Election 2010 Lookahead: Wednesday 21 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

Labour

Labour candidates Eleanor Tunnicliffe and Brian Tomlinson will take part in a general election hustings chaired by Bamber Gascoigne at Duke St Baptist Church, Richmond (7.30pm). Chancellor Alistair Darling debates with Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne and Lib Dem finance spokesman Vince Cable on BBC2's The Daily Politics (see below).

Conservatives

Former defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind will present Conservative defence policy ahead of the 6 May general election at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence & Security Studies in London (5.30pm). David Cameron will make an appearance on BBC3's Dermot Meets...programme this evening (see below). Shadow chancellor George Osborne debates with Chancellor Alistair Darling and Lib Dem finance spokesman Vince Cable on BBC2's The Daily Politics' (see below). Conservative candidates Zac Goldsmith and Deborah Thomas will take part in a general election hustings chaired by Bamber Gascoigne at Duke St Baptist Church, Richmond (7.30pm).

Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg has an early start as he hosts a press conference with Lib Dem spokesperson for children, schools and families at the Work Foundation in London (7.30am). He later joins Lib Dem candidate for Camborne and Redruth Julia Goldsworthy in primary school Q&A on the campaign trail at Redruth Cricket Club, Trewirgie Hill, Cornwall (2.30pm, before making an appearance on BBC3's Dermot Meets... programme this evening (see below). Lib Dem finance spokesman Vince Cable debates with Chancellor Alistair Darling and shadow chancellor George Osborne on BBC2's The Daily Politics (see below). He may also join Lib Dem candidate Susan Kramer in a general election hustings chaired by Bamber Gascoigne at Duke St Baptist Church, Richmond this evening (7.30pm).

The media

BNP leader Nick Griffin spoke on Radio 4's Today programme this morning. In the afternoon, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will take part in a special election call edition of Radio 4's The World at One programme, where he will respond to comments and questions from listeners (1pm). Chancellor Alistair Darling, Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne and Lib Dem finance spokesman Vince Cable will debate economic policy on BBC2's The Daily Politics' (2.15pm), where they will be put through their paces by Andrew Neil and BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders. David Cameron and Nick Clegg will be interviewed by Dermot O'Leary for BBC3 on the Dermot Meets... programme. The interview with David Cameron will air at 8pm followed by Nick Clegg at 8.30pm. The emphasis will be on questions submitted by first-time voters.

Other parties

Scottish National Party leader and First Minister Alex Salmond will give a speech at the Scottish Trades Union Congress conference in Caird Hall, Dundee today. In Belfast, the Social Democratic and Labour Party from Northern Ireland launches its manifesto at 10am. The nationalist party from Northern Ireland won three Westminster seats in 2005, as they had in 1997 and 2001.

Away from the campaign

A fleet of coaches laid on by the government to bring Britons stranded in Europe by the ash cloud sets out from Madrid today. HMS Albion is expected to arrive in Portsmouth tonight at the earliest, after setting sail from Santander in northern Spain yesterday, to repatriate British troops returned from Afghanistan and around 200 priority British civilians who were stranded on the continent. HMS Ocean and HMS Ark Royal have both been sent to service unspecified ports on the Channel, as thousands of British travellers continue to gather there.

Follow the New Statesman team on Facebook.

Getty
Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496