The tempo of the election is being raised daily but the drama of the leaders' debates is now over. The key outcome from those debates is the apparent certainty that the Labour Party is heading for oblivion, rather in the style of the Conservatives in 1997. The two party pendulum swings the other way - or so the Tories will be hoping. Happily (to continue with this analogy a few moments longer) the pendulum is no longer swinging back and forth but round and round thanks to Nick Clegg's performances. Where it stops on May 7th is up to you.
The simple truth is that it no longer has to be this way, no longer do we have to endure a two-party stitch up. Things can change. What we are left with now is a three party fight which will, I hope, focus increasingly on policies and plans to cut the deficit. The Liberal Democrats have been attacked over our policies but this must be taken as a compliment, for at least our critics are considering them seriously. Our policies to address the deficit in year one of a new government, for example, with a comprehensive spending review in June 2010 to identify further savings on top of the £29bn already outlined (the £19bn planned by Labour plus an additional £10bn set out in our manifesto), have been comprehensively picked apart yet no other party has come close to identifying clear, concrete areas for savings, such as scrapping ID cards, introducing fair taxes for plane travel and air freight, cancelling the Eurofighter and stopping the waste on the obsolete replacement for Trident. Where are those Tory savings going to come from? 'Efficiencies'? Do me a favour, this is Whitehall we're talking about!
Our policies on dealing with the problem of illegal immigrants are perfectly sensible, allowing them to earn citizenship after ten years of living here, rather than just talking tough before polling day and then quietly ignoring the problem after May 6th as no one actually knows where these people are. There's the lie at the heart of Tory and Labour attacks: 'we'll get tough on immigration' suggests (i) that they know how many illegal immigrants there are - they don't, (ii) they have the £10bn and huge resources required to find, round up and then deport the likely hundreds of thousands of people involved - they don't.
The Lib Dems are here, our policies are there for everyone to see - and criticise - but we stand by them - I stand by them in Henley - as a sensible programme for action this year. We're not going to disappear to allow the old parties to stitch things up for another 65 years. I hope you will look here at what we propose for our economy, our environment, our schools and our creaking political system and think about giving us your vote on May 6th.
If you want real change, vote for it.