Rishi Sunak awoke yesterday to more headlines about Conservatives allegedly betting on the election date, and a parliamentary aide to the Home Secretary calling the government’s Rwanda policy “crap”.

It has been that sort of week, month, year for the Prime Minister. If there was a competition to find the unhappiest-looking man in British politics, he would win hands down.

Sunak must wonder what else the fates have in store for him between now and polling day. Then again, as the leader of a scandal-hit party widely held to have been in power for too long, what else should he expect?

Yet contrast Sunak’s obvious misery with the demeanour of John Swinney. Despite being in a similar position to the Prime Minister, the SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister looks positively chipper, a politician reborn.

This is despite the many clouds hanging over his party, the latest of which is a claim that SNP staffers have been using postage bought with public money for party purposes. Scottish Parliament officials are now investigating.

Scotland’s First Minister was asked about the postage row yesterday when he appeared on BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. Asked if he was “completely sure” his party has not been using public money to fund the SNP election campaign, he replied: “I’m confident of that.”

It was not an outright dismissal of the claims, and as SNP history shows, what seem like manageable events have a habit of escalating into full-blown crises, but Swinney was allowed to move on. How Sunak must wonder where he can get his hands on some of that political luck.

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The general cheeriness of the First Minister compared to the gloominess of the Prime Minister has been remarkable throughout this campaign. But then think of the advantages Swinney has had, starting with the main one - he is not Humza Yousaf. The SNP poll numbers are bad at the moment, but they would have been calamitous under the former First Minister. That’s another credit in Swinney’s column.

He has been lucky, and skilful, in other ways. Despite his many years in government, Swinney has been able to present himself as the new sheriff in town. He blames no one for the mess he has inherited, he names no one, he is just there getting on with the job, Honest John. Sunak must wish his takeover of the Tories had been handled as smoothly.

Much as he seems to be enjoying himself on the campaign trail, it is still a surprise to see Swinney back in frontline politics so soon after stepping away. Others might have had to be dragged back to the 24/7 grind of modern politics, but not him. He is the same age as Boris Johnson, and a year younger than the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, but Swinney has always seemed a political old soul in comparison to his peers. Not anymore.

Where others might have - and did - hesitate to go for the leadership, Swinney appeared to have no doubts. He denied that he would be a caretaker leader, only in the job till someone else was ready to take over. He shows no signs of changing his mind on that score.

Another reason for Swinney to be cheerful is that, unlike Sunak, his job is not on the line in this election. He will continue as SNP leader and First Minister regardless of what happens on July 4. It is impossible to say the same of Sunak. The campaign to be the next Tory leader is already underway.

John Swinney with his deputy Kate ForbesJohn Swinney with his deputy Kate Forbes (Image: free)

Swinney is also ahead of the game when it comes to managing expectations. However bad the result for the SNP, it is unlikely to be an existential event, as it could be for the Tories. He can always argue that the party has done better than predicted. Again, Sunak would have an impossible job arguing the same if Reform UK makes good on Nigel Farage’s threats.

All told, Swinney has had a better campaign than might have been expected. There have been moments when he did seem to regret being back in the fray. The first was during the Question Time leaders’ debate when Fiona Bruce asked why an SNP win was a green light for another independence referendum, but a loss was not a red light. There was no clear answer. Bruce 1, Swinney 0.

The same happened with Kuenssberg yesterday. Also on Question Time, he was visibly deflated when asked about SNP woes. Understandable enough perhaps, but these questions are not going away. If he is fed up already what is he going to be like in the Scottish Parliament election?

For both Swinney and Sunak, for every party leader, everything now comes down to the polls being correct. There is a particular nervousness in the Labour camp, a belief that this is all too good to be true. It would not be the first time the polls were wrong.

Tory warnings about a Labour “supermajority” are having an impact. In two YouGov polls for the Times published on Saturday, the number who thought a very large Labour majority would be “a bad thing for the country” increased from 34% to 43% in a week.

Labour has not been this far ahead in the polls for this long. No one knows what impact that might have on voters. There is general agreement that people are angry with the governing parties, but how angry? Are they so fed up they might stay at home and let that be a protest vote? Do they think the outcome is so certain they can leave it up to others to bring it about?

There is one more full week of campaigning left. Postal votes are already making their way to returning officers. That said, if the 2024 election goes the way of others, large numbers of voters are going to make their minds up at the last minute. They may have come to conclusions about the parties long ago, but it is a different matter putting that cross in a box.