Well here we are, 37 days, 15 debates, and two Love Actually mock up videos later, it is almost time to go to the polls.
No one wanted this election to happen. Johnson would rather have got Brexit out of the way first, Labour would have rather have waited for a moment when they were polling more strongly, the Brexit Party have been half hearted because of the risk of splitting the anti-EU vote, and we the public do not want to keep going to the polls every 5 minutes. (Ironically, the only Party who were relishing the challenge were the Lib Dems, and they’ve arguably ended up having the worst campaign, which goes to show expectations and reality can be very different in election season…)
As a result of this mutual apathy the whole thing has been rather devoid of fireworks. Boris Johnson’s primary tactic seems to have been to make the Tory campaign dull but safe. He was happy to take the hit for not going on Andrew Neil in order to avoid the risk of messing up the interview. He was happy to put out a manifesto that was unambitious and thin (both metaphorically and literally) because that’s better than doing a Theresa May and bungling the manifesto altogether. He is like a boxer more interested in blocking punches than throwing any, or a football team ‘parking the bus’ when they are a goal up. This tactic is not inspirational but it is arguably smart politics and suggests that Boris Johnson has evolved. Old Boris seemed like a man who couldn’t resist the limelight, who made gaffes but believed he could always make up for them with his (alleged) charm and charisma. New Boris seems to understand his own limitations, understand when to shut up, and understand when playing it safe is the best strategy. This is to his credit.
Labour have been on the offensive much more in this campaign, which of course they have to be. It’s been a bit scattergun at times, and the number of different promises has almost been distracting and hard for voters to keep up with. However, just as in 2017, Labour do seem to have gained in popularity as the campaign has gone on. They’ve also managed once again to get the debate away from being just about Brexit. Who would have thought that with two days until polling day, the headlines and back and forth would be about the NHS, not Europe. That is impressive agenda shaping.
You could argue therefore that the Conservatives and Labour have both run relatively smart campaigns, and as a result the election that was meant to be the end of two party politics has actually wound up with the ‘big two’ miles in front of everybody else in the polls. Labour have made some gains, but judgement day is Thursday not today, and the most likely outcome is still a Tory majority. If that happens, regardless of how the campaign was fought, it is likely to be bye bye Jeremy.