THIS General Election has already made and broken reputations before the first votes are counted – and the identity of the next Government is known. Yet, while the focus has been on the party leaders, their key lieutenants have enjoyed and endured fluctuating fortunes in equal measure.
Here Tom Richmond, The Yorkshire Post’s op-ed editor, assesses the ups and downs of the campaign.
Up: George Osborne. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is now unrecognisable to the pipsqueak politician who first entered 11 Downing Street five years ago. It is thanks to his economic strategy, and his personal perseverance, that he is now regarded as an asset rather than liability. He has grown in stature and become less abrasive in public, testimony to his effective working relationship with his Lib Dem deputy Danny Alexander.
Down: Theresa May. Prior to the election, the Home Secretary was firm favourite to succeed David Cameron – irrespective of when there is a vacancy for the Tory leadership. Now the party is having second thoughts. Many of her media appearances have been charmless – she does not warm to the electorate and vice-versa – and Mrs May did not have a sufficiently clear grasp of the Conservative’s ‘right-to-buy’ reforms when the Tory manifesto was launched. Tellingly, her party noted this and she was sent packing to the margins.
Up: Chris Leslie. Born in Keighley, and educated at Bingley Grammar School, the Leeds University graduate is a rising star. MP for Shipley from 1997 until 2005, he now represents a safe Nottingham seat and has become an effective Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury who has diligently toured the television studios at all hours of day and night to defend Labour’s record with good humour. Less antagonistic and more conciliatory than his colleagues, he is assured of promotion.
Down: Ed Balls. This has been a bad election for Mr Leslie’s immediate boss. Even if Labour form the next government and Ed Balls becomes Chancellor, it is difficult to see how he can command the confidence of the country. His appearances have lacked gravitas – no one believes that a Labour government will not over-borrow. And this was before the withering intervention of Leeds-based marketing boss Catherine Shuttleworth on the BBC’s Question Time special who told Labour leader Ed Miliband that Mr Balls would have been “sacked” if he worked in the corporate world.
Up: Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem leader remains his party’s asset. Even though his courageous decision to enter coalition government five years ago will not be rewarded by the electorate today, he has been sincere and has shown that the Lib Dems are no longer a protest party. No one thought Mr Clegg’s party would last the course. It has – and his policies on lifting the low-paid out of income tax, and the pupil premium for schools, are among those that are dictating the terms of the debate across the political spectrum.
Down: Vince Cable. Once the most popular politician in Britain at the time of the banking crisis, the Business Secretary’s stock has been in freefall as the Mr Sage of politics metamorphosed into the Mr Grumpy. He did not help his cause when he indicated halfway through the campaign that he expected to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer – his own self-importance is now over-inflated, his views are far closer to those of Labour than the Tories and he is likely to be a hindrance to any post-election coalition negotiations.
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