Both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have said that they won’t attend the live ITV Leaders Debate in Media City tonight. The prime minister has calculated that the Tory lead is so large she can absorb any damage. The Labour Leader, if the current polls are right, has little to gain.
Surely that’s not the point. In a democracy our leaders have a responsibility to put themselves up before the voters. They have a moral obligation to have their policies and character tested in public and before the huge audiences that only television can bring. Anything else is contempt for voters and contempt for democracy itself.
The remaining party leaders will be taking part in a televised debate this evening on ITV at 8pm. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, UKIP’s Paul Nuttall, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Green co-leader Caroline Lucas will all be there for the two-hour show being broadcast from the dock10 studios in Salford.
ITV said the invitation to take part remains open until the programme starts at 8pm, but if they do not show up they will not being empty chaired as ITV said the stage will have “the right number of podiums for leaders who attend on the night”.
This is the Brexit election. It was called because of Brexit. It will define Brexit and all of the parties have Brexit at the core of their manifestos.
The Conservatives are asking us to back a hard Brexit. Lowering immigration at the core and would come at the expense of a trade deal if necessary. In Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech in January, when she warned that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”.
Labour wants a soft Brexit. Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, set out Labour’s approach to 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”.
A vote The Liberal Democrats leaves the option to Remain. Leader Tim Farron said ” the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
That’s right, we can remain in the EU if enough people vote for the LibDems but the polls say that’s not happening. Perhaps people don’t understand or believe that we have the democratic option to reverse a decision that was more about the political ambitions of a bunch of old Etonians than it was about the future the 65 million.
The Foreign Secretary may be on his way out after a major cultural gaffe during a campaign trip to Bristol. This morning Theresa May refused to guarantee Chancellor’s job after the election. She must surely be considering replacing Boris Johnson after he demonstrated a basic understanding of religion and culture in India, a major economic and political ally.
Boris in an orange turban he’d no doubt chosen for the photo ops was advocating a free trade deal when he said:
“Whenever we go to India – to Mumbai or to Delhi – clinking in our luggage we have to bring Johnnie Walker…becasue as you may know, there is a duty of 150% in India on imports of Scotch whisky.”
“But imagine what we could do if there was a free trade deal with India, which there will be.”
His comments provoked a fury and one women, named as Balbir Kaur, took him to task on the spot:
“How dare you talk about alcohol in a Sikh temple,” she said. “You are standing in a Sikh temple talking about alcohol which is absolutely outrageous – it’s absolutely not right.”
Sikh’s as Boris Johnson should have known do not drink alcohol.
See his cringe-worthy performance here:
The Lib Dems launched their 2017 general election manifesto today with the title: Change Britain’s Future.
Brexit is the top issue. The LibDems are committing to a 2nd referendum on the Brexit deal, with the choice to reject the deal and remain in Europe.
There is also a promise to invest £7bn in schools and colleges and help for young people to buy their first home for the same cost as renting. They are pledging an £6bn a year for the NHS paid for by raising income tax rates by 1p, with £1bn of that money ring-fenced for mental health care.
Tim Farron the Lib Dem leader says “Theresa May and Nigel Farage have put our country on a perilous path, towards a bad Brexit deal and weaker public services. This election is your chance, your choice, to change the country’s direction. Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
To vote in the General Election on 8 June, you need to register by 11:59pm on 22 May. You don’t need to register again if you’ve already registered.
It only takes 5 minutes and you can do it online here. You might not want to vote for any of the parties but if you don’t register you can’t change your mind and you can’t have a say in who governs the country. Keep your options open and register to vote.
Do it now.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has a famously testy relationship with the BBC. Events earlier today won’t have improved things when the Corbyn’s car ran over the foot of BBC Cameraman Giles Wooltorton.
Corbyn was arriving to discuss the Labour manifesto when his driver applied the break. Laura Kuenssberg, who has a reputation for backing the Labour leader into a corner, rushed to the aide of her colleague. She was no doubt planning to ask Corbyn if he accepted that Theresa May was a ‘shoe-in’ on June 8.
Critics of the leader of the opposition were quick to put the boot in on-line. Labour will no doubt be issuing a statement later to heal the wounds. Cameraman Giles was taken to hospital where he is said to be strong and stable.
The front pages and the broadcast bulletins have been awash with news of the leaked Labour election manifesto. It wasn’t leaked to just one news organisation it went to all of them. It was also leaked in a way designed to make the morning bulletins and the national press. You need media skills for that.
The blame has been levelled at disgruntled Labour party staff who have remained unhappy with Jeremy Corbyn. It had to come from near the centre because not many people had access to the draft. There was a Clause V meeting scheduled for 10am today to discuss the launch of the document in a week’s time. It’s a meeting attended by the party’s most senior figures, including the deputy leader, Tom Watson and all of the shadow cabinet. They are joined by the Labour NEC and selected MPs, trade unionists and some councillors. It’s said that all those attending would receive a draft at the meeting, so many or most won’t even have seen it.
Yesterday Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell revealed a platform policy to scrap university tuition fees. The Shadow Education Secretary also hinted at the initiative. Interesting timing in retrospect.
The leak has gained more media coverage than a conventional launch. Labour’s election chair Andrew Gwynne (pictured) just happened to be in the BBC Radio 4 Today studio for an 8am interview. During the interview the Manchester based politician pleaded that the 10am Clause V meeting was “the sole reason why I’m down in London”. I’d have booked a later train.