by Alex Massie
Is this actually an election it would be best to lose? There are certainly some Labour MPs and even cabinet ministers who cannot abide the idea of Gordon Brown remaining in office for a further five years. Nevertheless, Labour has more stomach for the fight than the Conservatives did before the Bonfire of the Tories of 1997.
The latest polls suggest that, while hardly steady, the Tories aren't wobbly quite so much as they were over the weekend. Then again, with at least one poll coming out every day everything assumes a greater immediate importance than might otherwise and sensibly be the case. Still, on average the Conservatives have a six or seven point lead. That's hung parliament territory.
It was Dominic Lawson, son of Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor, who suggested last week that this could be a useful election to lose. This is the sort of clever-clever stuff someone always suggests every election season. This time, for once, there could be something to it. Because this is a horrid election to win.
The public has yet to come to terms with the total absence of money, nor with the consequences of the current, unsustainable, level of debt. Just 25% of voters think the deficit is a priority. This poses a problem for the Tories since, having been caught out by agreeing to match Labour's spending plans in the past, they have decided to make the deficit the centrepiece of their economic approach.
Lawson imagines the previously unimagineable: a fourth Labour term:
Leave aside the prospect of more years under the command of such a morbid misanthrope as Mr Brown (and it is this, rather than the Prime Minister's alleged bullying, which fills his colleagues with such despair); what is the political and economic inheritance which the Labour government would bequeath to its reconstituted self? The scene would be something like the end of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, when Kurtz in a sudden moment of realisation declares: "The Horror! The Horror!"
The victim of the former rugby-playing Prime Minister's hospital pass as he has both shattered the country's finances while also making further commitments which can not possibly be afforded would not be David Cameron, but himself. It would be Gordon Brown, Mr Public Investment, who would have to cut state expenditure on a scale which has never before been done in this country a guarantee of vicious internecine conflict between the Labour Party and its main financial backers, the public-sector trade unions; either that or face such a buyers' strike on the part of international investors in Britain's vast debt as would require the final humiliation of a second Labour Government having to throw itself on the not so tender mercies of the International Monetary Fund.