Closed Election: Sterling climbs above $1.30 for first time since late October — as it happened


Live coverage of the UK election campaign.

Good morning

Welcome back to Election Central.

With less than ten days to go until the election, Labour is closing the gap in the polls, but still trails significantly. US President Donald Trump has arrived in London ahead of a Nato summit taking place later this week. Will his appearance cause any upsets to Boris Johnson’s campaign?

Follow our live coverage here throughout the day, where we’ll be bringing you the latest news and insight as the campaign enters the final stretch.

Moody’s cuts outlook on UK banking system to ‘negative’

Moody’s has reduced its outlook on the UK banking system from stable to negative, saying Brexit uncertainty has weighed on “the country’s growth prospects” while low interest rates are hitting lenders’ profitability.

The credit rating agency said the low-rate environment and heightened competition in the mortgage market have hit banks’ net interest margins — the difference in the lenders’ cost of borrowing and the rate they charge clients for loans.

“The UK’s economy is weakening, making it more susceptible to shocks, and prolonged uncertainty over Brexit has reduced the country’s growth prospects,” said Laurie Mayers, associate managing director at Moody’s.

“Meanwhile, persistently low interest rates and increased mortgage market competition are eroding the net interest margins of most UK lenders. These challenges will outweigh the sector’s strong capital and liquidity buffers, and an expected decline in banks’ conduct costs.”

Raab: Johnson is taking a ‘leadership role’ by not meeting US president

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has said the role of the prime minister is to unite the UK’s allies and show the country is bigger than the sum of its parts.

He said that there will be no bilateral meeting between the two leaders because it is important to show unity of purpose. Speaking on BBC 4’s Today programme, he said it was the prime minister’s job to “bring all of our allies together in the same room and not siphoned off in bilaterals.”

Boris Johnson is refusing any meeting with Donald Trump, who arrived in the UK last night for a Nato summit later this week, in an effort to avoid unwelcome interventions in the campaign.

Mr Raab took the opportunity to attack Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s previous statements on the military alliance.

He [Mr Corbyn] said Nato should shut up shop… He stood on the side of Putin during the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

Labour: State needs to ‘intervene’ to protect workers’ rights

Laura Pidcock, shadow employment secretary, has said when businesses exploit their workers the state must do more to ensure trade union protection.

“We know that there are so many people who are in fear in the workplace in essence,” she told Sky News. “They have little power, there’s little worker voice and what we are saying is we would facilitate a system whereby those people would have much more voice through their trade union representatives.”

Labour is releasing its worker’s manifesto today. The party is seeking to introduce a £10 minimum wage, a ban on zero-hour contracts and for mid-shift breaks to be paid.

Jeremy Corbyn called out the “UK’s five worst employers”, naming Amazon, Uber Asda, Sports Direct and ISS.

“Despite the huge pressures facing our sector, we have worked to give a pay increase to almost 120,000 of our retail colleagues,” Asda said in response to the Labour leader. “Our contracts include a market leading benefits package and we do not use zero hour contracts.”

Tories on high alert for Trump intervention

Air Force One touched down in Stansted last night, kickstarting a nervous week for the Conservative election campaign.

With Donald Trump in town for a summit of Nato leaders, Tory HQ is on high alert over fears that the outspoken US president may make comments that could be seen as interfering in the UK election process — and which might hurt the party’s solid polling lead.

As the FT’s Sebastian Payne, George Parker and Jim Pickard report, British officials have urged Mr Trump not to intervene in the election campaign by endorsing Mr Johnson.

This is partly because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has cast the prime minister as being in the White House’s pocket, notably on a possible post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. But ministers know the president is highly unpredictable.

“We’re watching his Twitter feed and waiting for the inevitable comments,” said one UK minister, referring to Mr Trump.

We’ve tried to make it clear to the White House that Trump shouldn’t say anything about Corbyn or Brexit, but he probably can’t help himself.

Downing Street has been careful to avoid opportunities for Mr Johnson and Mr Trump to be seen together during the Nato summit, which takes place on Wednesday. No UK-US press conference is currently arranged, nor has a bilateral meeting been confirmed between the two.

But Mr Trump’s visit is not the only thing weighing on Conservative officials. Friday’s head-to-head TV debate between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn could boost Labour and there is a risk the Liberal Democrat vote could collapse, enabling Labour to hold on to the seats targeted by the Conservatives.

For more on this, check out Seb, Jim and George’s full piece here

Liam Fox hits out at ‘disgraceful’ use of NHS documents by Corbyn

The former international trade secretary Liam Fox has waded into the NHS “for sale” row, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of misleading people with his release of a 451 page dossier last week.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, Mr Fox, who was in charge of UK trade negotiations when the talks between officials happened, said:

The interpretation that there was any discussion that the NHS for sale is completely and utterly false and is being used I think in the most disgraceful way by Jeremy Corbyn.

He said that it had been made clear that the NHS was “not on the table in any shape or form” and that Mr Corbyn either failed to grasp that or was “being purposely misleading”.

Mr Fox specifically took issue with the “interpretation” of the minutes, as opposed to their veracity, noting that had no reason to believe were not genuine.

The NHS row returned to the spotlight yesterday after US researchers suggested that the dossier was first leaked online in a way that mirrored a recent Russian disinformation campaign.

Graphika, which has analysed the document leak alongside the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank, published a report that suggested the incident could point to potential foreign interference in the upcoming UK election. 

NHS back in the spotlight as Trump arrives in the UK

With the US president in town for this week’s Nato summit, the debate the NHS might be on the table in trade deal negotiations has moved back into focus.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, told BBC Breakfast that there will be “absolutely no negotiation” on the NHS and drug pricing. He was categorical that he has never advocated selling the NHS. This is despite co-authoring a book in 2011 called After the Coalition which advocated privatisation of health services.

Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly said the NHS is not for sale and that free healthcare is a human right. He is happy to walk away from trade negotiations if the US insists on its inclusion. Last week the Labour party leader produced leaked papers that claimed the NHS was “up for sale” in US trade talks.

The SNP claim the prospect the NHS is at risk from a US trade deal is a real prospect. The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said “The US would have an awful lot of clout and power in those talks.” He claimed that Donald Trump wants foreign governments paying a high price for US pharmaceuticals on BBC Radio 4′s Today Programme.

Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, said Mr Trump should deny the “complete fib” that the NHS will be on the table. He told BBC Breakfast that such an intervention would be appropriate because EU leaders consistently comment on UK politics.

Trump says he will be meeting Johnson

Donald Trump has said he will be meeting Boris Johnson during his trip to London, despite the fears of Conservative party officials that an endorsement by the US president might knock its lead.

Mr Trump confirmed the meeting at a press conference with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg just now. He did not say, however, whether it would be a bilateral session – something Tory officials have previously ruled out. He said he did not know when the meeting would take place.

The US president declined to offer any commentary on the UK election, which will likely have caused a sigh of relief from officials in Conservative HQ, which is on high alert for any intervention by Mr Trump.

“It’s going to be a very important election for this great country. But I have no thoughts on it,” Mr Trump said.

Trump: ‘I think Boris is very capable’

He couldn’t resist it.

Donald Trump reiterated his intention to stay out of the election, before immediately going on to praise Boris Johnson.

I think Boris is very capable and I think he’ll do a good job.

Speaking just now at a press conference with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Trump also said he could also work with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “I can work with anyone. I’m a very easy person to work with.”

The US president also said he was a “fan” of Brexit.

Trump: US wants ‘nothing to do’ with NHS

In another set of comments that will be welcomed by the Conservatives, Donald Trump said the US has no interest in the UK’s National Health Service.

US appetite for the privatisation of the NHS has been a key focus of this election, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisting the Conservatives would put it on the table in a trade deal, something Boris Johnson and his party have denied.

“I don’t even know where that rumour started,” Mr Trump said this morning. “We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn’t want to.”

If you handed it to us on a silver platter we’d want nothing to do with it.

Trump avoids wading into anti-Semitism row

Labour’s turn to breathe a sigh of relief now.

Donald Trump was asked for his thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn’s tackling of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. He responded that he knows “nothing” about Mr Corbyn.

I know nothing about the gentleman, Jeremy Corbyn. Know nothing about him.

He also avoided passing comment on Prince Andrew’s connections to the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal, saying:

I don’t know Prince Andrew but it’s a tough story.

Jo Swinson: Voting Conservative is giving into ‘Donald Trump’s politics’

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has launched a scathing attack on US President Donald Trump after his press conference with the Nato secretary general in which he praised Boris Johnson.

“A vote for Boris Johnson is a vote for Donald Trump’s politics”, she said in a tweet.

Corbyn on anti-Semitism: ‘Obviously I am sorry’

Jeremy Corbyn this morning apologised for Labour party anti-Semitism, but insisted he had been dealing and is continuing to deal with the issue.

Last week, the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the Labour leader had failed to deal with the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment within the party, accusing him of allowing “a new poison” to run through the party.

Mr Corbyn subsequently caused outrage by refusing to apologise to the Jewish community in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil.

But speaking on This Morning on ITV, Mr Corbyn, after some prompting, said: “Obviously I’m very sorry for everything that has happened”.

He added:

I want to make this clear. I am dealing with it. I have dealt with it. Other parties are also affected by anti-Semitism. Candidates have been withdrawn by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives and by us because of it. We just do not accept it in any form whatsoever.

Media regulator says climate debate does not warrant further investigation

The UK media watchdog has ruled last week’s climate debate featuring an ice sculpture in place of Boris Johnson does not warrant a deeper investigation.

The decision came after Mr Johnson claimed through a representative that Channel 4 “deprived the Conservative party of any representation in the debate”. The television network declined to allow Michael Gove, a cabinet minister, to stand in for prime minister Johnson in the debate.

Ofcom said on Tuesday “Channel 4’s use of editorial techniques ensured that the Conservative’s viewpoint on climate and environmental issues was adequately reflected and given due weight.”

It added:

The Committee also took into account that the globe ice sculpture was not a representation of the Prime Minister personally, and little editorial focus was given to it, either visually or in references made by the presenter or debate participants.


Sterling hits $1.30 for first time since late October

The pound has climbed to the $1.30 level for the first time since before the election campaign kicked off.

Sterling recently rose as much as 0.51 per cent against the US dollar to $1.3002, surpassing $1.30 for the first time since October 21. It was up by a similar margin against the euro at €1.1729.

UniCredit analysts note that the pound “is almost totally dependent on the upcoming UK election” next week. The latest update from the FT poll tracker shows the Tories are up by about 10 percentage points on Labour.

In recent weeks, higher odds of the Conservatives garnering a Commons majority has been a boon to the currency, with analysts saying such an outcome would help to alleviate persistent uncertainty (at least in the near-term) over Brexit.

Midday round-up: Today’s election news so far

With 10 days to go until the general election, US President Trump began his UK visit in London by remarking on the country’s campaign.

At a press conference with Nato general Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Trump praised Boris Johnson, saying: “I think Boris is very capable and I think he’ll do a good job”; adding that he would also work with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: “I can work with anyone. I’m a very easy person to work with.”

Mr Johnson has refused to meet bilaterally with the president, who arrived in the UK last night for the Nato summit later this week, in an attempt to avoid damaging the Tory’s comfortable lead in the polls.

The president ruled out any interest in doing trade deals involving the UK’s National Health Service, following controversial rumours that the Conservatives intend to offer up the NHS as part of a future trade package.

“If you handed it to us on a silver platter we’d want nothing to do with it,” said Mr Trump.

Despite the prime minister’s attempts to disassociate himself from the president’s visit, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson tweeted that: “A vote for Boris Johnson is a vote for Donald Trump’s politics”.

Meanwhile, Liam Fox hit out at “disgraceful” use of NHS documents by Mr Corbyn. Speaking on Sky News, Mr Fox, former international trade secretary, waded into the NHS “for sale” row, accusing Mr Corbyn of misleading people with his release of a 451 page dossier last week.

Laura Pidcock, Labour’s shadow employment secretary, said the state must do more to ensure trade union protection in the workplace.

Labour is releasing its worker’s manifesto today. The party is seeking to introduce a £10 minimum wage, a ban on zero-hour contracts and for mid-shift breaks to be paid. Mr Corbyn called out the “UK’s five worst employers”, naming Amazon, Uber Asda, Sports Direct and ISS.

Moody’s, the credit rating agency, reduced its outlook for the UK banking system from stable to negative saying Brexit uncertainty has weighed on the country’s growth prospects, while low interest rates are hitting lenders profits.

Rising number plan to vote tactically

Nearly one in three people plan to vote tactically in this election, according to the Electoral Reform Society, which is lobbying for a change to the voting system.

Polling for the group found that 30 per cent said they would vote “for the best-positioned party/candidate to keep out another party/candidate that I dislike”. That is up from 22 per cent at the start of the campaign.

There have been questions over how well national polling is picking up possible tactical voting, with several pro-EU organisations directing people on how to vote on a seat by seat basis, sometimes offering conflicting information.

The Electoral Reform Society said its findings “should sound alarm bells for our democracy”.

Its chief executive Darren Hughes said:

Given the number of contradictory tactical vote recommendations out there this election is looking like a lottery under Westminster’s broken voting system – one where we all lose.

Earlier today Hugh Grant, the actor who has endorsed tactical voting against the Conservatives, chided the Liberal Democrats for claiming they are the only party who can stop Boris Johnson.

Constituency focus: Foyle

There were just 169 votes separating winner from runner up in the Foyle constituency in 2017. This time around the marginal Northern Ireland seat is set to be just as much of a battle.

The last election saw the nationalist Sinn Féin party narrowly squeeze in ahead of moderate nationalist rivals the Social Democratic and Labour party, with the latter suffering a wipeout across all three of its seats on the night.

Sinn Féin picked up two of those for a tally of seven seats as voters rowed in behind the more hardline proponents of nationalism. A similar theme prevailed on the unionist side, with the moderate Ulster Unionist party losing both of its Commons seats as voters shifted to the more extreme Democratic Unionist party.

This year SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is hoping to wrest Foyle back into SDLP hands from Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion. Prior to 2017, Foyle had long been an SDLP stronghold, with Nobel Peace Prize winner and Good Friday Agreement co-architect John Hume holding it for five elections from its creation in 1983.

Underlining the emphasis both nationalist parties are placing on winning the seat — which comprises the border city of Derry — Sinn Féin launched its manifesto there yesterday and the SDLP will do likewise tomorrow.

Sinn Féin, which won seven seats at the last election, practices a policy of abstention, meaning they do not take their seats at Westminster as they do not recognise Westminster jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. The SDLP, conversely, do take their seats.

Fighting fit on the campaign trail

Chris Tighe, the FT’s northeast England correspondent, reports from Stockton:

This is the stage in a general election campaign when candidates, already weary but still with more than a week to go, may start to feel battered and somewhat drained.

Maybe a doctor could offer some tips. And who better than Dr Paul Williams, a 50-year-old GP who is fighting to retain Stockton South for Labour?

On an icy early December afternoon, ‘Dr Paul’, as he is introduced by canvassers on the doorstep, is maintaining a relentless pace to cover the ground in the constituency, which he won in 2017 by just 888 votes.

His schedule on Sunday was:

• Out at 6am for a one hour-plus cycle ride.
• Post-breakfast fun run with seven-year-old daughter.
• Canvassing door to door.
• Lunchtime Christmas fair; bowl of soup.
• Canvassing door to door.
• Teatime turning on of Christmas lights in Yarm.
• Canvassing.
• Evening political social event.

How does he do it? Not by losing sleep; the app on his phone shows he had slept more than seven hours most nights recently, with six and a half hours being the least kip he’s had and one night achieving eight hours.

His top tip for candidates is: “Keep up morale among your team. I’m supported by my team. My job is to keep them happy. If I keep morale high they keep uplifting me.”

Clearly though, good long term habits matter too: his enthusiasm for triathlons must have helped build his impressive stamina. And previous challenges – being a junior doctor in his twenties and working in healthcare in his thirties in Uganda — put canvassing into context.

“That was tough,” he says. “This is just a general election in winter.”

Almost half of UK adults believe Conservatives likely to spread fake news

The Brexit party and Conservatives are believed to be the most likely to spread fake news, according to new research. A poll of 1,100 UK adults reveals the extent to which the voting public believe media bias and fictitious stories have become pervasive in the run-up to the General Election on December 12.

Conducted by Intuit Research, the poll showed 50 per cent of adults believe the Brexit party is likely to spread fake news, compared with 47 per cent for the Conservatives and 43 per cent for Labour.

Over half of those surveyed thought the news media reported bogus stories and Labour voters are more likely to believe fake news is a problem.

Stephen Yap, director at Intuit Research said:

This election will be remembered for taking place during a period of heightened public awareness of fake news. Our poll reveals that people across the country of all affiliations believe they are being misinformed by politicians and the media.

This comes after the Will Moy, the chief executive of Full Fact, an indepenent fact checker, told the FT that all parties have been aggressive in their misrepresentation of others.

The Tories changed their official Twitter page during the first TV debate to make it seem as if they were an independent fact checker called factcheckUK. The Labour party continues to insist the NHS is on the table in a trade deal with the US, despite both prime minister Boris Johnson and US president Donald Trump refuting the allegations.

Signs of shifting allegiances in Surrey’s Tory heartlands

Prosperous pro-Remain voters are deserting the Conservatives, reports Sebastian Payne, the FT’s Whitehall correspondent.

Along the Thames Valley, south-west of London, lies the land of Aston Martins and mock Tudor mansions. Residents of the capital flee to this corner of Surrey when they become wealthy, fed up with the city yet not quite ready for country living. Politically, it is solidly Conservative — or it was.

Earlier this year, the Liberal Democrats decided they had a shot at winning the Surrey seat of Esher and Walton.

The Lib Dems have a strong presence on the ground here, and with two weeks until polling day, their canvassing returns suggest that many anti-Brexit Conservative voters are abandoning their old allegiances.

But it is not only in Esher where the Lib Dems are buoyant. There is a band of pro-Remain seats south-west of London in which voters are flirting with deserting the Tories.

If Mr Johnson wins and takes Britain out of the EU, moderately wealthy, pro-Remain Britons who previously voted Conservative may be looking for a new political home.

To see the full article, click here.

Bets on pound volatility climb ahead of election

Sterling has risen above $1.30 for the first time since late October as investors bank on a Boris Johnson victory next week.

But shifts in the options market, where bets are made on exchange rates, show expectations for sterling volatility over the next two weeks have shot higher as the election nears.

“While a Conservative majority is the most likely outcome at this stage, we know, to paraphrase Harold Wilson, that one week is a long time in politics, let alone two,” said Bill Dinning, chief investment officer at Waverton Investment Management.

“In our view market volatility will likely return when we know the election result.”

FT analysis: Donald Trump on best behaviour (for now)

James Blitz, FT Whitehall editor, reports:

Donald Trump has begun his three-day trip to Britain on best behaviour — at least as far as the Conservative party’s top brass are concerned.

On the eve of this week’s Nato summit, the great fear in Tory circles has been that the US president might say something that undermines the Conservatives’ consistent lead over Labour in opinion polls.

But on Tuesday morning Mr Trump avoided giving Labour and Jeremy Corbyn the quotes they want.

One concern was that Mr Trump might say something glowingly positive about Boris Johnson — which would do the prime minister no good given how unpopular the president is in the UK.

But Mr Trump told reporters he had “no thoughts” on the UK election and could work with anybody.

Another worry was that he might repeat a comment he recently made that the National Health Service would have to be “on the table” in a post-Brexit trade negotiation between Britain and the US.

But today he quashed that, saying: “If you handed [the NHS] to us on a silver platter, we wouldn’t want it. We want nothing to do with it.”

Of course, in the big scheme of things, none of these assurances from Mr Trump matters. We know that if Mr Corbyn enters Downing Street, the US will find it extraordinarily difficult to work with him — and vice versa.

It’s obvious who the White House wants to see in Number 10 after this election.

For more on this, check out James’s Brexit Briefing newsletter here

Labour closes in on Tory lead

Ten days off the general election and the Labour party are closing on the Conservatives’ comfortable lead in the polls.

Labour’s projected vote share rose by 4 percentage points in the polls on Tuesday compared to the previous week, up from 29 percent to 33 percent, according to the FT’s UK election poll tracker.

According to pollsters YouGov, Labour now holds its highest vote share since February.

In third place are the Liberal Democrats, sitting 30 points behind the Tories and 20 points behind Labour, with 13 percent of the share. The position of Jo Swinson’s party, which aims to stop Brexit, fell two percentage points compared to last Tuesday.

Despite Labour’s gains, the Tories maintain a safe majority with a 10 percentage point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Higher odds on a Conservative majority victory in the House of Commons have been a boon to Sterling in recent weeks, as analysts predict greater certainty over the Brexit outcome, at least in the near-term.

Sterling recently rose as much as 0.51 per cent against the US dollar to $1.3002, surpassing $1.30 for the first time since October 21. It was up by a similar margin against the euro at €1.1729.

Downing Street hosts world leaders

The election campaign is taking place against the backdrop of this week’s Nato summit, and Downing Street has hosted several world leaders this afternoon.

German chancellor Angela Merkel was pictured entering Boris Johnson’s residence earlier, as was Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One man who is not expected to visit is Donald Trump. The Tory high command is terrified that the president may boost Jeremy Corbyn by wading into the election.

Mr Trump could not help pass comment earlier today, but so far he has been on best behaviour. The president told reporters he had “no thoughts” on the election and could work with anybody.

CBI head disappointed with parties’ economic policies

Reports Andy Bounds, FT’s north of England correspondent and enterprise editor:

Britain’s biggest lobby group for large businesses is increasingly unhappy with the tone of the campaign. Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director-general, was in Hull on the day Labour named and shamed Britain’s “five worst employers” and called for greater union power.

Declining to criticise Labour’s leadership directly, she told the FT that “we play the ball not the man (or woman)”. But she said politicians “need to recognise the huge value business creates”.

Dame Carolyn was in Hull at the opening of a new £105m research and innovation centre by RB, the consumer products company, which will create 200 jobs. A £95m factory investment will preserve 1,400 more in one of the UK’s most deprived cities. The company behind Dettol, Nurofen and Strepsils has also given millions over recent years to local charities.

None of the parties had a well-thought through plan with the Conservatives failing to spell out what kind of relationship they would have with the EU after Brexit, she said.

“The economy has tended to be too much in the background,” Dame Carolyn said, even though growth is slowing. Every day seemed to bring a new spending commitment, in a “fast paced” campaign.

“We are going to have to work out what it all adds up to when the dust settles.”

One commitment the CBI does favour is to lift public and private R&D spending from 1.7 per cent of GDP to 2.4 per cent (Labour wants 3 per cent). Businesses like RB are ready to play their part, Dame Carolyn said.

For more analysis of Labour’s workers’ policy, click here.

Labour loyalty shifts in England’s north-east

Alarm bells should be ringing at Labour HQ about the party’s unpopularity in many Leave-voting constituencies, reports Andy Bounds in Hull.

Hull has not had a Conservative MP since 1964. But Steve Brady, the Labour council leader for Hull City, who voted for the first time that year, is seriously concerned.

“It’s very close in some seats. We can take nothing for granted,” he said.

Two-thirds of Hull’s public voted for Brexit, and as a result many older voters who have stuck with Labour all their lives are willing to turn to the Conservatives, he added.

The city that was represented by former deputy prime minister John Prescott for decades also has little time for Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader, and his hard left policies. Those who remember the workers’ strikes and stagnation of the late 1970s fear a return, said Mr Brady.

Great Grimsby, a Labour constituency since 1945, has almost certainly been lost and Scunthorpe, the steel-making town south of the Humber river, is also under threat.

A reminder of those majorities Mr Brady is worried about:

Hull West and Hessle — Emma Hardy (8,035)
Hull North — Diana Johnson (14,322)
Hull East — Karl Turner (10,396)

Tories and Lib Dems battle in Gloucestershire

From the north-east to the Cotswolds, where the FT’s Sebastian Payne has been on the campaign trail in Cheltenham. Here is his dispatch:

The Conservative party is watching the Liberal Democrats to see if their vote is being squeezed. In the party’s key targets in the midlands and north, it is hoping that their strong performance will split the pro-Remain vote with the Labour party and let in the Tory candidate.

But one seat where the Tories would prefer a weaker Lib Dem performance is in the spa town of Cheltenham, where it is locked in one of the tightest battles of this election. The constituency has swung between the two parties and, as a strongly pro-EU area, the local campaign has become a proxy fight over Brexit.

Alex Chalk, the incumbent Conservative, is hopeful of re-election but admits the outcome is on a “knife edge”. He is facing the dual threats of Brexit — Mr Chalk campaigned for Remain but now advocates Mr Johnson’s exit deal — and the personality of the prime minister, who does not exactly chime with the town’s highbrow reputation.

Much of his campaign rests on his personal reputation, as well as the typical Tory message across the country about the dangers of Jeremy Corbyn taking charge of the country. He also hopes to persuade voters that having an MP as part of the governing party will be a boon, rather a parliamentarian in a smaller party.

He is facing Max Wilkinson, a local Lib Dem councillor and former journalist, who is hoping to capitalise on the town’s unease about leaving the EU. His campaign has been boosted by visits from the party’s leadership and a strong activist base, thanks to the ‘Cheltenham for Europe’ group. Plus, the seat is part of the Unite to Remain electoral pact: there is no Green party candidate standing, allowing the Lib Dems open to lap up the pro-EU vote.

But Mr Chalk has been working hard and has benefited from the help of several ministers: health secretary Matt Hancock dropped in to promote his decision to keep the local hospital’s A&E unit open, which has proven popular. Former prime minister Theresa May and chancellor Sajid Javid have also visited. He was boosted by the party’s moderate manifesto, which has been well received.

My colleague Pilita Clarke came to Cheltenham a few weeks ago for an in-depth profile of the seat and concluded that the Liberal Democrats are in with a strong chance of winning. I’d agree. As the campaign has gone on, the party is facing the same squeeze as in the rest of Britain but neither side is eager to claim the result is in the bag.

According to YouGov’s MRP model of the electorate, Cheltenham is a tossup. Palpably, that is how it feels on the ground. Ultimately it may come down to differential turnout. If the town’s Remainers are especially motivated to turn out, the Lib Dems may take the seat back. But if the seat follows what is expected across the rest of the UK, Mr Chalk may yet sneak back in.

Markets hit by rising concerns over global trade

Away from the election, Donald Trump has been moving markets from here in London.

At a Nato press conference, Mr Trump suggested a trade deal with China could be delayed until after the US presidential election in November next year.

US stocks are on course for their biggest one-day drop in two months, while US government bonds have jumped the most in a year and a half.

You can catch up with the latest market moves here.

Today’s election wrap

Donald Trump arrived in London for the Nato summit just ten days ahead of next week’s general election. The president confirmed his support for the “very capable” Boris Johnson but said he had “no thoughts” on the UK election and that he could work with anybody.

The president also responded to speculation that the US would seek to do trade deals with a future Conservative government over the National Health Service, saying: “If you handed it to us on a silver platter we’d want nothing to do with it.”

Sterling rose to above $1.30 for the first time since late October as investors banked on a Conversative victory at the polls. Analysts said such an outcome would reduce uncertainty over the Brexit result.

But shifts in the options market, where bets are made on exchange rates, show volatility in sterling is expected to increase as the election date nears.

Meanwhile, Labour inched forward in the polls, closing the Tory’s comfortable leadership gap by four percentage points compared to last Tuesday, according to the FT’s poll tracker.

According to pollster YouGov, this represents Labour’s highest vote share since February.

That’s all for now

We are going to wrap up the live coverage for this evening, and will be back first thing tomorrow.

Have a great evening.