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Watson and Doctor Who team up in Labour's first party political broadcast

Martin Freeman, the star of The Hobbit and Sherlock, endorses Labour in the party's first party political broadcast.

Martin Freeman is the star of Labour's first party political broadcast, which airs tomorrow night on BBC Two at 5.55pm, ITV at 6.25pm and BBC One at 6.55pm. The ad also features the talents of David Tennant, star of Doctor Who and Broadchurch. The full transcript is below:

Hello. Now we are in the run-up to a General Election and over that time you’re going to hear loads of claims from people on the Left, on the Right, all over the place. It’s going to drive you mad. It’ll probably drive me mad but don’t switch off yet. You see, because I think in the end it’s simple; it boils down to a choice between a Labour government or a Conservative one. But it isn’t just a choice between two different plans, two different ways of getting the deficit down. It’s a choice between two completely different sets of values. A choice about what kind of country we want to live in. And I don’t know about you, but my values are about community, compassion, decency; that’s how I was brought up. So yeah, I could tell you the Tories would take us on a rollercoaster of cuts while Labour will make sure the economy works for all of us, not just the privileged few, like me, but it’s not just about that. I could tell you it seems like the Tories don’t believe in the NHS while Labour is passionate about protecting it - among other examples, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week. Guaranteed.

But it’s not even just about that. I could tell you that the Tories have got sod all to offer the young whereas Labour will invest in the next generation’s education and guarantee – that word again – apprenticeships for them. I could tell you that Labour will put the minimum wage up to £8 and ban those horrible zero-hours contracts while the Tories would presumably do more of their tax cutting for millionaires. But, real though all that stuff is and important though it is if you’re young in this country, or broke in this country, or if you’re unwell in this country – and let’s face it we all need the NHS at some point – or if you are just plain working hard and finding life tough, there is a choice of two parts. The bottom line is what values are we choosing, because in the end this choice we make really does matter.

Labour. They start from the right place – community, compassion, fairness – I think all the best things about this country. I love this country so much and I love the people in it, and I think you do too, but really, for me, there’s only one choice; and I choose Labour.”

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics. 

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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.