Monthly Archives: April 2010

Jim Pickard

I’ve just come away from Brown’s grilling by Jeremy Paxman on Panorama, which will be broadcast later tonight. Read more

A little sample from Matthew Hancock’s election literature in West Suffolk. You’ll notice that he’s modest enough not to mention his time working as George Osborne’s chief of staff. A remarkable show of restraint.

Last night’s Question Time ended on an extraordinary note. The public are more in favour of a hung parliament than the Tories care to admit. But I never expected an audience to heckle and boo Liam Fox when he warned of an indecisive election result triggering a run on sterling.

You can watch it here — the mob turn on Fox around 58 minutes in. Read more

Amid expectations (among opponents) and fears (among supporters) that Gordon Brown is leading Labour to a calamitous defeat in next week’s general election, Lib Dems have been checking their electoral statistics and commentators dusting down George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England – a well-thumbed text when I studied history at Oxford too many decades ago to mention.

Dangerfield’s book, published during the 1930, provides the classic account of the pre-World War One upheavals that saw then then Liberal Party surrender its claim to be a party of government. Read more

Somewhere in Lib Dem HQ is a top secret target list. These aren’t the seats Nick Clegg visits; it’s an underground movement behind enemy lines. Not even Clegg will know the full battleplan. When Chris Rennard was leading campaigns, it was said that “the leader could never be trusted enough to see the canvas returns”. That probably still holds true.

Sadly I’ve failed in a long quest to uncover the list, but I’ve been given a few hints. The odds on Lib Dem wins have shortened considerably of late and I was waiting for a better moment to put down some money. But I’ve waited long enough. It’s time to take the gamble.

The strategy, if you can call it that, is to lay £5 on a eight seats that the Lib Dems have an outside chance of winning. They are split into four categories: Read more

The podcasts will be recorded twice a week for the duration of the campaign – see the full list in the UK election podcast archive.

Jim Pickard

(Apologies if you’ve already read this – it was rather lost as an update to my earlier Blair post).

The Tories claimed this morning ( WRONGLY) that the Charity Commission was opening an investigation into claims – by Tory MP Greg Hands – that one of his charities, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, had breached the law. Read more

Jim Pickard

An update on our betting competition after last night’s debate: I came away with £20 after correctly betting at 3/1 that the audience viewing figures would be between 5m and 10m. They peaked at 8m, according to reports today.

Alas I lost out on a few other gambles; Clegg didn’t win (although he was close), America wasn’t the first country mentioned and my audience bet on 10m to 15m (effectively a hedge) must be written off.

So I spent £20 on the four bets and have walked away with £20. Could have been much worse.

UPDATE

In fact PaddyPower have paid me £9 – it turns out that America was, after all, the first foreign country mentioned. That changes things in my favour. Read more

Jim Pickard

Tony Blair has returned from his Africa safari and will be making a speech in 10 minutes (sorry, some time soon) in a bid to turn Labour’s life-support machine back on.

Here are the two reasons why it probably won’t helpRead more

Britain’s historic general election – Martin Wolf for the FT
Cameron’s plans risk a postcode lottery – Vernon Bogdanor for the FT
UK hung up about hung parliament - The FT
Beleagured Labour unleashes Blair - The Guardian
Cameron is concealing his inner Bush - Johann Hari for the Independent

The debate:
An international view: In final British debate, economy is the focus – The New York Times
No surprises, lots of disappointment - The FT’s Chris Giles for Money Supply
The last debate – have Labour imploded? - Gideon Rachman’s blog for the FT
Barring an earthquake, David Cameron is on his way to No 10 - Jonathan Freedland for the Guardian
We came, we saw, but what did we learn? - David Aaronovitch for the Times
Pundit reaction – Politics Home

They all flunked it. The television debates have energised this election campaign. There are encouraging signs that they have jolted the nation out of its long drift to insouciant indifference. Voter turnout may well rise on May 6. But illumination? Clarity? Honesty? There was no winner on that score in Birmingham.

The third and final of these encounters should have been the best. It was about the issue that matters most to the voters: the economy. What they saw were three, rather shifty, politicians running away from the truth. Read more

Jim Pickard

Alex 10.50 Final post. An intriguing tweet from Evan Davis. Did any of the candidates actually win this debate? Or was it a dead heat? The polls indicate that Cameron prevailed. But the numbers are suspiciously close to broad voting intentions. Could it be that the public reverted to the person they were intending to vote for at the begining of the debate? I suspect few people would have had their opinion changed by the last 90 minutes. It will be interesting to see whether the post-debate spin has more of an effect.

Alex 10.47 Some final thought from Alan Schroeder, our US debate guru.

Debates do not always produce clear verdicts, and in my opinion this one qualifies as a three-way stand-off. Judging purely on optics and not on substance, I would call this Brown’s best debate of the three. I thought he handled the Mrs. Duffy gaffe with deftness, and I liked his lawyerly closing argument. Even Brown’s goofy smile at the very end came across as endearing rather than menacing.

Cameron has never quite come into focus for me in these debates. He’s obviously an intelligent, thoughtful, and well-spoken man, but from my perspective he doesn’t leave much of a footprint. That criticism notwithstanding, I would also call tonight Cameron’s best debate, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do well in the snap polls.

Clegg has consistently been the most interesting performer of the three, but tonight he seemed to be drawing from the same familiar well instead of broadening his message. One wonders if Clegg’s surprise win in the first debate may have caused him to peak too soon. A strong finish in round three might have given Clegg, in the immortal words of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, “that little extra push over the cliff.” Instead, he allowed both Cameron and Brown to make gains on him.

Jim 10.46 Clegg should also brace himself for a row tomorrow over his claim that 80 per cent of immigrants into Britain came from the EU. Apparently the real figure could be much lower; closer to a third.

Jim 10.43 Also, how come no one mentioned Gordon Brown’s Achilles Heel – ie his claim to have extinguished “boom and bust” permanently? And how come the other two didn’t nail Clegg over the LIb Dem policy of joining the euro? And did Cameron have a lucky escape in not getting grilled over his opposition to rescuing Northern Rock?

Alex 10.32 One thing to note. Was Vince Cable ever mentioned? What happened to the great Lib Dem economic titan? Had the economy been the topic of the first debate, we’d have heard Clegg repeating his name ad naseum. Shows how much his confidence has grown as leader. He don’t need little old Vince any more.  Read more

Who should govern Britain, The Economist thinks it’s David Cameron
Ten People Who Are Having a Good Election – Iain Dale
After all the fuss of yesterday, it is still the economy, stupid – Alastair Campbell
Opinion split on Bigotgate significance, says Sun/YouGov poll – The Guardian
Brown campaigns after ‘bigot’ row – Politics Home
Mervyn King: Election winner will lose power for 30 years – Evening Standard
British Leaders Brace for Final Television Debate – New York Times

Jim and Alex will be doing another live blog tonight for the final televised leaders’ debate, which will focus on the economy. This time the event starts at 8:30pm on the BBC. Our rolling commentary will probably start earlier, from around 7pm. Read more

Jim Pickard

Post Cleggmania, people are no longer talking about a big Tory majority as a certainty in the way they were doing months ago. Even the best psephologists have no idea which way this general election is going.

But the most likely outcome still seems to be the Conservatives either getting a tiny majority (over 326) or falling short by a few dozen seats.

PaddyPower is offering just below evens on David Cameron’s party ending up with 301-350 seats. That would be consistent with a poor showing for Labour – not helped by Duffygate – and a strong (but not astonishing) performance by the Lib Dems. Read more

Gordon Brown interview: Waiting for substance to tell – The FT
Labour’s new welfare rights cost £8bn a year - The FT
Nick the negotiator says deal or no deal – Robert Shrimsley in The FT
Roy Greenslade on how the media dealt with Gordon’s gaffe – The Guardian
Brown was not acting out of character, says Andrew Rawnsley – The Guardian
Gillian Duffy turns down big cash offers from the newspapers. Could the gaffe cost 2m Labour votes? – Daily Mirror
Gaffe goes global – Coverage from the New York Times
Will the leaders answer the big economic questions tonight? Robert Chote in The Times

Jim and Alex will be doing another live blog tonight for the final televised leaders’ debate, which will focus on the economy. This time the event starts at 8:30pm on the BBC. Our rolling commentary will probably start earlier, from around 7pm. Read more

Vince Cable attacks ‘cop out’ Tory spending plans – The Evening Standard
Darling: Time and again, Labour called it right on the economy – LabourList
‘That was a disaster’ – Nick Robinson’s Newslog
The “Thick of It” election – Hopi Sen
Brown gaffe on campaign trail – Politics Home
A highly damaging moment for Gordon Brown – The Times
Labour’s most dangerous moment of the campaign – The Guardian
Brown “mortified” at bigot comment – Alistair Campbell

Nicholas Timmins

A hung parliament will produce governmental paralysis and economic mayhem. Well maybe. But may be not.

The Institute for Government, which like the Institute for Fiscal Studies tries to offer up a few facts to inform the fevered pre-election debate, has a neat briefing on hung parliaments on its website.

One particular piece of Powerpoint is well worth the look for those who fear that a hung parliament will see the UK knocking on the door of the IMF within days.

It plots governments, whether they be coalitions, majority or minority controlled, against the size of their structural deficit. Read more

Oh no, no no no. My innards are shrivelling up even as I watch it. It just goes to show the parties are right to keep their leaders away from voters.

Just to recap on the facts:

1) Gordon Brown on a visit to Rochdale, has a perfectly civil ding-dong with a Gracie Fields type who tongue-lashes him over a range of issues including immigration Read more

After selecting a couple of outsiders, I’ve gone for a safer bet on low turnout.

The received wisdom is that this is a close election with big stakes that is re-engaging voters. Some commentators think turnout could even rise from what is a very low base of 61 to over 70 per cent, which is much closer to the historic average.

But from the limited time I’ve spent speaking to voters in marginals, this doesn’t ring true. None of the parties have really captured the public imagination in the way Tony Blair did in 1997, and even then turnout was only 71 per cent.

Labour voters are clearly fed up with Gordon Brown. Those unable to bring themselves to vote against Labour will just stay at home. As Matthew Taylor notes, Labour activists are worried about low turnout. The Gillian Duffy incident will not have soothed their concerns. In addition, young voters have been flocking to the Lib Dems, but that age group has a poor track record of actually voting. Read more

Jim Pickard

It is “The Thick of It” incarnate – as one political editor remarks to me. Brown, post-gaffe, was ensconced inside the house of “bigot” Mrs Duffy apologising for his remarks for about 40 minutes.

Emerging from her front door, amid a media scrum and a gathering of excited Rochdale locals, the prime minister said he was “mortified” by what had happened.

“If you like, I’m a penitent sinner,” he said, a fixed smile on his face. “Sometimes you say things you don’t mean to say, sometimes you say things by mistake….I wanted to come here and say to Gillian, I was sorry I made a mistake but I understand the concerns she was bringing to me.” Read more