Peter Hoskin

As the polls open, a topsy-turvy campaign closes

As the polls open, a topsy-turvy campaign closes
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Now's the time, dear CoffeeHouser. After nearly three years in Number Ten, Gordon Brown is finally subjecting himself to the wishes of the British public. And, signs are, he won't like what they've got to say. Putting the strong possibility of a hung parliament aside, last night's opinion polls had Labour on or around Michael Foot levels of support.

A few folk, like Marbury, have observed that it's almost like the campaign didn't happen. And they're right: there is a peculiar symmetry to the electoral calculus. After all the mood shifts of the past four weeks, we're back broadly where we started: with the Tories looking to gain either a small majority, or be the largest party in a hung parliament.

But it's worth remarking on some of the changes which have stuck. After what has been, on the whole, a dreadful Labour campaign, Gordon Brown has killed almost any hope he may have had of remaining Labour leader after tomorrow. And some of his colleagues – like Ed Balls and Peter Mandelson – have been damaged by association. Elsewhere, the Lib Dem's upwardly mobile campaign has rebalanced the power relationship between Nick Clegg and Vince Cable - and, one assumes, made sure that the men in yellow aren't underestimated again. Reputations have been soured, lost and gained.       

None of this, though, defines Election 2010. For me, the crystallising moment came when the IFS gave a briefing on the parties' fiscal plans. There, we were told what we knew all along, but this time in burning Technicolor: that while Brown, Cameron and Clegg have been quibbling over the odd £6 billion, there are still tens of £billions of cuts which need to be identified and made. In the meantime, the deficit – the overspend – persists. And don't even mention the debt. That's a problem for future generations, for future governments.