Sunday 9 May 2010
How Labour won a 40 seat overall majority (although it was really the Tories that lost it).
Darling's successful and subsequently much-praised budget set the tone for the election campaign. Above all. it restored the faith of Labour MPs and activists that the election was actually winnable. And it was helped by the fact that the following day the Tory lead in the polls had declined to two percentage points (according to The Sun, of all papers).
We should have expected the Tories to panic - and panic they did. By the end of that week the backbenchers were up in arms, somewhat illogically blaming both Coulson and Hilton, as well as the rest of the Cameron clique, for failing to consult the party. After a stand-up shouting match between Coulson and Liam Fox, Cameron felt obliged to let Coulson go. But murmurs of disloyalty persisted, with the total absence of any mention of Europe in the Tory manifesto further stirring the pot.
It was the week after the budget, just before Easter, that Osborne dropped his clanger. In an interview with Newsnight on the Tories' economic plans. he managed to convey the impression that universal welfare benefits, notably child benefit and pensioners' winter fuel allowances, might be withdrawn from the middle classes. It was never entirely clear what Georgie-Porgie meant and, although he subsequently with increasing desperation sought to row back from his gaffe, within hours the clip was up on YouTube and the blogosphere was in a ferment. The press picked up the story and Labour milked it for all it was worth. Labour now had a two point lead in the polls.
It was at this stage that Rupert Murdoch intervened. Never a man to back a loser (and by now the Tories were self-combusting), Rupe ordered The Sun and The Times to switch their allegiance from Tory to Labour.
The final straw was laid on the camel's back during the leaders' TV debate on economic matters. All those years at the Treasury enabled Brown coolly and cruelly to expose Cameron's utter ignorance of matters financial. Worse, the goading and the grinding into the dust caused Cameron to lose his temper; after 40 minutes, red-faced and spluttering, he walked off the set.
After that, it was plain sailing for Labour. They held on to more than enough of their marginal seats, as did also the LibDems, leaving the Tories condemned to the wilderness for another five years.
And the SNP? No net gains, no net losses. Salmond's vision of 20 seats and Westminster dancing to a Scottish jig vanished like snow off a dyke.