No-one could have foreseen the unpredictability of this election campaign and the dramatic swings in fortune over the last few weeks. The top pundits have all admitted they have never seen anything like it and few are now prepared to make firm predictions about the outcome of the vote tomorrow.
A week ago Labour
looked to be sliding out of contention but are now back in the frame with a serious chance of retaining power as a minority government with Liberal Democrat
support. Labour's campaign over the last week might have been relentlessly negative and based on fear but is has shored up their support and stopped it drifting away. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have dropped back from their Cleggmania peaks of a couple weeks ago. Alot of the initial enthusiasm for them was to do with the anti-politics mood that is still understandably widespread around the country. Many canvassers of all parties will tell you that they have encountered people who say they will vote either Lib Dem or UKIP, clearly a totally irrational either/or choice. I suspect as the Lib Dems policies on Europe and immigration have been examined alot of these voters have found the simplistic prejudices of UKIP more to their liking. Alot of the Tories' fire on the Lib Dems on these issues has been driven as much by a desire to squeeze the UKIP vote as any belief that it will win them votes from the Lib Dems. UKIP could cost the Tories a few crucial seats and they know it.
The big picture will be fascinating but tomorrow night and Friday morning is as much about the individual contests and the fate of the people who have served as MPs, often for many years, and those who have campaigned to replace them. It isn't fashionable to say this but being involved in politics often requires huge personal sacrifices and most people, of all parties, are motivated by a desire to serve their community and the country. Most MPs take huge pride in their constituencies and the people they represent. Losing your seat is a painful, often emotional experience as much as winning a seat can be an exhilarating triumph.
Those old enough to remember will recall the forlorn sight of a tearful George Brown, then deputy prime Minister, losing his Belper seat in 1970. Then there was the devastated Teddy Taylor
(pictured) in 1979, almost certain to be Scottish Secretary in Margaret Thatcher's first cabinet, but who lost his Glasgow seat as the Tories triumphed elsewhere. More recently, there was Michael Portillo's
unexpected defeat in Enfield Southgate in 1997 which cost him his best chance of leading the Conservative Party. There will be similar stories to tell over the next few days. Here are a few for people in financial services sector to look out for.
There are a some Tory shadow ministers who could find themselves in Teddy Taylor's position. Look out for the following results where the Tories are vulnerable to the Liberal Democrats:
• Eastbourne. Shadow pensions minister Nigel Waterson is defending a 1100 majority
• Guildford. Anne Milton, shadow health minister
• Weston-Super-Mare. Shadow business minister John Penrose
• Dorset West. Oliver Letwin, Tory policy guru and an outside tip for a cabinet job
Of course, there are alot of Labour seats very vulnerable to the swing to the Tories including:
• Portsmouth North. Treasury minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry looks hard pushed to hang on
• Corby. Phil Hope, Health minister
• South Dorset. Jim Knight, Works and Pensions minister
One face familiar in the financial services sector who could return to the House of Commons is former Tory trade minister Jonathan Evans who is contesting Cardiff North, a very vulnerable Labour seat. Mr Evans was well respected as a minister in the John Major government, lost his north Wales seat in 1992, became MEP for Wales but stood down last year to fight a Westminster seat. He could find himself back as a minister in a few days time.
These are just a handful of the thousands of personal stories of triumph and disaster that will be played out over the next 48 hours.