Manifestos, posters, debates – it’s almost like there’s an election soon

Connect Account Manager David Button writes for PubAffairs on the week’s developments as manifestos are published, interviews and debates take place, and we learn that Geography isn’t some people’s strong suit. The original article can be found here.


The manifestos are in (except the SNP)! You’ve obviously read them, so you don’t need me to tell you what’s in them. Basically all anyone is talking about is extending Right to Buy to housing associations. This much coverage would usually be great for the Conservatives, except that most of it is negative. Even Boris isn’t sure.

The thing about the manifestos, of course, is that no one is likely to get a majority so many of these policies won’t happen, or will get watered down. Whether Right to Buy is a ‘red line’ when it comes to coalition negotiations will be interesting.

There have been plenty of manifesto-related gaffes too: George Osborne can’t say how he’ll pay for the NHS, Labour PPC Ruth Cadbury doesn’t know what she’s campaigning for, and the Lib Dems accidentally added 100 pages to their manifesto. Apparently that last one isn’t a gaffe.

Manifestos aside, you could be forgiven for thinking little else has happened. Instead it’s been another big week for leaders. First Evan Davis’ interviews kicked off with Nick Clegg and David Cameron. Nick has had a muted campaign so far, with Cleggapathy replacing Cleggmania, while his absence from (and lack of mentions during) the debate last night was baffling. His interview was heated: he defended his record in government, and then his family background from a bizarre suggestion that being half Dutch and a quarter Russian makes him more comfortable as a European politician. On Wednesday, the PM got off lightly on Right to Buy, got “angry” about being leader of the party of the rich, and got defensive on defence spending. Did anyone else find it odd the number of times they said ‘bamboozled’? Next week Ed Miliband will be asked whether he has a secret third kitchen, and whether Justine should be PM instead.

Then we had last night’s strange debate between five ‘challengers’, all of whom criticised the political ‘elite’ for saying the same thing. Remarkably the Lib Dems barely featured; this was Tory and Labour bashing time. Ed handled it well, standing firm on Nicola Sturgeon’s offer of a coalition. Will he take the SNP’s support to prop up a minority government though? Hell yes he’ll take their support. Polls suggest Ed won, but #Sturgeonfever (anyone?) continues. We also learnt that the only thing more pointless than a spin-room is a spin-room featuring parties that didn’t take part.

Finally, it’s been a good week for that old election staple, the campaign poster. NUS launched perhaps the most political poster so far from a third-party organisation, targeting 28 Lib Dems and two Conservatives who voted to increase tuition fees. This is not the place for an argument about the merits of each system, but how it affects the Lib Dems’ future in the university towns and cities that they did well in in 2010 will be key. It’s certainly likely to influence more people than the Labour candidate for Lancaster, Cat Smith’s poster, which was helpfully put up 60 miles away in Carlisle. Or even the North West Durham Conservative candidate, Charlotte Haitham’s, which calls for the votes of the good people of Cleethorpes. 150 miles away. If only they put the name of the place on the posters…

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