Britain is running a £167bn deficit but instead of proposing spending cuts the Tories and Labour were today happily locked in a generosity contest over pensioner benefits. The row over misleading election leaflets misses two important points.
1) The Tories and Labour have not ruled out cutting pensioner benefits in real terms
David Cameron has vowed to “protect” a range of benefits for the over 60s: winter fuel payments, free TV licences, disability living allowance, free bus passes, the winter fuel payment, attendance allowance and pension credit. But in the manifesto, he does not spell out what “protection” actually means.
The Tories say that this applies to spending in cash terms and basically mirrors the government’s current practice. So while they will reject the idea that they’ll “cut” the benefits, the payments could fall in real terms. (That leaves open the option to freeze the benefits.) And the eligibility rules for the “protected” benefits could also be changed, which again could reduce the total amount of money spent on them. Read more
UK economy grows 0.2% in Q1 – Chris Giles in The FT
What planet is Gordon on? - Chris Giles for FT Money Supply
GDP figures not much help to Brown – Ian King in The Times
The Tories still don’t know what’s going on - Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph
It’s now the Cameron v Clegg show – Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian
The “get Clegg” campaign could backfire – Alexander Chancellor in The Guardian
The next must reads post will be on Sunday. For all the election news and analysis over the weekend see the FT’s election indepth.
By John Lloyd
“Reporters do of course write stories about political life in the broader sense and about the substance of issues … but when there is a chance to use these issues as props or raw material for a story about political tactics, most reporters leap at it. It is more fun … in fact they ask questions that only their fellow political professionals care about. And they often do so with a discourtesy and rancour that represent the public’s views much less than they reflect the modern journalist’s belief that being independent boils down to acting hostile.”
The US journalist James Fallows wrote this in The Atlantic in 1996. In the 2010 UK general election, it’s truer than it was.
The Economist wrote today that the mainstream media – newspapers, radio and television – dominate news and comment on the election, almost to the exclusion of significant use of the internet. Let’s hope for better next time, when the wealth of the internet can be brought to bear on electoral choice because the record of the mainstream media so far is dismal. Read more
Charlie Brooker has just Tweeted:
M&C Saatchi just asked if I’d appear in a ‘comedy’ Tory election broadcast this wknd. Haha, Jesus & NO. Must be asking literally *anyone Read more
The podcasts, which are hosted by Robert Shrimsley, will be recorded every Monday and Friday for the duration of the campaign – see the full list in the UK election podcast archive.
Much of the questioning at this morning’s Labour press conference was over the party’s leaflets suggesting that a Tory government would scrap many benefits for the elderly. It was a major a theme of last night’s TV debate, when Cameron was visibly furious with Brown. The Tories say the claims are nonsense.
Asked whether he had known about the leaflets, Brown didn’t quite answer, saying only that he had not “authorised” them. This is not the same thing. Read more
OK. A contentious proposition. The TV debates with which we are all enthralled are not setting the agenda of this election; they are simply confirming it. This is not to underplay their significance but it is important to understand their limits.
When the Conservatives conduct their post-mortems on this general election, many will conclude that his poor performance in the first debate and his agreement to Nick Clegg’s inclusion is what cost him victory. (Obviously, this is one of those posts that presumes he is not headed for an outright victory.) Read more
David Cameron was more assured than last week; Gordon Brown played to his strengths; Nick Clegg held the ground he had won in the first debate. One snap poll gave the contest to Mr Cameron; another to Mr Clegg. Both polls showed all the leaders bunched fairly closely together. I did not see any knock-out blows, and to my mind there are still three players in this extraordinary election. The one thing we have learned during the past few days is that nothing is predictable.
The debates are proving a wonderful innovation, albeit one that has come about half-a-century too late. Much was said before the opening of the campaign about the new media – social networks, Twitter and the rest – setting the parameters and pace of events. In fact everything has revolved around these face-to-face confrontations. You can’t get much more old media than that. Read more