Politics Summary: Friday, April 30th

Brown implores voters not to risk recovery in final tv pitch

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Gordon Brown acknowledged that David Cameron could be prime minister this time next week as he pleaded with voters not to put the recovery at risk in last night’s final tv debate. An instant post-debate poll of polls gave victory to Cameron (38%) followed by Nick Clegg (32%) and the pm (26%). The Standard reports the prime minister’s rallying cries to supporters after the debate: “From now until next Thursday we have got to campaign like we have never campaigned before.” The reports adds that Tony Blair is “expected to enter the fray for the first time” in the final week of the campaign; “he is expected to visit a constituency in London ahead of other visits in the UK next week.”

The nationals, as expected, go along party lines, The Times saying “Brown falls short as rivals left neck and neck”; the Telegraph: “Cameron saves best for last”; The Guardian: “Cameron comes out top – but Brown battles on”; the Mail: “Victory for Cameron in final TV debate as he turns his fire on Clegg”; The Sun: “Scrambled Clegg & Toast”; and the Mirror: “David Cameron plays slippery salesman in final leaders’ debate”. The Express, however, leads on something entirely different: “Euro court hands our benefits to terrorists”.

With the polls giving last night’s debate to Cameron, the commentators offer a similar view. In The Guardian, Michael White scores it Cameron (8/10), then Clegg (7/10) and Brown (6/10) – while Jonathan Freedland says that “barring an earthquake, David Cameron is on his way to No 10”: “The headlines that Brown needed from the BBC showdown in Birmingham were the kind that Clegg garnered two long weeks ago in Manchester… He needed to wield that great clunking fist and knock his two younger rivals to the floor, pounding them with such a virtuoso display of economic gravitas that the pair would be reduced to looking like jibbering, barely numerate novices. That was the stuff of Labour fantasies. And fantasies they remained… Pressed on both sides was a sweaty-looking Clegg. His holier-than-the-other-two act felt a little tired third time around. He survived the tag-team attack on him on immigration, but being on the defensive prevented him shining the way he had a fortnight ago.” In The Independent, Johann Hari writes that “Cameron is concealing his inner Bush”: “He has shown his party has changed. He puts his black and Asian supporters out front. He promises to ‘unleash’ the potential ‘of volunteers to … change our country’. This time, he says, his party ‘will be different’. It is the year 2000, and his name is George W Bush. It’s no surprise to discover that George Osborne said in 2002 that ‘we have much to learn from Bush’s compassionate conservatism’. They are following the Bush script to the mis-spelled letter.” And Steve Richards concludes that “voters are starting to make up their minds. Clegg was the winner when all three are considered. Cameron has cause for optimism and these are very dangerous days for Brown and his party”.

On the key theme of last night’s debate – the economy – the Telegraph reports that the three party leaders have finally “come clean on cuts”. All three leaders agreed that “there will be cuts; it will be tough”, their initial statements all emerging from “the same pool of aspirations… ‘difficult decisions’, ‘change’, ‘must start manufacturing things again’, ‘better value from public services’ and ‘bank levy’… The more one examines the policies, the less difference there seems to be”. The report ends with Mervyn King’s warning that “the winner of the election could find themselves catapulted out of power for a generation after trying to impose said cuts… Which raises the question: why do they want the job?” Sticking with the economy, The Times reports the Chancellor’s claim that the Tories “got it wrong” over the bank bail-out. Alistair Darling said that unemployment in Britain would have been 1.7 million higher than it is at present if the Conservatives had been in power, “if the Tories had been calling the shots”.

The story about Mrs Duffy, meanwhile, continues to receive coverage, with The Independent reporting how she “refused to dance to the anti-Brown tune played by The Sun”. The newspaper tried to “buy up” Mrs Duffy in a day of “cloak-and-dagger manoeuvres” says the Indy. Mrs Duffy “turned down the chance to make a small fortune from selling her story to The Sun because the newspaper wanted her to say things she did not believe. The offer was made during a classic newspaper attempt at a “buy up”, conducted in cloak-and-dagger style only hours after Mrs Duffy’s chance encounter with the Prime Minister had made her a media star”. The Indy reports how “an intrepid Sun reporter, Richard Moriarty, and a photographer, Jimmy Clark, were clambering across hedge and fence in failing light to sneak in through the back garden, unseen by their commercial rivals… around 8pm, Moriarty rejoined his colleagues. According to one, he looked ‘sheepish’. The deal with The Sun had fallen through… There was speculation yesterday that The Sun had offered Mrs Duffy £50,000, or even £75,000 for her story.” The report adds that, if Mrs Duffy wished to, “she could get £250,000 from the combination of a newspaper buy-up and subsequent magazine and television interviews”.

Away from the election, one of the main stories is the ecological disaster unfolding off the US coast. The Guardian reports that Louisiana has declared “a state of emergency” following news that oil from the stricken rig Deepwater Horizon has “hit the mouth of the Mississipi”: “Yesterday the coastguard said up to 5,000 barrels a day were flowing into the sea – five times the rate previously estimated – as an assistant chief at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said he was ‘frightened for the country’.” The Telegraph says the vast oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico “could prove to be the worst offshore spill in history”: “US officials said five times as much oil as previously thought was leaking from a ruptured BP well… The slick is estimated to cover an area 105 miles by 45 miles, or 4,700 square miles, making it one of the biggest oil spills in history.” And The Times reports how “the massive oil spill pouring from a ruptured oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has reached the coast of Louisiana, threatening an environmental catastrophe in the region. The first fingers of oily sheen reached the mouth of the Mississippi River on Thursday evening local time, 24 hours ahead of previous estimates by the US Coast Guard.”

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