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16 April 2015

Polling blues, Sturgeon’s shoes – and why everyone who’s anyone is ignoring the Lib Dems

Plus Chuka Umunna's zero hour contract.

By Kevin Maguire

In a poll that was published as Ed Miliband launched his party manifesto, Labour was on course to hold as few as four of its 40 Scottish seats. Desperate times lead to desperate measures. Ed has spent four and a half years largely shunning trade unionists, never forgiving the favour they did in landing him the leadership win. Now I hear his office has requested an invitation to the 118th Scottish TUC in Ayr weeks before polling to appeal for solidarity from his tartan brothers and sisters. Ed’s heavy-handed treatment of Unite in Scotland – wasting police time by handing Stevie Deans and Karie Murphy to the cops during the Falkirk selection row – is coming back to haunt him.

To Witney in Oxfordshire, where a local recalled a grim-faced Cameron shuddering, “Samantha had some spicy things to say,” after he axed child benefit for wealthier families, including his own. Austerity shouldn’t start at home, eh, Mrs Heiress?

At hustings, Call Me Dave dodged questions on a Tory-Ukip coalition but here the Blues get cosy with the Purple Shirts. Tories are standing 16 candidates in 17 seats for Witney Town Council. It’s no accident that in the 17th a Kipper is running alone.

Chuka Umunna confessed on a campaign jaunt to Chester that he used to be a mystery shopper while a student in Manchester, paid to check out fast-food joints – on a zero-hours contract. The best payback would be abolition.

A Tory snout whispers that Cameron is unable to hide his contempt for the Minister for Newsnight, Michael Gove. The Chief Whip’s record of failure has strained a once close relationship. Gove likes a flutter. Odds suggest that his political career is heading in one direction only: down.

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The South Basildon and East Thurrock Tory Stephen Metcalfe uses the slogan “A record of action, a promise of more”. It had a ring of familiarity for the Labour peer Angela Smith, defeated in the seat five years ago on redrawn boundaries: she had used the same phrase. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The nanoscopic Nat Nicola Sturgeon risks vertigo in her high heels. In Edinburgh, I saw her struggle to stand still, wearing a pair so high that she did well not to fall over. The pocket politician weaponises her shoes, wanting to avoid being looked down on by rivals – especially the big man, Alex Salmond.

The parties are dug in for the election newspaper war. Labour regularly briefs the Mirror, the Guardian, the FT, the Independent and occasionally the Times. The Cons favour the Mail, the Sun, the Telegraph, the Times, the Express and the FT. Print journalists excluded by one party or the other find out what’s happening from broadcasters in the loop with both. Everybody, these days, ignores the Lib Dumbs.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

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