Who's backing Ed? Photo:Getty
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General election 2015: Who's endorsing who?

It's endorsement season! Who's backing who?

 “No British election since 1979 has been as momentous as that which will be held on 7 May,” our leader declared,  “The United Kingdom’s continued EU membership, the size and purpose of the state and the survival of the British Union are all at stake.”

How are the newspapers coming down in 2015? We first dismissed the mutual claims of the coalition parties:

“Having served a full term in government, the contention of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is that they deserve to be rewarded for their record, the former by winning their first majority since John Major won more than 14 million votes in 1992 and the latter by acting as a moderating influence in another hung parliament. It is the coalition government’s erratic record, however, that provides the greatest evidence of why they should not be entrusted with power.”

And concluded:

Britain is a great country, one of the safest and most prosperous in the world. It has the potential, also, to become a more equal and more democratic country in the next five years. The best means of fulfilling these hopes is to return a Labour government on 7 May.”

The Financial Times took a different view of the coalition’s record in office:

Five years ago, the prospect of coalition government attracted dire predictions of instability in markets and gridlock at Westminster. Neither proved true. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has shown European-style cohabitation can work.

Ed Miliband’s focus on inequality, so crucial to our continuing support, seemed more of a bug than a feature as far as the FT was concerned. Miliband has “rarely met a market he did not consider broken. As such, they endorsed the continuation of the present coalition, although they came down more heavily on the side of the Liberal Democrats than the Conservatives:

Only Nick Clegg, the embattled Liberal Democrat leader, has occupied the centre ground. He has argued persuasively that the Lib Dems contributed to sensible fiscal consolidation and tempered the wilder Tory impulses, particularly on Europe.”

The Economist, in contrast, while endorsing the present government, had a slightly heavier Conservative accent:

On May 7th voters must weigh the certainty of economic damage under Labour against the possibility of a costly EU exit under the Tories. With Labour, the likely partnership with the SNP increases the risk. For the Tories, a coalition with the Lib Dems would reduce it. On that calculus, the best hope for Britain is with a continuation of a Conservative-led coalition.”

The Sun took an even more jaundiced view of Labour, declaring that “a week today, Britain could be plunged into the abyss”. They added: “A fragile left-wing Labour minority, led by Ed Miliband and his union paymasters and supported by the wreckers of the Scottish National Party, could take power.” The only solution? Vote Conservative.

Apart from in Scotland, where they endorsed the SNP. 

I'm a mole, innit.

Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage