Election 2010 Lookahead: Monday 26 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With just 10 days to go until the general election, here are today's movements:

Labour

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls gives a speech this morning at the UNISON schools seminar, where he is expected to lay out Labour's education plans (11am). Also speaking is the union's general secretary Dave Prentis (10:00am).

As parties seek to shore up the green vote, Ed Miliband debates the environment with his opposite numbers on The Daily Politics this afternoon (2.15pm; see below).

Elsewhere, Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth will set out "A Labour Party View of UK Defence Policy" at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Whitehall (1pm).

 

Conservatives

After a bad start to the day for Michael Gove, with the shadow education secretary having his plans for parent and charity-run "free schools" criticised by Kent County Council Paul Carter, the Tories are seeking to regain some momentum with a question and answer session at their headquarters in Millbank (8.30am).

David Cameron has been repeating his opposition to electoral reform, and said that the Liberal Democrats are in a "complete muddle" about the possibility of a hung parliament. Elsewhere, Milband's shadow Greg Clark is talking on The Daily Politics a little later in Millbank (2.15pm; see below).

 

Liberal Democrats

Leader Nick Clegg has been speaking in Edinburgh this morning, where he reiterated yesterday's statement that he would not prop up Gordon Brown in a coalition if Labour came third in the number of voters (7.30am).

 

Other parties

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond joins actress and comedienne Elaine C. Smith and local SNP candidate Richard Thomson for a public question and answer session at Inverurie Town Hall in Aberdeenshire. Also features local SNP candidate Richard Thomson.

With the day's focus firmly on the environment, the Green Party's parliamentary candidate for Lewisham Deptford Darren Johnson is on The Daily Politics debating opponents from the three main parties (2.15pm; see below).

 

The media

BBC2's The Daily Politics continues its live election debates with a debate on the environment between Ed Miliband for Labour, Greg Clark for the Conservatives, Simon Hughes for the Lib Dems and Darren Johnson for the Greens. They are cross-examined by Andrew Neil and Newsnight's Justin Rowlatt (2.15pm).

Over at ITV1 Scotland tonight, Bernard Ponsonby questions David Mundell of the Conservatives in Election Face to Face (10.45pm).

 

Away from the campaign

After having his World Cup dreams defeated by his achilles tendon, David Beckham appears on ABC's Emmy Award-winning daytime talkshow The View alongside hosts Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg in one of the strangest line-ups of the modern era (11pm).

 

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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