For a while now, I've wondered where the Labour campaign has been. We've had the Tories virtually running the news agenda with control of the news cycle by feeding good stories calculated to stir the loins of their friends in the print media, knowing that the rest of the media circus has to follow.
Maybe there was a calculated plan to let the Tories hang themselves. I'd like to think so, although I'm very far from convinced. (Somebody give Mr Milburn a nudge awake at his desk, would you?). Also, if anyone has any news on the whereabouts of the Liberal Democrat Party, could they please let me know, as they seem to have a lower profile than Lord Lucan at the moment.
Whatever the truth, Michael Howard has done a cracking job for Labour with the Howard Flight business. Flight went way off-message and deserved to be sacked from his party role, for the sake of party discipline and the campaign. Fair enough - even though such Thatcherite views are popular within the party.
To then pursue him and forcibly deselect him seems a little extreme. Maybe Howard just wants to appear tough and in-control, but all he has succeeded in doing is keeping the story in the headlines across the weekend AND he's wound up party members who like being able to choose their candidate. So much so that there is talk of the constituency party going freelance and backing Flight as an independent Conservative, although he denies that he plans to stand as such. In an aside, Zoe Hopkins reveals that the Tories are finding it hard to get candidates together for council seats in Birmingham and are having to approach non-members. Behaviour like this is hardly guaranteed to spark popular involvement.
As Recess Monkey points out, Flight is well-liked in the constituency and has the personal financial muscle to fight a campaign.
This could prove to be a mistake in the Tory campaign, which has been fairly sure-footed up to now in its aggressive pursuit of certain bandwagons.
Despite all this campaigning effort, the Tories actually slid back in the polls, with an ICM poll for the Guardian and a Communicate Research poll for the Independent on Sunday showing Labour increasing their lead over the Tories. On the other hand, YouGov and MORI both indicate that this is a very close-run race.
We'll know soon enough.