Election 2015

With more than a month still to go, the papers are already ramping up their coverage of the forthcoming General Election.

There are several analyses of the first debate between Cameron and Miliband. The Express claims the Prime Minister has ‘fired the starting gun’.

The battle for Number 10 has finally begun. Last Wednesday, in what may well have been his sharpest, most effective performance at the ­despatch box, David Cameron fired the starting gun for what promises to be one of the most hotly contested elections in  living memory.

This was the last Prime Minister’s Questions of the Parliament. For either Cameron or Ed Miliband this was possibly their last hurrah at the despatch box and they both hoped to leave the chamber on a high, each determined to inflict a mortal wound on his rival. The crowds of MPs who gathered for the last set-piece of the session were not ­disappointed.

The previous day, Chancellor George Osborne had refused five times to give a “cast-iron guarantee” that the Conservatives would not raise VAT in the next Parliament, saying only that there was no need to do so. He was tackled on his plans after Labour’s Ed Balls promised to rule out a rise in VAT in its manifesto.

So it was little surprise to ­anyone, clearly including the Prime Minister, that the Labour leader would use the Chancellor’s perceived omission as the party’s main line of attack as the pair met for their last weekly jousting ­session of this Parliament.

Sky News claims the Labour leader won the contest.

Labour has taken a four-point lead in the first major poll since the TV battle between Ed Miliband and David Cameron.

The YouGov survey for the Sunday Times put Labour on 36%, ahead of the Tories on 32%. UKIP sits on 13%, the Liberal Democrats on 8% and “others” on 11%.

The snap polls immediately after Thursday’s Battle For Number 10 programme had David Cameron as the winner, but this latest study conducted over two days suggests Mr Miliband is the one enjoying a post-show bounce.

Of those who saw the TV programme shown on Sky News and Channel 4, 49% thought Mr Miliband came across best to Mr Cameron’s 34%. Asked which leader was most honest and clear in their answers Mr Miliband stayed on 49%, but Mr Cameron dropped to 28%.

This was confirmed by the Sunday Times.

LABOUR surged into a four-point lead in the polls last night, delivering a wounding blow to David Cameron as he prepares to meet the Queen tomorrow to kickstart the general election campaign.

The first comprehensive national poll conducted since Cameron and Ed Miliband faced a grilling by Jeremy Paxman on Thursday night shows the Labout leader has benefited from a post-show bounce that puts him on course for Downing Street.

And The Guardian

Ed Miliband’s hopes for the election have been boosted by a poll showing Labour has opened up a four-point lead over the Tories following last week’s televised contest between him and David Cameron.

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, taken after Thursday’s Channel 4/Sky TV grilling for the two party leaders by Jeremy Paxman put Labour on 36%, and the Conservatives on 32%. If replicated on 7 May, this share of the vote could give Labour a lead of more than 60 seats in the House of Commons.

It would put Labour within striking distance of a Commons majority despite the threat posed to the party in Scotland by the SNP. The findings will encourageLabour MPs and activists, who had been buoyed by Miliband’s confident TV performance during which he remained composed under sustained pressure from Paxman.

A separate Opinium poll for the Observer, conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the debate, suggests that the election will be neck and neck. It put the Tories one point ahead on 34%, down two on the week before, with Labour on 33%. Ukip is on 13% (-1), the Lib Dems up one point on 8% and the Greens also up one point on 7%.

Even the Mirror reports a Labour boost.

In our view Ed Miliband put in a better performance in the studio – but is that reflected in the opinion polls rushed out to gauge voters’ reactions?

In the run-up to the Battle for Number 10 TV debate, David Cameron comfortably led Ed Miliband in opinion polls. But looks Miliband’s fighting performance may have made a difference. Here’s what the numbers say.

David Cameron was narrowly ahead in an ICM poll of 1,123 people immediately after the show.

However, the news was better for Miliband among the small number of voters in the sample who were considering changing the way they vote:

This latter is, obviously, the result that Labour is focusing on this morning.

A small YouGov survey (800 people) for The Times’ Red Box is not enough to count as a poll but the findings reflect the general trend.

The Independent analyses how many of the Government’s coalition agreement promises have been kept.

On 20 May 2010, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his new Liberal Democrat deputy, Nick Clegg, unveiled the coalition agreement, the document by which they would govern for the next five years.

The pair argued their parties were uniting for the good of the country as it faced down an economic crisis. This 36-page document, they claimed, was “historic” and would result in a “radical, reforming government”. It was a coalition “inspired by the values of freedom, fairness and responsibilities”. Those were bold claims – backed by promises found in the agreement. But did they stick to them? Here, we audit the coalition on 10 policy areas. 

And Sky News reports from the Tories’ spring forum in Manchester.

“What about Europe?” shouted a heckler during David Cameron’s address to Tory delegates at the spring forum in Manchester.

What about Europe, indeed. The issue was barely mentioned by the Prime Minister and nor was immigration (apart from while he was praising Home Secretary Theresa May).

So, two big issues that often cause concern for the Tory faithful were missing from the Conservative leader’s first big election speech.

Accompanied by his wife, Samantha, Mr Cameron decided instead to focus on a different side of his party.

He decided to make the speech in the Labour heartland of Manchester, talking about Tory hopes to create a “northern powerhouse” – name checking the successes of Sunderland and Dundee – hardly Tory strongholds.

As does the Express

PRIME Minister David Cameron admitted the general election is on a “knife edge” as he used his first big campaign speech to launch a blistering attack on Ed Miliband.

Addressing activists at the Conservative spring conference in Manchester yesterday, he cast the contest as a personal battle between him and the Labour leader.

He also set out plans for a “truly seven?day-a-week” NHS in England if the Tories regain power after May 7.

Mr Cameron said that in a two-way race for No 10 it was right that he should focus on his opponent. He said that under Mr Miliband, Labour had become a “bunch of hypocritical, holier-than-thou, hopeless, sneering socialists” having betrayed their traditional values.

Mr Cameron also accused Mr Miliband of planning to “crawl up Downing Street on the coat-tails of the SNP” and warned that his spending plans would wreck the economic recovery.

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has warned that the SNP is offering a hand of friendship to the UK with a fist behind its back to deliver the “knockout blow to break Britain apart”.

In an interview with The Telegraph, the Prime Minister rejects calls from Tory colleagues to abandon the goal of cutting net migration to ‘the tens of thousands’.

David Cameron has promised he will keep his controversial target to cut net migration down to “the tens of thousands”, rejecting calls from Tory colleagues to abandon the “impossible” goal.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, the Prime Minister insisted such a dramatic reduction in immigration remained the right target for Britain as he pledged to get population growth under control.

Mr Cameron said he understood the concerns of many traditional Tory voters who were dismayed that the government had failed to reduce migration levels.

Before the last election Mr Cameron made a “no ifs, no buts” promise to the country to cut net migration – the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving – to below 100,000.

But latest figures show that the number is 298,000, which is higher than when Gordon Brown left office.

Kenneth Clarke, the former Tory Home Secretary, has warned that the immigration target is impossible to meet, while Lady Warsi, an ex-Conservative party chair, described it as “unrealistic” after the latest figures were released.

The Telegraph also reports comments from Chancellor that ridicules the Labour leader’s attempt to position himself as a statesman who is ‘tough enough’ to represent Britain.

George Osborne led an intensely personal Tory assault on Ed Miliband’s fitness to lead Britain, saying life would be “hell” under his premiership.

The Chancellor used the launch of the Conservatives’ election campaign to ridicule the Labour leader’s attempt to position himself as a statesman who is “tough enough” to represent Britain on the world stage.

In a three-pronged attack, Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, said Ed Miliband is the least prepared Labour leader since Neil Kinnock, while David Cameron said voters must question whether he is strong enough to handle “make or break calls in the middle of the night.”

Mr Cameron asked voters to give him five more years to “finish the job” and said that the “sunlit uplands” are now “in sight” as the economy recovers.

He said the Tories are the only party that care about would-be home owners, retirees and apprentices, adopting a new refrain: “We are with you.”

The Telegraph also reports that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has offered Labour a pact to make Ed Miliband PM in a speech at the party conference.

Nicola Sturgeon has made a direct offer to Ed Miliband to “join forces” to put him in Downing Street if Labour and the SNP together have more seats than the Tories after the general election.

The First Minister called on the Labour leader to match the SNP’s commitment to stopping a minority Conservative government “even getting off the ground” by bringing it down in a vote of confidence.

Speaking at the SNP conference in Glasgow, she warned Mr Miliband that rejecting her offer would be the “final nail in the political coffin” of Scottish Labour as voters will conclude he would rather have the Tories in power than work with her party.

But he would face a huge backlash from English voters if the Tories were the largest party and he tried to get into Downing Street with the SNP’s help. Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, ignored the challenge and reiterated his warning that voting SNP will help Mr Cameron retain power.

The Sunday Times offers Cameron’s pledge for an extra £8bn for the NHS.

THE Tories promised last night an extra £8bn in funding for the NHS in an attempt to wipe out Labour’s election advantage on the health service.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, revealed that the Conservatives will fully fund a five-year plan drawn up by Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, and keep the budget rising faster than inflation.

In a further boost for families with children he announced that ministers have struck a landmark deal to vaccinate newborn babies against meningitis B.

From September, children will get the vaccine at two months old, with further doses at four months and twelve months. There will also be a one-off catch-up programme for three and four-month-olds.

“It means we will have the most comprehensive meningitis vaccine programme anywhere in the world,” Hunt said.

The LibDems will target the female vote in the election, reports the Guardian.

Nick Clegg will today begin his mission to win over female voters in a number of his party’s target constituencies as he begins the Liberal Democrats’ general election campaign.

The deputy prime minister is beginning his campaign in the marginal constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon, one of a series of Lib Dem target seats where the party is fielding a female candidate.

Party strategists believe that winning over the female vote will be crucial to their chances of success across a range of key battleground constituencies.

Despite their low opinion poll ratings, the party is confident that their own internal polling promises an increase in women voting for the Lib Dems within a series of must-win constituencies.

Their analysis of 18 marginals shows that the number of women who say they are undecided about their vote has fallen from 30.6% in 2014 to 22.6% this year. Over the same period they say that support for the Lib Dems in those seats has risen by nearly 10%, from 15.2% to 24.9%.

They believe younger women in particular are attracted by the Lib Dems’ policy on shared parental leave, while headline plans to prioritise mental health, raise tax thresholds and cut the deficit are popular among women generally.

Clegg will highlight the Lib Dems’ attempts to increase their quota of female MPs, using the opening days of the election campaign to visit a series of constituencies where the party has female candidates.

The Mirror reports on a Conservative dirty tricks campaign to target Ed Miliband

A sinister Tory plot to use flashmobs to derail Ed Miliband’s election campaign can be revealed.

Concealing their identity with masks of SNP leader Alex Salmond, Conservativeactivists were among protesters, some of whom pushed and shoved the Labour leader in a “disturbing” sudden attack.

A Sunday Mirror investigation has found the protest was organised by Tim Smith, a press officer at Conservative HQ, which is headed by party chairman Grant Shapps under PM David Cameron.

The alarming incident in London on Thursday has raised fears about politicians’ safety as the General Election battle heats up.

It comes just days after UKIP leader Nigel Farage was hounded as he tried to have a pub lunch with his family.

In the ambush on Mr Miliband, protesters in Alex Salmond masks surrounded him as he left a meeting in Rotherhithe, south-east London. Police are investigating the incident.

Labour insiders believe the group of Tory activists, including press officer Smith, were tipped off about the location by a Conservative-supporting newspaper – despite the security risks.

The Mirror also publishes a comment piece by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who says David Cameron is now just a lame duck as PM and won’t get a second term let alone a third

Now we know David Cameron won’t serve a third term as Prime Minister.

That’s very gracious of him when it looks ­increasingly unlikely he’ll even get a second!

But put that aside and say he beats the odds and gets back into No 10, Cameron will have no authority.

How do I know?

Because I had to deal with the constant exchanges between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair on the timetable of Blair’s ­departure as PM.

I well remember playing marriage guidance counsellor to Tony and Gordon.

We called their problems the TBGBs.

The media were always asking when Tony would step down. Almost as often as Gordon.

That constant discussion proved to be a real drag on the workings of the Government.

Gangmasters

In other news, the Tories are ccused of blocking ordinary workers from serving on board of Britain’s gangmasters’ watchdog, reports the Mirror.

The Tories have been accused of blocking worker involvement in Britain’s gangmasters’ watchdog.

For the first time there will be no workers’ representative on the board of the Government’s Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

The GLA was set up in the wake of the Morecambe Bay tragedy in which 21 Chinese cockle pickers were drowned by an incoming tide in 2004.

A gangmaster served just four months for each victim killed in the disaster after being released halfway through a 14-year manslaughter sentence.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The GLA was set up following a long union campaign after the Morecambe cockle pickers tragedy.

And in the Mail, former opposition leader Neil Kinnock invokes Hitler to smear the Tories

Neil Kinnock is facing a political furore after comparing David Cameron’s Election tactics to Hitler’s infamous ‘big lie’ about the Jews.

In an incendiary speech, the former Opposition leader, one of Ed Miliband’s closest allies, accused the Prime Minister of telling a ‘great lie’ about Labour’s economic record.

It had ‘etched its way into the consciousness of the British people in tribute to the attributes of the great lie almost on a scale practised in Germany before the War’, said Lord Kinnock, 73.

He added: ‘I don’t compare Osborne, Cameron and Hague and the rest of them to those Nazi criminals’, but said the Tories had used ‘repeated lies, deceit and dangerous and ruinous untruths’ to brainwash voters into believing that ‘Labour caused the economic car crash’.

Rail travel over Easter

The Express reports that travelling over the Easter break could take five times longer than usual but will cost more.

THOUSANDS of passengers on Britain’s busiest rail route face a rip-off at Easter with long delays from engineering works as the price of tickets rocket.

Journeys will be up to five times longer than usual and cost four times the normal fares as closures from Good Friday to Easter Monday hit seven rail operators’ lines.

In a move an expert says “adds insult to injury”, Virgin Trains and London Midland have axed advanced cheap fares forcing passengers to buy more expensive off-peak tickets.

In addition, they will have to endure arduous journeys with multiple transfers between trains and replacement buses.

A trip from London to Manchester will cost £82 instead of the usual £15 advanced single ticket and take three hours, 53 minutes for a journey via Sheffield, compared to the normal two hours, eight minutes direct service.

London to Liverpool will set a passenger back £31.50 instead of £12 for a six-hour journey that involves four trains and a bus, instead of the normal direct service taking three hours, 16 minutes.

London to Rugby will be £24.90 instead of £6 and take three hours, 17 minutes instead of 52 minutes while London to Milton Keynes is £15.40 instead of £6, taking two hours and 23 minutes, nearly five times longer than the normal half-hour.

Russian wargames

Also in the Express is a report of a wargame operation to ‘see off’ a potential threat from Vladimir Putin.

THE ROYAL Air Force has mounted its biggest air defence exercise over British skies in thirty years after a series of Russian nuclear bomber flights near UK skies.

Operation Rising Panther, the first of six proposed air defence operations due to take place every year, will “show Vladimir Putin in no uncertain terms” that Britain is ready, willing and able counter increasing Russian aggression should the need arise, say military sources.

More than 30 aircraft, including 20 Typhoons and Tornado fighter jets as well as a range of ED-3, AWACS, Sentinal and Shadow surveillance aircraft took part in the mock attack-and-defence wargames over the North east of England, as well as ground-based command teams.

In February the Sunday Express revealed how one of the two Russian T-95 “Bear” long-range bombers intercepted by RAF Typhoons over the English Channel was carrying a nuclear missile designed to destroy a Trident submarine.

President Putin, who has recently increased Russian defence spending by a record 33 per cent, authorises around eight Russian incursions into  UK air space or Britain’s “sphere of influence” every year. More than 100 were known to have encroached European airspace in 2013 alone.

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