To the rest of us 7th May 2015 might seem a long way away, but for those swirling round and round in the washing machine of politics it’s just around the corner.
Those of us who revel in the political melee will drink it in, swill it around and spit it out with pithy observations of its flavour. But we’re a minority, albeit a self-regarding one, because many people don’t care about politics at all, and many who do care have lost any relish for a game which always seems to leave them on the bench. Who have probably stopped reading already. Who won’t vote for Cameron because of his class, won’t vote for Milliband because he looks half-cooked, won’t vote for Clegg because he’s such an obvious wonk, and won’t vote for Farage because he’s bonkers, probably won’t vote at all, and if they do will base their decision on some completely unforeseeable circumstance, an unwise remark picked up on video, a bad hair style, a flash of temper, a resemblance to a favourite uncle, anything in fact except what they bang on about at party conferences.
So for those of us who give a damn, how is it looking for the runners and riders?
For the Tories it’s already right-hand-down-a-bit, ready for the full-blooded rightward swerve to outflank UKIP. David Cameron will do his best to curb his innate decent-chapness and loose his inner Tory Tiger, the heritage of his DNA, his background, schooling, career, and politics. The right wing will be the dirtiest battlefield. The Tories know the danger of splitting their following with UKIP and watching one opposition candidate after another slipping through by default. But what do you do? If you don’t bash immigration, social services and the EU (not forgetting the loony totems like wind farms) hard enough, there’s always someone out there ready to bash harder, as Tory looks to UKIP and UKIP looks to the EDL and National Front, and other groups wait in the undergrowth with even redder teeth and shorter hair.
Labour, relishing the infighting to come, is practicing looking quietly confident, knowing that the pendulum has already started its inevitable return journey and little can stop it. But the bone in their throat is little Ed. Appearances are deceptive, and although Mr Milliband has the aura of a Proposer of the Motion at a sixth-form debate with all the gravitas of a red setter, there’s steel behind the goofy grin. It’s not the shining steel of a flaming sword but the flash of the hidden knife, small but ruthless, which enabled him to humble his own brother and to stun the whole of Westminster with its chilly resolve during the Syria debate. He has a lean and hungry look, and such men are indeed dangerous.
The Lib-Dems have been quietly piling up a catalogue of good deeds which actually make ordinary people’s lives more tolerable, but their role as dragging anchor on the blind Tory juggernaut’s race back to the 1950s has been full of negative virtue but little headline glory. Nick Clegg had a good conference which will probably squeeze him through to the 7th May for want of a more attractive alternative, but the albatross of the disillusioned young will forever dangle around his neck. His fresh face promising first-time voters relief from tuition fees put new light and life into young Lib-Dems and sent them gleefully campaigning in 2010. His failure to make that a sine qua non of the coalition agreement was a massive political miscalculation, and down here where it matters a sickening confirmation of the cynicism of politics which poured all that good-will straight down the drain.
UKIP will huff and puff and blow their own house down without any help from the others, though they will pick up plenty of votes. Scotland will be In or Out by then (In of course, if seething). House prices will be out of control and heading for the next car-crash. The 2015 odds favour a Milliband/Clegg quinquennial, the smiling assassin and the bureaucratic pleaser astride the national donkey, back to back, heading god knows where.
How can anyone say politics are boring?!