Well, the General Election campaign has officially gone bonkers and the British public is showing itself to be rather fickle. On telly at the same time as the first Leaders’ Debate was Have I Got News For You, which I finally caught this evening on iPlayer. The Merton/Hislop satire fest was bloody weird to watch after the fact, as it contained several gags about Nick Clegg’s anonymity which would have been perfectly normal on Thursday night at the time of the original broadcast, but now seem like relics from a bygone era. It just reinforced to me how quickly the political landscape has changed.
The Mail on Sunday is running a poll which shows the Lib Dems actually in the lead. This combined with a YouGov poll showing Clegg’s lot in second and Labour bringing up the rear, means that the outcome of the Election is now completely up in the air. These new polls show the unfairness of the present constituency boundaries, which are heavily stacked in favour of Labour. If the MOS poll turned out to be the final result, then despite being in third place in the popular vote, Labour would gain the most seats and be the largest party in a hung parliament. That would prove the case for electoral reform, and no mistake.
As for the fickleness I mentioned earlier, it seems crazy to me that ninety minutes of television can change everything so drastically. All the campaigning, all the speeches, all the pressing of the flesh, all the endless literature landing on our doormats, counted for nothing. As someone who follows political debate daily as a matter of course, it just seems bizarre that there was such a large body of voters out there who not only had yet to make up their minds, but could also be immediately influenced to such an extent.
Of course, there are two Leaders’ Debates left, and they could go very differently now that both the Tories and Labour are sure to attack the Lib Dems’ policy agenda aggressively. But even if the latest polls turn out to be just a blip, they’ve certainly livened up the campaign. Now all bets are off, and the battle is joined.