IT cannot be said that either of Britain's main parties gained much from what was apparently the start of their election campaigns this week.

Labour revealed a difference of opinion -- not the first -- between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer over post-recession policy while the Conservative leader had to revise one of his new policies on tax incentives for married couples almost as soon as he announced it.

The only winner of the opening round was probably Nick Clegg, mainly because he said very little beyond making clear that his Liberal party is not “up for sale” to the highest bidder in the event of a hung parliament.

Gordon Brown has indicated that he is not going to call a snap election which probably reinstates some time in May as the most likely date.
Margaret Thatcher always believed that a campaign of three weeks was long enough but one of ten or twelve weeks now seems to lie ahead of the British electorate.

No political leader can sustain an active campaign for so long a period, as John Major discovered in 1997.

Parties and their leaders run out of ideas, energy and, even, money. The likelihood, therefore, is that after this initial burst of activity, the issue will be debated in the conventional parliamentary and media channels until the prime minister switches on the green light for a hectic few weeks -- enlivened further on this occasion by the unprecedented and unpredictable television debates.

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