In The Unfinished Revolution, his account of New Labour’s rise to power, Philip Gould wrote that the paradox of 20th century politics in Britain was “that the party of conservatism held power because of ceaseless modernisation” whereas “the party of radical change lost power because of its conservatism”. Far more so than the US Democrats or centre-left parties in north-western Europe, Labour has strong nostalgic tendencies, the pollster argued, stemming from its roots in Fabianism, religion, trade unions, and the cultural conservatism of the English working class.

Such attitudes were fostered by the break with Liberalism, which made more difficult the sort of left-wing coalitions found elsewhere in the rich world. In the century that gave rise to the mass franchise and the welfare state, the Conservative party was in government for two-thirds of the time; the Labour party was in government for less than a quarter of it (23 years). For Gould, this was due to Labour’s resistance to what he called “modernisation” and the embrace of ideological purity over pragmatism. Read more

Welcome to our live election coverage, bringing you the latest reaction to the Tories winning an unexpected majority – taking 331 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

Labour’s Ed Miliband, the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg and the UK Independence party’s Nigel Farage have all resigned as leaders of their respective parties. Clegg, deputy PM for the last five years, hung on to his seat but his party lost all but eight of its MPs. Farage failed to win the seat he was contesting.

The Scottish National party also had a triumphant night, trouncing Labour north of the border. (Photo FT/Charlie Bibby)

Mr Cameron made four Cabinet announcements, reappointing George Osborne chancellor of the exchequer – and promoting him to first secretary of state; Theresa May home secretary; Philip Hammond foreign secretary and Michael Fallon defence secretary. The rest of the Cabinet is expected on Monday.


A summary of today’s events

***May 7***

Polling day. Follow our live coverage of the results from 9pm here.

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Welcome to the FT’s Live Q and A on the general election. With the polls too close to call and leaders going to unusual lengths to push the vote in their direction, deputy political editor Elizabeth Rigby takes your questions.

Ask away in the comment box to the right. We will start the live Q and A on Wednesday at 12.30 London time.


In the last of four televised events, the leaders of the three main political parties are appearing in a special edition of Question Time on BBC1, just a week ahead of what the polls say will be the closest fought election in modern times.

Each will separately face 30 minutes of questions from a studio audience starting with Conservative prime minister David Cameron, followed by Labour leader Ed Miliband and rounded off by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister.

By George Parker and Kiran Stacey


This UK election was meant to be about the economy, where the government enjoys a hefty lead over its opponents. All it needs in the last 10 days is for the voters to turn their attention towards jobs and growth and government should be returned.

That, at least, was the plan – and today’s GDP figures ought not to overturn it. Growth of just 0.3 per cent compared to the 0.6 per cent expected is inconvenient for the spin doctors, but hardly heralds a return to recession. Moreover, it is normal for these preliminary figures to be badly out of whack. Many still remember the third quarter of 2009, when the ONS announced continued recession, and Goldman Sachs’ response was “Unbelievable. Literally”. Within a few years, this quarter of supposed stagnation was revised towards growth. Read more

Ed Miliband has reiterated a pledge he made a year ago – to cap rises in the rent that landlords can charge their tenants, writes Giles Wilkes.

Landlords are aghast, as are most of the economics fraternity. However, Mr Miliband is no fool. Behind what sounds like another clumsy attempt to misunderstand how the free market capitalism works, there are threads of political and economic logic.

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I highly recommend this post by Carl Gardner, a barrister and former government lawyer, about the legal basis for what happens when there is a hung parliament.

In it, Gardner makes a critical point: Read more

Kiran Stacey

The Scottish polls aren’t moving. Since Ipsos Mori shocked political observers at the end of October by showing a 29-point lead for the SNP, Labour have looked on course to lose dozens of seats to the Nationalists, perhaps ridding them of a Westminster majority.

This has unsurprisingly been seen as a disaster for Labour, and in the long run it probably is. But in the aftermath of what could be an incredibly tight general election result, Ed Miliband’s party might have managed to manoeuvre itself into a very strong position.

FT seat projection  Read more

The pre-election poster battle intensified on Tuesday as Labour launched a new image parodying Saatchi & Saatchi’s famous 1979 dole queue montage for Margaret Thatcher, a key moment in the history of visual campaigning. Read more

Last updated: April 5

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Leaders of seven of the parties standing in next month’s UK general election are appearing in a one-off TV debate on Thursday night.

This is the only occasion that Conservative prime minister David Cameron will appear on a podium at the same time as any of the others, including his main rival for Number 10 Downing Street, Labour leader Ed Miliband. But in what is predicted to be the closest election in modern times there is as much interest in the smaller parties who could hold the balance of power.

By Mark Odell and Jim Pickard


This week’s data are a timely reminder that with less than seven weeks to go until polling day and Labour and the Tories neck and neck when recently published polls are averaged, the relationship between poll leads and who might become prime minister is not straightforward. Read more


UKIP candidate Douglas Carswell won 21,113 votes, or 59.7% of the total, in Thursday’s by-election. This was 12,404 more than Conservative candidate Giles Watline, who came in second with 8,709 votes, or 24.6%. Read more

Jim Pickard

The Romans used to predict the future by examining the entrails of dead animals. These days we use opinion polls, often with similarly haphazard results.

Even some of the most robust Westminster commentators are refusing to make firm bets about how the landscape will look after next May’s general election. It will be the closest fought, most unpredictable, most exciting battle for a generation. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Four polls have been published in the last 24 hours, all suggesting the same thing: the race for next year’s general election is now neck and neck.

Of course it is a symbolic moment that two of these polls show the Tories two points ahead – they are the first polls to put the governing party in the lead since early 2012. But within the margin of error, the race is essentially tied.

So what has happened in the last few days and weeks to cause Labour to slip from a pretty steady five point lead?

Unfortunately, the Lord Ashcroft poll can’t tell us, as it is the first in a series and so has no previous survey against which we can accurately monitor trends. Even more frustratingly, the ICM and the Populus polls seem to suggest very differing reasons for the poll move. Read more

Jim Pickard

I’ve looked through Labour’s manifesto from 1979 and it looked more than vaguely familiar:

There are frequent mentions of “living standards”.

Labour will promise to take great care to “protect working people and their families through the hardships of change.”

Government DOES have a role in creating employment, limiting price rises, and helping industry – contrary to what the right wing believes.

Foremost in the party’s aim is to “keep a curb on inflation and prices” and help “men and women struggling with low pay”.

Labour believes that “fair earnings for working people” should be put ahead of the “demands of private profit.”

And then I looked at the specific policies and noticed rather a few which have been adopted by Ed Miliband’s Labour in opposition.

Strengthening and extending consumer protection.

Setting up “job creation programmes”.

Bank reform: “The banking sector would benefit from increased competition.” Read more

Kiran Stacey

The last PMQs before a recess is always important for doing what the session is really designed for: crystallising the mood of each side of the House.

Tomorrow MPs will head off to their constituencies for several weeks, where they will be unencumbered by daily Commons business and free of the whips’ influence. It is during these breaks that leaders can become unstable and plots can begin to form, and so it is even more important for the leaders of the two main parties to give their troops something to cheer at this time.

Under these terms, today’s PMQs was a clear victory for Cameron. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Last week, Ed Miliband was beaten by the prime minister after failing to build a clear narrative from his rather scattergun questions. This week he was more disciplined, and had a clear and coherent attack. For some reason however, it didn’t generate the response from Labour MPs you might expect.

The Labour leader decided to lead on the government’s decision to set a cap on the amount of interest payday lenders can charge. It might not have been an obvious attack, given Labour also supports the policy, but Miliband worked it cleverly to his advantage, asking why this sort of market intervention is a good thing, when capping energy energy prices constitutes “Marxism”:

How did he go from believing that intervening in the markets is living in a Marxist universe to believing it is the solemn duty of government?

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Kiran Stacey

In the wake of the Labour party conference, hacks returned from Brighton with one question for Tory advisers: how will you counter Ed Miliband’s energy price freeze?

We won’t, came the reply. We don’t want to get into a micro-battle about who has the best giveaways for the public on cost-of-living. We will keep the focus on the big picture, on the nascent economic recovery – how that is the only thing that can sustain rising living standards and only we can be trusted to safeguard it.

That policy made sense, and was stuck to for a few weeks at least. During his conference speech, the prime minister resisted the temptation to promise a big giveaway, or really, any significant policy whatsoever. His critics said it was lacklustre, his supporters said it perfectly matched the tone of “steady as she goes”. Read more