Yesterday, Channel 4 presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy posted on Twitter about the refusal of many politicians to answer questions from the public and journalists. He asked whether we should end the free airtime given to politicians who offer slogans, speeches and pooled clips without allowing their views to challenged.
“Would you like to end the slogan-dominated election speeches and see politicians properly questioned? The reason they get away with their current accountability-light campaigning is partly because the media facilitates it.
“We cover their speeches and events on a pooled (shared) basis so they know their slogans will be on TV and social media regardless. They get this free platform whether or not they agree to answer questions from either the public or journalists. If the media acted together it could say speeches only get covered if there is proper questioning. Would this be right or wrong?
“For example : Chancellor was to do interviews today. Yesterday said no presenters but yes to corrs. Now he’s just done a pooled clip.”
In every election the main parties keep certain politicians away from the media spotlight due to their divisiveness or unpopularity. Until his rather faltering appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning James Hunt was noticeable by his absence.
The leading light of the Brexit vote Boris Johnson has been keeping a low profile and it is being said that several of his Cabinet colleagues want him sidelined. Boris isn’t however easily gagged and he’ll be making a foreign policy speech later today and has a number of broadcast appearances planned later this week.
The Time has reported that at least three senior ministers want the PM to silence the foreign secretary. One said ‘BoJo’ should be given “lots of important meetings in various foreign capitals” between now and the election on June 8.
That said there’s lots of comment in social channels that the PM, who has ruled out TV debates is herself keeping a low profile. With a 20+ point lead in the polls it probably doesn’t matter much whether or not she talks to voters.
Since The PM called the election there have been two hashtags vying for dominance in political twitter feeds. #GE2017 was the natural evolution of #GE2015 the popular tag from last time round. However the lighter, more efficient #GE17 was getting almost as much use. The wisdom of crowds suggesting that the world was ready for a lean, mean version.
Earlier today however Twitter effectively killed off the shorter version rolling out a Twitter emoji for the election .
A Twitter emoji appears when a hashtag generates an icon created by Twitter. It may be a national flag or another small image created for a major event. #GE2017 generates the emoji as does #GeneralElection but #GE17.
Farewell then, #GE17. You burned brightly but were very brief.
Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, set out Labour’s approach to Brexit, today.
At the heart of Labour’s plans are remaining inside the Single Market and the Customs Union or building a bespoke trading arrangement and tearing up Theresa May’s plan for a hard Brexit.
“We will scrap the Government’s Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that…will have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union as we know that is vital to protecting jobs and the economy”
Starmer also outlined a new approach to dealing with EU nationals in the UK, guaranteeing their right to stay: “on day one of a Labour Government we will immediately guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit, and we will seek reciprocal measures for UK citizens in the EU”
Labour also plans to replace the Tories’ Great Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill, which will make sure that all EU-derived laws are fully protected.
Only one in twenty voters now say they plan to vote UKIP according to the latest YouGov poll. If that’s right, their share has halved in the first week of the campaign and is down over 60% from the last election. Leader Paul Nuttall has been dodging questions about whether he intends to stand as an MP this time round.
It looks very much as if the former UKippers now intend to vote Conservative, as Theresa May’s party remains on track for a landslide victory. Just under half the electorate say the will vote for her party on June 8th.
With the main objective of UKIP being the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, it appears that post the Brexit vote they are a party without a purpose and with vanishing support.
Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron is the favourite to be the next French President, having come top in the first round of voting. He will face National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the run off election on 7 May 2017. If he wins at 39, he will be the youngest French head of state since Napoleon.
The incumbent president François Hollande of the Socialist Party decided not to run because of poor approval ratings. The candidate for the Socialist Party, Benoit Hamon received just 6% of the vote.
The presidential election will be followed by the for members of the National Assembly (the French parliament) on 11 and 18 June.
The full results of the first round vote were as follows:
|Marine Le Pen
||La France insoumise
||Debout la France
||New Anticapitalist Party
||Popular Republican Union
||Solidarity and Progress
The Opinion Polls are clearly off again given that two polls today give the Tories 40% (Survation) and 50% (ComRes) respectively, a difference of 10%. One thing however that we can be sure of is that the Conservatives have a big lead and that it has largely come at the expense of UKIP. The Independence party has been steadily polling in the mid to low teens up until now and even reached 19% in the run up to the referendum. It now appears to have lost its way with today’s ComRes polling giving Paul Nuttall’s party just 7%. Aware that interest in the party is draining a way the new leader has attempted to grab media attention with a ‘ban the burka’ policy.
The referendum result and Theresa May’s apparent commitment to a hard Brexit has shot the UKIP fox. Farage won’t stand again and even leader Paul Nuttall hasn’t committed to fighting for a seat. Last time round 13% of the vote wasn’t enough to win a single seat. Single digit support definitely won’t put a UKIP MP in the Commons.
George Osborne is quitting as an MP.
In a letter to Conservatives in his Tatton constituency, he said: “I am stepping down from the House of Commons – for now. But I will remain active in the debate about our country’s future and on the issues I care about, like the success of the Northern Powerhouse.
“At the age of 45, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life just being an ex-Chancellor. I want new challenges. I’m very excited about the opportunity to edit the Evening Standard. I’ve met the team there, and their energy and commitment to this great newspaper are positively infectious.”
He was regarded as a likely future PM until the Brexit vote. His Tatton seat is regarded as a very safe Tory constituency.
It’s fairly clear why Theresa May chose to call a General Election. Twelve months ago Conservative and Labour were tied but in the last twelve months the Tories have opened up a 20 point lead. It’s difficult to see how that can be eroded in just 7 weeks.
There are a few questions that leap out. We have just 23 months to sort the Brexit negotiations and two of them will now be taken up with domestic politics. The government was in power with a working majority until May 2020 so the election isn’t necessary and it is a distraction. An election could have been called months ago when the Tories had a comfortable 16 point lead. That way it would have been done and dusted before Article 50 was triggered . So why now?
Is Gorton a factor? The Gorton by-election set for May 4th is highly unlikely to now take place because Parliament will be in recess. The elected candidate would not be able to take their seat. A recent report in The Observer suggested it was a two horse race between Labour and the LibDems with 82% of the vote between them. With the Greens getting almost 10% last time round and George Galloway standing as an independent there was a very real chance the Conservatives would lose their deposit.
Perhaps even more worrying for the Prime Minister is the fact that 12 police forces passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service in recent months over allegations Conservative MPs broke local spending limits at the last general election. Around 20 MPs are said to be under scrutiny. If any cases were to go to court not only would it be highly embarrassing it could erode the party’s working majority which stands at just 17. Was that a factor?
Update 19.03 18.4.17 – The CPS has told Channel Four News that 30 individuals are under investigation.
“I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed that the Government should call a general election, to be held on June 8. I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.
“Last summer, after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership, and since I became prime minister the Government has delivered precisely that. Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations. We have also delivered on the mandate that we were handed by the referendum result. Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back and as we look to the future, the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe.
“We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world. That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world. This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it. At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union and un-elected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong. They under-estimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country. Because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government’s negotiating position in Europe.If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election.
“Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country, so we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin. I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.
“Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take.
So tomorrow I will move a motion in the House of Commons calling for a general election to be held on the eighth of June. That motion, as set out by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, will require a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons.
So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the Government’s vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament.
“This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the Government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game. Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide and the decision facing the country will be all about leadership. It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest, with me as your Prime Minister, or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats – who want to reopen the divisions of the referendum – and Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done.
“Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union. Every vote for the Conservatives means we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future. It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for Government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands.”