Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Major intervention..

Sir John Major has joined the growing attacks on the idea of Labour and the Scottish National Party working together to form a government, warning that any post-election deal would lead to "mayhem". The former Tory premier's intervention, making our front page ("A daily dose of political blackmail") and the Times' ("Major warns of SNP coup"), marks a major step up in the Conservatives' war on a "Labour-SNP stitch up", after their other Tory big gun - Boris Johnson - compared Nicola Sturgeon both to Lady Macbeth and King Herod.

Nicola Sturgeon has launched the SNP's general election manifesto, which backs all Labour's plans to increase taxes on the wealthy. Our sketchwriter Michael Deacon witnessed how the SNP faithful "combusted in a frenzy of acclaim". The Conservatives are pushing the "Lab-SNP" issue hard, with Bloomberg analysis finding that it features in around a third of all messages sent out by the party's Twitter and Facebook accounts, making it their favourite topic. So how effective is this tactic? 

Given that Labour wanted this week to be all about the NHS, every day they have to talk about deals with the SNP is far from ideal. Party figures have varied in their efforts to distance their party from the SNP. Ed Miliband has said that the two parties couldn't work together due to their "profound differences", while Angela Eagle said that Labour will speak to "any party", in remarks that have been endorsed by Ed Balls. Fellow shadow cabinet minister Sadiq Khan described the SNP as "Labour-lite" and, speaking to the Huffington Post UK, refused to rule out any "sordid backroom deals" (but said he wasn't a fan of them). 

Some Conservatives are worried about their party's decision to puff up the SNP. Lord Forsyth, the last Tory to serve as secretary of state for Scotland, told the Guardian that it was "short-term", "dangerous" and "threatens the integrity of our country". However, the Tories hope that Sir John, in whose cabinet Lord Forsyth served, will attract more attention. Since leaving office, the former Tory premier has carved out a role as a wise elder statesman, in a Gandalf-like transformation from John the Grey to Sir John the Greybeard. 

The rise of Scottish nationalism has long concerned Sir John, who warned voters in 1992: "The United Kingdom is in danger. Wake up, my fellow countrymen. Wake up now, before it is too late." Just before Scots voted in 1997 to devolve power to a Scottish Parliament, Sir John issued another apocalyptic warning about the "doomed enterprise", warning that "it would eventually lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom". Now - 18 years later - with the SNP on the rise, a party whose defining mission is Scottish independence, the former Tory premier may feel he has been rather prophetic. 



David Cameron will come under pressure later this week to accept quotas of migrants coming from North Africa after 950 people drowned when their overloaded boat capsized 100 miles off the coast of Italy, Steven Swinford reports. The Prime Minister confirmed he will attend an EU summit on Thursday as he described the deaths as "really horrific" and said they represented "very dark days" for Europe.


Ed Miliband is trying to take Britain back to the class warfare of the 1970s by stirring up hostility to businesses and renouncing New Labour, one of Britain's leading entrepreneurs has warned. Lord Bilimoria, an independent cross bench peer and chairman of Cobra beer, has written an article for the Telegraph saying Miliband has demonstrated a "startling lack of understanding" about how wealth and jobs are created in this country. You can read his thoughts on why "Labour is going backwards" here. 


A Labour shadow cabinet minister has been accused of "utter hypocrisy" for employing five interns on just £4 per day - despite denying the claim last week. The Sun's Kate McCann has discovered Toby Perkins – standing for re-election in Chesterfield - even put the interns up in "intern house" for the duration of the election and has asked local party members to donate food to feed them, breaching one of Ed Miliband's election pledges.


UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said he wanted to see the annual charge cut by two thirds so the BBC would focus purely on public service broadcasting, Chris Hope reports. This would see the cost of an annual television licence cut from £145.50 to just £48.15.


Andrew Marr has apologised after asking David Cameron whether he said foxhunting was his "favourite sport" which he "loves", a quote that the Spectator's Camilla Swift found doesn't exist. "Cock up not conspiracy, but wrong on my part," the presenter wrote on Twitter. 


Labour officials stand accused of attempting to hide Ed Miliband from the official general election artist, Matthew Holehouse reports. Adam Dant, who has been commissioned by the House of Commons to record the contest, fears the Labour party is attempting to keep him in the dark over their leader's movements.


Ed Miliband has been caught out on a key issue: does he know what Yolo (You only live once) means? After Time Out magazine explained it to him, the Labour leader exclaimed: "That is a good philosophy for politics. Wow! I'll use it from now on". Read here for Miliband's awkward (but in a delightful way) exchange.


Nick Clegg will demand there is a Liberal Democrat Education Secretary in any coalition after the general election, Matthew Holehouse reports. The Liberal Democrat leader said he would like to seize control of the Department for Education after a series of clashes with the Tories over "ideological" policy initiatives. He explained: "Having wasted a lot of time dealing with a lot of zany ideological gimmicks from Michael Gove and his team, I think it would be a good thing if the Liberal Democrats were able to run education policy on our terms."


The official inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War may not publish its long-awaited report this year. It had been hoped that the Chilcot Report would be published soon after the general election. However, a source close to the inquiry, which began in 2009, told BBC Newsnight's Mark Urban that "nobody thinks it will come out this year".


Ed Miliband is to unveil on Tuesday a proposal to get an extra 1,000 nurses into training this year – the start of Labour plans to ultimately recruit 20,000 extra nurses by 2020, the Guardian's Patrick Wintour reports. Miliband will say that Labour ministers would, on their first day in office, instruct officials to call on universities to reopen admissions for highly oversubscribed nursing courses this year after 30,000 would-be nurses were turned down because of a lack of places in 2014.


Not sure who to vote for yet? You can use the quick and easy Vote Match app to help you find the party that best matches your views. The results may surprise you...


Average of polls as of Sunday, April 19: Lab: 33.3%, Conservative: 33.9%, UKIP 12.8%, Lib Dem 8.6%, Green 4.8%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 


@IainMartin1: Billy Connolly got the SNP right years ago: humourless, deeply divisive, easily offended and small-minded. And they hated him for saying it.


From The Telegraph

Philip Johnston - What happens if nobody can form a government?

Fraser Nelson - Has no one bothered to explain the basic rules of politics to Nicola Sturgeon?

From elsewhere

Patrick Diamond - Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Vincent Boland - Rise of SNP has echoes of Irish nationalism


08:30 Ukip deputy chairman Suzanne Evans and economic spokesman Patrick O'Flynn are to hold a briefing on a 'major policy issue'

11:00 - Ed Miliband delivers speech on health in Manchester

11:00 - Sir John Major delivers speech in the West Midlands

11:00 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham , Care Minister Norman Lamb and UK Independence Party health spokesperson Louise Bours participate in a debate on health and social care

11.30 - David Cameron at PM Direct event in Yorkshire

14:00 'Daily Politics Election Debate' on foreign affairs

14:00 Ukip's Suzanne Evans with LBC radio's Shelagh Fogarty for an election phone-in

Nick Clegg campaigns in Cornwall and West London

The Queen's 89th birthday – to be celebrated with gun salutes at Hyde Park, Windsor Great Park and the Tower of London

Deadline to send postal vote forms to local electoral registration offices ahead of the General Election

The Democratic Unionist Party launches its 2015 general election manifesto 



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