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Campaign kick-off: 48 hours to go

5 May 2015

10:12 AM

5 May 2015

10:12 AM

Polling day is nigh upon us and the campaigns are going into overdrive today as the party leaders jump on buses, trains and planes to zoom around as many marginal seats as possible. Nick Clegg is taking the Liberal Democrat battle bus 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Ed Miliband is continuing to campaign on the NHS while David Cameron is visiting marginals in the London and West Country. To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today’s main election stories.

1. Clegg rebounds

Will Nick Clegg hang onto his Sheffield Hallam seat? Whether the Liberal Democrat leader survives or not will be a significant moment on election night — both for his party and for any future coalition deals. A new poll out from ICM has suggested that Clegg will be safe, taking into account his personal standing. The poll suggests that over half of those planning to vote for the Liberal Democrats are doing so because of Clegg’s personal standing. This new poll has raised questions about the methodology of Lord Ashcroft’s marginal polls, who did not prompt the name of candidates. But as I wrote last night, only the results will show how accurate his research has been.

Either way, the Liberal Democrats will be in a good mood this morning. Although no newspaper has explicitly endorsed the party, the Independent has backed a continuation of the the current Conservative-Lib Dem coalition — oddly suggesting that Nick Clegg should be education secretary:

‘History will record him as the man who turned a party of protest into one of government. As a principled, effective politician who could hold another coalition together, we hope he keeps his seat.’

The Times also has positive things to say about Clegg in its leader column, arguing he should be given a second chance:

‘The deputy prime minister has been more maligned than any politician in Britain these past five years. Most of that criticism has been unfair, though he did block much needed electoral boundary reform. He has nonetheless taken the opprobrium with good grace and conducted himself with civility. It would be a shame if that were rewarded with expulsion.’

It’s probably too early to open the champagne for Cleggmania v2.0: the party is still barely into double digits in the opinion polls and is still on track to lose plenty of seats. But if the personal ratings of Clegg can save him in Sheffield, other Liberal Democrats can have hope too.

2. Wonk wars

Back in the Westminster bubble, the oldest conservative think tank The Bow Group has suggested that Conservative voters should back Ukip in areas the Tories can’t win. According to the Telegraph, chairman Ben Harris-Quinney told its members in an email:

‘Our preference at this election is a Conservative majority, but few in the Conservative Party will acknowledge the reality that this is now very unlikely to happen, and without that acknowledgement we are sleep-walking into a Labour government.

‘We recognise the need to keep Ed Miliband out of Number 10, and the best way to do this is for Conservative voters to lend their votes to Ukip, who are best placed to beat Labour in many areas.’

Soon after the story was published in the Telegraph, some of the Bow Group’s well-known patrons, including Lords Howard and Lamont, have lambasted the idea:

‘As Patrons of the Bow Group we believe that this country’s best interests are served by voting Conservative in all situations. Ben Harris-Quinney does not speak for us or represent our views’

As Mr Steerpike reports, it’s the latest in a series of odd moves from the Bow Group, which appears to have declared war on the Conservative Party leadership. The question is: how much longer will Conservative HQ tolerate these kind of pronouncements?


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