Jim Pickard

Ministers have been wrangling for years over how to introduce a new law allowing voters to kick out MPs who break the law.

But the final result has fallen far short of what was expected from some of its leading advocates, such as Tory MPs Zac Goldsmith and Douglas Carswell. It is not “Total Recall”, they say.

Mr Goldsmith said on Wednesday that the new law was “meaningless” – and vowed to work with Labour to amend the legislation.

Under the Recall of MPs Bill, constituents will be able to sack their MP if they are sentenced to up to 12 months in jail. Alternatively, they could trigger a by-election if the Commons’ authorities (usually the Standards and Privileges Committee) decides there has been “serious wrongdoing” by a Right Hon. Member. A by-election would then occur if 10 per cent of constituents signed a Read more

Maija Palmer

Is the referendum debate causing a rift in Scottish society? The Church of Scotland is worried enough about this to propose a service of reconciliation following the vote in September. We put the question to our panelists – were their personal relationships strained? Were they worried about life after September 18?

Most of them said no – Scots are grown up enough to have the debate without lasting damage. But interestingly, our pro-Union panelists were the ones most clearly voicing fears about a divide. Read more

Jim Pickard

Danny Alexander is in a cheerful mood this morning, hailing a “jobs-rich recovery” on the back of fresh employment data. The figures “leave Labour’s economic narrative in tatters”, says the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury.

Certainly, earnings are nudging ahead of inflation for the first time in six years – if you ignore a bonus-related blip in 2010.

(Average earnings rose 1.7 per cent in the three months to March on a year earlier, nudging ahead of March’s 1.6 per cent consumer price inflation rate.)

If that trend continues it could seriously wound Labour’s “Cost of Living” narrative.

Although – and this is a major caveat – the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that real incomes will not return to their 2009-10 levels until 2018 at the earliest.

Employment soared by nearly a third of a million in only a quarter, the biggest three-month jump in over 40 years.

(Employment continued to rise rapidly, up by 283,000 to a record 30.43m in the three months to March compared with the previous quarter, the biggest quarterly increase since records began in 1971.)

Expect to hear lots of noise about this from David Cameron at PMQs later today.

And yet, the labour market is still not quite as wholesome as coalition ministers would like to suggest.

Today’s figures show a further drop in youth unemployment by 48,000, taking it to its lowest level since 2008. And yet young people are 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

John Aglionby

Ian Read, chairman and chief executive of US pharmaceuticals company Pfizer; Pascal Soriot, chief executive of its British rival AstraZeneca; and Vince Cable, the UK business secretary, are answering questions from MPs on the business, innovation and skills select committee on Pfizer’s proposed £63bn takeover of AstraZeneca. Union leaders are also appearing.

By John Aglionby and Hannah Kuchler

 

Kiran Stacey

Nigel Farage in Scotland

Nigel Farage in Scotland last year

Nigel Farage is in Edinburgh today, trying to improve his party’s reputation north of the border.

He is unlikely to receive a warm reception, even if it doesn’t go as badly as last time, when he was forced (!) to barricade himself in a pub when surrounded by dozens of anti-Ukip protesters telling him to “Go home to England.” Read more

Jim Pickard

It is the Lib Dems who complain most vociferously about Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system.

If Britain had PR (proportional representation) the yellow party would have had 150 MPs in the current Parliament. Instead, they picked up 57 seats.

That may explain why Lib Dems are apostles of electoral reform.

But in 2015 they may appear beneficiaries of the voting system – at least in comparison with Ukip.

That is because most experts predict that the LibDem vote will hold firm in their strongholds such as Colchester, Eastleigh or Twickenham, where they retain a decent ground presence. Senior figures still expect to hold at least 40 seats, even if the party’s share of the vote was to halve from its previous showing of 23 per cent. Read more

Maija Palmer

The FT has already written more than 800 articles referencing the Scottish independence referendum – and there are still five months of campaigning and debate to go. But what are the Scots themselves saying?

From more than 280 applicants we have selected a group of seven Scottish readers to give us their views as the campaign develops. Two support independence, two would like Scotland to remain part of the UK, and three have yet to make up their minds. Read more

Kiran Stacey

The Sunday Times’ front page this weekend will have surprised many people who are watching the Scottish referendum campaign with interest. The paper reported a new poll by Panelbase showing a bump for the independence campaign. Their headline read: Read more

Maija Palmer

Kiran Stacey

With two months to go until the European elections, the leaders of the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party went head-to-head tonight in a live televised debate on the issue of Britain’s membership of the EU. This was the FT’s live coverage. By Kiran Stacey

20.50 Well there we have it. A clear win for Nigel Farage in the first Europe debate, if not necessarily for those who want the UK to leave the EU. Both sides will try to claim victory in the coming days though – and the real test will come on May 22 at the European elections. Read more

John Aglionby

Steady as she goes is the underlying message George Osborne is presenting in his fifth budget as he stresses there can be no let-up in the government’s austerity drive, despite the accelerating economic recovery.

By John Aglionby, Lina Saigol and Jonathan Eley