So tell me again, how did David Cameron defy all odds to win?
Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30
David Cameron won the UK general election and returned to Downing Street with an outright majority after Labour was virtually wiped out by the SNP in Scotland and the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed.
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage all stood down in the space of an hour as the Conservatives reached 323 seats while Labour's vote slumped.
So how did Cameron do it when no one, especially not the pollsters or the pundits, gave him a prayer?
The Conservative victory was the product of one of the most tightly-controlled electoral campaigns in British history. Here's how they did it:
Focus on Scotland
In the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, Lynton Crosby - the Conservatives' campaign chief - was quick to spot that the risk that Labour would try to squeeze into power with the support of the SNP.
This rapidly became one of the Tories' main lines of attack and, during the election campaign, effectively drowned out Labour's key messages.
Backed by polls suggesting a landslide for the SNP in Scotland, David Cameron and his team repeatedly hammered home their message about the threat Ed Miliband posed to the Union.
In the final weeks of the campaign, the message was reinforced by former prime minister John Major, who said Ed Miliband must rule out a deal with the SNP.
Labour floundered as it tried to respond. For weeks, Ed Miliband tried to duck the question of whether he was prepared to do a deal, claiming that he was instead focused on securing a majority.
It was only in the final week of the campaign that Mr Miliband finally ruled out a deal, by which time the damage had already been done.
After months of preparation, Labour's pitch to voters was based on two central messages: the threat the Tories posed to the NHS and the cost-of-living crisis. Labour's attempts to put its two crucial messages front and centre were disrupted by the SNP question.
The Tories' strength on the economy was at the heart of the party's election victory.
The foundations for their success were laid in 2010 when the party exploited Labour's implosion after Gordon Brown's defeat to attack Labour's economic record.
"They are the party that crashed the economy," the message ran.
"We are the ones with the long-term economic plan."
And Britain has enjoyed the fastest rate of growth in the G7 group of developed countries with a record numbers of jobs.
Labour attempted to reassert its own economic credibility by belatedly committing to austerity measures itself, but in the end the Tories' economic message was stronger.
Personality of the leader
The Tories have always been acutely aware that David Cameron is significantly more popular than his own party.
Labour, on the other hand, have been afflicted by the opposite problem - Ed Miliband is significantly less popular than his party.
The Conservatives spent the run-up to the election repeatedly questioning Mr Miliband's fitness to lead Britain.
The attacks were sharpened after a series of gaffes by the Labour leader, which culminated in a picture of him eating a bacon sandwich.
However, at the start of the campaign, Mr Miliband appeared to recover his poise and begin to win credibility.
During the leaders debate, he revelled in his "geek" status and even became a pin-up for some teenage girls.
His personal ratings, however, told a different story. While people's trust in Mr Miliband improved, his overall net ratings were negative and far behind those of Mr Cameron.
The Tories were remorseless in the way they attacked their former Coalition partners.
Having worked closely alongside them for five years, they went for the jugular during the election campaign.
Of the 23 seats they targeted to win the election, 22 were held by Liberal Democrats, many by former government colleagues.
In the short campaign, Mr Cameron repeatedly visited Liberal Democrat target seats in the south-west.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, dismissed the Tory strategy as "fantasy" and a "fib".
He, and many pollsters and commentators, believed that the "incumbency factor" of sitting MPs would be enough to see them through.
He could not have been more wrong.
Senior party sources say that the most dangerous moment of the campaign came when Jean Claude-Juncker, the president of the EU Commission, said that there could be no limits on freedom of movement. The fear was a split within the party on the issue of Europe.
"Even the most ardent Eurosceptics didn't get involved," one source said.
Whether back-benchers will remain so restrained now they find themselves with more power remains to be seen. (© Daily Telegraph London)