MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph)
I’m in France for the French elections today, so Donata Huggins is editing the email today. You can read my verdict on last night’s brutal debate here. Let’s put Dave and Ed through nearly three hours of face to face combat.
Polling stations opened at 7am and if predictions are correct ( read them here (£) voters are going to give the Coalition parties a good kicking.
David Cameron seems to think so too – and not just this week, but in 2015. In an interview with the Evening Standard yesterday he said that the electorate had a choice between Labour and a “Conservative-led government” – so not a Conservative majority then?
Team Cameron quickly backpedaled on the statement, telling Conservative Home that, of course, they were working towards an outright majority (read the Times (£) report here ). His already disgruntled activists are going to love that blooper.
And it’s not just his activists that he needs to calm. The Times (£) reports the PM has already tamed the language on Lords reform in the Queen’s speech to appease his party. A good plan, given that they’re not going to take tomorrow’s result well…
A CLEGG UP?
Nick Clegg seems a bit more optimistic. In an interview in today’s FT (£) he said he expected an improvement on last year, when the party lost 700 council seats in the first set of local elections since it formed the coalition government, adding:
“This campaign feels different on the doorstep. Last year there was a lot of highly emotive campaigning on the back of the comprehensive spending review and the higher education [tuition fee] row.
But this year, people are more willing to give us a hearing, partly because they have seen what has happened in Europe. They have seen what things could have been like and have realised we have to make difficult decisions in government.”
This is great news for Ukip, of course. Nigel Farage is interviewed in the FT (£) saying that popular disillusionment isn’t going to go away – and his party will profit. That said, Ukip are only fielding about 750 candidates in approximately 5,000 contests.
Their big focus is winning a seat on the London Assembly, where the proportional voting system could produce two seats for the party. Start with the grassroots, and next, the country.
NOT HAVING A MAYOR
It’s still not looking good for the government on the mayoral referendums – mainly because so few people know they are happening - the Guardian’s report for more. Most cities are predicted a “no” vote, but that hasn’t stopped Greg Clark, interviewed in today’s Times (£) , saying that he wouldn’t object to giving mayors control over a bigger base – even whole regions.
Whitehall is abuzz with talk of a cabinet reshuffle. It was always on the cards this year, but the Jeremy Hunt affair seems to have sped up the process. Dave is still reluctant to fire Mr Hunt, but circumstances might yet force him.
Grant Shapps, Maria Miller, Chris Grayling, Damian Green, Mark Harper and Greg Clark are tipped for promotion, while Ken Clarke, Andrew Lansley, Caroline Spelman, Sir George Young and Cheryl Gillan are thought to face the axe.
Dave will need a right-winger and he’s unlikely to reduce the number of women. The appointment of Chloe Smith last year set an interesting precedent for rapid promotion. Key question: how many and which ones from the increasingly dominant 2010 intake will win promotion?
Sir Mervyn King has just come off the Today programme. He said:
On his responsibility for the crash: “My main point was to try not to blame anyone – it was the failure of the system. I accept responsibility for going along with a system that failed.”
To the accusation that he allowed the economy to grow too fast: “The speed at which the economy was growing was sustainable… No sign that it was going to quickly or too slowly. We were building up a trade deficit – but that wasn’t unique to the UK. Had we run the economy at a slower speed we would have had rising unemployment.”
To the accusation that the BoE was too slow to react to the crisis: “Certainly late to the game on understanding the scale of the crisis, but we weren’t alone in that.”
On the health of the economy: “A reasonable view is that some growth will show later in the year.”
Sir King is in all the papers because yesterday he admitted that the Bank of England failed to do enough to warn about the risk building up in the banking sector ahead of the financial crisis, read our report here.
Today is a jam-packed day, here are a few other political bits you might enjoy:
TWEETS AND TWITS
Stephanie Flanders, the BBC’s economics editor, on trying to vote: “Just tried to vote. My polling station, in Hammersmith, had closed two hours early. Has anyone else had same problem?… My democratic outrage is now in abeyance. Apparently all stations closed because, er, today isn’t Thursday. Clearly I need an early night.”
Dan Hodges had the same issue: “I tried to vote this morning. Polling station filled with children in assembly. Anyone else had this problem…”
Latest YouGov/The Sun: Labour lead on 10: Conservative 33%, Labour 43%, Lib Dem 8%, UKIP 8%
Overall government approval rating: -40
In The Telegraph
Sue Cameron: Stand up, you Spads, and be accountable
Leader: Obama’s hollow triumph
Best of the rest
Martin Kettle in the Guardian: Devolution and the separation of the English mind
David Aaronovitch in the Times (£): The Left believes it was The Sun wot won it
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail: Ditch the class war Ed, the real aliens in British politics are red not blue
Anushka Asthana in the Times (£): What did the Lib Dems do for us? Quite a lot
Today: Local elections take place in England, Scotland and Wales
Today: Mayoral elections take place in London, Liverpool and Salford
Today: Mayoral referendums take place in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield
12:45pm Iain Duncan Smith takes part in an event hosted by Reform on the universal credit.
10pm: Polls close
11.59pm: First council results expected