UK politics

A summary of today’s events

April 28

Weak output from the construction and production industries caused first quarter UK growth to slow to its lowest level since 2012, casting a shadow over election campaigning.

The Conservative party announced it would create 50,000 new apprenticeships with Deutsche Bank’s £200m settlement over allegations it manipulated the Libor interbank borrowing rate.

Ed Miliband attempted to toe a sensitive line on immigration by announcing a 10-point plan to “control immigration” with 1,000 extra border staff and full exit checks for travellers. To appease party activists he emphasised that migrant labour should not be exploited and asylum seekers not left in an indefinite detention period.

The Liberal Democrats drew another red line for a post-election coalition deal, saying this time it would impose an emergency “stability budget” that would effectively obstruct Conservative plans to cut £12bn of welfare support. However, a study from the Resolution Foundation think-tank indicated it would be difficult for a deal to be struck without the Lib Dems accepting the cuts.

A group of voters from the Glasgow East constituency suggested that Glasgow – once the “second city of the British empire” – is polling SNP because of disillusionment with the rightwing drift of the Labour party.

Anarcho-comedian Russell Brand provoked a political squabble after it emerged that he interviewed Ed Miliband on Monday night. David Cameron said “Russell brand is a joke,” provoking the anger of Brand’s 9.56m Twitter followers.

April 27

After Sunday’s rent cap announcement, Ed Miliband on Monday made a second housing-related policy offer, saying a Labour government would help first-time buyers onto the property ladder by abolishing stamp duty on starter homes worth up to £300,000. Read more

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

Jim Pickard

Grace McCloud, sitting in the garden of her council house in Possilpark, listened patiently as Willie Bain asked for her vote.

We can get the Tories out and start delivering fairness in this country,” he told her. “Aye,” she replied, nodding.

We won’t get fairness while they’re still in.” Again she replied, smiling: “Aye.”

After Mr Bain disappeared up the street she gave her honest opinion. “No, I’m voting SNP. I’m all for independence,” she said.

Possilpark is one of the most deprived areas in Glasgow, scarred by the decline of manufacturing since the 1980s: out of 70,000 adults only 28,000 are registered taxpayers. Read more

The chart below shows the 2010 general election result for every seat in Great Britain with the colour showing the party that won . Dots that are nearer the apex of the triangle had a higher vote share for Labour in 2010, those closer to the bottom left; for the conservatives while the bottom right corner shows the share for all other parties.

You can already see in this chart where the battlegrounds lie as the colours meet where one party is getting about 40 per cent of the vote. Read more

It might be the closest general election in living memory, but another coalition government after May 7 won’t affect your ability to find a new job. That’s the implication of a new survey of 600 employers by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

Just 4 per cent say they’ll cut back on their hiring plans if there is another coalition. For the majority (64 per cent) it will make no difference whatsoever. The remainder say they don’t know. Read more

Nearly half a million people on Monday took advantage of their last chance to get on the electoral register before the general election, setting a new daily record.

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UK voters will elect a new parliament in a general election on May 7. Our poll-of-polls tracks all national-level voting intention polling figures going back to the 2010 election – the dots on our chart – and then calculates a rolling score for each party adjusted for recency and different pollsters. Read more

In bitesized form, here is a checklist of what we do – and don’t know about the man who would be prime minister’s plans:

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If the SNP achieves anything like the victory polls suggest, we will discover quite how committed unionists really are towards the union. There will be a great temptation to respond violently to the good jock – bad jock tactics of Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond. There will also be a growing enthusiasm – especially among Conservatives – to exchange home rule in Scotland for English votes on English laws. Of course, this is what the SNP wants them to think : that the only way to destroy nationalism is to destroy the union.

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

 

Some supporters of Scottish independence believe in the conspiracy theory that MI5 was working against a Yes vote. Others have so much optimism bias about the economics of independence that I worry there is dopamine* in their Irn-Bru.

And let’s not mention the secret oil fieldsRead more

Martin Freeman video

 

The Labour Party has always boasted the lion’s share of celebrity endorsements and this election promises to be no different as the opposition tonight releases an election broadcast starring Sherlock actor Martin Freeman and Doctor Who hero David Tennant.

The video, which will run at 5.55pm on BBC Two, 6.55pm on BBC One and 6.25pm on ITV, features Freeman telling a camera that the 2015 general election will be “a choice between two completely different sets of values.” Read more

Take a look at our new graphic which details our four key battlegrounds: SNP target seats; Tory-Labour marginals; the rise of Ukip; and the collapse in Lib Dem support.

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

Jim Pickard

Research by Elizabeth Rigby, Jim Pickard, Kiran Stacey and George Parker

The refurbishment of Muni Theatre in Pendle might not seem an obvious priority for George Osborne in his annual Budget statement.

But the north-western town is one of a number of marginal election battlegrounds to have benefited from the chancellor’s generosity just weeks from polling day. Read more

“If we sat here 40 years ago, having this conversation your point would probably have been valid. I don’t think it is today. I really don’t think it is today.” — Nigel Farage, Channel 4, 12 March, via BBC.co.uk

In an interview with Trevor Phillips, former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, to be broadcast by Channel 4 next week, Nigel Farage argues that laws against racial discrimination are no longer necessary. He also insists that the United Kingdom Independence party, which he leads, is a “colour blind” political party. Read more

The idea that a staunchly leftwing Scotland is ideologically different – and diverging – from England is among the arguments used by advocates of independence.

One of the ways this is supposedly expressed is via Scots’ more liberal attitudes to immigration. During the referendum campaign, the leaders of the Yes side called for a more open policy than the UK government’s. And for the most part, they expressed a nationalism based on citizenship rather than on ethnic or family ties. Alex Salmond, then leader of the Scottish National party, contrasted a Scotland that welcomed immigrants with an England increasingly uneasy with its border policies. Read more

Given the Scottish National party’s imperious poll ratings it easy to conclude that, despite the Yes side’s defeat in last year’s referendum, independence is inevitable.

But the release on Wednesday of annual fiscal figures from the Scottish Government suggest that, at least when it comes to the economic case for independence, 2014 was an unusually good year for nationalists, one that may not repeat itself anytime soon. Read more

HSBC’s chief executive Stuart Gulliver is due to appear before the Public Accounts select committee at 3:15pm amid a scandal over its role in alleged tax-dodging by clients of the company’s Swiss private banking arm

He will be joined by Chris Meares, former chief executive of HSBC Global Private Banking, and Rona Fairhead, a non-executive director of HSBC where she is a member of the financial system vulnerabilities committee as well as the nomination commitee. Ms Fairhead is a former chief executive of the Financial Times Group.

By Mark Odell and Jim Pickard