Over a week into the formal campaign. And still three weeks to go. Are people fed up yet?
So far it’s been a pleasant experience. I can’t help comparing to my first stint on the Battersea doorstep in 1997 which was, frankly, a depressing experience. As a Conservative campaigning has got better and better with each passing year.
Has it got worse for Labour? Clearly I’ve no idea, I’ve never knocked on a door as a Labour activist, but I can’t help imagining that it has. Our supporters are easier to find and far more motivated to vote than ever before. And while I’m finding Labour supporters (I’m not going to pretend they aren’t out there) I’m not finding enthusiastic Labour supporters.
Back in 1997 we had plenty of supporters, but as I discovered when I was going back to the same doors again and again and again on election day, while they were Conservative supporters they were not, for that election at least, going to be Conservative voters. It’s a simplistic view, but what gave Blair victory in 1997 weren’t the people switching from blue to red, or people voting tactically, but the Conservative voters who stayed at home, while Labour’s vote increased by 2 million between 1992 and 1997 the Tory vote plummeted by 4½ million.
I don’t think we’re on course for a 1997 landslide, the electoral system is too heavily stacked against us for that, but it will be interesting to see how the numbers pan out on the day. It’s a truism, but elections are won or lost on who can persuade their voters to get out and vote. And that’s why we’re out there (annoying some) every day and every night.
Listening to Tony Blair give evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry it’s hard to not imagine that he feels he isn’t just defending his actions over the Iraq War, but defending his entire legacy.
And that is what he is doing – while you can have the political debate over everything else he did in his ten years as Prime Minister the Iraq War will be the cloud that hovers over it all. And it will be the issue on which he (and the entire government) will be condemned. For any argument Blairite’s or Labour supporters come up with to defend their hero the easy response for many will be simply “but he took us into an illegal war.”
It struck me as interesting that a Prime Minister who was so obsessed with spin and the media did not realise as soon as questions over the war’s legality came up that he would never escape them. Whatever the outcome of the inquiry many will continue to believe we went to war illegally and unnecessarily simply to keep in favour with the Americans.
Going further, as a Prime Minister who, more than anyone since Gladstone, put his personal morality at the heart of his administration, it astounds me that the moral ambiguity of what he was doing doesn’t seem to occur to him. It appears that he was convinced of the rectitude of his crusade, doubt doesn’t seem to have troubled him even momentarily. And if I am worried by this, I cannot imagine the feelings of the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.
And will he say “sorry” for taking Britain to war against a man who wasn’t a threat (while ignoring many who were and are) or allowing then Chancellor Brown to leave them ill-equipped for the challenges they faced? I doubt it.