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Who'll win the General Election 2019? Ask me again on December 13!

PUBLISHED: 05:30 07 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:42 08 November 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at his last cabinet meeting before Parliament was dissolved. Picture: Tolga Akmen/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at his last cabinet meeting before Parliament was dissolved. Picture: Tolga Akmen/PA Wire

A week on from the confirmation that the 2019 General Election will be held on December 12, we've been undergoing the traditional "phoney war" as parliamentary business is polished off and former MPs return to their constituencies.

It was interesting that the last person to play a role in the 2017-19 Parliament was Ipswich's Sandy Martin who had an adjournment debate on the provision of special education needs and disabilities in Suffolk.

Adjournment debates like this never result in changes in the law - but they do allow MPs to bring up an issue in their constituency and Mr Martin came out of the hat to present this just hours before he (along with his 649 colleagues) ceased to be an MP at midnight.

The campaign can now get under way unfettered by the need to work in Westminster - and almost all politicians will have headed home to their constituencies.

Ministers are still ministers and will have to do some administration work during the campaign - and they are also expected to tour the country visiting marginal seats like Ipswich as well as knocking on doors in their own constituencies.

Will all this have any effect on the result? I'm not sure that pressing the flesh is particularly important for the politicians.

What is important is the debating reported in newspapers and by broadcasters - and increasingly online and in social media.

And that has only just begun - it feels as if the parties are still sparring with each other and sizing each other up before the gloves come off.

What has already become significant, though, in the first week of the campaign is that opinion polls suggest that across the nation voters are migrating back towards the two largest parties - The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Brexit Party have all seen a slip in support across all the polls.

That is a normal phenomenon in elections and it does, of course, mask what is happening in key "target" constituencies.

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Also any UK-wide polls cannot accurately record the impact of parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. The SNP, in particular, will be decisive in this election.

If the Scottish polls are anything like accurate, the success of Nicola Sturgeon's party north of the border seems likely to deny Labour a chance of an overall majority in Westminster - the party has always relied on a phalanx of Scottish MPs when it has been able to form a government.

But in recent polls both Labour and the Tories appear to have been putting on support - and that is likely to confirm that in this area the natural order is unlikely to be upset at this election.

I've lost count of the number of times I've already been asked who is going to win the Ipswich seat. It's far too early to come to any conclusion on that. It depends so much on how the local and national campaign pans out.

At this time two and a half years ago I thought Ben Gummer was shoe-in to retain the seat. That was before the most inept Tory campaign anyone can remember emerged and he was sunk by policies ranging from paying for social care to whether there should be a new vote on foxhunting.

We're almost certain to get something totally left-field flashing through the campaign at some stage over the next five weeks - with two volatile and unpredictable characters like Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the head of their parties their media minders must be having kittens about what might happen.

I saw this to some extent last week when Mr Johnson visited Bury St Edmunds. His team wanted to know what questions we would be asking (fairly standard for a major politician these days) and then rationed reporters to one question each.

When he arrived in the room in which we were waiting, Mr Johnson was actually fairly relaxed - and was prepared to talk unscripted and engage in dialogue on issues.

But you could tell his "minders" were on the edge of their seats as soon as he strayed off the script that had clearly been rehearsed in advance.

Sooner or later a politician will stray off message and say or do something that his or her minders don't want them to. At that point the election campaign really will take off.

And then everyone will realise that whatever it looks like at the start, you can never be sure what will happen in the final reel of a general election campaign until the votes are counted!

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