How did Labour miss the bus in Yorkshire?

Len Tingle
Image caption Len Tingle waiting for Ed Miliband's battle bus on rally night

As the seconds ticked away to my last live broadcast before polling day, Ed Miliband's big red battle bus was due to arrive at a rally right behind me in central Leeds.

But the bus was late and missed my broadcast by a couple of minutes.

For both the Labour leader and me it was an indication of bigger disappointments ahead over the next two days.

In my broadcast, I confidently forecast - based on the opinion polls - the highly important "swing seats" across West Yorkshire would all go Labour's way.

A few minutes later, Ed Miliband was introduced to the 500 cheering party members waiting in the auditorium of the Leeds City Museum as "the country's next Prime Minister".

We both got it wrong.

Miliband's Kinnock Moment

I suppose history should have given us a hint of what could happen.

The last time a Labour leader had chosen Yorkshire for his final rally on the eve of an election was in 1992.

The pollster's favourite on that occasion was also greeted by a packed house of placard-waving supporters.

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Major won the general election in 1992

But a couple of days later it was John Major who returned to Number 10 and Neil Kinnock was composing his letter of resignation.

In a sense there was plenty of evidence that Labour's confidence was not as solidly based as the party, the polls and the media thought it was.

At every one of the umpteen rallies, speeches and "public question and answer" events delivered by Ed Miliband in West Yorkshire, "key marginals" like Pudsey, had an audience was stuffed with supporters.

Even the welcome outside the front door of every venue was carefully choreographed and the banners and placards handed out in the minutes before the big red bus drew up.

Bus request stop

On one occasion it even drew up twice.

It stopped first to drop off the camera crews travelling with the Miliband entourage.

It then drove round the corner and back again to ensure they got the pictures of him stepping off to be warmly greeted by the local candidate.

In fact, there appeared to be only one event in Yorkshire that was not carefully organised by the Labour party.

At the BBC's live Question Time event at Leeds Town Hall, both Ed Miliband and David Cameron came face-to-face with ordinary members of the public.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ed Miliband and David Cameron came face-to-face with members of the public at Leeds Town Hall

It was not the smoothest of receptions.

Campaign Achilles' heel

The Leeds audience was a cross-section of voters, selected by an independent marketing company and it was clear they had burning questions for all the politicians.

It was Ed Miliband that had the toughest corner to defend and it exposed the Achilles' heel of his campaign.

Would he accept the previous Labour government had overspent?

His less than convincing argument probably pushed more "don't knows" into the Conservative camp and it probably cost Ed Balls his seat in Morley and Outwood.

It was also an indicator that Labour's slick campaign and cheering crowds were masking the fragility of Labour's position - a fact I had not spotted before my final live broadcast for Look North.

Well, maybe I will get it right on my final broadcast before the poll on Thursday 7 May, 2020.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Balls lost his seat at Morley and Outwood after a tense recount

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