The overwhelming view of staff and management in colleges with just days to go to the general election is "Don't vote Conservative."
But there is no illusion among the six leading unions and management groups for FE that the next five years will bring big rewards for the sector, whoever is elected.
Shadow education and employment spokesman David Blunkett's pledge to kick-start a new phase of expansion in FE, outlined in The TES last week, has removed a little of the cynicism over Labour's commitment to stick with Tory spending levels.
No one really believes the Liberal Democrats will get anywhere. But given the outside chance of a coalition, Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "Everyone should ask Lib Dem candidates: 'If there were a hung Parliament, would Paddy Ashdown make the full implementation of their education policies an absolute condition of a partnership?'" The Association of Colleges said the Tories had done irreparable damage with the timing of their Pounds 100m cuts to growth cash. The Association of Principals of Colleges plans to join forces with the AOC to draft a strategy to submit to the new administration.
Bernard Smith, APC general secretary, said: "We must change the climate, the culture of the country, and spell out clearly where cash is needed."
And even Tory-leaning managers see their policies as "threadbare" and needing considerable cash "to prepare the engine of change" for post-16 education.
John Akker, general secretary of the college lecturers' union NATFHE, said it was not just a question of growth: "In FE, the large number of redundancies occurring means the newly elected government will have to take urgent action. "
Labour policies had the edge on all others, including those of Plaid Cymru, according to the FE organisations contacted by The TES.
Stephen Broomhead, president elect of the Association of College Management, welcomed Labour's proposals on Welfare to Work and the University for Industry. He was sceptical about the Tories' "slavish" attitude towards Training and Enterprise Councils.