Which prominent members of the coalition could be getting the chop on Thursday?
Top of those at risk are Tory Esther McVey, minister for welfare sanctions. But possibly in line for a Portillo moment are also Lib Dem duo Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg.
Opinion polls are pointing to a tight election with comparatively few seats changing hands between the coalition parties and Labour. We will see nothing like the 115 seats which changed hands, mostly between these parties, in 2010.
And the numbers will be even further away from the 184 seats which changed hands in 1997. So the opportunities for another 1997 Portillo moment – a disliked prominent member of government losing their seat – will be few and far between.
But there are possibilities. Tory Esther McVey, minister for welfare sanctions, is hoping to hold on to her majority of 2,436 in Wirral West on Merseyside. It is by no means the worst majority to be fighting, but her Labour opponent, Margaret Greenwood, is hot on her heels.
Wirral West is a seat the Tories badly need to hold. It’s why both George Osborne and William Hague have paid flying visits in the last few days.
Hostility to McVey is political, not personal. If she loses her seat it would be symbolic because she has become the chief apologist for the vicious welfare sanctions regime put in place at her ministry, the department for work and pensions.
It would also give her an opportunity to feel first hand what it is like to be out of a job at a moments notice and hounded by her former Department. During her time defending the sanctions regime she has been on full spin cycle to such an extent the Commons Speaker accused her of being a “washing machine”.
She was repeatedly refusing to answer why, in 33 out of 49 deaths of social security claimants, internal reviews had called for improvements in her department. The sanctions regime has disproportionately sanctioned those with mental health issues.
MPs, select committees and charities have all said the regime, which stops those with little money getting any money at all, throws vulnerable people to food banks for food and pay day loan sharks for money. Add disability and welfare cuts, the bedroom tax and the mix is toxic.
That might not be a problem for a Tory minister sitting in a safe southern seat, but it’s a problem on Merseyside.
Wirral West is posher Merseyside, full of beautiful leafy lanes, and fantastic views across the Dee to north Wales. There are a lot of large houses – not all of them, but noticeable – and a smattering of top golf courses boasting members like former footballers Paul Ince and Michael Owen.
It should be the sort of seat the Tories walk into and keep. Don’t be fooled.
Parts of the Wirral are more industrialised, and there have been major job losses. And many areas of West Wirral are not affluent and have been hit by local austerity cuts.
And no one likes the disgusting bullying meted out by the DWP to the most vulnerable. All of that adds up to McVey as a big symbolic target – the apologist for the flagship cruelty programme of the coalition.
McVey losing would amount to that symbolic Portillo moment. Not because of what she is, but because of what she has done.
Lib Dems at risk
The biggest coalition scalps on the night may well be Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg, both members of the four man coalition decision making “quad”, which they make up with Cameron and Osborne.
Both are symbols of the creation and work of the coalition. While Cameron and Osborne are safe, Alexander and Clegg are not, although both are sitting on large majorities which are now vulnerable.
Alexander is defending Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey in the Scottish Highlands. By Friday morning he might be singing “Lochaber no more” as even his 8,700 majority could disappear.
While Alexander is protected from the fall out after Clegg ratted on his very public tuition fee promise (the system is different in Scotland), Clegg is in a constituency (Sheffield Hallam) with a large student population.
A big symbol of both the coalition, and MPs who rat on highly public promises, he could see a Portillo moment despite his 15,300 majority. That should be too big to overturn, but he remains vulnerable and his loss would be a blow to Cameron and Osborne.
The Tories are desperate to save both Alexander and Clegg. So much so that the Daily Mail is begging local voters to vote tactically for both of them to save their scalps.
In doing so they have been adopted into the ranks – whether they like it or not – of honorary Tories. We’ll know on Friday whether that is a help or a hindrance to them.