“Whatever happens in the election this week it is not going to make all that much difference” – Peregrine Worsthone, just before the 1979 general election in which Margaret Thatcher defeated Jim Callaghan.
Mind you, even in the first few months after the 1979 general election he was far from alone in the view that the choice in 1979 between Labour and Conservative was an incremental one rather than one of major choice.
In large part that is because – with one notable exception – the 1979 Conservative manifesto avoid radical specifics. Moreover, the campaign itself saw both Sir Keith Joseph and Tony Benn – the two most vocal exponents of radical difference on each side of the Tory/Labour divide – largely side-lined.
Hugely controversial issues such as privatisation were not even in the Conservative manifesto. The one exception was direct taxes, such as income tax, where the manifesto was clear about the Conservatives’ determination to cut them (despite what some, such as Francis Maude, have since claimed in an attempt to justify the vagueness over the current short-term Conservative tax plans).