Election 2011: Campaign round up

Ed Jacobs reports on all the latest news, polling and issues from the campaign trail in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As the SNP today becomes the final main party to publish its manifesto for the Scottish Elections, new research has shown that Labour just have the edge over the SNP, whilst the Liberal Democrats face electoral carnage.

In its formulation of a new “poll of polls”, the public affairs company Weber Shandwick, in conjunction with the website Scotland Votes, suggests:

On the constituency vote, the figures are: Labour 39%, SNP 27%, Conservatives 12%, Lib Dems 7%;

• On the regional vote, the figures are: Labour 37%, SNP 35%, Conservatives 12%, Lib Dems 7%, Green party – which is only fielding candidates on the regional vote – 4%.

If replicated on polling day across the country, the poll of polls would give:

• Labour 57 seats (11 more than 2007);

• SNP 51 (+4);

• Conservatives 13 (-4);

• Lib Dems 5 (-11);

• Greens 2 (-);

• Independents 1 (-) – Margo MacDonald would retain her seat.

Commenting on the results, Weber Shandwick’s Scottish managing director, Moray Macdonald outlined the challenge the results faced particularly for the SNP. She explained:

“This is undoubtedly going to be a tight race to see who is the biggest party, but if the SNP is to remain in power, they need to do significantly better on the regional vote.

“What does seem to be clear is that this election is much more polarised between two parties than ever before, and that is not good news for the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives or Greens.”

In Wales, meanwhile, where Carwyn Jones will officially launch his party’s manifesto with a promise of a “fresh hope” under Labour, events at Plaid Cymru/Lib Dem controlled Cardiff City Council will be used as an example of the dangers posed by a rainbow coalition of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Plaid, as previously discussed in the Western Mail.

The South Wales Echo has reported on a proposal by the city council to close the city’s local authority run mental health day centres. Explaining the move, a council spokeswoman argued:

“Most service users are now choosing to be active in the local community, engaging in voluntary work, accessing education and training opportunities, participating in sports, arts, cultural or other leisure group activities.

“The new developments give service users more choice and also allow the council to target its resources for the most vulnerable and those with the greatest needs.”

However, it was not the view shared by one user of the day centres who told the Echo on condition of anonymity:

“I think it is disgusting that the council are going to close our day centres without even telling us. I have been going to the centres for many years and it is my lifeline. I don’t know what I will do without it and want some answers.”

And in Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness has launched a stinging attack on the Conservative-led government’s failure to support the Northern Ireland economy. Speaking to an audience at the New York Stock Exchange building in Belfast, the deputy first minister explained:

“Business does not like instability. Our needs don’t register with policies made in London. The economies on both sides of the border are interconnected and interdependent – this is not political, an all-Ireland economic policy is not a threat to anyone’s identity.

This multiplicity means we are creating competition between ourselves. The best use of resources is to work together across our island. One executive from Chicago told us, ‘I look at a place which has 1.6 million people and I am not excited. I look at a place with 6m people and I am excited’ – that says it all.

“The policy of the current government is unacceptable and both Peter Robinson and I have registered complaints in Downing Street. Applying Tory policy of huge spending cuts will be devastating to the Northern Ireland economy.

“Peter Robinson and I have met the prime minister David Cameron once and it is obvious that he does not want to meet with us because he knows we have a grievance.”

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