Rifkind Resigns from ISC and Won’t Fight the Election.

Malcolm Rifkind has resigned as chair of parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) and will not seek re-election as an MP at the general election.

His decision follows an undercover investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches and The Telegraph into services for cash.  Both Rifkind and Jack Straw MP were suspended from their parties after accusations that they offered services to a fictitious Chinese company.

Jack Straw suspended himself from the Labour party as the evidence came to light but Rifkind held on and was still fighting to keep his ISC chair until this morning when he announced that stepping down was “entirely my personal decision.”

He added “I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons. I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this parliament.”

He maintains that the allegations made by undercover reporters are “contemptible.”

Broadcasters Name Dates for Leader Debates

The BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel Four have named the dates for the three UK election TV debates.  It’s still not clear that all the leaders will agree to take part or that the debates will go ahead if any decline.

The broadcaster drew lots and the order of the three programmes is scheduled to be :
2nd April: Debate between the Party Leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the SNP, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru on ITV.
16th April: Debate between the Party Leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the SNP, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru on BBC 1
30th April: Head to head debate between the Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the Labour Party on Sky and Channel 4

ITV’s debate will be hosted by Julie Etchingham with David Dimbleby fronting the BBC show.

However commentators believe that David Cameron  is unlikely to take part and The Liberal Democrats are angry that the broadcasters have put them on equal footing with Plaid Cymru.

An insider has said “it’s chaos. They are drawling lots before anything is even close to being agreed.”

Could There Be a Con Lab Coalition?

It sounds preposterous doesn’t it?  Bear with me though.

Most of the polls put Labour and the Tories neck and neck with around 33% of the vote each and a forecast 280 seats.  That would leave either party short of  a working majority by 46 seats. Most polls put the SNP as the next biggest party with 40-50 seats.  At the low end that is not enough for a two party coalition.  Even if Salmond had enough seats to broker a majority, the animosity held by SNP voters for Labour in Scotland and for the Conservaties full stop would make a coalition deal nigh impossible.

Despite attracting around 15% of the popular vote the electoral system will probably deny UKIP more than 10 seats.   The LibDems look like they’ll get around 25 so not enough for them to hold the balance of power this time around.

So what are we left with?  A second election may produce the same result again.  A three party coalition would require three parties that could work together and there are no combinations that fit that bill.

A Con Lab coalition starts to look a little more plausible doesn’t it?  The fixed term parliament act provides for a five year term. The leader of the party with the higher share becomes PM.   The leader of the other party steps down and his successor becomes Deputy PM in a government of national unity.    These things happen in times of great strife. With chaos in Ukraine and the Middle East, the European Union rocked by the election of Syriza in Greece and the existence of the Union under enormous stress with the rise of Scottish nationalism this may be such a time.

This is the most complex general election in living memory.  There is no predictable result, so an unthinkable outcome could be exactly what we get.

Channel Four Imagines a UKIP Victory

Channel 4 airs ‘UKIP: The First 100 Days’ at 9pm tomorrow night (Monday 16 February). It imagines what would happen in the event of a UKIP government after May’s election.

The docudrama uses real footage of Farage and UKIP activists to tell an imagined story of a UKIP victory. Farage smokes in the back of a limousine heading to Downing Street to become Britain’s new Prime Minister.  Controversial former Tory MP Neil Hamilton is installed as deputy Prime Minister.  Within three months, the nation is on the brink of collapse with race riots and the UK preparing to pull out of the EU.

UKIP is furious. One insider said “this is typical of the poppycock peddled by the public-school educated lefties who run Channel 4 and large chunks of the media. The idea that this is what would happen is simply preposterous.”

Can We Trust The Mirror’s Fake Twitter Story?

David Cameron has nearly 150,000 fake followers on Twitter,  around 15% of the total, according to an article in the Daily Mirror yesterday. We are told that Nadine Dorries and William Hague have an even great percentage of bogus tweeters following their accounts.

How much actual research did The Mirror do to establish these numbers? Well not much actually, they used just one tool Status People’s Fakers App. They themselves say “our scores are relatively accurate for larger Twitter Accounts”.  Hardly conclusive then.

Take a closer look at the Mirror story and it’s clear that they’re not sure either.  The article says “15% of them appear to be fake”, “MPs most likely to have “fake” followers”, “21% of their followers apparently being fake”.  There are more caveats here than in a Hollywood pre-nup.

That said, Twitter is absolutely full of fake accounts, so here at Ballot Blogs we decided to check how many fake followers The Daily Mirror has.  We used three tools TwitterAudit, Social Bakers Fake Followers and the Fakers App used by The Mirror. The results were startling. Twitter Audit said The Mirror had 39.6% fake followers,  Social Bakers put it higher at 41%, Fakers App said 16% Fake and 48% inactive.  It seems @DailyMirror has more fake followers than the prime minister or indeed any of the politicians in their league of shame.

Channel 4’s Cathy Newman Takes “Break From Twitter” After Mosque Tweets

Broadcaster Cathy Newman hit the headlines after she tweeted on Sunday to say that “ushered out of” the South London Islamic Centre in Streatham.

She had was taking part in Visit My Mosque day and said afterwards that she believed it must have been a men-only mosque, but was not made aware of this at the time.  CCTV footage shows Newman leaving on her own after speaking to someone inside the mosque.

Today she announced her decision to break from Twitter as a result of the controversy.

@cathynewman1/4 I have written to South London Islamic Centre and offered my sincere apologies for tweets sent in haste after I visited there in error.

@cathynewman 2/4 I accept my tweets were inappropriate and regret the use of the word “ushered”.

@cathynewman 3/4 My language was poorly chosen and has caused a great deal of offence. I deeply regret that this happened.

‏@cathynewman 4/4 I shall now be taking a break from Twitter.

Shoe Shopping with Theresa May? Monkey Tennis, Anyone?

Social media has been awash with incredulity at some of the items auctioned at this week’s Tory party’s Black and White gala, a major fundraiser for the election campaign.

Diners paid up to £15,000 per table for a place at the secretive event attended by David Cameron and senior conservatives. With some of the country’s richest hedge fund managers in attendance lots included the opportunity to go “shoe shopping with Theresa May”.  It’s not clear whether the £17,500 bid includes the price of the shoes or whether that will be extra.

Other bids were for a “unique bound collection” of George Osborne’s Budget speeches, signed by the chancellor,
a “roast chicken dinner” at the home of Chief Whip Michael Gove and a JCB digger.

On twitter user @paulsinha summed it up with the following:
“Shoe shopping with Theresa May” sounds less like an auction lot and more like a rejected TV pitch from Alan Partridge.

Monkey Tennis anyone?

Nick Clegg Behind In Sheffield Hallam…Last November

At the start of the week Lord Ashcroft published his latest batch of polls, this time from Scotland.  Perhaps the biggest shocker was the  29 point deficit to the SNP faced by LibDem Danny Alexander, in his seat in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.

Today it’s the LibDem leader’s turn.   Lord Ashcroft announced today that it had come to light that the poll he had published for Sheffield Hallam included a mistake in the data. The corrected data means that rather than having a three-point lead Nick Clegg should have been three points behind Labour.

The problem is that this poll was done in November, so whether the data was right or wrong, it’s completely out of date.  Lord Ashcroft is an erstwhile activist so  as I posted earlier in the week there are good reasons for treating his announcements with caution.  On the 27 November the day that Ashcroft first announced TNS BMRB put the LibDems on 6% of the national vote, Today a YouGov poll puts them on 9%.

In search of a headline however The Telegraph, The Independent and Channel Four News all carry the line that Nick Clegg is on course to lose his seat.  Perhaps he is, it looks as though he was, but a November poll is no basis for a February headline.

TV Debates Will be Deadly Dull – If They Even Happen

If they happen at all the 2015 election TV debates will be reduced to a litany of dull, pre-prepared responses and little actual debate. Broadcasters have put forward proposals for two debates featuring the leaders of seven UK political parties, including the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, SNP and Plaid Cymru.

As the London Evening Standard reported last night that will mean just four or five questions with seven responses for each one.  The leaders replies will be restricted to just sixty seconds.  It’s not the kind of format that will allow any leader to shine or provoke any meaningful interaction.   With just five or so minutes to speak Nick Clegg won’t have time to repeat the success of his 201 0 performances.

The only possibility of real interaction is a proposed head-to-head between just David Cameron and Ed Miliband as one of the three broadcast, but Cameron is unlikely to agree and may railroad the debates altogether.

Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, said recently that they “edging towards a solution” but that Cameron was prepered to participate without giving a binding commitment.  That sounds a lot like talks about talks.   Many senior Conservatives think it would suit Cameron to keep debating the terms of the Debates until the clock runs out.



Young Hit Hard as a Million Wiped Off Electoral Register

A new system of individual voter registration has wiped a million people off the electoral register with students particularly affected.

People now have register to vote individually rather than one member of a household or a college residence filling in the form.  The number of people registered to vote has fallen sharply in many university towns. The Electoral Commission has said that 30% of 18 to 24-year-olds are currently not registered to vote.

Today (5th February 2015) is National Voter Registration Day (NVRD)created by the non-partisan Bite The Ballot group with the aim of inspiring as many as possible register to vote ahead of the 2015 General Election. Co-founder, Michael Sani, said: ‘NVRD is a day for the nation to come together. It’s a day for all of us, as citizens, to celebrate our democratic rights. But it’s also a chance to prove to decision-makers that we hold a stake in society; that we’re registered, that we’ll vote – and that we want more from our democracy’.

Last night the day  was launched with the hashtag #NVRD and a ballot box projected on to the House of Commons in partnership with the UK Parliament.

Anyone can register online now here https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and find our more about Bite the Ballot here http://bitetheballot.co.uk/nvrd/#sthash.bsM48Z1b.dpuf

People must register before the 20 April deadline or they will not be able to register to vote in the election.