Blow-by-blow on the blogosphere

This week the political blogs are obsessed, not surprisingly, with local elections but some of the e

My promised second part of a council, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliamentary election-focused blog has morphed into its own feature. But there's still room for the sideways glance - riddled with exposed hypocrisy and campaign blundering - that follows.

A war of words has flared up in the Liverpool ward of Kensington and Fairfield. Labour councillor Louise Baldcock accused the Lib Dems of gutter politics, wasting money and poor hand-writing. She later goads an anonymous poster over the content of the Lib Dems leaflets.

More leafleting troubles in Bristol where Guido Fawkes believes he has exposed a Labour candidate's photoshopped attempt at claiming he was on an anti-Iraq demo to boost his anti-war credentials.

For anyone interested in the minutiae of a council candidate’s campaign trail look no further than Richard Baum, Lib Dem candidate for St Mary's Ward, Bury. Hear
how
Richard confronts rain, borrowing a wayward umbrella from a councillor. Gasp as he tells of his opinions on luxury flats. And bite your lip along with Richard as he recounts his tale of frustration with Orange customer services.

Over in Wales, I found the true identity of one of Welsh politics' top bloggers is someone I regularly play football with. When I found out I told Blamerbell Briefs it was like discovering the true identity of Superman, while he compared it to discovering your father plays battle games in the attic.

He
discovered
Education Secretary Alan Johnson had sent a message of good luck to Plaid candidate Carolyn Evans. While it may be put down to an email blunder, it has been suggested a Lab-Plaid coalition may be more certain than political commentators have hitherto revealed.

North of the border, Richard Havers offers a witty overview of the "torrent, flood, surge, and
veritable plethora of pamphlets from the political parties" he was confronted with when returning from a couple of days away.

The SNP rounded up 100 business types to agree an independent Scotland would be a more financially stable Scotland. In response, an advert appeared in The Scotsman with a trumping 151 signatures warning against Scottish independence which some
have traced back to Gordon Brown.

There is nothing new in political parties seeking endorsement from celebrities and prominent members of society. But sometimes, as Kerron Cross discusses, parties go that extra mile: what would Jesus do?

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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