There have been previous elections in which there wasn’t much enthusiasm for either leader of the two main parties. By 1970 Harold Wilson had lost his shine while many Tories were doubtful about Ted Heath. He was expected to lose and party grandees were already planning for his removal. He won but in the two 1974 elections the electorate was still offered a choice between Heath and Wilson and neither leader inspired much confidence. After Wilson and Callaghan Labour made elections easy for Thatcher by picking unelectable leaders, Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Kinnock was still leader in 1992, something which helped John Major to win against the odds, even though there were Tories in both Parliament and the country who still resented the MPs’ rebellion which forced Thatcher out. Later in 2005 Tony Blair had been discredited by his role in the Iraq war, but there was never going to be a majority for Michael Howard.
So lack of enthusiasm for both possible Prime Ministers is nothing new. Nevertheless there hasn’t in my lifetime, or indeed in my reading of history, been an election in which both the Tory and Labour leaders were so widely, and deeply disliked and distrusted. It is of course natural and quite usual for voters to dislike and distrust the leader of the party for which they aren’t going to cast their ballot. What is remarkable this time is, first, the number of those who feel like that about the leader of the party which they are accustomed to support, and, second, the number of politicians in both parties who have said that their leader isn’t fit to be Prime Minister. So one concludes that many who will vote Tory or Labour will do so despite grave misgivings, even holding their nose and feeling somewhat ashamed.