Politics Summary: Tuesday, April 6th

Gordon Brown will go to the Queen this morning to seek a dissolution on parliament, with the General Election taking place, as expected, on May 6th.

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Gordon Brown will go to the Queen this morning to seek a dissolution on parliament, with the General Election taking place, as expected, on May 6th. The latest polls show the Tory lead collapsing to just four points – a result which would leave Labour with the most MPs. The Guardian/ICM poll – the closest in this series for two years – shows Labour on 33% (up 4), Tories on 37% (down 1) and the Liberal Democrats on 21% (down 2). The Guardian also reports that Labour’s manifesto will promise “a series of bold initiatives to reform public services in a programme of ‘national renewal'”, and that a “fourth term Labour government would be ‘bolder about the role of state intervention in markets’ and deliver sweeping constitutional change”.

The Mirror, meanwhile, says the election will be a choice between “fairness or greed”. It says that Labour have been “right on the NHS, right on education and right on the biggest challenge of modern times – the economy”, while the Tories “have consistently flip-flopped on each and every one of these key issues. Without exception… Backing Labour is a simple question of supporting right against wrong. Fairness and justice against selfishness and greed.” And The Times describes it as “The Election for Change”, saying: “The real question facing Britain is not what we think of the political parties, but what we want for our country over the next five years.”

The Telegraph reports that support for the Conservatives among gay voters has “fallen sharply” after Chris Grayling’s secret remarks that b&b owners should have the right to ban gay couples. A poll of nearly 1,200 gay men and women for the Pink News website found that just one in five plan to back the Tories, down from a quarter last month – and nearly half their rating among all voters. Labour are unchanged on 28%, with the Liberal Democrats up 5 on 29%. The poll also revealed one in three gay voters “felt less favourably” towards David Cameron following his floundering Gay Times interview in which he failed to back a Lords amendment allowing civil partnership ceremonies to be performed on religious premises. The Standard reports Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill’s response to Grayling’s remarks: “No one is obliged to run a B&B, but people who do so have to obey the law. I don’t think anyone, including the Tories, wants to go back to the days where there is a sign outside saying: ‘No gays, no blacks, no Irish’.” On Sunday, Left Foot Forward revealed the increased pressure on the Tory leader to sack his shadow home secretary, especially in the light of his decision to de-select Tory/UUP PPC for South Antrim, Adrian Watson, who said he would feel “uncomfortable” having gay couples stay in his bed and breakfast.

The Independent reports that the main parties have been accused by campaigners of “failing to confront the BNP”. They say immigration concerns must be tackled “head on” to face down the extremists, with the three main party leaders criticised for “adopting hopelessly out-of-date tactics” and “failing to address the legitimate grievances of alienated white working-class voters”… “Mr Brown called the BNP a ‘nasty extreme party’, Mr Cameron labelled it a ‘ghastly piece of filth’ and Mr Clegg said it was made up of ‘fascist thugs’.” James Bethell, director of the Nothing British group, tells the Indy: “The mainstream parties must have the guts to confront toxic issues – immigration, national identity, Islamism and the divided nature of our society … The people thinking of voting for it will have been hardest hit by globalisation, which has been good for the better off but an unmitigated disaster for those whose jobs have moved somewhere else. Politicians need to stop sitting on their hands and get stuck in.”

The Standard reports that rail workers are to be re-balloted on strike action, to take place in May. The original strike dates, due to begin today, were ruled illegal by the High Court last week, prompting the re-ballot. The Standard reports that “the executive of the Rail Maritime and Transport union will meet tomorrow to set out a timetable for the re-balloting of more than 5,000 signal workers and 12,000 maintenance staff across the rail network”, with RMT general secretary Bob Crow claiming the dispute with Network Rail “remains alive”. He said: “The fight to defend 1,500 safety-critical jobs out on the tracks, and safe working conditions for both our signals and maintenance staff, will not be kicked aside by one highly-political court ruling. Our fight against Network Rail’s cuts programme goes on … That’s what’s at stake in the fight against the jobs massacre on the UK’s railways and we will make it a high-profile political issue throughout the election campaign.” Network Rail argue that the plan to cut 1,500 jobs will not compromise safety and say new working practices will allow more maintenance and other work to be carried out in the evenings and at weekends.

And the new 50 pence tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 comes into force today. The Telegraph reports that the new tax rate, “designed to boost public finances”, will affect 30,000 people. In addition, adds the Telegraph, “people who earn more than £150,000 will see tax relief on their pension contributions cut back”. Business groups fear the new rate “will stifle foreign investment and hinder entrepreneurs”, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies warning the new rate will “actually cost the Treasury money as rich people alter their behaviour to minimise their income tax bill”.

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