexander’s comically tragic ‘Alternative Budget’, complete with its own yellow Lib Dem budget box: a photo-op for a man likely to be consigned to the political dustbin following May 7th.
Political careers will reach their conclusions; other careers will only just be beginning. Some dreams will be realised; other dreams will be crushed. Hopes will rise and hopes will fall and history will be written as the electorate makes its choice. With so many intriguing questions to be answered, it is evident that this election, both in terms of its outcome and in terms of the campaign itself, deserves to be greeted with interest and excitement rather than with animosity. The uncertainty surrounding the outcome of this General Election is enthralling and the question of who will “call the tune” remains very much unanswered. This election is many things, but it is certainly not boring.