A hung parliament will produce governmental paralysis and economic mayhem. Well maybe. But may be not.
The Institute for Government, which like the Institute for Fiscal Studies tries to offer up a few facts to inform the fevered pre-election debate, has a neat briefing on hung parliaments on its website.
One particular piece of Powerpoint is well worth the look for those who fear that a hung parliament will see the UK knocking on the door of the IMF within days.
It plots governments, whether they be coalitions, majority or minority controlled, against the size of their structural deficit.
Oh no, no no no. My innards are shrivelling up even as I watch it. It just goes to show the parties are right to keep their leaders away from voters.
Just to recap on the facts:
1) Gordon Brown on a visit to Rochdale, has a perfectly civil ding-dong with a Gracie Fields type who tongue-lashes him over a range of issues including immigration
After selecting a couple of outsiders, I’ve gone for a safer bet on low turnout.
The received wisdom is that this is a close election with big stakes that is re-engaging voters. Some commentators think turnout could even rise from what is a very low base of 61 to over 70 per cent, which is much closer to the historic average.
But from the limited time I’ve spent speaking to voters in marginals, this doesn’t ring true. None of the parties have really captured the public imagination in the way Tony Blair did in 1997, and even then turnout was only 71 per cent.
Labour voters are clearly fed up with Gordon Brown. Those unable to bring themselves to vote against Labour will just stay at home. As Matthew Taylor notes, Labour activists are worried about low turnout. The Gillian Duffy incident will not have soothed their concerns. In addition, young voters have been flocking to the Lib Dems, but that age group has a poor track record of actually voting.
It is “The Thick of It” incarnate – as one political editor remarks to me. Brown, post-gaffe, was ensconced inside the house of “bigot” Mrs Duffy apologising for his remarks for about 40 minutes.
Emerging from her front door, amid a media scrum and a gathering of excited Rochdale locals, the prime minister said he was “mortified” by what had happened.
“If you like, I’m a penitent sinner,” he said, a fixed smile on his face. “Sometimes you say things you don’t mean to say, sometimes you say things by mistake….I wanted to come here and say to Gillian, I was sorry I made a mistake but I understand the concerns she was bringing to me.”
Ladbrokes is offering tempting odds on the viewing figures for tomorrow’s debate. It has 3/1 on an audience of 5m-9.99m and 5/4 on 10m-14.99m.
The former in particular seems like a very generous offer:the first debate got an audience of 9.4m on ITV and the second got 4m on Sky, reflecting the latter’s generally lower viewing figures.
I’m also putting a bet on the slightly higher range, just in case more people turn out for the grand spectactular on the BBC. (I’m not betting that they stay for the full 90 minutes, however).
Before any politician starts getting too pompous about Gordon Brown’s gaffe it’s worth remembering the time that Nick Clegg was overheard on a plane dismissing a potential reshuffle with Danny Alexander, chief of staff.
The FT’s expert election panel will occasionally be giving their thoughts on the big themes of the campaign. Today, they each write a memo to their leader giving advice for Thursday night’s debate and the remainder of the run-up to the polls.
Charles Lewington, former press secretary to John Major:
David, you have three tasks in the final days – rebutting Labour’s attack on your economic policies, continuing with the tedious but important process of warning about the dangers of hanging the parliament and taking the gloss off the freshly minted Liberal Democrat brand without attacking Clegg personally.
What will damage Gordon Brown over today’s unfortunate encounter is that Mrs Duffy – it transpires – seems to be far from the ignorant “bigot” that Brown labelled her.
Bewildered by her encounter with the prime minister, she said that all she wanted to know was “why I was called a bigot.” Mrs Duffy, in her own dignified way, said that Mr Brown was an “educated person” who should have known better.
Oh dear. First big gaffe of the campaign. Gordon Brown forgot to take his microphone off as he left a campaign event in his car. This is what was broadcast on Sky:
“That’s a disaster”
“You should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s Sue I think. It’s just ridiculous.”
His aide asks what was wrong with it.
“Everything. She’s just a sort of bigoted woman. Said she used to be Labour.”
The woman in question is Gillian Duffy, who raised the issue of immigration and her pension with the prime minister just before he entered his car.
UPDATE: We presume the Sue who organised the visit was Sue Nye, the prime minister’s long serving gatekeeper.
UPDATE 2: The irony of this is that Brown handled the encounter rather well. He is not the first politician to be caught out by an open mike, as Adam Boulton just noted on Sky. The classic is the Reagan quip over bombing Russia in five minutes.
The problem with any plot involving Mandelson installing David Miliband into the Labour leadership is very familiar. It’s the sticking point which held back Brown’s enemies during the last three or four attempted coups against him.
It is this: the rules around Labour leadership elections are very complicated, especially if the incumbent refuses to step down. Even if Brown was to walk voluntarily there would still have to be a democratic election within Labour for his replacement.
You may remember that the Parliamentary Labour Party only has a third of the vote. Another third goes to the grassroots. The final third is the unions: and the barons are already unhappy at the idea of the Blairite wing of the party fixing the contest in advance.
I couldn’t resist placing two bets on Thursday’s debate. Curiously, David Cameron is favourite to win, perhaps because (at least at first glance) he seemed to come out on top last time around. I’m not so certain.
Labour are confident that their man will emerge triumphant because the economy is his strong suit. I doubt it; Gordon Brown will be hugely vulnerable to accusations that he failed to see the crash coming (Clegg and Cameron will surely remind him of his hubristic phrase ‘no return to boom and bust’). Viewers may also be sceptical of his claims that the economy is at risk in any hands other than his own.