We have had “Competence versus Chaos” and the “Good Life”. Time for Plan C. The Conservatives are rightly stepping up their warnings about the perils of voting Labour and getting Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s top pocket. “Double Trouble”, as Chancellor George Osborne calls it today.
Brandishing a Treasury study showing that the Nats’ call for extra spending of £148 billion would add £350 to the tax bill of the average working family, Osborne has used the front page of The Daily Telegraph today to ram home the message that this marriage made in Scotland would cost jobs and risk a second recession.
Characteristically, Boris Johnson put it more colourfully, warning that a Labour victory would see “truck-fulls of taxpayers dosh growling up the M1 to Scotland”.
Osborne has been helped in his crusade by Salmond’s joke that he would be writing Labour’s first Budget, secret footage of which has been tweeted out by the PM.
It is hard to fault the revised Tory strategy, aimed, as it is, at persuading Ukip defectors to return to the Tory fold and Labour patriots to think twice about rule from Edinburgh.
Will it work? One thing is certain. It won’t work unless the Tories bang on about the Red-Tartan menace all the way to polling day. The message is not as simple as it sounds with understanding of Scottish politics and the profile and game plan of the SNP little understood south of the border. But in broad terms it does have a familiar ring. Most elections come down to a claim of Tory economic competence versus Labour profligacy and so what Osborne and Co is saying is ultimately a variation on a familiar theme.
Not that the polls show any sign of movement. And, according to a report in today’s Financial Times, on the betting markets the odds are shortening on Miliband making it to Downing Street. Confusingly, the markets are actually pointing in two directions. The Conservatives are favourites to have the most seats but Miliband, thanks to his provisional wing north of the border, is tipped to emerge from post-election negotiations with the keys to No 10.
Punters are also betting on the incumbency factor, speculating that in the final days of the campaign, there will be a late swing back to the Tories as they reap dividends from being the sitting tenants in many seats.
Meanwhile, despite being deprived of the oxygen of publicity, Nigel Farage’s Ukip is holding up in the polls, sitting at around 14 per cent in the latest averages. This is bad news for the Tories since much of their campaign is predicated on the hope that disgruntled Tories will come home once confronted with the spectre of Red Ed, made even more unappealing now that he has taken to wearing a kilt.
If the Tories are denied their late breakthrough, Dave will have paid a heavy price for his contemptuous dismissal of his traditional supporters as fruitcakes and closet racists.