This week is the critical week of the campaign. The manifesto launches will dominate the narrative until Wednesday before moving on to the first TV leaders’ debate.
The details of the policies will not matter so much as the overall impression they leave in voters’ minds. Few read the manifestos, but a few good sound bites that stick are just as vital as how the media interpret and report what is announced.
Gordon Brown has given an important interview to The Guardian, where he sets out Labour's agenda:
We are putting forward a bold, but realistic programme of reform. It is not an expensive shopping list, spraying promises as the Tories have been doing, it's a manifesto of substance.
He also has this to say:
But this is not an ordinary election. This is an election about big choices. People want to know the recovery is secure and their jobs are going to be secure, they want to know that we will maintain the public services we have built up … When you sum up the issues as important as that then I think people will, in the last week of this campaign, be focused on these big issues.
And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, will be his message. Brown will want to keep the voters sweet until election and be able to say, “This is what I'm going to do for you”, but also instil a note of realism into the campaign, so the electorate are prepared for the bitter pills to follow.
The optimism lark that Cameron goes on about is all very well, but both he and Brown need a mandate to take the painful decisions as soon as the polls close. Without that, the trust in politics cannot be restored.
The elephant in the room is VAT. How Brown and Cameron play this card could well be a decisive factor over the next three weeks.
Brown will know that on Thursday night he has to land a few direct hits on David Cameron. Moreover, Labour have got to change the media narrative that is assuming the Tories will win.
This week, over two vital days, the outcome of the election will probably be decided. Only on Friday morning will we know for sure if the predictions of the polling organisations are accurate.