Politics Summary: Tuesday, May 4th

Gordon Brown last night made his finest speech of the campaign, and one of the best of his career, in a passionate appeal for fairness.

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Gordon Brown last night made his finest speech of the campaign, and one of the best of his career, in a passionate appeal for fairness. To a rousing reception and several standing ovations at the Citizens UK conference in Methodist Central Hall he said: “As you fight for fairness, you will always find in me a friend, a partner and a brother,” adding: “Let’s march.” Writing in today’s Guardian, the prime minister describes polling day as “a crucial moment for those with hopes of achieving a progressive constitutional settlement”, arguing that “the truth is that only a Labour government can deliver meaningful constitutional change. Nick Clegg is deceiving himself if he believes the Conservatives would back electoral reform. There are 100 seats across the country where Labour and the Tories are the main contenders. So I am urging all those with genuinely progressive values to vote Labour on Thursday. It is the surest way to avoid the risk of waking up on Friday with a government that would undo our great social achievements and our economic recovery, and kill off for a generation the ideals of all who passionately believe in the good society.”

The Guardian also explains the importance of the anti-Tory vote: “According to the marginals poll for Reuters of 1,007 adults in the 57 Lab-Con marginals where the Tories need a swing of between 5% to 9%, the Conservatives would win 327 seats, giving them an overall majority of two. The state of the parties in these seats is Conservative 36%, Labour 36%, Liberal Democrat 20%, putting huge pressure on Labour to try to squeeze the Lib Dem vote in these seats. To secure an overall majority, the Ipsos-Mori poll assumes the Tories will win all their Liberal Democrat target seats, something that is far from certain.”

The Independent, meanwhile, has an interview with Peter Hain, in which the Welsh secretary offers the Lib Dems a “four-year partnership”. Hain urges people to “vote with their heads, not their hearts”, calling on supporters of other parties to vote Labour “for the only time in their life”. He says: “I support every Labour candidate and the Liberal Democrat leadership supports every Liberal Democrat candidate. But voters are intelligent and they know what the real fight is in their own constituency. They will draw their own conclusions.” Schools secretary Ed Balls makes similar noises in a New Statesman interview: “I always want a Labour candidate to win, but I recognise there’s an issue in places like North Norfolk, where my family live, where Norman Lamb [the Liberal Democrat candidate] is fighting the Tories, who are in second place. And I want to keep the Tories out.” And the Mirror has a tactical voting guide of the 71 key marginals “where your tactical vote can save Britain from the Conservatives”, “how you can save Britain from a Tory nightmare”.

The Times reports the condemnation of the Liberal Democrat defence “gamble” by security chiefs. Peter Clarke, the former National Counter Terrorism Co-ordinator, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the Secret Intelligence Service, and Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, former Chief of the Defence Staff cite Lib Dem plans “to scrap control orders and pursue inquiries into the conduct of the intelligence services” as reasons for concern, calling Nick Clegg’s credibility on national security into question, leaving Britain exposed to terrorism and diminished on the world stage. The three write that: “The Liberal Democrats need to show that they do not stand outside the cross- party consensus on national security affairs. We believe that they need to clarify their position as soon as possible. All political parties must send the right signals — to friend and foe alike.” They also suggest that Clegg has so far “escaped proper scrutiny” in the campaign. The Liberal Democrats, however, have dismissed the criticisms as “scaremongering calculated to benefit the Tories”.

The Telegraph reports more speculation over the future of the Labour Party in the event of a defeat on Thursday, suggest that Alistair Darling has “moved into the frame”. The paper says foreign secretary David Miliband “is the front-runner and has powerful supporters, including Lord Mandelson… However, he is likely to face opposition from other Cabinet colleagues, such as Harriet Harman”. The report adds: “If Labour loses badly, and the party is not involved in coalition negotiations, Mr Brown is expected to stand down. Miss Harman, as deputy leader, is likely to take over until the new leader is elected. If there is a hung parliament with a minority Tory administration, Labour could decide to elect an interim leader who could see it through to another election within two years. That scenario could favour Mr Darling, even though he faces a battle to hang on to his Edinburgh seat. It had been assumed he would retreat to the backbenches if Labour lost, but his allies say Mr Darling is keeping his options open. They add that he would be a less divisive candidate than either David Miliband or Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary.”

And the Standard reports Nick Clegg’s attack on the Tories’ education plans, accusing David Cameron of “planning to slash the education budget by almost £30 billion” over the lifetime of the next parliament. Clegg cited last week’s IFS analysis – which Left Foot Forward examined on Sunday – that revealed the Conservative Party would “have to cut departmental spending by 21.7% by the end of the next parliament”. The Lib Dem leader says this would mean “£28.8 billion being cut from the Department of Children, Schools and Families’ budget over the next five years”, warning that Cameron’s flagship Swedish-style “free schools” programme would be “a disaster”, as Left Foot Forward has explained repeatedly over the past few months. Clegg also criticised Labour on education, saying the party had “built an education system where only some do well, while others are left to struggle”, insisting his ambition was “to make sure every child gets the best start”.

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