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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Last chance saloon

Very quick blog on the final debate.

First off, it has been amazing how these debates have shaped the election. Lagging massively behind at the start of the campaign, the Lib Dems have surged hugely since the first debate. They have become major players. They have pushed Labour into the nightmare scenario of third place. Labour hoped for second place and a hung parliament - they now face a huge battle to avoid third place in this election. Yesterday's gaffe did not help.

The story of the debates has been the surge for the Liberal Democrats. It has changed an election in which we thought that Labour would rally and deprive the unconvincing Tories of an overall majority.

Instead, the campaign - after the first debate - was thrown into a three way campaign not seen in British politics for generations.

I suspect tonight will confirm what we've seen before. Clegg and Cameron the slick, convincing agents of change. Brown the, perhaps substantial... but ignored and forgotten leader of a party that has run out of steam and is no longer being listened to. The Labour spinners in the media centre will appear as tired and out of touch as their leader.

I suspect the debates have already set the course. But Cameron has the opportunity, at the business end of this election, to come through as the solid candidate for Prime Minister. Clegg has shown his novelty value. Brown has been nowhere. To win his majority, Cameron needs to cut through the style and novelty of the last debates and give the electorate a reason to vote for a Tory majority next week.

I doubt he will do it. For the reasons I've already set out, this will most likely be another narrow win for Cameron, but still failing define themselves after wasted years in Opposition. Failing quite to shake off the unseen, unpredicted second party. The Liberal Democrats. And setting us up next week for the Tories falling agonsingly short of a clear majority.

PREDICTION: Hung Parliament, Tories short of majority by 5.

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