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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
David Cornock in the Commons
by BBC Wales's Parliamentary Correspondent David Cornock

Well, in the immortal words of Eric Morecambe, what do you think of it so far?

I admit to having to stifle a yawn or two during the first 48 hours, but Tony Blair would doubtless ascribe that to cynicism in the media.

Stifling cynicism is admittedly more difficult after the launch of Labour's campaign in front of two stained glass windows at a girls' school in south London, but you cannot fault the politicians for not doing their best to keep us enthralled and enthused.

Blair at St Saviors and St Olaves school
Blair at St Saviors and St Olaves school

They all know they have a difficult task on their hands.

Turnout has been falling across the UK.

More than 75% of us voted in the last general election, but fewer than half bothered during the National Assembly for Wales poll two years ago.

It's got the politicians worried - not necessarily because it's bad for democracy, but possibly because it means bad news for some of them.

The evidence is debatable, but Labour supporters are generally thought less likely to turn out, with Plaid Cymru sympathisers more committed.

Campaign agenda

There's little doubt that differential turnout can explain some of the assembly election results, but a general election is a different kettle of fish.

The timing of the election may have been predictable, but the pace of campaigning has not.

All parties have been quick out of the blocks in an attempt to seize the initiative and set the campaign agenda - but can they keep it up for another four weeks?

I hope not.

They're desperate to enthuse us with new and different ways of getting our attention.

Celebrating 'yes' vote for assembly
Voter apathy dogged the Welsh Assembly election

We're invited to marvel at their high-technology battle buses, or Charles Kennedy's ability to change aeroplanes more often than most of us change our underwear.

The Conservative manifesto was launched from a set that resembled a post-modernist greenhouse.

They all fear one thing - suppose we had an election and nobody came?

What with referendums, and devolved elections, voter fatigue is bound to be a worry.

Postal votes

With opinion polls suggesting that the result is not in doubt, there is less incentive to vote.

The new availability of postal votes on demand may help reduce the fall in turnout.

The hyperactivity has done little to clear up the confusion between Wales and Westminster in this age of devolution.

The Conservatives say they'd force Welsh local authorities to hold referendums before increasing council tax bills sharply, but how many of their other policies apply equally in Wales?

Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy
Jet set: Charles Kennedy flies into Cardiff

They promise to bar Welsh MPs from voting on England-only issues, but the converse doesn't apply - English MPs can still vote on Wales-only Bills like the one to widen the powers of the Children's Commissioner.

Labour have tried to blur the two dimensions on their pledge cards, explaining how Westminster pays the Assembly's bills - and how the party that runs the UK can still have a large impact on events in Cardiff Bay.

Plaid Cymru have tried to introduce more interest in their proposals by deciding not to cost them - a menu without prices always provides plenty to talk about.

So back to the Morecambe question - but with a different answer. Apathetic? No. Confused? Maybe. Enthused? Not yet.

Never mind. Only four weeks to go......

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See also:

11 May 01 | Wales
Kinnock's voter apathy campaign
11 May 01 | Vote2001
Nats step up poll fight
10 May 01 | Wales
Labour's pledge card for Wales
10 May 01 | Wales
Tory vote ban for Welsh MPs
11 May 01 | Vote2001
Campaign week one: In pictures
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