British Election ’15

MAY 7 – ELECTION DAY – MAY 8

UPDATE – 9 AM ET

In a scene resembling a Game of Thrones character cull, a “sorry” Ed Miliband said he was stepping down as Labour leader and that Harriet Harman would take the position temporarily. Nick Clegg also resigned as leader of the Lib Dems after what he called “the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded.” 

The Telegraph writes that Miliband “urged the party to have an “open and honest debate” about its future,” and that supporters should “pick yourself up and continue the fight” after the party’s worst performance at a general election since Neil Kinnock was leader.

It is worth remembering that even if Labour had held all of their seats in Scotland, they would still have finished well behind the Tories. Channel 4’s Paul Mason writes:

Labour today is waking up to something much worse than failure to win. It has failed to account for its defeat in 2010, failed to recognise the deep sources of its failure in Scotland, and failed to produce any kind of intellectual diversity and resilience from which answers might arise.

Clegg’s party, meanwhile, was reduced from 57 to 8 MPs, its political influence likely destroyed for years to come.

With 643 of 650 seats declared, the BBC projects the final totals to be: Conservative 331, Labour 232, the Lib Dems 8, the SNP 56, Plaid Cymru 3, UKIP 1, the Greens 1 and others 19.

Overall, the turnout was 66.1 per cent – the highest for a general election since Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, also resigned as leader of his party after failing to win in Thanet South. He attacked as “bankrupt” the first-past-the-vote system, which gave the SNP 56 seats and UKIP one, despite them getting roughly the same number of votes. UKIP also came second in 118 seats.

Here’s a montage of Thursday’s election night in 90 seconds

(BBC)

All in all, it was a simply remarkable, unexpected, even gripping night. What happens next will be just as fascinating.

 

3.20 AM ET

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls became the biggest casualty of the night for Labour, losing his seat in Morley and Outwood to the Conservatives.

Could he re-emerge as the spouse of the next Labour leader?

What’s the Lib Dem total in lost deposits?

Finally,

 

2.15 AM ET

There is a recount in Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls’s seat of Morley and Outwood, apparently requested by the Labour man.

The Guardian‘s Alberto Nardelli writes on How did the polls get it so wrong?

But at times, like on Thursday, or at the recent Israeli general election, polls get it wrong. At this stage it’s impossible to know why. It could be simply that people lied to the pollsters, that they were shy or that they genuinely had a change of heart on polling day. Or there could be more complicated underlying challengeswithin the polling industry, due for example to the fact that a diminishing number of people use landlines or that internet polls are ultimately based on a self-selected sample.

 

1.20 AM ET

It has been remarkable night. As Janan Ganesh writes at the FT:

Years will pass before we arrive at some understanding of what has just happened in Britain. David Cameron will struggle to make sense of it on Friday morning, even as he savours electoral vindication and at least a few more years as prime minister.

There is swirling speculation over the futures of both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg this morning, as David Cameron heads back to Downing Street contemplating the challenge of holding together the union.

Meanwhile, there is set to be a real discussion over the future of the first-past-the-post system. There’s also likely to be an interesting post-mortem among opinion pollsters who consistently indicated the country was heading for a hung parliament.

Northern Ireland’s count is complete.

 

12.30 AM ET

Ed Miliband holds his seat, saying Labour had been hit by a “wave of nationalism” in Scotland and that he was “deeply sorry” for his colleagues who had lost their seats.

 

12 MIDNIGHT

With roughly half of the 650 seats declared, it has been a truly horrible night for the Liberal Democrats. Leader Nick Clegg – who held his own seat with a hugely reduced majority – called his party’s performance “cruel and punishing” as speculation swirled about whether he would resign later today.

11.10 PM ET

Labour could have a new leader sooner rather than later. Rowena Mason writes at The Guardian that recriminations over tonight’s poor showing are manifesting quickly, even to the point where a shortlist of potential successors is already being discussed.

Labour sources said one of the factors affecting whether Miliband would resign was the possibility of a second election. Senior party figures agonise over whether there would be time to get a new leader in place if there was another contest soon.

But the temptation would be to replace him if a second election took place in more than a year’s time. Possible candidates include the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, and shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna.

The Lib Dems’ leader Nick Clegg is also under fire after his party’s meltdown, with Andrew Marr on the BBC saying: “You have to wonder if any decision in recent political history has proved more catastrophic than the Lib Dems decision to enter into coalition with the Tories.”

The Mail, meanwhile, is the Mail

10.15 PM ET

The knives are coming out for Ed Miliband.

9.30 PM ET

It’s all a bit of a kicking isn’t it?

A series of Scottish seats saw some remarkable swings from Labour to the SNP. In what was probably the first genuine “Portillo moment”, 20-year-old Mhairi Black defeated Labour’s campaign chief and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. She becomes the youngest MP since 1667.

8.50 PM ET

Nuneaton was one of the key seats tonight, it was certainly seen as a must-win marginal for Labour. the Conservatives increased their share of the vote.

John Curtice on the BBC said if Nuneaton was an indicator, there is now the possibility of an overall Tory majority.

“In practice, with a three-point swing in their favour, the Tories have succeeded in defending this highly marginal seat. In practice, we now have to take seriously the possibility that the Tories could get an overall majority. “

The second editions are well under way, but it seems increasingly likely that the initial BBC exit poll was in fact in the general ballpark. For the Mirror, certainly…

The Lib Dems’ bad night continues. The SNP appears pretty confident that it has ousted Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander in Inverness, while Simon Hughes could be out in Bermondsey after 32 years. The Mayor of London’s race next year could be very full indeed.

Meanwhile, this petition to reform the voting system broke 100,000 signatures.

8PM ET 

In the first relatively marginal contest of the night, Swindon North, the Conservatives held the seat – making Justin Tomlinson the first male MP elected tonight – and increased their majority, giving the first indication that the exit poll could be on track after all. The Lib Dems lost another deposit.

The BBC reported that there’s a recount in George Galloway’s seat in Bradford West, before saying there wasn’t, but that Galloway may have lost and next year’s race for Mayor of London might have another candidate.

7.10 PM ET

Three results in – all Labour holds in Sunderland constituencies and all women MPs – but the conversation is still dominated by reactions to the exit poll, obviously with the first editions of the papers already going to press. And in that conversation, a word that’s getting a lot of mileage is “caveat.”

telegraphThe Telegraph / Tomorrow’s Papers Today

John Curtice says at the BBC:

You can watch the Sky News feed on YouTube here:

(Sky News)

6.20 PM ET

Another result – Sunderland Central – another hold for Labour. UKIP comes third behind the Tories, but increased their vote by 17 per cent over the last election. Turnout was 57 per cent. The Lib Dems lost their deposit for the second time tonight.

Rumours that shadow chancellor Ed Balls may be in trouble in his Morley constituency, where he is defending a majority of just 1,101.

Meanwhile, Paddy Ashdown’s hat is apparently trending on Twitter. Not wanting to be left out, Alastair Campbell upped the ante, pledging a kilt snack.

This might be a tad early, but…

5.50 PM ET

First result of the night, from Houghton and Sunderland South, which has been the first to declare in each of the last five elections. Labour’s Bridget Phillipson was handily re-elected in a safe seat, but the real news was UKIP’s second place finish.

Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian writes on the unexpected exit poll:

It’s fair to say no one was expecting that. Not the political parties, not the punditocracy and – least of all – the pollsters. The exit poll that came on the stroke at 10pm will have caused ashen faces at Labour headquarters. At Lib Dem towers, the spirits would have crumpled in an instant. At Tory mission control, the joy would have been unconfined.

But all of them would have remembered the lessons of exit polls past. The Labour tribe – and the polling fraternity – are haunted by the experience of 1992, when the 10pm poll prepared the nation for Prime Minister Neil Kinnock.

Pretty depressing front on tomorrow’s Mirror…

5 PM ET

Polling stations are now closed and results will start to come in approximately an hour from now.

The BBC’s 10pm exit poll appeared to repudiate the final opinion polls, which showed the main parties neck-and-neck, by indicating that the Conservatives would win the most seats – 316, against Labour’s 239 – but still short of a majority.

There was some skepticism about the mismatch with the range of final opinion polls. Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown says if the exit poll is right “he’ll eat [his] hat,” even though he doesn’t actually own a hat, while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was also reserved.

Meanwhile..

 

4 PM ET

Polling Stations close in one hour.

Here’s a list of estimated declaration times, according to UKGeneralElection2015, starting as usual with Sunderland South approximately one hour after polls close.

(YouTube/Pipes90)

The Scotsman reports that earlier allegations of intimidation at a polling place have been dismissed by the local council.

Corinne Purtill writes at Global Post about partisanship among the British press and that by now infamous email this morning to readers from the editor of The Daily Telegraph.

3 PM ET

Polling Stations close in two hours. Here’s where to stream the results live, via HuffPo. If you’re in the US, there’s TV coverage on both C-Span (which is carrying the ITV broadcast), and on the BBC World News channel.

The regional pictures even beyond Scotland are also going to be interesting, given the potential for kingmaking of the smaller parties. The Belfast Telegraph‘s coverage is here:

For an academic perspective, experts from the Centre on Constitutional Change will be offering analysis through the night.

Meanwhile you can watch the LSE’s Election Night Party here:

(London School of Economics and Political Science)

2 PM ET

Polling Stations close in three hours. The Independent took to the streets to see how many people actually know there’s an election today.

coalition

The Guardian‘s excellent interactive asks “Can you form a stable government?”

Interesting piece by Mic Wright at The Next Web on “why your Tweet about how people are voting might be illegal.” He writes:

The legislation is hot on how the media should handle reporting on election day – basically, keep quiet about it until the polls are closed – but, as the cliche runs, we’re all publishers now on social media.

Meanwhile, though, according to Twitter UK, 1.3million tweets using the hashtag #GE2015 have already been sent today.

Planning your evening? The Poke has you covered:

and there’s this..

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1 PM ET

Polling Stations close in four hours.

(that’s the German surrender in Europe. The war in the Pacific continued until September)

The Columbia Journalism Review looks at how the British media is bringing election news “across the pond” although it – probably wisely – sticks to the “quality” press and doesn’t touch the red tops. David Uberti writes that for news orgs like The Guardian, the FT and the BBC,

Covering the vote has been an opportunity to gain new readers, in this sense, since American media parachuting into the fray often lack institutional knowledge of the British system and its major players.

And of course, it wouldn’t be election day without Piers Morgan’s opinion.

Here’s another analysis of the online election:

Scotland will likely prove to be a more crucial battleground than in many previous elections, yet there is still encouragement for as high a turnout as possible:

12 NOON ET

Polling Stations close in five hours. Not long to wait to see whether we all get an owl.

More reports of election “glitches” at polling stations across the country and with some postal votes. The Guardian reports:

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the issues in Hackney, which we understand at this stage relate to specific problems they have identified with their IT system. Any voter that has concerns about whether they are registered, for instance because they have not received a poll card, should contact their electoral services team in Hackney to check this and, if needed, to find out where their polling station is.

“We are aware that some overseas voters have raised concerns that they have not received their postal ballot packs and we will look carefully at the evidence shared with us on this when we consider what issues to raise in our statutory election report, which will be laid in the UK parliament in the summer,” she added.

There have also been allegations of intimidation at some polling places in Scotland.

A reported £100 million has been wagered on today’s outcome.

Who’s winning on Twitter?

***

11 AM ET

Here’s a rundown – with UK timings – of what happens later and what to watch for. Insert your own Game of Thrones analogy.

(Channel 4/UK Election Channel)

The name of the UKIP candidate in the Darlington constituency was apparently left off some ballot papers.

The Poke‘s rolling blog is, as you’d expect, outstanding.

10 AM ET 

The party leaders have voted.

cats (Jezebel – h/t Janette Owen)

100 years ago, women wanting the vote were mocked with pictures of cats – today there is #DogsAtPollingStations.

No connection, allegedly –

***

MAY 6

Britain votes on Thursday, with a hung parliament seeming to be more probable than not.

The bookies are stumped, and we’re all down to our last cliches; but in spite of an apparent across the board freak out among the papers, it’s highly likely that the fun isn’t over just yet.

Here’s 11 weird memes that help explain the election via the Washington Post, while here’s five things you need to know, according to USA Today, and the BBC has six reasons anyone else should care.

CNN says the election is about “fish, bacon and beer,” while there have even been newspaper ads telling voters to ignore  other newspapers.

David Axelrod, who is advising Labour’s Ed Miliband – in opposition to his former Obama White House colleague Jim Messina, who is working for David Cameron’s Tories – tells Politico about the differences in the two countries’ campaign processes.

First is money.  It’s huge. I was a media consultant for 25 years and while I did all the things I’m doing here I also produced advertising. That’s a huge difference between American politics and British politics. Ads help define campaigns in America and they’re absent here — which may be better for the commonweal but it’s one less really powerful tool in the tool box.

Second difference is length of campaign, which is quite short. So you have a short time to communicate your message.

As a result there is a disproportionate power in the media and a much more aggressive media that you have to navigate.

The BBC’s first Election Night Special live coverage was in 1955. Here’s what’s changed since, and what hasn’t.

And here’s the Beeb’s reporting rules for election day (via Nick Sutton)

beebrules

* Polls close in the UK at 10pm (5pm ET) — Check back with The Note tomorrow for live coverage as the results come in *

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MAY 5

With one more full day of campaigning to go, the papers are fairly ramped up, many pushing their proprietors’ preferences.

With the parties still almost inseparable in the latest party vs party polls, almost half of respondents to an IPSOS/MORI issues poll say the future of the NHS is most important for them – which The Economist writes, should be good news for Labour. 

Here’s how the parties have performed on social media during the campaign:

BBC Newsnight explains “who gets to be PM if nobody wins”

And finally,

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MAY 4

indy

With three days until polling day in the UK, perhaps the most crucial battleground is north of the border – which remains a major challenge for the Labour opposition. As the BBC says: “Scotland, once an impregnable Labour redoubt, has become increasingly hostile territory for the party – and the political implications for governing the UK are significant.

The latest YouGov poll showed the two main parties still neck-and-neck, on 33 per cent, increasing speculation about a hung parliament – something Jonathan Jones at The Guardian says could be “the greatest thing for British culture since the 1970s.”

Meanwhile, for the Lib Dems, the challenge remains making sure they’re not left out in the cold.

The Independent endorsed a continuation of the current coalition. Its Sunday sister did not. The IoS leader says:

Thursday may not, of course, be the end of the democratic process. Our politics seems to have entered a new world in which the post-election negotiations are as important as the pre-election campaigning. Our view is that the coalition was too rushed last time, and that if there are to be multi-party negotiations, they should take time, they should be transparent and the people should feel that they reflect how they voted rather than being stitched up behind closed doors. To be continued next week …

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MAY 3

As the final week of Britain’s election campaign begins with the two main parties virtually neck-and-neck, leading Tories think Ed Miliband may have finally had his “Kinnock Moment,” setting the party’s pledges literally, in stone.

But according to Andrew Sparrow at The Guardian,

Not content with affirming promises by hand, or by statute, he has hired a stonemason to carve them into a block of granite (or whatever it is).

At this stage of the election campaign we all need a bit of a laugh, and #EdStone has certainly provided some welcome entertainment. And some of the mockery is undoubtedly deserved. Announcing that this slab is heading for the Downing Street garden was probably a mistake, and, as John Rentoul argues, it would be easier to admire the pledges stone if some of the promises weren’t so vague.

Still, to his credit, Miliband is trying something imaginative to tackle the problem of trust.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that plans are already being made for electoral pacts in the event of a hung parliament.

FT(Financial Times / Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

As the prospect of a deadlocked result looms, the potential power of the SNP continues to be a key feature. The Scotsman looks at Scotland’s “starring role” in the election  – the Scottish party leaders featured in the final televised debate on Sunday night – and says, in am editorial:

Scottish politics has a new rule book, and Nicola Sturgeon wrote it. But – and this is the first uncertainty – it is by no means clear how this will translate into constituencies actually won. Local factors will play a strong role on Thursday. And here the predictions of 50-plus SNP MPs heading for Westminster may prove wide of the mark.

Steven Erlanger at the New York Times has a good piece contrasting Cameron and Miliband – and looking at what they have in common – concluding that Thursday could  likely spell the end of the political road for one of them.

There’s also an interesting piece by Independent editor Amol Rajan in Politico Europe on Blair The Pariah and how the former PM haunts those currently competing to occupy No 10. He writes:

The arc of Blair’s time at the top of British politics illuminates the great conundrum of his career — one that is, however, widely misdiagnosed. When most people turn their minds to Blair, they ask how it is that a man who won three elections, two of them with thumping majorities; who proclaimed a “new dawn in British politics;” who oversaw relentless economic growth; whose signature achievements included peace in Northern Ireland and a country much more at ease with ethnic and sexual minorities; and whose genius at communication won the hearts and minds of millions, could now come to be so reviled. Blair, once the cherub-faced savior of a country exhausted by Tory sleaze, has become guilty until proven innocent, his every move analyzed for selfish motives, his every profile in magazines intended to uncover wrongdoing and villainy.

The New Statesman has some research indicating the varying level of trust in the media among British voters. Yet, while the data indicate that traditional sources of political information may be diminishing, the power of the print media in agenda-setting remains hugely important.

research(New Statesman/Freuds)

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APRIL 30

mail(Daily Mail/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

The final TV appearance by the three main party leaders before next week’s election – it wasn’t really a “debate” as they appeared on the BBC’s Question Time separately – saw some spirited questioning from the audience in Leeds. The Yorkshire Post reports:

Mr Cameron denied an audience member’s claim that he was not talking about the “moral dimension” of the issues and giving all his answers in terms of economics.

“To me, helping someone to get a job has a moral dimension. It gives them the dignity and pride that comes with work.

“Getting someone an apprenticeship, that has a moral dimension; it gives someone the chance of a career and success.

“Building a house that a young family can afford to buy and own, that has a moral dimension because it gives them a stake in the country they live in.

Both the Financial Times and The Economist both endorsed Mr Cameron, albeit with some reservations. The FT cites a “compelling case for continuity” while The Economist says:

In 2010 we endorsed David Cameron, the Tory leader, seeing in him a willingness to tackle a yawning budget deficit and an ever-expanding state. Five years on, the choice has become harder. The Tories’ Europhobia, which we regretted last time, could now do grave damage. A British exit from the EU would be a disaster, for both Britain and Europe. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are better on this score. But such is the suspicion many Britons feel towards Brussels that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is probably inevitable at some point. And we believe that the argument can be won on its merits.

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APRIL 28

An interview between Labour leader Ed Miliband and comedian Russell Brand is set to be posted on You Tube on Wednesday. The BBC reported that Miliband said he agreed to the interview “to liven up the election race,” while Prime Minister David Cameron had said he “did not have time to hang out” with Brand.

The Daily Star seems pretty confident it knows what was on the agenda.

star

Meanwhile, Ed Balls celebrated Ed Balls Day by manually retweeting himself.

***

APRIL 27

The Conservatives were under fire on Monday after the Telegraph published a letter apparently from 5,000 “small businesses” but really came from  Conservative Campaign HQ.

telegraph(The Guardian)

Jane Martinson at The Guardian writes on press coverage of the campaign and the extent to which it reflects any disaffection – among both papers and their readers.

Other than the Telegraph, the most surprising thing on the first day of the start of the last full week before the general election, was how few political leads there were echoing grumblings from newspaper backbenches that this election is dull and turning readers off.

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APRIL 26

Jim Wells, a candidate for the DUP in the South Down constituency, resigned as a Northern Ireland health minister, saying he wanted to spend more time with his sick wife. The BBC reports:

The resignation follows his remarks at a hustings where he linked same-sex relationships to child abuse. He later apologised for those comments.

Police also said on Sunday they were investigating after an incident during an election canvas in County Down. It is understood it involved Mr Wells and a lesbian couple.

 

In what The Economist called “an embarrassing gaffe” and The Guardian said was “an astonishing own goal,” David Cameron appeared to forget which football team he’d said he supported.  The Prime Minister said mistaking Aston Villa for West Ham was “just one of those things.”

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APRIL 23

Following the recent furore over Wikipedia edits and so-called “sock-puppetry” The Drum’s election podcast looks at politicians’ relationship to the online oracle, as well as whether personal attacks are having the desired effect.

Meanwhile, there’s an interesting post by Peter Jukes on the declining influence of print newspapers in the campaign.

More acutely, the industrial model of newsprint – press a lever and millions of copies of your ideas and arguments arrive on doorsteps –  is fast fading. To communicate your views in the peer to peer world of Twitter or Facebook, you have to be able to defend them, cajole, persuade and amuse assailants and interlocutors.

 

The BBC looks at the likely influence of potential voters who weren’t born in the UK.

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APRIL 22

The latest outcome projections from Five Thirty Eight make interesting reading:

compared with a projection from The Guardian:

Channel 4 announced it would be partially switching off its E4 channel on election day in an attempt to encourage young people to vote.

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APRIL 20

SNP National

(The National/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

The SNP launched its manifesto at an indoor rock-climbing center in Edinburgh, with leader Nicola Sturgeon saying this election “is not about independence,” she said. “It is about making Scotland stronger. So we will use the influence of SNP votes at Westminster to ensure that promises made during the referendum are delivered.”

The BBC‘s Nick Robinson calls Sturgeon “the undoubted star” of the election so far. But The Economist says the manifesto “condemns the party to insignificance.”

Fair play to whoever on the desk at the Beeb who was able to contain themselves enough to write this caption.

 

APRIL 19

register

(Daily Mirror/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

Monday is the last day to register to vote before the May 7 election, with the fight for Scotland – where the balance of a new parliament could be decided – heating up. The SNP launches its manifesto on Monday, and leader Nicola Sturgeon tells The Guardian:

“With fixed-term parliaments, it gives parties in a minority-government situation – [where] hopefully the SNP will be in a position of influence – huge ability to change the direction of a government without bringing a government down.

“There are very limited circumstances in that act where you can trigger a general election, but what you can do is build alliances to change the direction of a government on particular issues and that is what the SNP would seek to do.”

How would economists fix the economy? Tim Harford asks some, and the FT publishes the results, in The Economists’ Manifesto.

Alternatively, Russell Brand’s movie, The Emperor’s New Clothes, opens this week, with advance screenings beginning on Tuesday.

(StudioCanal)

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APRIL 17

Former Obama strategist David Axelrod, now advising Labour leader Ed Miliband, tells The Guardian that the Conservatives are “overconfident” and  “increasingly panic-stricken” and have underestimated their opponents.

[Axelrod] argued that the Tory attempt to character-assassinate Miliband had been an error, referring particularly to the way in which the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, had claimed anyone prepared to “stab his brother in the back” to gain the Labour leadership was prepared to stab the nation’s security in the back.

“Plainly that backfired because they got off of it pretty quickly. People are worried about their own family, they are not worried about Ed’s family. They worry about whether their kids are going to make it in the future. They want to hear some solid ideas. All of this other stuff appears like a sideshow and they notice it is a sideshow. It appears desperate and it was desperate.”

 

This is quite, quite brilliant:

 

The deadline for registering to vote in the election is Monday, April 20th.

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APRIL 16

debate(image: PA/BBC)

Not a game show, but Thursday night’s opposition leaders’ debate, which saw Labour leader Ed Miliband clash with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon over a possible post-election coalition.

(Sky News)

sturgeon(image: The Times/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

Elsewhere during the 90 minutes, UKIP’s Nigel Farage – whose party was earlier given a million pound-plus donation by the owner of the Daily Express – wasn’t too enamored of the studio audience.

(Sky News)

The Spectator‘s live-blog is here.

BuzzFeed rounds up some of Twitter’s best reactions, although this was the message Ed Miliband most obviously wanted to get across.

 

APRIL 15

Launching his party’s manifesto, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said that voters had a choice between himself, Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage over who would hold the balance of power in a likely hung parliament.

Making the case for another coalition, Mr Clegg said a vote for his party would stop the Tories or Labour governing on their own, arguing the Lib Dems would “add a heart to a Conservative government and add a brain to a Labour one”. A “few hundred votes”, he claimed, could make the difference between a “decent, tolerant and generous” government in the centre-ground and a “coalition of grievance” involving either the UKIP or SNP.

libdems(Image: Daily Mirror)

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APRIL 14

telegraph

(Daily Telegraph/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

The Conservatives launched their election manifesto, promising a  “good life for all” with Prime Minister David Cameron saying he wanted “to finish the job” of rebuilding Britain on behalf of “working people”. The Guardian says the manifesto is a “false prospectus”.

Mr Cameron’s presentation was so set on being upbeat that it said much less about many mean-spirited commitments lurking in the manifesto itself. The continuing retreat on alternative energy, for instance – subsidies for onshore wind farms ended – got no mention. Nor did the nasty pledge for a further freeze in the BBC licence fee. Nor did the further dilution of any reform of the House of Lords. Nor did the snooper’s charter, which the Tories would reintroduce if they form the next government.

Mr Cameron said nothing, either, about the much tougher thresholds that will be required for union strike ballots; who is refighting the class war now? Nor did he dwell on the plan to abolish the Human Rights Act; he found time, however, to make a snide remark about civil liberties. The even more serious divisiveness of the manifesto’s plans on the United Kingdom, above all the commitment to set an English rate of income tax, was also unmentioned in the speech; once again, while professing undying commitment to the union, Mr Cameron is in fact pushing it to the edge of the abyss in another attempt to woo back Ukip voters.

The Greens also launched their manifesto – “spending on everything but time,” writes John Crace in The Guardian.

The Lib Dems launch their manifesto on Wednesday, claiming to be the only alternative to a “coalition of grievance” according to Nick Clegg.

Nate Silver talks to the FT’s Matt Garrahan about analyzing the UK election and how it differs from the US.

(Financial Times)

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APRIL 13

The Conservatives launch their election manifesto on Tuesday, including controversial promises on additional funding for the NHS and cuts to welfare spending. On Monday, Labour leader Ed Miliband launched his own party’s campaign blueprint. The Guardian writes:

Miliband is determined to junk the post-Thatcher consensus that promoting economic growth meant protecting “wealth-creators” at the top of society – a view he and his supporters believe was comprehensively disproved by the great recession and its aftermath.

By making long-term pledges for government spending on infrastructure, rewriting institutional shareholders’ responsibilities to prevent them chasing short-term profits and shaking up the banking sector to promote competition, Labour hopes to boost investment, lift productivity and ultimately nurture a more successful economy.

The Liberal Democrats and UKIP both release their manifestos on Wednesday, then there is an opposition leaders’ TV debate scheduled for Thursday.

matt(Daily Telegraph / Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

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 APRIL 12

This is manifesto week, with the major parties keen to bring their main messages into focus. Labour will emphasize “economic responsibility” at Monday’s launch in Manchester. For the Tories on Tuesday, it could be a chance to reset the campaign following something of a “wobbly” week. The Greens, meanwhile, have suggested banning the Grand National. Andrew Rawnsley writes in The Guardian:

In an age of deep and often highly justifiable public cynicism towards politicians, the formal publication of party pledges can seem out of time. There was a point during Labour’s internal debates about its manifesto when some asked whether they should bother with one at all. But the traditional rituals will be observed… The parties will make a big event of these launches and journalists will reciprocate by reverencing the rival documents with lots of attention. Voters may be a bit less engaged. And that might be common sense when many promises turn out not to be worth the paper they are printed on. Nick Clegg got screwed by a pledge he made in 2010. Nigel Farage entirely disowned his party’s last manifesto.

 

miliband(Daily Mirror / Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

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 APRIL 10

After a week that saw Labour take the lead in opinion polls in the wake of counter-productive negative attacks on its leader Ed Miliband, the Conseratives are “revamping their strategy” ahead of their manifesto launch on Tuesday, according to The Independent.

Some of the negativity certainly backfired by bolstering Miliband’s popularity – particularly recent stories about the leader’s love life.  

Hannah Jane Parkinson writes at The Guardian:

The Tories’ message on Ed is all over the place. He’s a geek! He’s weak! He’s meek and he’s weird! No wait, he’s a ruthless operator ambitious and determined to become PM, plus he’s a hit with the ladies.

And now, with his back-stabbing, profligate spending plans and rampant sex drive, he is basically Caligula. If the Tories carry on like this, they are in danger of gifting Labour an overall majority in the Commons, and the only thing hung will be Ed.

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APRIL 8 

The latest issue of The Spectator ponders what the first days of a Miliband government might look like. A bit like The Wrong Trousers, it seems…

spectator

Michael White in yesterday’s Guardian explains why the coming deadlock “could spell the end for the system as we know it.”

When the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787, they were determined to prevent a tyranny like George III’s, and so separated out the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government to keep each other in check.

That didn’t happen in Britain, where reforming governments wrestled royal prerogatives away from the monarch, and kept most to themselves.

Thus, in a parliamentary system where the leader of the party with most elected members of parliament (MPs) gets to become prime minister, a Commons majority allows the cabinet to do “anything except change a man into a woman”, as the old Victorian joke goes.

That’s the theory. But in practice, the options facing Britain’s political leaders when the votes are counted on May 7 will be more difficult than they have been for decades – and mostly for reasons American voters will easily recognise.

 

The Green Party released its first PPB of the campaign. As is often the case, the YouTube comments are worth reading.

(Green Party)

Meanwhile, a six-year-old had the perfect reaction to the cliched campaign photo-op of a visiting politician wanting to read with her..

PA(image: PA/BuzzFeed)

***

APRIL 6

It was probably only a matter of time before former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair got involved in the current election campaign, and is expected on Tuesday to attack PM David Cameron over his pledge on an EU referendum. The BBC reports that Labour hopes Blair still has “enough lingering stardust to appeal to some voters”.

The BBC‘s Brian Wheeler asks if Britain’s elections are “stuck in the 1950s”.

A recently rediscovered pamphlet from the 1950 election shows that Clement Attlee’s Labour Party fought the campaign on a platform of protecting the NHS, increasing living standards and taxing the rich. There is also a promise to alleviate the housing crisis by building new “garden cities”. The 1950 Conservative manifesto accused Attlee’s Labour government of wrecking the economy and being soft on welfare claimants.The difference now is that the two biggest parties can no longer rely on vast voting blocs that divide neatly along class lines, as they could in the 1950s.

(There’s a quaint newsreel view of election night 1950 here, via MrElectionist)

The Huffington Post reports that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire appears to be encouraging the idea of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg running for Mayor of London, despite pushback from the honorary knight’s camp. The strange story even got a push from current London Mayor Boris Johnson, who said: “My friends: there is only one conclusion. This is a test. Someone, somewhere is mounting a draft Bloomberg campaign and they are sticking their fingers in the wind, testing the waters and generally running it up the flagpole to see who salutes. I want you to know, therefore, that I am standing to attention and signalling my wholehearted approval.”

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APRIL 5

The head of the Civil Service announced an inquiry into how a leaked memo, written in the Government’s Scotland Office, came to be published by The Daily Telegraph. In it, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is alleged to have told the French Ambassador  that she would rather David Cameron won the upcoming election over Ed Miliband.

Both sides denied the claim, and Ms Sturgeon called the Telegraph report “categorically, 100 per cent untrue”. 

Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor as First Minister, Alex Salmond, wrote in The National that “leaks are where the dirty tricks lie… in the very heart of political darkness,” while Zoe Williams at The Guardian writes how the incident has exposed Westminster’s “nasty machinations.”

Something is lost, when credulity pushes past reality into believing any damned thing you want to believe. Some courtesy is lost in the tenor of the debate; arguments get nastier in inverse proportion to their solidity. Politics suffers as a whole, when you push back the curtain and see nothing but bare assertions and empty confidence.

In another apparent leak, this time in The SunEd Miliband’s notes from last week’s leaders debate – in which Ms Sturgeon was acknowledged to have performed well – showed that the Labour leader had hoped to present himself as “the happy warrior” in contrast to the Prime Minister.

Also in Scotland, the Labour Party is preparing for an electoral “tsunami” according to the FT, while BuzzFeed reports that the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party has found no hiding place on social media  – from her dad.

In The Independent, John Rentoul and Jane Merrick write about the broader role of social media in the election. 

While Labour dominates Twitter, the Conservatives are stronger on Facebook. Labour strategists are using Twitter to motivate and mobilise supporters, pushing messages during the TV debates, for example. Labour wants to use Facebook more – one million people saw the party’s content during last Thursday’s debate. But the Tories are vastly outspending Labour on Facebook adverts – they have spent £100,000 in one month on this.

***

APRIL 2

 

 

leaders(image: ITV/The Guardian)

In a set resembling a cross between a low-budget daytime game show and Princess Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen, seven party leaders went back and forth on the economy, the NHS, immigration and other issues likely to sway voters on May 7th. The ITV show lasted two hours, which at times felt like all five remaining weeks of the campaign.

Stuart Heritage at The Guardian called it a “long, slow, claustrophobic mess that nobody could possibly win.”  Questions from the studio audience were mostly a bit GCSE-“write-all-you-know-about-Mussolini’s-foreign-policy”-ish, with the leaders’ answers similarly rote.

In one brief unscripted moment, Prime Minister David Cameron was heckled, but overall there was plenty of not very much – although the three  women leaders were acknowledged to have performed well – with the inevitable blanket horserace coverage as a result.

Meanwhile, if you live outside the UK and aren’t sure how the British press will line up for the remainder of the campaign, let Private Eye mark your card:

electionEye(image: Private Eye via RedMolotov T-Shirts)

***

APRIL 1

The British General Election campaign formally got under way with the dissolution of the current parliament and its coalition government.

Election day is May 7th, with current projections showing no party likely to wind up with an outright majority and PM David Cameron throwing a bit of a spanner in the works by saying he’ll only serve two terms – assuming he gets re-elected for a second.

The first leaders’ “debate” was held – although it wasn’t really a debate, even if David Cameron and Ed Miliband appeared in the same studio, with the same audience and were interviewed by the same host – a combatively in-form Jeremy Paxman, who inevitably ended up as the star of the show – but not at the same time.

(YouTube/Channel4)

The second televised debate, featuring seven party leaders, is on Thursday evening.

***

MARCH 17

Chancellor George Osborne delivers what could be his final Budget.

You can follow The Guardian‘s live-blog here.

budget(image: BBC) And live coverage and analysis from the BBC here.

Following Tony Blair’s resignation from his role as a Mideast peace envoy for the “Quartet powers”, Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept how the former British Prime Minister is “terrible at promoting human rights, great at enriching himself.”

..although he failed to broker peace, Blair did manage during his time as special envoy to transform himself into a well-paid and outspoken apologist for some of the most brutal autocracies in the world.

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MARCH 15

As general election preparations gather pace, Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies has launched a new podcast, appropriately enough called “Election”.

election-590x288

***

MARCH 9

Three months after asking “What’s the BuzzFeed?”, British Prime Minister David Cameron will be interviewed next Monday in a livestream on the site’s Facebook page.

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MARCH 1

Lord Hall, BBC Director-General, will appeal on Monday for an extension of the license fee, after MPs last week concluded that the £145.50 ($224) annual fee was becoming harder to justify. The FT reports that one of the key proposals is for increased personalization.

“The potential is huge to let our audience become schedulers,” Lord Hall will say. “This is the start of a real transformation — the ‘my BBC’ revolution.”

 

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, senior US General Ray Odierno says Britain‘s defense cuts are eroding his country’s confidence in the commitment to global security.

“We have a bilateral agreement between our two countries to work together. It is about having a partner that has very close values and the same goals as we do,” explained Gen Ordorno at the New America Foundation’s “Future of War” conference. “What has changed, though, is the level of capability. In the past we would have a British Army division working alongside an American army division.” The cuts mean that the US military is now working on the basis that in future Britain will contribute only half that amount, if not less.

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FEBRUARY 22

Two former British Foreign Secretaries have denied wrongdoing after alleged “cash for access” revelations in a Channel 4 documentary which airs on Monday night, part of a joint investigation with the Telegraph.

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FEBRUARY 16

Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s UKIP, is to appear alongside Sarah Palin and the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre at next week’s CPAC conference in Washington.

***

JANUARY 27

With 100 days to go until the British general election, the outcome could go either way (or indeed, any one of several messy ways). Here’s a quick primer on who the parties are and what they’re saying, while there’s still wrangling over proposed TV debates with even the possibility of them taking place without Prime Minister David Cameron.

***

JANUARY 25

British Prime Minister David Cameron was the victim of a phone hoaxer claiming to be the director of GCHQ, prompting a review of Downing Street security procedures. The “imposter” apparently told the Evening Standard “I was off my face on booze and cocaine.”

***

JANUARY 21

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted he was not to blame for the delay in the publication of Sir John Chilcot’s long-awaited report into the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The report will now be released sometime after the general election in May. Blair, who is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, issued a statement saying he regretted the delay and stuck to the line when questioned by reporters.

(video: Robin Brant/YouTube)

***

JANUARY 20

Sir John Chilcot is expected to write to Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday explaining the reasons for the decision to delay publication of Chilcot’s report into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The report is now expected to be released after the general election in May.

***

JANUARY 18

Britain’s data monitoring center, GCHQ, “scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organizations” The Guardian reports. The story, based on disclosures by Edward Snowden, comes as every British national newspaper editor signed a letter to prime minister David Cameron protesting about the provisions of the draft code of practice on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, covering limits on government surveillance. A period of consultation on how the legislation should be used ends on Tuesday.

***

JANUARY 16

As the UK prepares for its general election in May, party leaders clashed this week over participation in planned televised debates, with Prime Minister David Cameron – accused of being reluctant to take part – saying the media have become “obsessed” with the debates, the first of which is scheduled for April 2.

Security across Europe is high following a series of counter-terror actions, with police making a number of arrests in several countries and authorities warning of the “complex nature” of the threat. Belgium on Friday moved to expand its anti-terror laws and British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country’s threat level status was currently “severe”, indicating an attack was “highly likely.

Cameron and US President Barack Obama said in Washington that their countries would step up co-operation on tackling “violent extremism”.

cnbc

(image: CNBC)

The two leaders were not always on the same page on issues of surveillance, discussing co-operation on cybersecurity and the implications of encryption technology, with “war game” exercises planned for later in the year, featuring the NSA and GCHQ.

***

JANUARY 13

In the UK, comedian Al Murray is apparently set to stand in the May general election against Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. Murray’s alter ego, The Pub Landlord’s, plan to enter the contest for the seat in Thanet South, prompted Farage to Tweet: “The more the merrier.”

Britain’s Chancellor George Osborne said he believes Britain “could be the world’s richest economy by 2030.”

***

JANUARY 8

As Britain starts to gear up for voting in May, The Telegraph’s Cathy Newman has a piece on how political wives can survive general election hell.

***

JANUARY 6

According to Goldman Sachs, David Cameron’s Conservatives are headed for victory in Britain’s general election this May. Goldman also said that Brazil would win last year’s World Cup.

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