In the last ever PMQs of this parliament, the prime minister made it crystal clear that she wants this election to be about her leadership. But will she get her wish? Her “stable government” mantra may be sensible, but it isn’t exactly stimulating, and it seems unlikely that the promise of a “safe pair of hands” will keep the British public enthralled for the next six weeks.

So, to stave off voter fatigue in the face of a lacklustre campaign for the premiership, here are five reasons why, in 2017, the character, experience and history of your local candidate may be more important than ever before.

1. A Conservative win is inevitable

With polls indicating that a Conservative win is a foregone conclusion (the Reaction Poll of Polls currently has them with a 23 point lead), commentators have suggested that the biggest problem for the Tories will be avoiding voter apathy. But old habits die hard, and lifelong voters who believe that going to the polling station on election day is their civic duty won’t be deterred. Instead of not voting at all, many who would ordinarily back the Conservatives on the grounds of sound national economic policy may now feel freed up to vote for whichever local candidate they like best. This means that in constituencies where the local Labour or Liberal Democrat candidate is particularly visible or likeable, sitting Tory MPs who spend little time in their constituency (think busy ministers) could be under threat. With the country safe in the hands of Theresa May no matter what, the pressure is off: this election isn’t about which party governs the country, it’s about choosing a local MP. 

2. Manifestos will be vague 

Swing voters with little or no interest in party politics will usually vote pragmatically based on which party can offer them the best deal. Bold and measurable manifesto promises like the 2010 Lib Dem pledge not to raise tuition fees (before it backfired with devastating consequences) or the 2015 Tory state pension triple lock tend to go down better with these electors than sweeping statements about stable Government. But as Rachel Sylvester explained in The Times on Tuesday, in this campaign the Tories plan to get away with making as few commitments as possible. Like Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May plans to avoid “magic formula[s] or lavish promises”. This is a sensible strategy for a prime minister who is confident that she will be returned to power with a sizebale mandate, but it makes for a vague manifesto. Steeped in chaos and without any fixed policy on Brexit, immigration or defence, it seems pretty likely that Labour will deliver a vague manifesto too. 

In a nutshell, this is an election about political direction rather than concrete policy commitments, and this presents a predicament for the a-political voter. Unable to anchor themselves to individual pledges, it seems likely that many will instead vote for the candidate who they believe will have the strongest voice in Westminster – regardless of party politics. 

3. The Referendum Legacy

Now that the two main parties have coalesced around Brexit, the relationship between party politics and the EU question has become more complex than ever. With little distinction between the Labour and Conservative Brexit stances (in spite of Keir Starmer’s valiant attempts to whip up a coherent policy), for some, the EU question too may come down to individual MPs’ campaigning records. The 2016 Referendum fractured party politics into four, along the right-left and Leave-Remain axes. Those divisions haven’t gone away. In one corner of the quadrant, ardent Tory Remain MPs shrilly reel off the “we’re all Brexiteers now” line (with three prominent Remain advocates quitting the Open Britain group this week). On the opposite side, the Labour Brexiteer pioneers are vaguely trying to convince themselves and their supporters that Remain-supporting Labour could be relied upon to deliver a strong Brexit. Neither is convincing.

The nature of the campaign produced new tribal allegiances, shifting politicians and the public alike away from the Labour vs. Tory dichotomy which has dominated the political landscape for decades, and into a new framework of Leave vs. Remain. Shifting back is now proving difficult. For those whose political identity is firmly rooted in either the Leave or Remain camp, this election may circumvent party politics altogether and simply boil down to “which way did my local MP vote in the EU referendum?”

4. The Localism Act

Since the 2011 Localism Act decentralised decision making, the role of the local MP has changed. If you turn up to a constituency surgery with a question about planning permission, housing or local infrastructure projects in 2017, you will be redirected to the local council and told that the job of an MP is to “be the voice of the constituency in Westminster”. This nebulous remit coupled with an acute public awareness of just how much MPs earn results in an odd phenomenon: voters deciding for themselves what their MPs should be doing. My MP is paid a very good salary through my taxes, goes the logic, therefore he or she must do something tangible for me.

This means that in the eyes of one portion of the electorate, the local MP must be a catch-all fixer. Child bullied at school? Speak to your local MP. Husband refusing to pay child support? Speak to your local MP. Hoover malfunctioning? Your local MP is there to help.

For people with this mindset, personality is everything, and the friendliest most helpful local candidate will sweep up these votes.    

5. MPs as brands

86% of all sitting MPs are on Twitter, and this week alone they have collectively tweeted more than 1,050 times. So far. It goes without saying that over the course of the last decade there has been a fundamental transformation in the nature of campaigning. In 2005, party headquarters held the reigns of the national election campaign, and individual candidates were allocated varying amounts of rope depending on personal appeal. Now, each and every local MP has a platform to brand him or herself as he or she sees fit. Labour MPs are using the opportunity to pitch themselves as local-minded people with little to do with the Labour leadership, whilst Tories like James Cleverly and Chris Heaton-Harris are establishing themselves as jokers, perhaps in part to counterbalance the “no nonsense” message espoused by CCHQ. In an age in which social media dominates and everyone does their own PR, these personal brands may resonate more with voters than the bland “messaging” doggedly promoted by central headquarters.