Political round up: Halfway point in the 2017 General Election campaign

Political round up: Halfway point in the 2017 General Election campaign

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In exactly four weeks time, Britain will go to the polls to vote in a new Government. A similar amount of time has passed since current incumbent Theresa May called the ‘snap’ General Election on April 18, so KCW Today is here to provide a brief synopsis of what has happened thus far – as well as some of the lighter-hearted moments that have taken place on the campaign trail to date.

Just as the public were forgetting about Diane Abbott’s car-crash interview over policing in which she got her numbers hopelessly muddled, a draft of the Labour general election manifesto leaked to the press in another embarrassing blow to Jeremy Corbyn. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the leaking of the 51-page document which was due to be signed off on Thursday was “disappointing”, but the Tories were quick to stick the boot in by calling it “a shambles”. Both sides of the deeply divided Labour party suspected each other of the embarrassing leak. One senior party insider even suggested one of Corbyn’s allies could have leaked the draft document in a “jujitsu move” that could allow them to claim the general election was lost because of sabotage.

The Labour manifesto pledges to increase income tax for the highest earning 5 percent to raise an extra £6bn for the NHS, alongside the phased abolition of tuition fees and a dramatic boost in finance for childcare. There will be a review of sweeping cuts to universal credit and a promise to scrap the bedroom tax. Labour say they will ban zero-hour contracts and unsurprisingly strengthen trade union rights – including increased unionisation across the workforce and repealing last year’s Trade Union Act, should they be voted into power.

The document restates the existing policy to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent, but commits a Labour government to a defence review which would allow opponents to question the position on the weapons system. It also says Labour would “negotiate transitional arrangements to avoid a cliff-edge for the UK economy” if no Brexit deal was reached during talks with the EU. Critics said the policies represented a shift back to the 1970s with the Conservatives describing it as a “total shambles” and a plan to “unleash chaos on Britain”.

Mrs May took to evening television with her husband Phillip on The One Show this week to answer a series of unscripted questions. She’s been accused of hiding from the general public on visits to Scotland and less-welcoming Tory areas so perhaps this was an attempt to show her softer side. The PM looked slightly ruffled when her husband revealed that she had privately told her family that she wanted to become Prime Minister while she was serving in David Cameron’s cabinet – at least six years before seizing the role. Mrs May also said there are specific “boy jobs and girl jobs” around the house, prompting allegations of sexism.

The Conservative party will be rather relieved that no criminal charges will be brought against more than 20 Tory MPs over the national party’s failure to accurately declare campaign spending on a battlebus tour at the 2015 election. The long-awaited decision provoked an immediate backlash from senior Conservatives, with party chairman Patrick McLoughlin claiming the pursuit of the complaints had been “politically motivated and a waste of police time”. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are far from pleased at the decision.

The former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said it was “extraordinary that election rules can be so blatantly broken” and yet “no one is to be held criminally responsible”. The way the Conservatives have acted during the investigation into allegations some candidates broke election spending rules “brings politics into disrepute,” he said. Salmond, still stubbornly banging the Scottish Independence drum alongside Nicola Sturgeon, was blasted during a heated radio interview this week, in which he argued with Emma Barnett about another independence referendum. Barnett maintained that the Scottish people are ‘bored’ with the referendum debate and queried why any Scot who wants to stay in the Union would even consider voting SNP?

Fox Hunting may not be the most important issue in the grand scheme of this election, but the Prime Minister has re-opened the ‘urban versus rural can of worms’, by declaring that she hopes to bring back the blood-sport. “As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote,” she said. “It would allow Parliament the opportunity to take the decision on this.” Fox hunting has been banned in the UK since 2004 and a petition to keep the ban has now been signed by more than 650,000 people.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is hoping to ride a wave of anti-Brexit feeling into this election. He has been plotting with the Green party, specifically in south west London, in order regain many of the seats his party lost in the 2015 General Election. The latest YouGov opinion polls show his party stuck firmly on 11 percent of the vote, so while he is unlikely to take the place of our current female PM, when Faron was younger he admired Margaret Thatcher so much he had her picture on his wall!

Such news may come as a surprise to Lib Dem voters, but Farron confirmed the story in an interview with ITV. “I had a Carl Sagan photograph above my bed, who was of course the great, I guess the human voice of NASA,” he said. “I had pictures of strange sort of left wing politicians. I remember I had a Mrs Thatcher picture. I had a John F Kennedy picture. I had a [Liberal leader] Jo Grimond picture.”

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