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Campaign Diary: The Final Push

05/05/2015 17:53 BST | Updated 05/05/2016 10:59 BST
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

From my desk in the BBC's Westminster newsroom at Millbank, I can see around 30 television screens. As I write this, there's a political leader or someone talking politics on every one.

There's David Cameron in Hendon hugging Boris Johnson, both looking chirpier and more upbeat than they have any right to be. And here's the live feed from Bedford. It's Ed Miliband, dark-suited and sober-tied, doing his You-Never-Knew-I-Was-this-Charismatic-and-Even-a-Bit-Cool routine, and almost pulling it off (though, personally, I'd prefer fewer lingering glances into the camera lens). Here's a Green, there's a Kipper, the Scots Nats are smiling as if they mean it and, frankly, who can blame them?

And then, the latest opinion poll pops up on my twitter feed. According to Populus, Labour and the Conservatives are dead level on 34% apiece. What a contrast with Yougov's daily poll a little earlier. They had the two parties tied on 33%. OK, maybe not that big a contrast. More like a loud yawn in the theatre stalls, followed by another, during the most dramatic bit of the play.

The uncomfortable question presents itself, was it really worth it? The countless thousands of campaign air, road and rail miles; the months of core-messaging to core-supporters, the big broadcast set-pieces, the more or less ludicrous stunts and the "career defining" slips of the tongue. A practically-minded Labourite pointed out to me that Miliband's Pledge Stone had to be very big or risk looking like a gravestone, which he not unreasonably felt might have sent the wrong message. And as I write, Labour's Lucy Powell, has just been on BBC Radio 5 live saying: "I don't think anyone is suggesting that the fact that he's carved them into stone means, you know, means that he will absolutely, you know, not going to break them or anything like that." It has been a long campaign. She must, surely, have meant to say the opposite. I almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

But it has been worth it, hasn't it? The debate might have been more mature, less alarmist; the tone might have been more positive, and the silly stunts wholly absent, but forcing our political leaders to jump through these hoops is, at the very least, a useful leveller. Positions of undisturbed and unchallenged dignity are the preserve of constitutional monarchs and absolute dictators. Thankfully, our political leaders fall into neither category. It's been left to we voters to provide most of the reasoning and perspective - assuming we are remotely inclined to do so. I guess we can put that down to politics as it is, as it has always been and as it, probably, always will be.

Behind my desk, Katy, the BBC's Politics Editor, is looking a little harassed, probably because she has been. She is the designated recipient of the unremitting nagging of the party spin doctors. It will be no consolation to her that the game may barely have begun.

Over what remains of the campaign, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, will be haring round the country hammering home their core messages. The Tories will warn against wrecking the economy by voting for a Labour party "propped up" by the SNP. Labour will shout loudest about a Tory threat to the NHS and the Libdems will plead for the chance to provide a heart in a Tory-led coalition, or the head to a Labour-led one. Nigel Farage will fight to take his seat (much UKIP credibility and profile rests on that battle, in one corner of Kent). And the SNP? Well you have to wonder if anything at all could halt the extraordinary momentum that may carry dozens, scores of SNP MPs to Westminster. The euphoria and sense of anticipation at the local SNP campaign headquarters I visited in Hamilton, south of Glasgow, at the end of last week had to be seen and experienced to be believed.

If the polls, the pundits and the betting shop punters are to be believed, no-one will win on Thursday. A contest that was always about voters deciding which party would lose least miserably, may end with no-one in overall control of the House of Commons.

If Labour wins most seats, it may well be game-over for Cameron. If he's clearly behind, his party's time in office and his leadership will likely become, to use a technical constitutional term, toast. Labour would then consider a deal with the Libdems if their remaining MPs help make up a controlling majority. Last Thursday, at the Leaders' Question Time in Leeds, Ed Miliband seemed to categorically rule out any concessions not just to the SNP, but also the Libdems. He seemed, at that remarkable moment, set on leading a minority government if he is to lead any government at all. But as I have pointed out before, using a phrase common in the TV/book series Game of Thrones, words are wind.

It's harder to imagine the Libdems fancying a part in a minority coalition, which would mean getting blamed for everything with very little control over the final outcome. More than that, if the latest poll from Nick Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituency is to be believed, he might owe his place to a huge tactical vote from Conservatives lending him their support. He has promised openly to talk to the party which wins most seats. But the sight of Clegg siding with Labour in a minority Coalition might feel to those Tory tactical switchers like a very personal betrayal.

David Cameron and co seem quietly and cautiously confident they can at least win more seats than Labour, then claim victory on the basis that a party reliant on the consent of the SNP can have no rightful claim to rule. Constitutionalists and Team Miliband will forcefully disagree, and would do so, on the not wholly unreasonable grounds that any Government must be able to get its way at Westminster. If that's the wrangle we have in store, May 7 may turn out to be half time. I'm as patriotic as the next man, and I want stability and peace for my country. But I'm a political hack and always have been. And though I've covered more elections than I can remember, just now I feel a bit like a rocker on his way to his first Stones gig.

By the way, my chat to Joey Essex, star of The Only Way is Essex, on my Sunday morning BBC Radio 5 live show Pienaar's Politics airs tonight at 9.00pm on ITV2. It's called Educating Joey and it's about his journey through the election campaign, meeting politicians and finding out what's going on. It was fun to watch the politicians falling over themselves to get on his good side, all keen to show they want to encourage young people to take an interest and all, no doubt, sincere about that. They wouldn't be human if they didn't also fancy appearing on his show in a vaguely flattering light. I'm not sure those hopes will, in every case, be fulfilled. We'll see, won't we?

Listen to the latest Pienaar's Politics here.