Battle of personalities is coming to the fore

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For months now – well, until very recently – the Conservatives have been publicly denouncing Miliband as a weak and useless leader (and worse), and capable of stabbing his own brother David in the back to get the Labour leadership.

And, some while ago, Michael Gove, the Government Chief Whip, denounced Miliband as a blancmange.

I doubt whether he would use that epithet today.

Miliband gave the first evidence of his aggression when, during the first TV “debate”, he told the fearsome Jeremy Paxman to his face: “You are important, but not that important.”

The Tories may think, rightly or wrongly, that serious personal mud-slinging is no way to win elections.

However, the Conservatives are now asking themselves, will Miliband be able to stand up to Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, if Labour emerges as the largest party, but needs the Nationalists to prop them up?

All the evidence shows that Sturgeon is a far more steely political operator than anybody – the Prime Minister included – the Tories can produce.

If that Labour-SNP scenario arises, then we really will discover how much bottle Ed Miliband possesses to deal with the woman described by Cameron as “a hostage-taker”.

Lord Bell knows a thing or two about elections – he master-minded Margaret Thatcher’s three victories at the polls – and he has described the current Tory campaign as boring, without passion and risk-averse.

I absolutely agree. Why don’t those seemingly timid mice who run the campaign from Conservative Party headquarters put David Cameron in a hostile environment, throw him in the den of lions, pit him against a critical audience?

Cameron is much better in combat – as we have seen in the Commons week after week – than delivering his worthy but pedestrian speeches packed full of statistics.

But will those who”run” the Prime Minister at Tory HQ have the bottle to do it?

I wouldn’t put my life savings on it happening.