Election 2010 Lookahead: Tuesday 27 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With only nine days to go until the closest election in recent times, here is what you should be looking out for today:

Labour

Kicking off with an imminent campaign event (9.30am), Labour are hoping to keep the focus on policy and away from hung parliament speculation. Peter Mandelson is on The Daily Politics this afternoon (2.15pm; see below) debating business with opponents Ken Clarke, the Liberal Democrats' John Thurso and the SNP's John Swinney.

This evening, deputy party leader Harriet Harman is debating Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone on the subject of women (8pm; see below).

 

Conservatives

Following this morning's campaign event (10am), Conservative business spokesman Ken Clarke is to debate Peter Mandelson and others on The Daily Politics this afternoon (2.15pm; see below).

This evening, Theresa May, shadow secretary for work and pensions, will debate deputy Labor party leader Harriet Harman and the Liberal Democrats equality spokesperson Lynne Featherstone at an event presented by the London School of Economics and the Fawcett Society entitled "What About Women?" (8pm).

 

Liberal Democrats

With the day seeming to focus on crime, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne was on the Today programme this morning repeating his party's view that prisons are being stretched by a multiplicity of shorter sentences -- an issue in which he sees some overlap with the Tories.

At the moment, leader Nick Clegg is on BBC5 Live taking questions from listeners. He has sought to turn away from his flip-flopping on the possibility of a hung parliament, saying his focus is on those who would take forward his policies for the country.

 

Other parties

The BBC is reporting that the Scottish National Party -- purusing the sour grape vote -- are to start legal proceedings today against the public service broadcaster for failing to include leader Alex Salmond in their leaders' debates.

 

The media

Today's debate on The Daily Politics centres on business, featuring experienced sparring partners Peter Mandelson and Ken Clarke, alongside John Thurso for the Liberal Democrats and John Swinney for the SNP -- interestingly, the BBC show is paying attention to the smaller parties issue by issue, yesterday having the Green Party on to debate the environment (2.15pm). They face questions from the corporation's business editor Robert Peston alongside Andrew Neil.

On ITV1, weekly discussion programme Campaign 2010 with Jonathan Dimbleby returns with its usual political guests, commentators and live audience (10.35pm).

 

Away from the campaign

One for all the happy commuters -- the East London Line is opening to the public today, running eight trains an hour between New Cross Gate and Dalston Junction from 7am until 8pm, according to the BBC. Full services will come in on 23 May.

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era