In a week’s time the polls will be closed. We’ll be a few hours away from the first results – and the oft promised Tory crossover appears to be showing through.
Ipswich is one of the marginal seats that Labour has to win in order for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister. Mr Miliband’s candidate, David Ellesmere, has to overturn a 2,079 majority – the largest that the Tories have achieved here since World War Two.
Another marginal seat is Waveney, where Tory Peter Aldous looked doomed to be replaced by his predecessor, Bob Blizzard.
Yet last Friday the Prime Minister popped up in Lowestoft. It rather surprised me that he didn’t come to Ipswich – but Mr Miliband had been here just two days earlier, so Mr Cameron may have not wanted to appear to be following him around the country.
Today, however, George Osborne has been to Waveney. But not to Ipswich. And I think that is significant.
The local newspaper here in Ipswich had what it called a “poll” which indicated Mr Gummer had sneaked ahead in the fight for Ipswich. Now there are a number of problems with calling it a poll – a sample size of 200, no past vote weighting, no weighting for likelihood to vote – but essentially I think the Tories, and perhaps Labour, believe that it is right.
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are two of the most powerful weapons the Tories can muster when it comes to election visits. They guarantee media coverage. Every word they say is newsworthy. To have the PM and the Chancellor stood alongside a candidate adds some of that shine to that candidate.
That shine goes both ways. You do not see the PM and the Chancellor spending time alongside candidates who have no hope of winning. Which implies that the Tories think they can still hold Waveney.
More interesting is the fact that neither of them came to Ipswich – which has a much bigger Tory majority for Labour to overturn. Now that could indicate that the Tories have given up on Ben Gummer. Given how relaxed and cheerful he seems, I very much doubt that’s the case. Given the number of Cabinet visits away from the top two, I very much doubt that’s the case.
Labour say that they believe they have 4 of their 8 target seats sewn up. One of those has to be Norwich South – the Liberal Democrats may come fourth in a seat they currently hold. One was almost certainly Waveney – yet the Tories seem to think this is still winnable. They have privately accepted they are unlikely to win Harlow. Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich North, Gt Yarmouth and Thurrock are the other target seats.
Yarmouth looks set to re-elect Tory Brandon Lewis, and Thurrock looks set to elect Tim Aker of UKIP, it was expected that the four seats Labour thought they had sewn up were Ipswich, Cambridge, Norwich South and Waveney.
Yet the indications are that the Tories think they’re going to hold Ipswich, with Waveney back in play, and apparently the Lib Dems think Julian Huppert will hold on in Cambridge.
If Labour don’t take back at least 4 of their 8 target seats in the East, they have to seriously rethink their strategy – and that of their leader.