May 7: Election ends in sprint finish

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DAVID Cameron certainly left nothing to chance as he criss-crossed the country on a frantic final day of campaigning ahead of today’s election – the Conservative leader sought to cover as much ground as humanly possible before voters deliver their verdict on his government.

DAVID Cameron certainly left nothing to chance as he criss-crossed the country on a frantic final day of campaigning ahead of today’s election – the Conservative leader sought to cover as much ground as humanly possible before voters deliver their verdict on his government.

The Prime Minister’s sense of urgency contrasted with Labour leader Ed Miliband’s slightly less frenetic finale in Leeds and it probably stems from a realisation that the Tories will now be denied an overall majority for a fifth successive election, an outcome at odds with this country’s predominantly conservative instincts.

Despite presiding over the fastest growing economy in Europe, Mr Cameron might not even have sufficient MPs to lead a minority government or a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats – it could be far easier for Mr Miliband to command the confidence of the House of Commons, the key test in the formation of a new administration, with fewer seats than the Tories because of the support, direct or indirect, of the Scottish Nationalists and others on the left of politics.

If this is the case, and the projections on the opposite page from Professor Colin Mellors of the University of York do point to the country being left in limbo once the final votes are counted, Mr Cameron might come to rue a lacklustre campaign in which he struggled to find his voice, and articulate the importance of Conservative values to Britain’s future economic and social wellbeing, until it was too late to make a substantive difference.

Despite winning the argument that there cannot be improvements to key public services without a stronger economy, and Labour continuing to view private enterprise with deep suspicion as the Left’s politics of envy returned centre-stage, the Prime Minister could pay the price for being advised by his Australian strategist Lynton Crosby to pursue a very negative strategy which saw Mr Cameron liken his Labour rival to “an arsonist” in a column that the PM wrote yesterday for a national newspaper.

Not only is the use of such pejorative language both offensive and unnecessary but it also explains why the Tory message was struggling to resonate with so many voters: public mistrust of politicians is in danger of becoming entrenched and this was self-evident by the disquiet of the Question Time audience in Leeds when the three main leaders failed to answer straight questions with the proverbial straight answers that voters had the right to expect before decision day.

It should not be like this. The overwhelming majority of candidates stand for elections because they believe in public service and their ability to make a difference to the community that they purport to serve. Their sense of duty is a quality that not be overlooked.

In this regard, the party leaders – irrespective of the final result – will come to have reason to rue the conduct of this campaign. It has not been a compelling advertisement for democracy and the continuing need to broaden public participation in all forms of politics from parish councils to the Houses of Parliament.

There is also every likelihood that they might need to revisit the related issues of constitutional and electoral reform, especially if the next Government does not appear to be credible, or legitimate, from a public perspective. Today’s convoluted rules of engagement, drawn from history, were not written with multi-party politics, and the rise of Scottish separatism, in mind. Yet, today, these matters are of secondary importance to the election – and whether Mr Cameron can, in conjunction with the Lib Dems, secure a second term to finish the restructuring of the economy that they began in 2010 and protect the fabric of the United Kingdom. They deserve the chance to do so, but it is now out of their hands.

A Test of strength

Boycott batting for Yorkshire

THERE is only one way to test out Geoffrey Boycott’s theory that the current Yorkshire side is superior to the England team – and that is for a one-off Test match to be played. Yorkshire’s outspoken opening batsman is certainly confident – he has already named a 13-man squad from God’s own cricketing county – and a case could be made for the victors going into battle against the old enemy from Australia this summer.

Yet, joking aside, this debate is indicative of the rise in Yorkshire’s fortunes and the demise of a dysfunctional England side that lacks dynamism (apart from the terrier-like Tykes of Joe Root and Gary Ballance). Moving forward, the more pertinent question is this one: would Test Match Special’s pundit countenance Jason Gillespie, the Australian-born coach of Yorkshire, taking over the management of the national team in order to increase England’s chances of putting up some kind of resistance this summer? Over to you, Geoffrey.