The Conservatives are getting closer to the last throw of the dice. They have fired off a barrage of policy announcements, promising just about everything except free Ferraris all round, they have contrasted their solid economic record with the catastrophic failure of the Labour years, and they have sought to portray the Labour leader as a man ill-suited to the pressures of office. Yet still the polls fail to move? What next?
Despite the best efforts of the Tory-supporting newspapers, the Ukip vote appears to be holding up well. Not enough to ensure it a hat full of seats, but plenty enough to siphon off disgruntled Conservatives and hand Labour victories in closely contested marginals.
David Cameron could yet make a pitch for Ukip supporters by hardening his stance on Europe and threatening to lead a campaign to quit the EU if Brussels denies him far-reaching concessions. That might yet come late in the day if all else fails. But the risk-averse Mr Cameron, who much prefers a managerial approach to matters European, will probably decide that is a gamble too far. And it would smack of desperation and be denounced as such.
Not much left in the locker, then. But there is one very powerful if uncontrollable weapon yet to be unleashed: the blond bombshell aka Boris Johnson.
So far, Boris has been conspicuous by his absence. The most popular Tory in the land, or so we are told, has hardly been seen. Has he gone on a long bike ride or has he been ordered by the teenage gauleiters at Tory HQ to trudge around London’s suburbs and stay out of trouble?
Not so this weekend. Boris was back with a bang, adorning the front page of the Mail on Sunday with a Churchillian call to arms – “This is a battle for Britain” – and a double-page article accusing Ed Miliband of a “mad” plan to take Britain back to the 1970s, the days of Red Robbo, endless strikes, and a car industry that produced the Austin Allegro.
It was good, rumbustious stuff, illustrated by a photograph of Churchill in a bowler hat. For readers of a certain age, who recall the carnage wrought by the militant British Leyland trade unionist Derek Robinson, it will stir memories of Titanic political and industrial battles, eventually won by their very own Joan of Arc. Younger readers will find it less evocative.
More importantly, there is an energy and a excitement with Boris that no other leading Tory can generate. He has also pulled off the remarkable feat of getting elected twice as London Mayor in the Labour-leaning capital, which appears to have moved even further to the Left as the campaign has proceeded. This week, we are promised a joint appearance with Dave and an interview on the Marr Show next Sunday.
Can Boris turn the tide for the Tories? Among Conservative MPs and Westminster commentators, he is widely seen as the next Tory leader. If Cameron loses the election and is forced out, there will be an immediate vacancy with Boris at the head of the queue. A Cameron victory and a change of Prime Minister some time towards the end of the next Parliament is the alternative option.
Boris is now the preferred choice of the ruling Cameroon faction in the Conservative Party. For this reason, he will do his best to save Dave’s bacon.