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. 

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. 

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. 

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: 

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. 

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. 

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 help

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. 

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.