Monthly Archives: April 2010

Jim Pickard

At today’s Labour press conference I asked the education secretary two questions: Read more

For my second political bet of the campaign I’m heading to Cardiff again, a place which could will emerge as the first major city in England and Wales with no Labour MP.

My first bet was on the outside chance of the Lib Dems taking Cardiff South (40-1). The Lib Dems are safe in Cardiff Central and Labour are seen as a spent force in much of the city,  so the Lib Dems are concentrating their resources on a big upset in the South. Read more

Try it if you dare. The FT deficit buster — an online simulator of the next three year spending round — allows you to choose your own package of cuts. It should definitely carry a health warning.

The project started as a simple question: can we show what it would take to halve the deficit by making £30-40bn cuts? The answer exposes just how little all three main parties are willing to tell you about the looming spending squeeze.

Take the easiest option in the game: acting as your own chancellor, free of party spending commitments. In today’s splash, we include an illustrative package of measures to make savings in the order of £40bn:

A 5 per cent cut in public sector pay; freezing benefits for a year; means-testing child benefit; abolishing winter fuel payments and free television licences; reducing prison numbers by a quarter; axing the two planned aircraft carriers; withdrawing free bus passes for pensioners; delaying Crossrail for three years; halving roads maintenance; stopping school building; halving the spend on teaching assistants and NHS dentistry; and cutting funding to Scotland and Wales by 10 per cent.

 Read more

The brutal cuts which the next government might have to make – The FT
Labour figures jostle for position – The Times
Labour can’t remove Gordon Brown – Martin Kettle in The Guardian
YouGov poll puts the Tories ahead – The Sun
Tories switch resources from Lib Dem seats to vulnerable Labour constituencies – The BBC

Peter Kellner of YouGov has an excellent piece in the Sunday Times looking at polling in marginals Before Clegg (BC) and After the Debate (AD). It overturns another big election assumption: that the Tories will perform better in marginals.

He uses a combined sample of 10,000 from past YouGov polls to examine the 115 Lab-Con marginals that should turn blue with a swing of eight per cent. Read more

Leader interviews:
David Cameron leaves door open for poll deal with Lib Dems – The Observer
Nick Clegg: I will not prop up ‘irrelevant’ Brown – The Sunday Times
Gordon Brown: My Credo – The Independent

On the election:
Voters keep the Tories waiting at the altar – Matthew Engel in the FT
Lib Dem star delighted to be outshone – The FT
The doubts about the Lib Dems – The FT
Polls show Tories ahead in six – Politics Home
Grotesque and unfair voting system must change – Will Hutton for the Observer
Nick Clegg is still ahead … but he’s beginning to grate – The Sunday Times
Brown rejects Mandelson’s cosy stitch-up – Janet Daley for the Sunday Telegraph
The long sprint to Westminster – The Independent
Election 1940 and no Thatcher? – Hopi Sen
Video: Nick Clegg on Andrew Marr

The FT’s Robert Shrimsley joined Clive Anderson for the BBC’s weekly election show, The Heckler.  Click here for a link to the broadcast, which is a quirky, irreverent guide to this week’s events in the general election campaign. Is positive the new negative? How have all the main parties taken to rebuking the others for “squabbling” – or debating policy, as it used to be called?

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

Jim Pickard

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.

Jim Pickard

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

Clegg gets tetchy under pressure, says Tony Parsons in the Mirror
Chris Huhne dismisses Ken Clarke’s argument that a hung Parliament would prompt financial uncertainty
James Murdoch ambushes Indy editor - FT
No clear winner last night says the New York Times
What did we ever do on Thursday evenings before the leaders’ debates, asks Matthew Engel in the FT
‘Fired-up’ David Cameron crushes the opposition in overwhelming show of superiority, claims The Sun
No clear winner, say most pundits – PoliticsHome
Getting a Clegg up – The Economist

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

It’s 45 minutes since the debate ended so here’s a first settled view

Nick Clegg had another good debate. Perhaps not as stellar as last time but again he was very strong and there were real touches of Obama in his peroration and call for a politics that could be different and he ended witha real flourish. He did seem a little flustered at one point when the other two ganged up on him but ironically their aggression may work for him. He was particularly effective when dealing with his weakest subjects. He was very good in the immigration round but it is hard to know if his debating talents will compensate for the fact that he is pushing an unpopular policy – an amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is hard to see him losing much ground on this. There was nothing to stop his momentum and if anything he may have cemented his position. he will be pretty pleased tonight. Read more

Jim Pickard

Jim: 10.31pm: Okay, thanks very much for all the comments, feedback and emails. Looking forward to seeing you all again in a week’s time for the grand showdown. Thanks again.

Jim: 10.13pm: Don’t want to give you opinion poll fatigue but there’s one more worth showing you – here’s a link to it. Ipsos MORI (for Reuters) suggests that support for Lib Dems has doubled in marginal seats, from 11 per cent to 23 per cent. Interestingly, the party isn’t taking seats from either of the two main parties. Instead:

The Liberal Democrat gains have come almost completely from people who were not sure they would vote a fortnight ago and now say they are sure that they will.

Jim: 10.07pm: A thought about Gordon Brown. His team must be delighted (if ComRes is right) that he has held his own with Cameron. That was not predicted by anyone. But the three seem to be bunched closely together, still, which bodes ill for anyone who doesn’t want a hung Parliament.

Jim: 10.01pm: It gets worse for the Tories – although Ladbrokes is paying out on a Cameron debate victory, interestingly. hat-tip Sophy Ridge at News of the World:

While David Cameron claimed victory in the instant poll done by YouGov/The Sun, Nick Clegg has stolen the crown in a poll by ComRes/ITV. The Lib Dem leader clinched victory with 33 per cent of the vote, with Brown and Cameron neck and neck on 30 per cent. And a massive 36 per cent said they planned to vote Lib Dem after tonight’s debate – more than both the Tories and Labour.

 Read more

Nicholas Timmins

The three main parties’ health spokesman – Andy Burnham, Andrew Lansley and Norman Lamb – took part in a not entirely even tempered election hustings today in front of worthies from the British Medical Association, the King’s Fund and the Royal College of Nursing. 

But it produced one good laugh. Early on, Mr Burnham declared on one particular issue: “I would agree with Norman ….” – a statement that produced instant giggles from the assembled doctors, nurses and policy wonks.   Read more