Politics Summary: Wednesday, April 7th

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The general election starting bell has been rung and the nation’s papers have quickly fallen into line. In the red corner, the Guardian says, “Personal, proud, defiant: Gordon Brown takes his case to the country” while the Mirror warns, “Don’t get Conned”. In the (larger) blue corner, the Telegraph calls it a “Battle between hope and fear”, the Mail says, “Now the class war begins”, the Sun calls it “D-Dave”, and, somewhat dramatically, the Express cries, “Last chance to save Britain”. The FT neutrally goes with, “Election campaign begins”. The latest polls give the Tories an 8-point lead.

The Mirror covers remarks by “a top Tory” that the Government should “scrap all taxes except VAT”. In yesterday’s Times, Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse wrote: “Whichever way you look at it, cash is on the way out, and this means an indirect, universal sales tax could be on the way in, as a replacement for all direct taxes.” Paul Waugh calculates that VAT would have to rise to 120 per cent if all other taxes were scrapped. Tessa Jowell said, “Once again, VAT is revealed as the Tories’ favourite tax with this ridiculous plan.” Earlier this week, George Osborne said Tory plans “do not include an increase in VAT.”

The Independent covers Labour’s “far reaching package of constitutional reforms” which it sees as an “early overture to Lib Dems”. Gordon Brown is expected today to outline his support for fixed-term four-year parliaments; a “double referendum” on the voting system for Westminster elections; a fully elected House of Lords; and an eventual move to a written constitution. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the Tories yesterday rejected a Labour compromise on electoral reform which means that the government will abandon its proposal to introduce a referendum on the alternative vote system for electing MPs. The Times outlines that plans to phase out the remaining 92 hereditary peers by ending by-elections to replace those that die were dropped. The Telegraph goes into some detail on why the promised reform of British libel law has also fallen victim to ‘wash up’.

The Financial Times analyses 50 marginal seats and finds that the jobless rate has jumped from below the national average in 2005 to above it today. Over the past five years, unemployment has almost doubled in the marginal seats surveyed by the FT, rising 3.2 percentage points from 4 to 7.2 per cent. By contrast, unemployment nationwide rose less markedly, increasing just 2 percentage points to 7 per cent. The paper quotes Peter Kellner, president of the pollsters YouGov: “Where people are economically vulnerable, they are more likely to punish a government in a recession. But if Labour can convince them this is no time for a novice, they may be won back.”

The Guardian examines President Obama’s “major shift” in nuclear weapons strategy, which includes ruling out for the first time their use to retaliate against attacks involving biological or chemical weapons or large-scale conventional forces. President Obama is to go to Prague on Thursday to sign a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia and next week he will host a 47-nation nuclear proliferation summit in Washington. Gordon Brown had been due to attend but pulled out because of the British election. He is sending David Miliband instead. The New York Times says President Obama’s nuclear policy “is taking important steps to make the world safer and bolster this country’s credibility.”

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