If people really believe what they write, and some of what they read, there must be some very confused people out there.
The Sun on the 1st April (and I don't think it was an April Fool) reminded people that they had backed "moderate" Labour parties in the past, but was opposed to the "hard left" agenda of Ed Miliband. Many of the Conservative papers continue to label Miliband "Red Ed" and condemn his "old" "socialist" - sometimes even "Marxist" - anti-business agenda. Both the Mail and the Express have claimed that Miliband is a "Bennite" wanting to bring back the "dark days" of the 1983 General Election manifesto.
People who believe all or some of this must be terribly confused when they read comments from Scottish Nationalists and Greens and people who've lately decided to abandon Labour for the Greens or TUSC or Left Unity. For these people, Labour are "Red Tories", committed to austerity, on the side of the 1% and there is really no difference between Miliband, Clegg or Cameron.
People who believe all or some of this must be terribly confused when they read the Sun or the Mail. Okay, they probably don't read them, but they would find it hard to escape the narrative. Even the BBC today were talking of this being an "old-fashioned" 1970s-style election with Labour fighting for the low-paid and the Tories fighting for the rich in a pitch to their core votes.
Is there any truth to either story?
Is Labour hard left? I wish, to be honest! A "hard left" agenda would undoubtedly include nationalising at least the railways and the energy companies. Miliband's policies are significantly less radical on both. A "hard left" agenda would argue against austerity on principle. Miliband is committed to further cuts and "balancing the books". A "hard left" agenda would argue for free tuition fees, not a small reduction. A "hard left" agenda would take the fight to UKIP and the Tories on immigration, not make controlling it one of their five pledges and plastering it over a mug.
No, we can conclude the Tory/Tory-press narrative is a million miles from the truth.
What about Red Tories then? Again - nonsense. Anybody who claims to be on the left who is genuinely ambivalent about who might form the next government (out of the two possibilities) has argued themselves into a very odd place. The differences between the parties are quite well defined - perhaps more so than for nearly 30 years. The only bit of the Sun/Mail/Express, etc. narrative that has any truth in it is that Labour has moved some distance from the New Labour perspective of Tony Blair. People who voted Labour in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 but wish to vote for a left-wing alternative this year again seem to be rather confused, politically. There are literally tens of millions of pounds between the proposed cuts agenda of both parties. Labour is going to scrap most zero hours contracts, scrap the bedroom tax, reintroduce the 50p tax rate, levy a "mansion tax" on high-value properties to invest in the NHS; repeal the coalition's NHS Act; clamp down on low pay and tax evasion. They are also happy to interfere with energy, transport and property markets to control prices.
No, we can further conclude that the "Red Tory" line is a nonsense, at least as far from the truth as the "hard left" story.
Labour is a very long way from "hard left" but it has found a political position significantly to the left of New Labour and is proposing a large number of distinctive policies. It is important that we deal with the reality rather than the myths.
However, I suspect the "hard left" criticisms will continue from the right-wing press and, coupled with a focusing of voters' minds as the campaign progresses, I suspect some of the SNP/PC/Green/TUSC, etc vote will move back to Labour in order to get the government that is closer to their perspective out of the two possibilities.
It will be interesting to see whether a stepping-up of the anti-Miliband language helps the Tories or whether it unwittingly aids Miliband by turning him more emphatically into the "change" candidate. Watch this space!