Nick Clegg speaks with Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband before Angela Merkel addresses both Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Lib Dem decision not to guarantee EU referendum offers relief for Labour

Miliband's party will not be left as the only one that "doesn't trust the people".

After recent murmurings that the Lib Dems could come out in favour of a guaranteed in/out EU referendum, there is relief among Labour that Nick Clegg has resolved not to do so. At a meeting of the parliamentary party last night, Lib Dem MPs agreed that the party would stick to its current stance of only holding a vote in the event of a further transfer of powers to Brussels. Tim Farron on the left and Jeremy Browne on the right were among those arguing for a referendum, but Clegg prevailed.

Had the Deputy PM changed his stance, it would have been harder for Ed Miliband to defend his refusal to promise a referendum, with Labour cast as the only party that "doesn't trust the people". Now, with both parties committed to only holding a vote if more sovereignty is passed to the EU, they will be able to team up to present Cameron's arbitrary timetable as a threat to business and to the national interest.

But while the Lib Dems have moved away from a referendum, Unite has moved towards one. The trade union's executive has warned that Labour's failure to support one is "likely to be an electoral millstone", arrguing that "the issue can never be resolved except on the basis of a clear democratic mandate". A motion on the issue will be voted on at the Unite conference in Liverpool today. But while the union's move will embolden those in Labour who have long argued for a referendum, such as Tom Watson and Keith Vaz, there is no prospect of Miliband changing his stance. As I have outlined before, the Labour leader believes that a guaranteed vote is wrong in both principle and practice, and is not prepared to risk the opening years of his government being dominated by an issue that could result in a premiership-ending defeat.

One remaining nuance that separates the Lib Dems' stance from that of Labour is that Clegg believes the conditions for a referendum are likely to be met in the next parliament. Miliband, however, does not. Expect this subtle but important difference to receive more attention as the future of Britain's EU membership comes under ever-greater scrutiny.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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