The important thing to remember here is that there are still four weeks until election day. As I’m writing this, nominations are still open and agents are making their last minute dashes to the council office to get their final nomination forms in, and there’s probably someone, somewhere in the country who decided last night that ‘hey, why don’t I stand for Parliament?’ who’s spent today getting their form filled in and found £500 to pay their deposit.
Just as a comparison, at this point in the 2010 election, Parliament was just being dissolved and the election campaign was really only just beginning. Four weeks is a hell of a long time in electioneering, and in years gone by, we’d have seen the entire election campaign unwinding in a shorter period.
Which is why I’m wondering what’s gone wrong with the Tory campaign that’s made them decide to go nuclear with so long to go? Literally, in the case of deciding that this is the right time to talk about Trident, and figuratively in allowing Michael Fallon to launch an extraordinarily personal and nasty attack against Ed Miliband while discussing the Tory nuclear policy? Beyond the sheer nastiness of the attack, it was based on some rather shoddy logic.
It’s hard to work out where to start with the faults in the argument. Is it that Miliband standing in the Labour leadership election was a ‘shabby manoeuvre’, in which case should every Tory candidate be apologising to their rivals for doing it? Is it the whole ‘he stabbed his brother in the back’ nonsense, as though David had some sort of divine right to be party leader? Or is that the supposedly weak and chaotic Miliband the Tories have been telling us about for years is actually some secretly ruthless Macchiavellian (Mandelsonian, even) evil genius of politics? And in terms of the policy itself, are they suggesting that they would oppose a Labour-led government in a vote on replacing Trident? Because that’s what it would take to give SNP MPs, no matter how many of them there are, a decisive say on the issue.
There was a clear hitting of the ‘oh God, we’re not going to get a majority’ panic button by the Tories about a week before the last election when things went a bit crazy, but this is with four weeks to go? Was their plan based on the idea that Miliband would suddenly disintegrate under the pressure – in exactly the way he hasn’t for the past five years – and then they’d coast to the majority they believe is theirs by right? They’ve known this election was coming, at this time, for years but it really does feel like they’ve constantly put off coming up with a strategy for it in the hope that someone will come up at the last minute to mean they don’t have to. Now the deadline for submitting is here, and they’re pulling the political equivalent of an all-night essay writing session, with all the shoddy research and scant respect for facts you’d expect.
However, in a surprise development, Fallon managed to avoid winning the title of nastiest campaign move of the day. First, there was a challenge from his Tory colleague Nick Boles, implying that Miliband was Vladimir Putin’s choice for Prime Minister, but even that was trumped by George ‘still a thing’ Galloway. Yes, the sole MP for the
Courage, Strength and Indefatigability Respect Party, proved there were no campaigning depths off limits to him by bickering over the age at which his Labour opponent was forced into marriage. When you find yourself in a position where you don’t deny getting someone to impersonate someone’s dead father in order to ‘prove’ they were slightly older than thought while being married against their will, there may not be much left of the barrel for you to scrape. But again, there are still four weeks to go, and never underestimate Galloway’s ability to sink even lower into the gutter.
Nominations are now closed, so hopefully by the time I get to do a post tomorrow we’ll have an idea of how many candidates there are across the country, and just how many strange new parties have appeared for the election. Lambeth are quick of the mark in publishing their lists of candidates, and Vauxhall constituency is straight into the contest for most candidates in a seat with 10. Last time, we managed nine in Colchester, but there are only six confirmed here so far – are we going to be higher or lower this time?