Monday, 4 May 2015

A blue hope..

It's less than three days until the election, but Labour and the Conservatives are stuck stubbornly around 33% in the polls, with neither side picking up a clear lead. David Cameron's troops are hoping to tip the balance with a last-minute push in 23 battleground seats, which we have lead on today: "The 100,000 voters who could win Tories power". 

Conservative strategists hope voters will drift their way as they consider whether to keep the Prime Minister in No 10 or give Ed Miliband a go. Voters will be paying much more attention to the campaign this week, their thinking goes, and may not finally decide until they're in the polling booth. As Tony Blair wrote in his memoirs, "the single hardest thing for a practising politician to understand is that most people, most of the time, don't give politics a first thought all day long". With election day nearing, this will change. 

Despite the optimism, the polls still indicate another hung parliament is on the cards. The Tories appear to have a plan ready if that happens, with the FT splashing on the news "Cameron and Clegg prepared to move quickly to form coalition". Nick Clegg has - in effect - opened coalition talks early, repeatedly refusing to rule out a deal on an EU referendum - one of Cameron's  "red lines" - on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday. He also suggested the Liberal Democrats could back Conservative plans to end onshore wind farm subsidies.

So how long could the talks take? Former cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell, who presided over the coming together of the Con-Lib coalition, has told the Independent that "it could be weeks" before a new government is formed.  If the Tories win the most seats, David Cameron will claim victory. Miliband may find it hard to challenge him on this, as the Times reports that party figures are concerned about how much of a right to govern he would have. "If we came second and try and cling on, [everyone else] will kill us", a frontbencher told the paper. Cameron would aim to push on and try to pass a Queen's Speech laying out his legislative agenda, his allies told the FT, daring Labour and SNP MPs to scupper it and "make it clear that they had the bloody dagger in their hands". 

The election features on the front pages of some international papers, with the New York Times musing on the fight between "red-cheeked toff" David Cameron and the "gawky, adenoidal" Ed Miliband. The Wall Street Journal, by contrast, dwells on the rise of groups like Ukip and the SNP, reporting that voters "threaten to defect to newly popular small parties". With coalition talks seeming inevitable, the party wars clearly won't be over after Thursday.


It's Star Wars Day ("May the Fourth be with you"). What relevance does that have to the election campaign? Polls show that supporters of different parties tend to like certain characters more from the sci-fi film saga, with Darth Vader being especially popular among Ukippers, and Princess Leia among Lib Dems. Here's all you need to know


Ed Miliband suffered his "Neil Kinnock moment" on Sunday, opponents said, after pledging to install an eight-foot limestone monument to his manifesto in the Downing Street garden. Labour descended into infighting over who was responsible for the eight-foot-six limestone monolith engraved with six election pledges. Matthew Holehouse has more. There was also widespread mockery of the "#EdStone" on the Twitterverse.


The BBC should "exterminate" shows like Dr Who and Strictly Come Dancing, Nigel Farage has suggested as he insisted that the corporation should focus on public service broadcasting instead of entertainment, Steven Swinford reports. Farage told the Andrew Marr show on BBC Two that the corporation has become "too big" and is increasingly anachronistic as it tries to compete against a growing number of commercial broadcasters.


Who's going to win the 2015 general election? What sort of coalition, if we get a hung parliament, will emerge? According to the betting markets, the chances of the various outcomes, as implied by the latest odds from Betfair, are as follows: Lab minority: 31.9% - Con minority: 15.2% - Con-Lib Dem coalition: 21.9% - Con majority: 10.1% - Lab-Lib Dem coalition: 9.1% - Any other government/coalition: 9.1% - Lab majority: 0.9% - Con-Ukip coalition: 1.7%. 


Labour has produced two more celebrity endorsement as Delia Smith and Steve Coogan both announced they were backing Ed Miliband, Camilla Turner reports. It follows endorsements from comedian Paul O'Grady, Ronnie O'Sullivan, the snooker player, actor Martin Freeman and comedian Jo Brand.


This Thursday, millions of Christians will go to the polling stations. Before putting a cross on the ballot paper, Tim Stanley has highlighted some things for them to consider. "Religious convictions cannot be put aside in the voting booth any more than one's political ideology, gender, financial status or health," he writes. 


Labour has written off nearly three quarters of its seats in Scotland because of the rise of the SNP and is now focused on saving the careers of the party's leadership, with the party now focusing on just 12 of its 41 seats in Scotland. Read more here. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has twice refused to rule out using the renewal of Britain's nuclear deterrent next year as justification for a second independence referendum. Simon Johnson has more.  


Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has dismissed a note left by the last Labour government claiming there is no money left as "silly" despite a furious public backlash, Steven Swinford reports. Last week Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, was urged by an audience member during the BBC's Question Time debate to sack Balls for claiming that the note was a "joke".


Not sure who to vote for yet? The election is just days away, but you can use our 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 Saturday, May 2: Lab: 33%, Conservative: 33.6%, UKIP 14%, Lib Dem 8.1%, Green 5.1%. The data is from: YouGov, Populus, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, ICM, TNS-BMRB. 


@ChristianJMay: Spare a thought for future archaeologists who will unearth Miliband's slab. "We've unearthed a culture who worshiped vague platitudes..."


From The Telegraph

Boris Johnson - Don't let Ed Miliband sink this country with his commie slab of rock

Robert Salisbury - David Cameron must make the Scots feel welcome

From elsewhere

Stewart Lee -  It's a titanic struggle between two tortoises – and not a hare in sight

Barrister Blogger - If Miliband Erects His Pillar In The Rose Garden He May Be Sent To Prison


09:00 Nigel Farage on LBC

11:00 Natalie Bennett makes speech on immigration in Haringey

15:00 David Cameron attends a rally in Somerset

22:40 The Agenda with ITV political editor Tom Bradby, featuring Chancellor George Osborne, Times columnist Jenni Russell, Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson and historian Dan Snow.

Early May Bank Holiday

Ed Miliband campaigns on the NHS in Brighton with Andy Burnham and Delia Smith

Nick Clegg campaigns across South London - Twickenham, Kingston, Sutton and Carshalton

Jim Murphy and Eddie Izzard campaign in Glasgow 


No business