Trident is set to be the big issue today — but the fight isn’t just about policy. Several newspapers have splashed on the news that the Tories are attempting to embarrass Labour over whether they would allow the SNP to box them into scrapping our nuclear deterrent. To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today’s main stories.
1. Fallon vs. Miliband
The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has launched an attack on Ed ‘backstabber’ Miliband in the Times today — claiming that he would trade renewing Trident for SNP support to prop up his government. ‘Ed Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister,’ writes Fallon. Such a highly personal attack from a senior Conservative has given Labour ammunition to claim that Labour are taking this campaign into the gutter. Tim Montgomerie certainly thinks it was unnecessarily personal.
Fallon did not restrain his attacks on the Today programme either, claiming that this election is about trust and voters can’t trust Miliband. Labour’s election chief Douglas Alexander hit back straight, describing Fallon’s remarks as ‘rubbish’ and ‘embarrassing’, proving that the Tories are rattled. He might have a point there: there’s 28 days to go and they still aren’t ahead in the polls. Labour will insist throughout the day they remain as firmly behind Trident, while the Conservatives will play up the need for Miliband to rely on the SNP.
2. Scotland debates, round two
With perfect timing, Nicola Sturgeon has provided the ideal soundbite to back up the Tories’ attacks. During the second Scottish leaders’ debate last night, Sturgeon said about nuclear weapons and forming any kind of coalition ‘Is Trident a red line? Well here’s my answer: you’d better believe Trident is a red line.’ The debate was not a particularly easy ride for the SNP leader. She clashed several times with Labour’s Jim Murphy, who accused the SNP of having a ‘black hole’ in Scotland’s finances after Sturgeon confirmed she would vote for full fiscal autonomy (if she had the opportunity) within a year of taking power — something the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson also attacked her on. Attempting to backtrack from comments in Tuesday’s debate, Sturgeon also insisted that a vote for the SNP in May isn’t a vote for a second independence referendum.
It’s clear that Sturgeon found both of these debates trickier than the seven-way leaders’ debate on ITV last week and Murphy will be pleased with both of his performances. But as James Forsyth explains in the magazine this week, these attacks are unlikely to do her much harm.
3. Polls: still incredibly tight
Lord Ashcroft has released his latest series of marginal polls, which show the Conservatives and Labour are still very close in competitive seats. Half of the ten seats Ashcroft polled are set to remain blue — albeit with a swing to Labour — while the other half will mostly go red. One of the seats Labour is set to take is Stockton South, a rare Conservative-held seat in the North East of England. But just as his recent polling of Liberal Democrat marginals showed, the vote share of minor parties, Ukip in particularly, is being squeezed across the board in favour of Labour and the Conservatives.
After floating its policy of scrapping the non-dom tax status, the latest poll from YouGov/The Sun last night has Labour one point ahead. The Times has found the policy to be popular: a survey from YouGov’s First Verdict app shows that 77 per cent approve of the policy but 44 per cent think the economy might he harmed if the wealthy take flight. Although the Tories managed to land a few blows over the financial implications of the policy, it will be interesting to see if they continue to back non-doms or introduce a similar policy before polling day.