Bill Carmichael: Why are the Tories not romping ahead?

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Is something decidedly weird happening to our politics during the current election campaign?

I ask because by any dispassionate measure of performance the Conservatives should be streets ahead by now. They have made a solid start to the campaign this week, successfully focusing the debate on the economy – where they have maintained a solid lead over their Labour counterparts.

Labour’s main line of attack – the cost of living crisis – is undermined by news that disposable incomes are now higher than when the coalition came to power in 2010

And barely a day passes without some fresh piece of economic good news to cheer the Tories and discomfit their opponents.

This week, for instance, came details of growth jumping to 2.8 per cent – the best performance since 2006.

Meanwhile Labour’s main line of attack – the Cost of Living Crisis – is undermined by news that disposable incomes are now higher than when the coalition came to power in 2010, and wages are at last beginning to rise after a time in the doldrums.

Employment is positively booming with 1,000 new jobs a day being created during the coalition’s time in power. Chancellor George Osborne revealed in his Budget speech last month that more jobs had been created in Yorkshire alone than in the whole of France, whose disastrous socialist policies Labour wants to copy.

If that were not enough, business leaders – including some who previously supported Labour – are falling over themselves to back the Conservatives and warn that returning Ed Miliband to Number 10 would put the recovery at risk.

In fact it is hard to imagine how things could have turned out any better for the Conservatives – and yet despite this and Ed Miliband’s undoubted unpopularity, the polls stubbornly refuse to shift very much.

The poll of polls tracker over the last six months puts Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck on 34 per cent – and even the more recent polls showing a tiny Conservative lead of one or two points are within the statistical margin of error.

There are a couple of theories as to why this might be happening. One is that people are less interested in politics than ever before and are less likely to engage with the election campaign.

According to this notion, voters will only start to take notice in the final week to 10 days before the election when there will be a decisive 1992-style shift to the Tories that will put Cameron back in Number 10 as the leader of the largest party.

But another theory – less cheering to the Conservatives – is that Cameron has failed to close the deal with voters, just as he did in 2010 when faced with the unpopular Gordon Brown administration.

The Tories are still seen as a toxic brand and Labour are holding up in the polls because they are seen as clear winners when it comes to ‘values’ – despite worries over their economic competence. If the latter proves correct the most likely result would be a minority Labour government propped up by the Scottish National Party, although Labour has ruled out a formal coalition.

The SNP would drive Labour even further to the Left, spending and borrowing would be let rip and all the sacrifices over the last five years would be for nothing.

The SNP would no doubt demand further heavy subsidies for Scotland from English taxpayers as the price of its support and we could also see Scottish MPs voting for tax rises on English residents safe in the knowledge that their Scottish constituents won’t have to pay the price.

A true ‘nightmare scenario’ that could see economic collapse and the break up of the UK. You have been warned.

Prince Charles delivered another of his finger-wagging lectures last week instructing people to switch off all their lights and sit in the dark in order to save the planet from global warming.

A few days later he made the 80-mile journey from his home to Ascot racecourse by private helicopter – burning 200 gallons of aviation fuel and releasing 1.3 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Matthew Hancock was in Aberdeen to sign a new climate change deal with the Mexican president – before chartering a private jet for the trip back to London, despite there being 16 scheduled flights for the same journey available that day.

To quote American blogger Glenn Reynolds: “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”