Polling day has arrived at last, and I face it with more than a degree of foreboding now, following Michael Crick's hints last night that some Tory sources think they will probably win a small majority. Still, that at least leaves the words 'probably' and 'small' to cling to over the coming hours! If by any chance the worst doesn't happen, I'm encouraged to see a report in the Scotsman revealing that the broadcasters have been urged not to 'shape' the result by prematurely declaring a winner in the event of a balanced parliament. I recall after the Canadian election eighteen months ago being somewhat bemused to see CBC "project a Conservative minority government". Isn't that a contradiction in terms? Even the most sophisticated computer would be hard-pressed to read the minds of the other party leaders sufficiently to "project" whether there's a chance of them forming a coalition or not. And, just to prove that point, the three non-Tory parties in Canada did indeed sign a coalition agreement just a few weeks later, only for it to be subsequently scuppered by a bizarre sequence of events.
To accentuate the positive, if a Conservative government is elected today, every poll indicates that our new rulers will come to power having just been beaten in Scotland by the SNP. Those polls may be wrong of course - they were in 1992 (in Scotland as much as in the UK at large). But if that is the way it works out, it would be a historic first. The Nationalists have beaten the Tories in the popular vote on no fewer than four previous occasions, but those were all elections the Tories lost at UK-level - October 1974, 1997, 2001 and 2005. The outcome of this particular tussle will have much greater psychological significance, not least in any game of cat-and-mouse (sorry, relationship of mutual respect) that unfolds between a new Tory government at Westminster and the SNP government in Edinburgh.
A brilliant line from Rory Bremner about the Tories, from one of his shows earlier in the week -
"We're going to be a stealth government - people you've never heard of, doing things you wouldn't believe."
It's indeed very striking that for all Cameron keeps repeating the (mildly irritating) phrase "if you want a new team", we've heard virtually nothing from this most lightweight of teams over the last month.