Chris Mason: We stand on the threshold of a landmark election

The general election in the UK is approaching, with up to one in five voters already having cast their votes by post. The campaign has been ongoing for six weeks since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s drenching in Downing Street. Despite the noise and hullabaloo of the past month-and-a-half, the significant gap between Labour and the Conservatives in the opinion polls has remained unchanged. The Conservatives are braced for defeat, while Labour appears to be miles ahead.

Sir Keir Starmer and his Labour team have been preparing for government while remaining cautious about complacency. Despite various attempts by the prime minister, neither during his conventional time in office nor during the campaign, have made much difference to his political fortunes.

The Conservative Party has struggled with contradictions in its strategy, as it tries to own the long Conservative stint in office while distancing itself from it. The past 14 years of Conservative-led government have been marked by two referenda – Scottish independence and Brexit – and the international shocks of Covid and the war in Ukraine.

The Scottish National Party is expected to suffer a setback in tomorrow’s election, while the Conservative Party’s chaotic leadership under Boris Johnson has proven to be very wobbly. The UK, once a bastion of political predictability, has seen three prime ministers in a matter of weeks in autumn 2022.

Rishi Sunak may be seen favorably in the history books for bringing political and economic stability to the UK after a period of instability. However, managing a sluggish economy and stopping other countries from laughing at the UK was never likely to be a winning formula in a general election.

Labour has lost four general elections in a row, but they have been disciplined and careful in this campaign, studiously protecting what they hope is a consistent enough lead to point to victory, not just in the election, but in a comfortable one. They have tried to reassure voters that they can be trusted with the economy and national security, and have maintained a balanced approach of sounding like a government in waiting without appearing complacent.

Nigel Farage and his new party, Reform UK, have caused a stir in the election campaign, and newcomer Zia Yusuf, a successful tech entrepreneur and Muslim, is a name to watch in politics. His support for Reform UK is interesting, given his religious background, and he spoke with conviction at a rally in Birmingham.

The Liberal Democrats have been known for their absurd stunts, with leader Sir Ed Davey engaging in several during the campaign. The party is confident they can capitalize on disdain for the Conservatives in certain parts of the country and overtake the Scottish National Party to become Westminster’s third biggest party.

The Green Party of England and Wales could make gains in parts of Brighton, Bristol, and Suffolk, potentially reshaping the political landscape beyond the biggest parties. This general election looks set to be a landmark one, with the outcome to be decided by voters on Thursday.

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