Let’s start with two views of what is going on in the minds of the voters. First, a senior Tory tells The Times:
This is a phoney war right now, but that’s not because of any lack of fighting. It’s because they think we’re all fakes.
Second, turn to Lord Gould, Tony Blair’s pollster, presently working for Labour:
It’s between politics and anti-politics. The dominant mood is anti-political. That is what runs over everything.
Now, let’s look beneath the headlines of the latest Populus poll:
A mere 4 per cent think that the parties are being completely honest with voters about their tax plans and only 6 per cent about their approaches to cutting the deficit.
Twenty-five per cent said that they thought that the Tories had put across the most convincing case so far, and 18 per cent said Labour. However, 43 per cent were unconvinced by any party.
Tony Travers, professor of local government at the LSE, has this to say about Cameron's do-it-yourself society:
Encouraging the public to take over services might only work in areas with sufficient numbers of entrepreneurs willing to take on the responsibility. In other areas people won't be interested.
A recent Mori poll found that only 47% want "to get involved in decisions affecting their local area".
To complete the picture, back to Populus:
The poll shows that 32 per cent of the public hope for a hung Parliament, against 28 per cent who want a Tory majority and 22 per cent a Labour one.
This collection of nuggets leads to one conclusion. Neither party has a product that the voters want to buy nor do they trust the politicians who are attempting to do the selling.
Moreover, the electorate have seen though the sideshow of ‘big government v big society’ and want the politicians to tell them the truth about what going to happen once the polls close.
Both Brown and Cameron have a huge problem on their hands. Neither has engaged or inspired the voters. Yes, of course, sweeteners have to offered but the evidence is that the electorate want rather more.
The voters know there is no money to pay for all these ‘big’ ideas, but they are worried sick about their jobs and financial security. They want to be told about the small matters of tax and spend; will VAT have to be increased; and which public services are going to be cut.
The leader that addresses these issues will be the one that gains the respect and trust of the electorate. He will also have a credible mandate.
If none of this happens, a disillusioned and dissatisfied electorate will drift to the polls not knowing if they should ‘keep hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse’.