So, the parties have unveiled their final images for the campaign. Labour have gone for Howard looking very much like Big Brother, with the threat that if we don’t vote Labour, we’ll get Howard. Tories have gone for a grinning Tony with an invitation to tell him what we think. Lib Dems have gone for the more positive image of how many seats would fall to us if we weren’t afraid to vote for our first choice party.It’s sad but true that in the last days of this election, the best reason that Blair and Howard can give us to vote for them is that the alternative is worse. Issues of real importance have barely warranted a mention, with the exception of Iraq. And Howard can hardly oppose Blair on that when he concedes he would have done the same.
It comes to something when the majority of the electorate feel the choice is between the lesser of evils. At the very least, the public concede that Lib Dems are more principled and trustworthy. This election will prove a real barometer of the state of democracy in this country. If Blair wins a big majority, our democracy will be the poorer for it. The only just outcome is a hung parliament and a big increase in Lib Dem representation. Otherwise I worry that the politics of fear and apathy will win through.
It is worth remembering, too, that opinion polls can be notoriously inaccurate. Our own canvassing in the safe Tory heartland of Wycombe shows high support for the Lib Dems – and this is not a target seat – our campaign has been modest. Opinion polls are not good for predicting the local factors at play in each seat. Our campaign team has been upbeat and optimistic. And why not? At least our message has been one of hope, not fear.