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General election 2017: under-pressure Ukip launches campaign – politics live

Welcome back, at the end of the first full week of election campaigning. Surely the perfect time to sign up for the Snap, our daily briefing email. And here, seamlessly, is today’s.

What’s happening?

It’s also, for this year at least, Ukip day, in which the party leader ceremonially emerges from behind his self-imposed barricade to launch their election campaign (consider the other day’s “integration agenda” a mere un-appetiser). Paul Nuttall might even reveal where he’s going to stand for election, now he has finally decided to give it a whirl: Heywood and Middleton, Hartlepool or Bootle are possibilities, although the Telegraph reports it will be Boston and Skegness. Nuttall – MEP for North West England – has so far had five unsuccessful shots at a Westminster seat, closing in tantalisingly on party grandee Nigel Farage’s seven.

It’s been a wobbly start for Ukip, with Theresa May occupying the “Brexit means Brexit” space; Douglas Carswell, its once sole MP, tearing away; and backlash yesterday to the selection of Anne Marie Waters – a fan of Marine Le Pen who has described Islam as evil – in Lewisham East.

Ukip’s north-east regional chairman, Steve Turner, has defected to the Conservatives, calling his old party “unprofessional”:

The better option, says the not entirely unbiased prime minister, is the Tories. May pitched up last night in Harehills, in Labour’s heartlands, to try to turn those hearts blue, with glowering warnings that while “it may say Labour on the ballot … it’s Jeremy Corbyn that gets the vote”. Whether any Leeds waverers were on the guest list to be converted is somewhat doubtful:


Members at Leeds community centre where PM spoke today said they were kept out and Tory activists shipped in…

Things aren’t all going May’s way, mind, with a rebuke from the the high court yesterday, which ruled that the government cannot delay its air pollution plan until a conveniently quiet moment after the election. Ed Davey, the Lib Dem former climate secretary, told BBC2’s Newsnight: “Conservative ministers should be hanging their heads in shame … They’re trying to hide this from the electorate, when this is a public health scandal.”

There’s pressure, too, for the PM to step away from her promise not to raise taxes. Oh, and there’s Boris Johnson. After galumphing back into the fray yesterday, the foreign secretary – the Telegraph teases today – could be reshuffled out if May gets her landslide.

I’m sorry, did you say mugwump? Theresa May in Leeds last night. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images

At a glance:

Poll position

A fresh YouGov poll for the Times on Scottish voting intentions is cheering morning news for Conservatives who still trust polls: it has the SNP on 41% (down 9 on the 2015 result), with the Tories up to 28% (+13) and Labour slipping yet further from what was already a historic low, to 18% (-6).

That would leave the SNP with 47 seats in Westminster (losing nine), and the Tories with eight (gaining seven). Labour would keep its sole place, while the Lib Dems would skip from one to three MPs.

An eye on the polls: Nicola Sturgeon. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA


  • At 11am, Ukip launches its election campaign with leader Paul Nuttall in Westminster.
  • Nicola Sturgeon campaigns in East Renfrewshire, where the SNP ousted Jim Murphy in 2015 (former Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall is Scottish Labour’s candidate this time).
  • At 3pm, Vince Cable speaks on Brexit at a Lib Dem rally in Twickenham.
  • At 6pm, John McDonnell and Labour Liverpool city mayoral candidate Steve Rotherham attend a campaign rally in the city.
  • Away from the campaign trail, Boris Johnson attends a UN security council meeting on North Korea.

Talking point

With talks on reviving the power-sharing government at Stormont – already a number of chances past their one last chance – shelved until after the Westminster election, and plans for cross-party pro- and anti-Brexit candidates faltering, in hops the EU with a hint that it could recognise a future united Ireland.

EU leaders meeting on Saturday for the first of many, many Brexit summits will discuss a text – urged by the Irish government – affirming that, if Ireland were to unify, the north would automatically rejoin the EU. There’s no border poll in the offing, and a BBC survey after the Brexit vote (in which Northern Ireland voted 56-44 to remain) found 63% would opt to stay in the UK. The EU’s toe-dipping on the Gibraltar issue led to thunderings about war. Northern Ireland could probably do without that kind of reaction.

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party, sets out her stall in the Times:

[There] is a whole lot of soul searching, particularly for the left, which thinks it has a monopoly on women’s equality. So they politely tell us to go and make that point somewhere else. But we’re not making a point. We’re making a change. And we’re doing it by being a political party for people who want a different kind of opposition.

I’ve been accused this week of being a vote-splitting outsider in Shipley, where I’m standing against the sexist-in-chief Philip Davies. Outsider? You bet. Women always are in politics. Splitting the vote? As if. When the Conservatives are heading for a landslide on the scale of Labour’s in 1997, when Labour is briefing internally that sitting MPs with majorities of 10,000 are on watch to lose their jobs, and when Labour categorically rules out allegiances again and again – well. It’s not the presence of WEP that is heralding a Conservative tsunami.

Sophie Walker launches her campaign in Shipley, West Yorkshire. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Corbyn has been in a state of almost perpetual campaigning – twice for the leadership, and in the EU referendum – since the 2015 election, and is happiest on the stump, the official said. His team hopes that the same grassroots enthusiasm, demonstrated in barnstormer rallies reminiscent of Bernie Sanders in two successful leadership campaigns, will catch on nationwide.

Asked whether the strategy amounted to ‘damage limitation’, given the state of the polls, the official pointed to locations Corbyn has visited during the campaign so far – such as Crewe, Cardiff, Swindon and Bristol – where there are Tory seats the party thinks they can win, and Scotland, where the SNP dominates. They believe they can deliver an upset.

The foreign secretary’s return to the fray was an exercise in “controlled chaos”, writes Isobel Thompson in Vanity Fair:

Johnson’s vivid, theatrical entrance onto the general election stage might seem strangely off-kilter with Theresa May’s tactics thus far. Refusing to engage in dramatics, her method has been one of blunt attrition – a one-size-fits-all approach, promising, simply, strong and steady leadership in the face of a coalition of chaos. The Conservative campaign is acutely managed by Sir Lynton Crosby, who oversaw David Cameron’s 2015 victory, and is notoriously controlled in his strategy. Freeing Boris Johnson might give the illusion of colour but, really, he spoke in shades of May, sounding remarkably like a tactically-timed injection of controlled chaos to an overly dull election campaign.

Disappointingly for those who feel the campaign is lacking that essential dash of Alan Partridge, Tim Farron was not encouraging a voter in Cambridge yesterday to “smell my spaniel”. Party spoilsports reveal that while the Lib Dem leader does indeed have a spaniel (black-and-white springer, goes by Jasper), he was merely joshing that the supporter’s dog (sandy terrier, name unknown) could sniff it on his clothes.

With the 2015-17 parliament prorogued – though not dissolved till next Wednesday – it was goodbye to some of the MPs who won’t (by their own choice) be back when the Commons meets again on 13 June. In some workplaces you’re sent on your way with a an indecipherably scrawled card and a “sorry you’re leaving!” balloon. In Westminster, the 2017 leavers (not to be confused with 2016’s Leavers) – including retiring Eric Pickles – got a hug from speaker John Bercow.


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April 27, 2017 Esther Webber

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