Category Archives: Ed Miliband

Cameron pledges no increase in VAT

Prime minister echoes Labour’s promise to keep VAT at current level, but Tories’ plans would bring deep cuts in public spending

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Posted in Business, David Cameron, Economics, Ed Miliband, General election 2015, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Politics, Tax and spending, Thinktanks, UK news, World news | Comments Off

The untold love story of David Cameron and Ed Miliband

The PMQ slanging matches between the prime minister and Labour leader masked the fact that their biggest enemy is not at the dispatch box, but behind them

“Could the prime minister please tell the house why waiting time targets in A&E have not been met?”

“To be honest, I’d rather not. The question the leader of the opposition really ought to have asked is why cancer survival rates have improved, so that’s the one I’m going to answer.”

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Posted in Conservatives, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, General election 2015, House of Commons, Labour, PMQs, Politics, UK news, World news | Comments Off

Election 2015: David Cameron rules out third term – live

In the first of our daily election campaign live blogs, follow all the politics news with Andrew Sparrow and the Guardian’s team of reporters and commentators

5.25am AEST

Here are some other reactions to Cameron’s tips for the next Tory leader:

How should Labour handle this Cameron self-imposed term limit? “Vote Dave, Get Boris”? No, that’s too appealing isn’t it…

Every hack in Westminster expected Cameron to stand down in 2018. Not one of them expected him to say so publicly.

Guessing this won’t help the whole “right to rule” thing…

So the man who didn’t quite win his 1st election and hasn’t yet won his 2nd election now says he won’t contest a third? That where we are?

Cameron follows in Blair’s footsteps by putting time limit on his premiership. Difference is no anointed successor forcing Dave to do so.

One version would be: vote for me, you won’t have to put up with me forever. Statement of the obvious from @David_Cameron

5.21am AEST

Most Tory MPs are presumably surprised by Cameron’s latest revelation. The Times’ Sam Coates has received a text criticising the prime minister’s timing.

Tory MP texts me: “Well done Dave. What the Tory party needs right now is a leadership contest.”

5.17am AEST

James Lansdale, BBC deputy political editor, tells the BBC Six O’Clock news that Cameron’s admission has opened up a “Pandora’s box” and that he has done something risky by allowing the electorate to think about a time where he will no longer be in No 10. “That is the sound of collective jaws being picked up off the floor here in Westminster,” Lansdale says.

5.10am AEST

The prime minister has given an interview to the BBC in which he ruled out standing for a third term and named three possible successors – the home secretary, Theresa May; the chancellor, George Osborne; and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Here is some copy from the interview from the Press Association:

In an interview with BBC News, Mr Cameron was directly asked if he would go for a third term if he remained PM after the election.

He replied: “No, I think I’m standing for a full second term.”

David Cameron has told BBC he would not serve a third term as prime minister if the Conservatives remain in government after the election

5.01am AEST

Hello, Nadia here. I’ve taken over from Andrew for the evening. Stay tuned for all the latest political developments.

Jeremy Paxman has accused broadcasters of acting in a “pathetic high-handed” manner over the proposed TV leaders’ debates. He told Ad Week earlier today:

I thought Michael Grade was right in his criticism. He’s not alone in the industry thinking the broadcasters were high handed.

If you can’t get people to take part in one format, then you have to think of another format. That is one of the really big problems with television staging anything, once you get beyond the realm of reporting into production, you have to have willing participants.

“I think it’s terribly hard to achieve impartiality. I think fairness is important, but I don’t know whether impartiality is every really truly achievable.

“The definition of impartiality is a terribly hard thing to arrive at. As long as people know where individuals are coming from, that’s probably adequate.”

4.23am AEST

The chancellor says we should have HS3 after HS2 but why should we wait to connect across the north for 10, 20, 30 years? We should get on and do that as soon as we can, in my view.

I know some people are looking at the situation and asking whether Britain, France and America were right to act to stop Colonel Gaddafi when we did. We should be clear the answer is yes. Gaddafi was on the brink of massacring his own people in Benghazi and we prevented what would have been a wide scale, brutal, murderous assault. It was the right thing to do and we should be very proud of the British servicemen and women who carried out this vital task.

When we came into government we found the last Labour government was funding extremist organisations, members of the Labour party were standing on platforms embracing extremist hate preachers. We take a very different view on this side of the House.

4.11am AEST

Earlier Ed Miliband said the election amounted to a straight choice between a Labour government and a Conservative government. My colleague Alberto Nardelli has been fact checking whether that is really the case.

4.08am AEST

Earlier today Ed Miliband said that David Cameron should get rid of Afzal Amin as a candidate. Now that this has more or less happened (see 4.20pm), has Labour run out of things to say? Of course not. Here’s the shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Ashworth.


It’s right that Afzal Amin has gone but what on earth took so long? Given the serious allegations involved it was obvious that David Cameron should have expelled him immediately, instead he dithered until the candidate himself jumped before he was pushed.

This deeply damaging episode has exposed a Conservative campaign in chaos and a prime minister paralysed by indecision.

4.04am AEST

I missed David Cameron’s statement on the EU summit earlier. The highlight may well have been a rather good joke from Ed Miliband.

Were you disappointed just last week the president of the European Council, supposedly an ally of Britain, described the your position as mission impossible? Now, with the typical modesty we have come to expect from you, you then compared yourself to Tom Cruise. Though, to be fair, you did admit one crucial difference. You said ‘he’s a little bit smaller than me’. I have to say, I am not sure that’s the main difference that comes to mind. I would say one has a consistent and relatively coherent approach to international affairs and the other is the prime minister of Britain.

3.47am AEST

Jeremy Paxman, the former Newsnight presenter who is interviewing David Cameron and Ed Miliband on Thursday night, has been speaking at an advertising conference today. He doesn’t seem to rate the Labour leader’s TV skills highly, according to the Times’s Sam Coates.

Paxman: Doesn’t know how election will end. But “I get the sense things running the Tories way”

Paxman confirms he was tapped up as candidate for Kensington and Chelsea as well as Mayor of London

Paxman, who presents election leaders’ interviews on Thursday, speaking at Advertising Week conference

Paxman on Clegg: “what a great man” he says, I think it’s fair to say sarcastically.

(Phone battery went dead). Paxman asked to name leaders whose TV performances he admired / rated. Names Hammond, Hague, Cameron.

… When it’s pointed out that he forgot Ed Miliband, Paxman replied: “How astute” (to notice).

3.40am AEST

ComRes has just released the results of a new poll for ITV which suggests people think the NHS should be the top priority for the government. Here’s an extract from the news release.

A brand new poll conducted by ComRes for ITV News reveals that managing the NHS should be the biggest priority for the government at the present time (53%). This is followed by controlling immigration (45%) and growing the economy for everyone in Britain (40%).

There’s a difference of opinion in age groups on the issue of controlling immigration – it’s selected as a top priority for the Government by three in five (60%) of those aged 55–64, compared to only a quarter (26%) of 18–24 year olds.

3.25am AEST

It is worth pointing out that Afzam Amin’s chances of winning Dudley North were slim anyway.

According to a poll Lord Ashcroft conducted in December last year, Labour is on course to hold the seat, but Ukip is not far behind. The Conservatives were trailing in third place.

3.20am AEST

And this is from the BBC’s Norman Smith.

Tory sources say Afzam Amin stood down “after a period of reflection”

3.18am AEST

This, from David Mills, a former Labour adviser, is rather good.

I hope that, as he fired him, Shapps handed Afzal Amin a guide on how he could become rich enough to own a car with a fridge in it

3.17am AEST

The Conservatives have put out this statement about Afzal Amin.

Afzal Amin is resigning as Conservative candidate for Dudley North with immediate effect. Conservative chairman Grant Shapps has welcomed Mr Amin’s decision and thanked him for his work in the past.

3.10am AEST

The Press Association has just snapped this.

Suspended Conservative candidate Afzal Amin has resigned as prospective parliamentary candidate for Dudley North with immediate effect, a party source said.

3.09am AEST

Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll is out. It shows Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck on 33%.

2.59am AEST

And that’s it. The Q&A is over.

Ed Balls is now meant to be answering questions on Facebook.

2.58am AEST

Balls says he does not like the common agricultural policy because it costs consumers quite a lot.

2.56am AEST

Q: What will you do to get more women into business?

Balls says he has two daughters, aged 15 and 10. It is important to start in schools. He wants girls to be encouraged to go into science and business. Apprenticeships should be offered to girls. And banks need to get better at lending to women starting their own firms.

2.52am AEST

Q: Why do you want to slow the pace of deficit reduction?

Balls says he wants a balanced approach to defict reduction.

2.49am AEST

Q: What will you do to help firms pay business rates?

Balls says Labour would cancel the proposed cut in business rates for large companies. Instead, it would use the money to cut business rates by 1%, and then freeze them the following year, for small firms. That would be worth £470.

2.45am AEST

Q: What would you do to promote house building?

2.43am AEST

Q: How do you asses the state of the economy now?

Balls say when he was in Washington recently, their main concern was about Britain being isolated in Europe.

2.39am AEST

Q: When will you apologise for the state Labour left the country in?

2.37am AEST

Q: What will you do to make the mansion tax work? It’s a bad idea.

Balls says he did not come into politics to levy a mansion tax. But our NHS is going backwards, and so the government needs the money.

2.33am AEST

Now Ed Balls is taking questions.

2.26am AEST

My colleague Dan Sabbagh has sent me the first field notes from Britain Thinks on Glasgow East as published on their site.

By way of summary, it’s interesting to see how far Labour has collapsed in the minds of what were once its core voters.

When imagining the Labour Party as a person, our panelists imagined them living in an area of mixed affluence (wrongly thinking themselves more popular than the SNP), offering ‘poncey food’ at Come Dine With Me occasions and working as an NHS administrator (“one of the ones telling people what to do and making an arse out of it”). The soundtrack to their life was ‘Changing Man’ by Paul Weller.

In particular there was a strong and widely endorsed belief that English politicians, businesses and the media conspired to ensure that the Scottish people were frightened into voting to maintain the union.

Sturgeon & Salmond were the only political figures who generated any admiration among our panel. Where other leaders were seen as dishonest and lacking in understanding of local people and issues, Sturgeon and Salmond were seen as honest, brave and ‘Scottish’. “With [Sturgeon] being young and female – it’s a change from the dreary old guys in the suits, isn’t it?”

A significant minority in the group, though, acknowledge that, come the election, they may opt to vote Labour as the surest way to avoid another Conservative government.

2.22am AEST

Osborne on Ask the Chancellors – Verdict: Christ, that was dull. I do hope we haven’t got six more weeks of shows like this. It does say something when the most exciting moment in an interview with a politician comes when they switch to an advert.

Moment Sky News cut off Osborne mid-sentence. What will he do about tax dodging corporations? We may never know https://t.co/kHRxaxrR9A

Osborne’s #AskTheChancellors stint doesn’t bode well for TV non-debates – certainly no danger of it “sucking the life out” of the election

Although our economy is recovering and although we grew faster than almost any other major country in the world last year and although we have got a lot of people in work now, it is still a very difficult economic situation out there.

That is why interest rates are so much lower than they have been in other times in our nation’s recent history.

2.03am AEST

Osborne is now supposed to be taking questions on Facebook.

1.58am AEST

Q: Business rates are a big obstacle to growth. What will you do about this?

1.54am AEST

Q: What will you do to protect people on zero hours contracts?

Osborne says these contracts have been abused. The biggest abuse is exclusivity. The government has passed a law to stop this.

1.49am AEST

Q: Why are old people dying because they cannot heat their homes?

Osborne says he has protected winter fuel payments, and increased the state pension.

1.48am AEST

Q: What could the business case for leaving Europe possibly be?

1.44am AEST

Here are some preliminary verdicts on Ask the Chancellors.

This “Balls v Osborne” event makes the drying of paint seem vividly exotic. They aren’t even in the same room at the same time.

oh god. i thought that ed balls was actually going to be appearing with george osborne. clearly i have got this format wrong….

1.40am AEST

Osborne says increasing interest rates just to help savers would not help the economy generally.

The fact that rates are so low is a reminder of how difficult the global economic situation is generally.

1.38am AEST

Q: It is six years since the Bank of England declared war on savers. Interest rates are too low. When will they go up? And when will we have a democratic process to allow people to influence the Bank?

1.36am AEST

Osborne says the planning system has been one of the biggest obstacles to getting homes built.

1.35am AEST

Q: [From Sue Wimpenny, from the Lady Builder, a construction company] How are you going to get more young people on the housing ladder?

George Osborne says he is passionate about this. There are three points he would make. First, you need economic stability. Second, you need to get more homes built. And, third, you need measures to help people afford home. The government has introduced Help to Buy, and he has just announced Help to Buy ISAs.

1.29am AEST

Sky News and Facebook are holding an Ask the Chancellors event, with George Osborne and Ed Balls taking questions from a studio audience, and then answering questions on Facebook.

George Osborne is first up. His Q&A is about to start.

1.07am AEST

Some say we cannot base a counter-extremism strategy on British values because it is too difficult to define them. But we are not calling for a flag to be flown from every building, or demanding that everyone drinks Yorkshire Tea and watches Coronation Street. Our definition of extremism is “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. And we regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist behaviour. This is a limited, practical and inclusive definition – and I challenge anybody to say it is unreasonable.

Others imply that promoting British values is somehow narrow-minded or jingoistic. But British values are open, inclusive and pluralistic. And we must promote them not just because we are proud of them and because they form an important part of our identity – but because we know they are the means by which a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious society can function. Because our values haven’t just sprung out of nowhere. They have evolved over centuries in response to our political, cultural, religious and intellectual history. We believe in religious freedom because the alternative is conflict and bloodshed. We believe in democracy because the alternative leads to the arbitrary abuse of power. We believe in equality because the alternative is discrimination and suffering. We believe in our values because they are what make a successful society.

12.40am AEST

Boris Johnson has been answering questions on Twitter. For the papers, the best line is probably his offer to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear.

am mega clarkson fan but if a vacancy wd def let my name go forward. #askboris @asabenn

12.36am AEST

According to the Press Association, Ukip has lifted the suspension imposed on one of its parliamentary candidates, following an internal investigation into allegations of an incident at his workplace. Stephen Howd, a barrister, was reconfirmed as Ukip’s candidate for Scunthorpe after the party found that the allegation had been dealt with by his chambers some time ago and should not bar him from standing in the general election on 7 May.

12.30am AEST

Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, has said that the Labour MP Simon Danczuk has confirmed that Tories are saying about Ed Miliband.

Simon Danczuk has joined the growing number of Labour MPs who know that Ed Miliband just isn’t up to the job.

He is a weak leader who it utterly out of touch with the lives and concerns of hard-working taxpayers.

12.22am AEST

Here’s today’s Guardian seat projection.

11.58pm AEST


The extremism analysis unit will help us to develop a new engagement policy – which will set out clearly for the first time with which individuals and organisations the government and public sector should engage and should not engage. This will make sure nobody unwittingly lends legitimacy or credibility to extremists or extremist organisations, and it will make very clear that government should engage with people directly and through their elected representatives – not just through often self-appointed and unrepresentative community leaders.

We plan a step change in the way we help people to learn the English language. There will be new incentives and penalties, a sharp reduction in funding for translation services, and a significant increase in the funding available for English language training.

We will deny extremists the opportunity to spread their messages of hate by introducing banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of existing terrorist proscription thresholds. We will introduce extremism disruption orders, which are civil powers to be used against individual extremists who incite hatred. And we will be introduce closure orders, for premises that are owned or occupied by extremists or are used to host extremist meetings or speakers. When we decide whether to impose a banning order on an organisation based in this country, we will take into account the conduct of any organisations to which they are affiliated overseas.

We will learn from the successful Troubled Families Programme by creating a similar place-based, multi-agency, single-pot funding model called the Helping Isolated Communities Programme. Starting with the most isolated communities, this will include training and skills projects, help for women to get into work, mentoring schemes, interfaith projects, getting school pupils mixing with children from other backgrounds, and intensive English language training.

11.24pm AEST

This is the top to my colleague Alan Travis’s report of Theresa May’s speech:

11.21pm AEST

In her speech on countering extremism Theresa May, the home secretary, unveiled a plethora of proposals. Here are two of the main ones.

We will deny extremists the opportunity to spread their messages of hate by introducing banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of existing terrorist proscription thresholds.

There are some areas where – like in the application of Shari’a law – we know enough to know we have a problem, but we do not yet know the full extent of the problem. For example, there is evidence of women being “divorced” under Shari’a law and left in penury, wives who are forced to return to abusive relationships because Shari’a councils say a husband has a right to “chastise”, and Shari’a councils giving the testimony of a woman only half the weight of the testimony of a man. We will therefore commission an independent figure to complete an investigation into the application of Shari’a law in England and Wales.

11.11pm AEST

According to a survey for PinkNews, the Conservatives are for the first time the joint favourite party amongst gay voters. This is an extract from the news release they’ve sent out.

For the first time in the 10 years that PinkNews has polled the LGBT community, the Conservatives are neck and neck Labour at 26% percent each, up from 21% for the Conservatives in 2010 and down from 28% for Labour five years ago. The Greens are at 20%, up from 4% in 2010. The SNP, which introduced same-sex marriage in Scotland, are at 6%, with 62% support among Scottish LGBT people. Ukip has support of just 2% of the LGBT community, a fraction of their national support.

The polling shows that the LGBT community is as divided as the rest of the country when it comes to this year’s general election. However, there is one striking difference, the almost negligible level of support for Ukip and consequently the increased popularity for the Greens and SNP.

The negative position of Ukip to the defining LGBT political issue of the current Parliament, same-sex marriage, has meant those who are disenchanted with the big three parties have no choice but to vote for the Greens, or if they live in Scotland, for the SNP.

10.59pm AEST

Tommy Robinson, the former English Defence League leader, was on LBC earlier talking about his dealings with Afzal Amin. As we report in our latest version of the story, he does not accept Amin’s version of what happened. Robinson told LBC that Amin should “be honest” and “cut the nonsense”.

.@TRobinsonNewEra‘s account of the Afzal Amin allegations contains some remarkable statements http://t.co/JAFmiC58lL pic.twitter.com/Fa3UXDGGZs

10.46pm AEST

Nick Clegg has criticised the protesters who forced Nigel Farage to flee a pub where he was dining with his family yesterday.

I disagree with Nigel Farage too but leave his wife and kids out of it. Intimidating a politician’s family is never acceptable.

10.42pm AEST

Populus have a poll out today. Here are the figures.

Latest Populus VI: Lab 33 (-1), Con 31 (-), LD 9 (-), UKIP 16 (-1), Greens 5 (-), Others 6 (+1). Tables here: http://t.co/yaMi0HIXBO

10.38pm AEST

The Labour MP Simon Danczuk has been scathing about Ed Miliband in an interview with the New Statesman. He said:

Any Labour politician that says to you they knock on a door and Ed Miliband is popular are telling lies. They’re just telling lies. It’s just not true. I spend four hours knocking on doors on a Sunday – they [constituents] say things like ‘you’re doing an alright job as MP but I don’t want Ed Miliband as prime minister, so I won’t vote for you.’ So it’ll cost me votes …

You get it on the doorstep. If we’re having a straight conversation about this, he [Miliband] has an image of being more of a toff than David Cameron. That’s how the public see it. And what they mean by that is that he’s seen as more aloof. They’d prefer to go for a pint with David Cameron than they would with Ed Miliband, that’s the reality of it.

That NS interview does not fully reflect my views. We all have off days. I’d had a very difficult day & was feeling emotional 1/2

I do not meet anyone on the doorstep who is enthusiastic about David Cameron. I want Ed Miliband in Downing Street 2/2 #Labour

The wider point, which was what the interview was supposed to be about, still stands. Politics needs to re-connect with working people

10.28pm AEST

Ed Miliband has urged David Cameron to expel Afzal Amin from the Conservative party. This is what he said in Scotland.

These are shocking allegations when you have a Conservative candidate saying that he is going to be an ‘unshakeable ally’ of the English Defence League

There is only one course of action for David Cameron: he should end the dither, end the delay and kick this man out of his party.

10.26pm AEST

Ed Miliband’s speech in Clydebank contained an interesting line about austerity and the SNP, but otherwise it was a fairly standard election stump speech. What was more striking, though, was the Q&A. Miliband isn’t bad at these things, but he isn’t always great either. Today, however, he was impressive. The language he used in his answers was concise and memorable, and it sounded authentic too. Maybe all that debate preparation is paying off.

There seems to now by an unholy alliance between the Conservative party and the SNP to carry on a Tory government. And, frankly, Alex Salmond is at it again. And it is a combination of bluster and bluff. I gather he’s got a book to sell.

I’ll tell you who’s going to be writing the Labour budget, it’s me and Ed Balls. And it’s not going to be Alex Salmond, not in a million years.

How other parties decide to vote on the basis of a Labour Queen’s Speech is up to them. But I want a majority Labour government. With the greatest of respect, we are going to let Alex Salmond try and sell his book. What we are going to try and do is show the people of Scotland what the choice is at the general election. You don’t blow the whistle on the match before the game is over.

I think it is up for grabs how people see this election. It is incredibly important that people see the election as what it is. The referendum was last year’s decision. The general election is this year’s decision. And it is a very simple decision. Do you want David Cameron? Do you want another five years of David Cameron and George Osborne? Or do you want change? Do you want an end to this Tory government? And I’m the only person who can make this happen.

The SNP fight this election still proposing to end the sharing of resources across the UK, the principle of redistribution.

They are campaigning for the end of the Barnett Formula, replacing it with a reliance on risky and unpredictable oil revenues – revenues which even Nicola Sturgeon admits are astonishingly hard to predict.

10.25pm AEST

Theresa May, the home secretary, is delivering her speech on tackling extremism now.

I’ll post a summary when I’ve read the full text.

9.31pm AEST

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, has put out a statement welcoming the findings in today’s Guardian/ICM poll.

This latest poll is another welcome indication of the strong backing for the SNP we are seeing in communities across Scotland. The poll also shows very strong and positive ratings for Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond – with negative ratings for Jim Murphy. Extraordinarily, Ed Miliband as a Labour leader has consistently worse ratings in Scotland than even a Tory prime minister.

Labour are continuing to pay the price for working hand in glove with the Tories during the referendum, and lining up with them at Westminster to vote for more cuts.

8.59pm AEST

Q: Many people in Scotland are treating the election as referendum two.

Miliband says people should not pre-judge the result of the election.

8.56pm AEST

Q: Nicola Sturgeon has been awarded a salary higher than Cameron’s. Is that a good idea?

8.53pm AEST

Q: Are you ruling out a confidence and supply arrangement with the SNP?

Miliband says how other parties vote on a Labour budget is up to them. He will let Salmond sell his book. You don’t blow the whistle on the match before the game is over.

8.51pm AEST

Ed Miliband is now taking questions.

I’ll tell you who will be writing a Labour budget. It will be me and Ed Balls. It won’t be Alex Salmond in a million years.

8.48pm AEST

Miliband says there has been a lot of talk of coalitions in recent weeks. But there won’t be a Labour coalition with the SNP.

He says he is interested in a coalition with the people.

8.45pm AEST

In his speech Ed Miliband is now getting to one of his key points – his attack on the SNP’s call for an end to austerity.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, wants to end Tory austerity, he says.

8.41pm AEST

On the Today programme earlier Patrick O’Flynn, the Ukip MEP and the party’s economics spokesman, said Ukip would keep defence spending at 2% of GDP. It would spend £3bn a year more than on defence than the Conservatives are planning, he said. That could easily be funded with the money saved from scrapping HS2, cutting subsidies for Scotland and cutting the foreign aid budget, he said.

O’Flynn will be setting out more details at a Ukip economy event later where Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall are also speaking.

8.32pm AEST

Ed Miliband has just started delivering his speech in Scotland.

8.12pm AEST

A Guardian/ICM poll, published just ahead of Ed Miliband’s speech in Clydebank, this morning, reveals that Labour could be on the verge of losing 29 of the 41 Scottish seats it won in 2010.

Labour is on the cusp of losing control of Scotland, according to a special Guardian/ICM poll, which suggests that three months of Jim Murphy’s leadership has failed to dent the SNP at all.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalists are way out in front on 43%, exactly the same level of support that they enjoyed in ICM’s last Scottish poll for the Guardian in December.

8.05pm AEST

Afzal Amin told the Today programme that he intended to make a “robust defence” of his conduct when he appears before a Conservative party disciplinary hearing tomorrow. And he was articulate and calm in his interview, impressively so when you consider the situation he’s in. Yet he failed to provide a credible answer to at least one key question about his actions, and, judging by what he said when asked about his prospects of being reinstated as a candidate, he sounded like someone who knows the game is up.

I have got to make my case on Tuesday to the Conservative party and I want to make a robust defence of my actions and I want to ensure the party that I am a loyal party member and a party supporter, and I look foward to seeing a Conservative victory in May and David Cameron returned as prime minister.

He’s the one that proposed absolutely that we would do this march, that we would negotiate our way out of it.

What you are describing here is very normal, conflict resolution, confidence-building measures. And if people do announce that we are going to do an action, and other people disagree with it, then they sit together and resolve their differences and the action is then stopped, then this helps the communities feel that on the other side there’s a working partner they can work with. And that is what we were trying to stage manage.

This is a good example, as Kipling would say, that the truth you’ve spoken is twisted by others to make traps for other people.

When a man is in front of you in tears, because he cannot provide Christmas presents for his children, you have to extend a degree of humanitarian compassion to him. And, of course, I did say that to him, if I’m eating you won’t go hungry, because that’s a normal human response.

I stand by my desire to see peace between our communities; I stand by my desire to see a united Britain where we all live together. The British Muslim community isn’t going anywhere, supporters of the EDL aren’t going anywhere. We all need to share this space on our island and the more we understand each other, the greater that unity can be and what I want to see in all of this work is that that intention is recognised.

7.34pm AEST

Here is some Twitter reaction to Afzal Amin’s interview.

As a career rescue operation, it seems to have failed.

#AfzalAmin Tory Candidate for Dudley North astoundingly stupid and venal @BBCr4today

What possible reason for any candidate of any mainstream party to have private meetings with EDL? @BBCr4today #AfzalAmin

#AfzalAmin does not seem to understand that his political career is over @BBCr4today

This Dudley Tory Afzal Amin really needs to stop digging. Surely David Cameron now needs to call time on his Tory Party career @BBCr4today

I don’t often feel like shouting at the radio but listening to afzal Amin trying to defend the indefensible, tempted to make an exception

Afzal Amin going for the “haters gonna hate” approach in a remarkably unapologetic #r4today interview

Not quite sure Amin’s wish to stay on will come true….. Rather, It looks like he is going to be sacked rather soon

7.23pm AEST

This is from the BBC’s Ross Hawkins.

V senior Tory source – Amin will get chance to make his case but in all my years in politics never seen the like; outrageous

Minister tells me Amin’s “complete jerk”; ethnicity/religion beside point, gives impression Tories are friends with right wing extremists

7.22pm AEST

Here’s the Today interview.

Tory candidate Afzal Amin, suspended over claims he schemed with EDL, gives his side of story http://t.co/tAwxMxH6oq pic.twitter.com/oOV3NzZevN

7.20pm AEST

Q: Why did you not mention this to the police superintendent?

Amin says he has only met him twice. He did not have a chance.

7.15pm AEST

John Humphrys is interviewing Afzal Amin.

The interview was recorded yesterday.

7.07pm AEST

It’s Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Claire.

7.00pm AEST

A whisper ahead of the official unveiling of Ukip’s economic policy, expected later this morning, from the BBC’s Robin Brandt:

.@UKIP will commit to spending 2% of britains GDP on defence if it is in government after the general election

6.44pm AEST

More on Afzal Amin, the prospective Tory candidate for Dudley north, now suspended pending a formal investigation into claims he conspired with EDL leaders to plan a march against a new “super-mosque” that would then be called off – with Amin taking credit for his intervention.

Politics requires an amount of bravery and using my experience as a strategist in Afghanistan, negotiating between pro-Taliban militias and the US military, I decided to use the same tactics to improve community relations here in my own country between the EDL and Muslim communities. While the discussions were sensitive, I informed Chief Superintendent Johnson, who was supportive of my plans of resolving very violent tensions through face to face dialogue, and he was aware of subsequent meetings between the EDL and members of the Dudley Muslim community …

This was altruistic, community service work. Instead of these private discussions leading to something fruitful, [Tommy] Robinson [former leader of the EDL] clearly wishes to further damage community cohesion instead of working to prevent conflict as he had originally presented himself as doing. I am saddened that the Mail on Sunday has furthered this agenda.

6.24pm AEST

Amid the talk of Labour, the SNP, red lines and pockets, Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome, suggests another way this morning: that David Cameron should negotiate with Alex Salmond:

A constitutional horror? An offence to Conservative principles? An invitation to break up the United Kingdom? Far from it.

Remember: the Conservative party has already offered more devolution to Scotland than Labour, through the Strathclyde Commission, which said that the country “should have full powers over income tax” – three months or so before the Vow and six months or so before the Smith Commission.

6.00pm AEST

Good morning and welcome to the first of the Guardian’s live election blogs.

I hope these ‘demonstrators’ are proud of themselves. My children were so scared by their behaviour that they ran away to hide.

We lost the referendum vote but can still carry the political initiative. More importantly Scotland can still emerge as the real winner.

What I think is possible is a confidence and supply arrangement where we have a limited number of objectives and in return we would vote for budgets.

More probable is a vote-by-vote arrangement. We would move, or attempt to move, the Labour party away from signing up to the Tory austerity agenda.

The moment when @Anna_SoubryMP says the @AlexSalmond interview was ‘one of the most frightening I have ever heard’ http://t.co/pszfSary3v

Our American friends know that the UK is not about to let down its guard.

Actually, some dissent is good news. Onlookers need to see that the SNP is a feisty, fully functioning political party, not a compliant sect, and members need an honest debate not just a surly toeing of some new ‘feminist’ line.

Even more troubling, however, is the continued absence of a Tory Big Idea to fire a moribund campaign by all parties.

The overwhelming winner as most maddening phrase was: ‘Hard-working families’. I would have cast my vote for that as worst offender, if asked. It is especially annoying because variations of it are used by every party, so there is no escape, no matter which politician is being interviewed and regardless of the topic under debate (‘I’m glad you’ve asked me about the EU Common Fisheries Policy, Jeremy. What we’ve said is that we must have the sort of fish that ordinary hard-working families want to eat…’).

#Election outcome in Scotland remains the single factor most likely to shape the composition of the next government http://t.co/S8gjS2FbbI

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Posted in Alex Salmond, David Cameron, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, George Osborne, Nicola Sturgeon, Politics, Scotland, UK news, World news | Comments Off

Salmond says SNP will ‘hold the power’ in hung parliament

Scottish National party would probably have a ‘vote-by-vote arrangement’ with a minority Labour government, says former first minister

Alex Salmond has piled pressure on Ed Miliband by pledging to force the hand of a minority Labour government by pushing for deals on a “vote-by-vote” basis in which the Scottish National party (SNP) would seek to water down Labour’s fiscal plans in its first budget.

On the eve of a pre-election visit by Miliband, the Labour leader, to Scotland, where polls suggest the SNP is heading for a landslide win, the former first minister declared on Sunday that he expected to “hold the power” in a hung parliament.

Related: HS2 could become bargaining tool between SNP and Labour, says Salmond

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Posted in Alex Salmond, Ed Miliband, House of Commons, HS2, Hung parliament, Jim Murphy, Labour, Nicola Sturgeon, Politics, Rail transport, Scotland, Scottish National party (SNP), Scottish politics, Transport, UK news, World news | Comments Off

Ed Miliband complained about chancellor’s ‘two kitchens’ jibe, say Tories

In budget speech aftermath, the Labour leader is understood to have told George Osborne it was unfair to make jokes at his expenseEd Miliband complained in person to George Osborne after the chancellor used his budget speech to mock the Labour leader o…
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