I agree with Nigel. The election campaign so far has been “predictable” and “incredibly dull”. Aside from flurries of The Thick of It-style 24-hour media excitement over a pink minibus and some nuns, the main parties have been rumbling along painfully safely.
Labour tells us how it will fix the NHS without any wild spending annoncements; the Tories say they’ll carry on bringing down the deficit as part of their long-term economic slogan – I mean, plan. The Lib Dems say nice things about carrying on raising the tax-free allowance. Again.
In his “appeal to Britons” in an article in the Telegraph today, Farage writes:
This election campaign has been incredibly dull so far. Labour is trying to claim our National Health Service, as if they own it. The Tories are trying to grab at the economy, as if they haven’t presided over a doubling of the national debt in just five years, and failing to erase the deficit. Pretty predictable stuff.
But he may well fear the campaign’s dullness as well as deride it. Because it looks like the two main parties, at least superficially, have finally begun to focus their efforts on their policy comfort zones rather than being spooked by Ukip.
Ukip has had remarkable achievements throughout this parliament. The party’s stand-out successes have been winning the European elections last year, winning its first two elected MPs in the space of two months, and forcing the “establishment” parties’ hands regarding immigration and Britain’s EU membership.
Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have been compelled by this insurgent party to discuss topics they would much rather have left well alone. And initial prevarication dissolved into the PM conceding an EU referendum and Labour entering the “immigration arms race” against many of its own MPs’ wishes.
Yet it looks like Ukip’s success this parliament may now have peaked. Not only will Mark Reckless MP and Ukip candidates in target seats – including Farage – have an incredibly tight fight on their hands, but it appears the two main parties are no longer talking (or proposing policy) about subjects that belong on Ukip turf.
When Cameron set out his six manifesto priorities last month, neither immigration nor the EU was included. And, silent on immigration since the beginning of the year, Miliband’s party has only mentiond the EU in the context of reassuring businesses that it stands firmly against calling a referendum.
And even the prospect of Farage’s party propping up a minority government in Westminster has had the sting taken out of it, following the Tory party chairman Grant Shapps ruling out a deal with Ukip.
As Farage launches his campaign today, he will attempt to put Ukip back on the map. It will take all the energy and optimism his party has displayed over the past few years to drag Labour and the Conservatives away from their doggedly comfortable campaign paths.