Election 2010 Lookahead: Thursday 8 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

Each morning between now and 6 May we'll mark your card and highlight the main events of the coming day's campaigning, party by party and across the media.



Gordon Brown kicked off his morning on Radio 4's Today programme -- a typically combative exchange with John Humphrys in the 8.10 slot. Brown is expected to spend the day defending the intended rise in National Insurance contributions. He will host a London press conference with the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, and the Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson, focusing on the economy. Elsewhere, the sitting MP for the marginal Birmingham Edgbaston constituency, Gisela Stuart, takes part in a Question Time-style public debate on the environment with fellow general election candidates -- the Conservative Party's Deirdre Alden, the Liberal Democrat Roger Harmer and, for the Green Party, Phil Simpson.



David Cameron hosts his party's launch London press conference at 10.30 this morning. The Millbank Tower "presser" is likely to see him reveal plans for a voluntary "national citizen service". He then stops off at an academy school in London before heading to Norwich (3.15pm) and Plymouth (7pm) for a community meeting. Meanwhile, Samantha Cameron will be campaigning in Leeds (10am) and Brigg and Goole (2.30pm). By the way, it now looks likely that the Conservatives will unveil their manifesto on Tuesday 13 April.


Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg teams up this morning with the party's former leader Charles Kennedy and the current head of the Scottish Lib Dems, Tavish Scott MSP, to launch the Lib Dem campaign for Scotland. All three will be on the Pacific Quay in Glasgow (9.30am). From there, Clegg goes ahead of the Tories to the marginal seat of Eastleigh (notional majority of 534), where he will hold a joint event with the Lib Dem candidate and home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne (1pm). Finishes his afternoon in Bristol (3.20pm).


Other parties

Plaid Cymru officially launches its election campaign on Anglesey today. The Plaid leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, will then visit Plaid candidates from across the north of Wales in a tour of constituencies.


The media

While Brown kicked off the day on the Today programme, David Cameron was on the GMTV sofa. Later today, ITV's Tonight programme (7.30pm) investigates the prospects of a hung parliament and reveals which seats could prove decisive to the final result on 6 May.


Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Douglas Carswell leaves Ukip to become independent MP

The Clacton MP quits his party but insists he will not rejoin the Conservatives or trigger a by-election. 

Douglas Carswell has long been a Ukip MP in name only. Now he isn't even that. Ukip's sole MP, who defected from the Conservatives in 2014, has announced that he is leaving the party.

Carswell's announcement comes as no great surprise. He has long endured a comically antagonistic relationship with Nigel Farage, who last month demanded his expulsion for the sin of failing to aid his knighthood bid. The Clacton MP's ambition to transform Ukip into a libertarian force, rather than a reactionary one, predictably failed. With the party now often polling in single figures, below the Liberal Democrats, the MP has left a sinking ship (taking £217,000 of opposition funding or "short money" with him). As Carswell acknowledges in his statement, Brexit has deprieved Ukip of its raison d'être.

He writes: "Ukip might not have managed to win many seats in Parliament, but in a way we are the most successful political party in Britain ever. We have achieved what we were established to do – and in doing so we have changed the course of our country's history for the better. Make no mistake; we would not be leaving the EU if it was not for Ukip – and for those remarkable people who founded, supported and sustained our party over that period.

"Our party has prevailed thanks to the heroic efforts of Ukip party members and supporters. You ensured we got a referendum. With your street stalls and leafleting, you helped Vote Leave win the referendum. You should all be given medals for what you helped make happen – and face the future with optimism.

"Like many of you, I switched to Ukip because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving Ukip."

Though Ukip could yet recover if Theresa May disappoints anti-immigration voters, that's not a path that the pro-migration Carswell would wish to pursue. He insists that he has no intention of returning to the Conservatives (and will not trigger a new by-election). "I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent."

Carswell's erstwhile Conservative colleagues will no doubt delight in reminding him that he was warned.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.