This is my last piece of UK election geekdom before polling day this Thursday. It's a mess out there. Don't even try to understand it. I'm guessing that by now the result is pretty much set in stone in any event. Geddit? Stone? Oh why do I bother?
You want a real idea of what is happening, forget the news (ass-covering, last minute propaganda) and the national polls (unadjusted mood music). Take note of the following. My very own immutable stone monument of prediction:
The primary serious cheerleader for Labour (The Guardian) gushes about the election from its first inkspot. But leads with Tory commentary, Tory plans for government, and a vicious attack on Ed's heart of stone. Not exactly hinting at over-confidence.
The Torygraph meanwhile leads with Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Elsewhere, Cameron's allies are talking up government. Minority. Not majority. Can we please work out the difference between a stated ambition and a big, fat fib?
The allies tell the other parties that, if the Tories are the largest party, Cameron, as sitting Prime Minister, will stay put, rock solid, and challenge the other parties to undermine their legitimacy by trying to vote down his Queen's Speech. Er. As I've been predicting.
A Labour chappie, either in The Independent or on BBC News, at least for a little while, was seemingly quoted as saying that, if the difference between Labour and Tory is more than 12, Labour will not challenge the Tory QS. Can't find that quote now. Perhaps not surprisingly.
Perhaps this is more evidence of a Labour Party already in turmoil over what to do about SNP? Where my best prediction is that stalemate will continue up to and through a vote on a Tory QS, leading to abstention.
Apparently the jitters are even getting to Nicola Sturgeon, who states that the results in Scotland in the UK General Election this week will not be regarded as a mandate for a second Scottish independence referendum. All the while refusing to rule out the possibility that she will make next year's Scottish elections a referendum on ... er ... a referendum.
I still maintain that, in the next month, Cameron will announce that, if he is PM next year, and receives a request from the new Scottish government for a second referendum, he will grant it. And the SNP will abstain in the vote on a Tory QS.
There is something very peculiar playing out between Nick Clegg and Cameron. Out of the blue, Clegg lays down his conditions for supporting a EU referendum. Cameron counters by saying he will not form a government without a EU referendum. Sounds like negotiating to me.
Back on the Tory backbenches, murmuring has begun about replacing Cameron if his result is not decisive enough. Dave feels confident enough to slap them down. Telling 'em, a victory for the Tories will be a vote for him as PM. Cameron threatens that, if his backbenchers try to change the Tory PM on the voters, he'll advise the Queen to invite Ed to form a government. And then blame them. Heady stuff, coming from someone with his own acknowledged incredibly accurate political intelligence operation.
All of which narrative suggests that the players expect a minority Tory government. At the very least.
Meanwhile the Tories announce they are now focusing on 23 marginals. Basic rule of thumb in the last week of an election. Look to see where the leaders are campaigning. Most of the 23 marginals are LD. The Tories feel confident enough to go after other people's seats. Watch Ed. I predict he will be in London and the North, shoring up Labour marginals.
Another typical anecdotal throwaway? LabourList, the Labour activist blog to which I subscribe, begging Labourites to vote heavily in safe Labour seats, to put up the Labour vote. Anyone who has ever experienced the inner workings of a national election campaign knows what that means.
Forget national polls, which by the way, are all moving the way of the Tories. All the constituency polling, focus groups, leadership polling, issues polling, all of it is especially moving the way of the Tories. Much of it since March.
So, peering through the settling dust, what do I see? 80% chance of Tories on 280-290 seats. Minority Tory government. With 'status quo' and 'abstention' being the most-used keywords in political articles come this Friday. 20% chance of a surprise.
Oh. And one further point to ponder, in the context of 'status quo' and 'abstention.' Everyone keeps talking about 'getting the Tories out of No. 10.' And where the LibDems factor in that bean-counting.
People, the LibDems are still a part of government. Their leaders have as much investment in 'status quo' and staying put as the Tories.
All this talk of no new LibCon coalition without a special conference of LibDem members is fine and dandy. There doesn't have to be a new LibCon coalition. There is one already.
Think I'm wrong? Ask Vince Cable who he thinks is the Business Secretary ...