Oh dear. First big gaffe of the campaign. Gordon Brown forgot to take his microphone off as he left a campaign event in his car. This is what was broadcast on Sky:
“That’s a disaster”
“You should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s Sue I think. It’s just ridiculous.”
His aide asks what was wrong with it.
“Everything. She’s just a sort of bigoted woman. Said she used to be Labour.”
The woman in question is Gillian Duffy, who raised the issue of immigration and her pension with the prime minister just before he entered his car.
UPDATE: We presume the Sue who organised the visit was Sue Nye, the prime minister’s long serving gatekeeper.
UPDATE 2: The irony of this is that Brown handled the encounter rather well. He is not the first politician to be caught out by an open mike, as Adam Boulton just noted on Sky. The classic is the Reagan quip over bombing Russia in five minutes.
The problem with any plot involving Mandelson installing David Miliband into the Labour leadership is very familiar. It’s the sticking point which held back Brown’s enemies during the last three or four attempted coups against him.
It is this: the rules around Labour leadership elections are very complicated, especially if the incumbent refuses to step down. Even if Brown was to walk voluntarily there would still have to be a democratic election within Labour for his replacement.
You may remember that the Parliamentary Labour Party only has a third of the vote. Another third goes to the grassroots. The final third is the unions: and the barons are already unhappy at the idea of the Blairite wing of the party fixing the contest in advance. Read more
I couldn’t resist placing two bets on Thursday’s debate. Curiously, David Cameron is favourite to win, perhaps because (at least at first glance) he seemed to come out on top last time around. I’m not so certain.
Labour are confident that their man will emerge triumphant because the economy is his strong suit. I doubt it; Gordon Brown will be hugely vulnerable to accusations that he failed to see the crash coming (Clegg and Cameron will surely remind him of his hubristic phrase ‘no return to boom and bust’). Viewers may also be sceptical of his claims that the economy is at risk in any hands other than his own. Read more
Politics for the next five years will be dominated by painful public spending cuts. But in this election every time a politician speaks, it seem to be in order to protect one more benefit perk. So far, in terms of new spending guarantees vs new cuts, the campaign score is at least £25bn to 0.
Take the appearance of Liam Byrne and Philip Hammond on Newsnight last night, which turned into the most expensive interview of their political careers. Without blinking, the two would-be guardians of the public purse ruled out means testing child benefit.
Price tag? Around £5bn to ensure millionaires (in fact anyone family earning more than £25,000) can still pick up their benefit perk. That’s roughly the size of the defence equipment budget.
Any cuts to match that? Of course not. If you try our Deficit Buster online tool, you’ll see that means testing child benefit is one of the easiest of a horrible set of choices. The public surely deserve to know where the Tories and Labour will find that £5bn. Read more
Positive coverage for David Cameron in the morning papers over his appearance yesterday morning with Brooke Kinsella, the former Eastenders actress whose brother was stabbed to death in 2008. She made a moving speech as she accepted the role of Tory adviser over which anti-knife projects to support. Read more
Adam Boulton of Sky did a fantastic job of pressing Lord Mandelson today on where Labour would cut the budget. Reading out the list of illustrative cuts developed for the FT “deficit buster” online tool, Boulton asks what Labour would be able to avoid.
Mandelson’s answer? “When I last looked, neither the Institute for Fiscal Studies nor the Financial Times were standing in this election.” See Paul Waugh for the heckle of the day. Read more
The FT’s expert election panel will occasionally be giving their thoughts on the big news stories of the campaign. Below is Matthew Taylor’s take on how Labour can – and must- rejuvenate the policy agenda.
Matthew Taylor, former director of policy to Tony Blair:
If Labour trails in a bad third next week, a divided, demoralised and impoverished Party could easily go into a long term decline, becoming a Party whose highest realistic aspiration is to a be a minority partner in a future coalition.
Finally, today it looks like policy is on the agenda. Labour has to keep it there until the debate on Thursday and then hope that Gordon Brown can win on home territory (there are, after all, still many voters who do not warm to Brown but will on probing agree he is the best on experience and on protecting the interests of ordinary families). With a little wind in its sails Labour might yet breach the 30 per cent barrier within sight of being the largest party. This would change the dynamic of the last week. Read more
Here’s a couple of insights from developing our deficit buster tool. They both seem to chime with the Institute for Fiscal Studies report today, which concludes that tax rises will almost certainly be imposed alongside the deepest cuts since Thatcher:
1) The political incentive will be to go faster and deeper 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.