Election 2010 Lookahead: Monday 19 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With another 17 days to go in this election campaign, here is what is happening today:

Labour

All Labour cabinet ministers have been recalled to London for an emergency Cobra meeting on the ongoing air chaos. That meeting aside, Health Secretary Andy Burnham is expected to address the Unison health conference (2pm).

Conservatives

The party unveils its manifesto for Scotland today. Meanwhile, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague goes up against his counterparts Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Liberal Democrat spokesman Ed Davey in the first The Daily Politics election debates (BBC1, 2.15pm).

Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg hosts his party's morning press conference in London. Clegg is promising more investment in green jobs and technology.

The media

Radio 4's Today programme "empty chaired" senior Tories this morning after requests for an interview after a difficult weekend for the party were turned down. ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie was the stand-in. Later, New Statesman columnist Mike Smithson takes part in a Daily Politics Election Special (BBC2, 11.30am) to explain what the rise of the Lib Dems in the opinion polls (and the betting markets) means. And the repeat of Thursday night's Have I Got News For You (BBC2, 10pm) is worth a watch. Originally broadcast directly against the first leaders' debates, the jokes feel instantly out-dated.

Other parties

Not another party as such, but a campaign for a different kind of politics. Vote for Change is constructing a giant gallows from which an effigy of the Palace of Westminster will be hung. It is, you guessed it, all part of its campaign to achieve a hung parliament on 6 May.

Away from the campaign

Apparently it's International TV Turn-Off Week. Organised by "White Dot", the campaign against television has come at a bad time for Sky News which is hosting the second leaders' debate this Thursday (Sky News, 8pm). Assuming people take up the campaign's cause.

 

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Theresa May missed an easy opportunity on EU citizens' rights

If the UK had made a big, open and generous offer, the diplomatic picture would be very different.

It's been seven hours and 365 days...and nothing compares to EU, at least as far as negotiations go.

First David Davis abandoned "the row of the summer" by agreeing to the EU's preferred negotiating timetable. Has Theresa May done the same in guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living here indefinitely?

Well, sort of. Although the PM has said that there have to be reciprocal arrangements for British citizens abroad, the difficulty is that because we don't have ID cards and most of our public services are paid for not out of an insurance system but out of general taxation, the issues around guaranteeing access to health, education, social security and residence are easier.

Our ability to enforce a "cut-off date" for new migrants from the European Union is also illusory, unless the government thinks it has the support in parliament and the logistical ability to roll out an ID card system by March 2019. (It doesn't.)

If you want to understand how badly the PM has managed Britain's Brexit negotiations, then the rights of the three million EU nationals living in Britain is the best place to start. The overwhelming support in the country at large for guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, coupled with the deep unease among Conservative MPs about not doing so, meant that it was never a plausible bargaining chip. (That's before you remember that the bulk of the British diaspora in Europe lives in countries with small numbers of EU citizens living in the UK. You can't secure a good deal from Spain by upsetting the Polish government.) It just made three million people, their friends and their families nervous for a year and irritated our European partners, that's all.

If the United Kingdom had made a big, open and generous offer on citizens' rights a year ago, as Vote Leave recommended in the referendum, the diplomatic picture would be very different. (It would be better still if, again, as Vote Leave argued, we hadn't triggered Article 50, an exit mechanism designed to punish an emergent dictatorship that puts all the leverage on the EU27's side.)

As it happens, May's unforced errors in negotiations, the worsening economic picture and the tricky balancing act in the House of Commons means that Remainers can hope both for a softer exit and that they might yet convince voters that nothing compares to EU after all. (That a YouGov poll shows the number of people willing to accept EU rules in order to keep the economy going stretching to 58 per cent will only further embolden the soft Brexiteers.)

For Brexiteers, that means that if Brexit doesn't go well, they have a readymade scapegoat in the government. It means Remainers can credibly hope for a soft Brexit – or no Brexit at all. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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