Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #415

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 415th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (12 – 18 April, 2015), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Video: 3 reasons to vote for Dorothy Thornhill in Watford

The Watford campaign team have given us all a lesson in how to do video campaigning this election. First there was this introduction to Dorothy as a person, and now there are three solid policy reasons to vote for her:

Three Reasons to Vote Dorothy from Think About It Films on Vimeo.

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The glamour of life on the campaign trail

From the Sunday Times Shippers Forecast (£)

The Forecast’s favourite ginger spin doctor, James McGrory of the Lib Dems, looked even more dishevelled than usual after a night bunked up at Nick Clegg’s constituency home. “I was stuck in a tiny child’s bed and Nick was ages in the shower,” he explained.

Clegg, who has quit smoking, has an incentive for McGrory — who still puffs away like a chimney — not to wash. “I just have to sit next to him,” Clegg told me. “It’s nicotine consumption by osmosis.

In a separate interview in the same paper, Nick talks about the impact on his children of his career:

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What is it about the Lib Dems that appeals to physicists?

We were intrigued to be told this week that of the 32 candidates standing in the election who have a background in Physics, 12 of them are Liberal Democrats. A blog on Physicsworld.com reveals all:

In the last parliament (2010–2015), five members of the UK House of Commons held undergraduate degrees in physics: Tom Brake, Don Foster and John Hemming (Liberal Democrats), Andy Love(Labour) and Alok Sharma (Conservative). Foster and Love are retiring this year, but the other three are standing again. They face re-election battles of varying difficulty, but overall, their chances of continuing to represent the Physics Party in parliament look relatively good.

As for the 28 29 newcomers in the running, three of them – Heidi Allen, Kevin Hollinrake and Chris Philp – are Conservatives contesting seats considered “safe” for their party. A fourth, Carol Monaghan, is the Scottish National Party candidate for Glasgow North West, where the nationalists enjoy a commanding lead in the opinion polls. Hence, my informed guess is that on 8 May, the Physics Party will have increased its representation by 40%, from five seats to seven.

What about the other hopefuls? Well, one or two of them (including physics teacher Layla Moran, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in the ultra-marginal Oxford West and Abingdon constituency) might just eke out narrow wins, but most are going to struggle.

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LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 30,300 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

Liberal Democrat Manifesto – detailed costings published (12 comments) by Paul Walter

Poll sensation for Jo Swinson (54 comments) by Caron Lindsay

That’s not how we used to do politics in the Highlands: SNP candidate takes supporters on aggressive visit to Charles Kennedy’s office (40 comments) by Caron Lindsay

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Willie Rennie: Look at the things we got right, not the thing we got wrong

Willie Rennie has given a candid interview to the Scotsman about the prospects for the Liberal Democrats and our record in government. Given the tuition fees question, he is apologetic but asks people to look at the whole picture:

Saying sorry isn’t a tactic,” he insists. “People who are annoyed with us will be annoyed with us, but they deserve an apology. Some will never understand or forgive. They’re entitled to do that. My only plea to them is look at all the things we’re getting right, not just the thing we got wrong.”

Repentance and sincerity are unnatural political bedfellows, but convincing Scotland’s electorate you mean what you say should be easier for a Fifer with a buzzcut than an Old Etonian.
There’s quite a sympathetic approach – the journalist suggests that he is a genial, robust and consensual presence at Holyrood, a bulwark against the SNP’s more illiberal instincts, but the party’s baggage hangs over him.
It could be understood if Willie were to try to put some distance between the Scottish party and them in Westminster, but he doesn’t, not just because it wouldn’t be credible, but because he wouldn’t do that to colleagues:
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Opinion: Please vote

You have to register to vote by tomorrow, 20 April. If you haven’t already registered, please do! Here’s the online link: Register to vote – GOV.UK

Yesterday I attended a Wartime Tea Concert in my constituency. The hall was decorated in bunting, the orchestra played Dam Busters, the screens behind the orchestra showed pictures of the Normandy landings and ration queues.

There must have been at least twenty tables set for tea and covered with Union Jacks. At each table was a group of elderly people from either a local care home or from a lunch club. Their generation remembers the war and the sacrifices made.

I was moved to tears as I looked about the room. Our generation has not known such universal sacrifice and deprivation. Many of us do not know the true value of freedom. The vote is taken for granted. And in only a few years, that link with previous generations who can tell us first-hand about the great wars will be lost. We will only have recorded memories to rely on.

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Video: Charles Kennedy’s 30 years of service to the Highlands

Charles Kennedy’s team has put together a video of pictures from his 32 years as an MP. When I first watched it the other day, It actually made me cry when I watched it. That’s not just because it scares me to be old enough to remember things that happened three decades ago. It was quite something for me, growing up in Caithness, to have someone just 7 years older than me elected in the next constituency.

During the 1984 European election campaign, Charles Kennedy, Alan Beith and Bob Maclennan held a public meeting in Wick to support Russell Johnston’s campaign for the European Parliament. As the youngest member of the local SDP by some margin, I was invited to deliver the Vote of Thanks at the end of this meeting. It was one of my first ever public speeches and one which is probably not worth remembering. Before the meeting I was invited to High Tea at a local hotel with all the speakers. All my contemporaries at that time were mad on Wham, but I was completely starstruck by Russell and Charles.That was the same campaign I got into big trouble for inadvertently propping up a Russell leaflet on my windowsill. My parents were none too impressed when they discovered it after about a week of it being there. Funnily enough, my nephew tried the same trick (sadly for a different party) recently with similar results.

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Tweets from the campaign trail – 18th April 2015

It’s been a gorgeous day – and Liberal Democrats have been out and about campaigning across the country. Here are some of their tweets:

And look who joined Simon today:

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Leeds North West Labour candidate Alex Sobel has to make second apology for untrue campaign statements

We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. What’s important is that you learn from them. And when political opponents make mistakes, there are times when you need to show a bit of understanding and “there but for the grace of God go I” attitude. Election campaigns are fraught and exhausting and those working on them make massive sacrifices. The chances of mistakes being made through sheer fatigue are quite high.

There are times, though, when a campaign doesn’t learn from its mistakes and it’s legitimate to point that out.

Alex Sobel, the Labour candidate in Leeds North West, has had to make two apologies in the last 10 days for putting out leaflets with two separate untrue statements on it.

The first time, Labour had to distribute 15000 copies of an apology to Liberal Democrat candidate and sitting MP Greg Mulholland for saying that he’d voted for a piece of legislation when he’d been on paternity leave. Greg Mulholland’s website has the details:

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Paddy and the hen party…

Over at the Staggers blog, Kevin Maguire recounts an encounter between Paddy Ashdown and a hen party on a London bound train after the first leaders’ debate:

…the former Royal Marine met his match on a train to London after the 2 April TV debate. Outgunned and outnumbered, the Lib Dem peer was forced to surrender to a Yorkshire hen party in fancy dress. On this occasion, a radar-lugged snout was settling down to hear Ashdown discussing campaign strategy on his phone when the carriage filled up with shrieking lasses. Captain Paddy hastily terminated the call with a giggly: “Save me! Save me!”

And that was before he was recognised:

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Malcolm Bruce: Lib Dems can stop spending sprees or right wing frolics

Sir Malcolm Bruce was on the Today programme this morning, making a robust case for voting Liberal Democrat, showing what we can bring to a coalition – stable government, with Liberal Democrat policies being implemented.

We can anchor UK to centre ground, not go off on a spending spree before we balance the books or go off on a right wing frolic where we punish people quite unnecessarily with cuts to service and benefits in order to fund tax cuts for the rich

We can break both Tories and Labour and hold the centre ground.

He said that coalition was a much more …

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Rennie: Michael Moore is the sort of guy who gives politics a good name

Yesterday’s Ashcroft Poll for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk showed Mike Moore to be in a very tough three way fight with both the Tories and the SNP. It should be pointed out that the poll did not mention his name. If it had, the likelihood is that it would have boosted Mike’s rating significantly. However, Willie Rennie has changed his plans for today and headed for Galashiels to give Mike some additional support

The thought of a House of Commons without Mike Moore in it upsets me greatly. This is the guy who negotiated the Edinburgh Agreement with Nicola Sturgeon making sure that the referendum happened fairly. He then played a massively important role in the Smith Commission to bring people together and produce a credible package of reforms. It was his piloting of the Scotland Act through Parliament in 2012 that shows that statesmanship to the full. At the end of 2011, the Bill was under threat from Labour peers playing games in the Lords and from the Scottish Government who referred to it as a “dog’s breakfast.” Mike managed to turn that around and ensured that from next year, Holyrood, for example, can set its own income tax rate. It’s a really significant reform that has been forgotten about in the referendum and its aftermath.

It’s worth remembering how, in 2012, John Rentoul compared him to James Bond and said that he was as “skilful at judging politics of Whitehall as he is the mood of Scotland.

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Tim Farron: Politics needs a sense of vision

There’s an article Thursday’s Guardian which compares the level of campaigning activity in two seats, one with the lowest turnout in the country, Manchester Central, and one with a high turnout, Tim Farron’s Westmorland and Lonsdale.

The report argues that the poorest and most vulnerable feel that voting is pointless as nobody will do anything to serve their interests, while in more affluent areas, people are more inclined to vote, creating a major democratic deficit.

I feel I have been forcibly excluded from participating in politics and the issues that are of interest to me and my children,” said Ray Linton, 58, a former youth worker who has been unemployed for eight years. “They think speaking on TV is all they need to do. Everything is distant now.”

Powell’s Liberal Democrat opponent, John Reid, admitted that the level of campaigning in the constituency was “depressing”. “I grew up seeing every house with a poster or board outside,” he said. “Then you go through Manchester Central and you don’t know there’s an election.

In contrast, on Tim Farron’s patch:

Within minutes of starting canvassing on the Kirkbarrow estate, three drivers have honked and waved at the candidate. Skateboarding children yelp excitedly: “It’s Tim Farron”, a resident in pink slippers collars him to complain about Poles leapfrogging the council housing list, and Calum, eight, invites him for a kickabout, which he immediately accepts, going in goal and high-fiving Calum when they score.

As an aside, you do actually need to click on the article to see the wonderful photograph of Tim’s face as the football heads for him.

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That two horse race is on: Scottish Ashcroft polls show it’s Liberal Democrats against the SNP

As Scottish voters start to receive their postal votes in the next few days, they will have much to contemplate. To what extent will those who oppose independence be prepared to vote tactically to keep the SNP from winning Westminster seats.

Their decision may well be informed by yesterday’s Ashcroft polls which show potential SNP gains in all but one of the constituencies in question. Unfortunately, four of them were seats currently held by the Liberal Democrats.

I found the SNP fifteen points ahead in Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross, Skye & Lochaber, up from five points in February. I also found the SNP leading by eleven points in Jo Swinson’s constituency of East Dunbartonshire, and by thirteen points in North East Fife, where Sir Menzies Campbell is stepping down after 28 years.

The poll found that Mike Moore is in a tough 3 way fight with the Tories in the Borders. He’s on 28%, the SNP on 29% and the Tories on 30%. It could barely be tighter.

All the polls show decisively, though, apart from the Borders, that it’s a clear two horse race between Liberal Democrat MPs and the SNP. The message to Tory and Labour voters is clear. Do they want an SNP MP primarily motivated by independence and forbidden from standing up for their constituents if their party doesn’t allow it, or a Liberal Democrat who will fight tirelessly for their area.

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 32

Congratulations to George Murray, whose Marauding Fullbacks again top the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 32, with 1,925 points. Meanwhile, Jon Featonby (1,856), Mark Widdop (1,829), Sam Bowman (1,827) and Edward Douglas (1,826) vie for the number two slot.

But let’s also hear it for the two who achieved the best week’s performances: Kye Dorricott’s Chip Bang Utd (84 points) and Jamie Saddler’s Scotland In Disguise (81).

Here’s the top 10:

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Opinion: This isn’t just an economic recovery, this is a Liberal Democrat economic recovery

IMF Head Christine Lagarde is the latest outside observer to praise Britain’s economic recovery. Sitting on a panel with George Osborne yesterday she praised the UK Government’s unyielding adherence to unprecedented austerity, the stern fortitude with which the harsh economic medicine had been delivered by an iron Chancellor, ignoring all calls for mercy…

Except no, she didn’t. In fact quite the opposite. Far from crediting unbending austerity for the UK’s exceptional recovery she applauded the UK Government for having shown flexibility and balance. She commended the UK for “adjusting to the economic reality in order to provide the right balance of spending cuts, revenue raising and in the order, in the proportion and in the pace that is appropriate to the economy.”

She’s right. For different reasons it often suits both Conservative and Labour voices to paint a picture in primary colours of undeviating adherence to Plan A. But this caricature is wrong. The reality is more nuanced and rather more Liberal Democrat. The Coalition has shown commendable flexibility, for example in reversing some of the capital spending cuts that were inherited from Labour once it became clear they were holding back the recovery. The Coalition has balanced cuts with carefully targeted stimulus. And above all it has been willing to forego substantial amounts of tax revenue and even slow the pace of austerity in order to help create jobs and encourage people to take them up.

This approach has worked. Liberal Democrat policies and influence have been at the heart of it. Three of the five key politicians deciding economic strategy in this Parliament have been Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrats should be proud of this. It should be front and centre of our election campaign.

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Inside a Liberal Democrat Action day – with Stephen Lloyd and the Eastbourne team

Ever wondered what happens on a Lib Dem action day? Lots of phoning voters, leafletting, delivering and stuffing envelopes. Eastbourne Liberal Demcorat candidate and MP till Parliament was dissolved Stephen Lloyd produced this video of an action day last month. It’s full of people who talk about why they have come along to help.

He’s holding more tomorrow and Sunday. If you are near Eastbourne and can make it, please sign up here or go along at 10 am.

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Five observations about last night’s debate

I actually enjoyed last night’s BBC Debate much more than I expected. Sure, I was livid that Nick Clegg had been excluded, but it was the price that had to be paid for David Cameron taking part in any debates at all. It was an interesting affair. There was no huge drama but it was mostly conducted in reasonable style. Nicola got her chance to bid for a coalition, Ed got the chance to rebuff her so honour was satisfied on that score. Conservative spin doctors trying to extrapolate post election chaos from that display just looked silly.

It told only half a story, though. Each of the four smaller party leaders outlined their own narrow (and in the case of Farage abhorrent) interests. The ideal coalition partner, who would govern for the whole country with fairness, responsibility and respect for civil liberties was not in the room. We have his pitch, though. I just wish the party would put the speech he made at the manifesto launch on Wednesday on You Tube. Particularly this bit:

At its heart is one word that is absolutely central to what Liberal Democrats believe: opportunity. No matter who you are, where you were born, what sexuality or religion you are or what colour your skin is, you should have the same opportunity to get on in life. We want to tear down the barriers that stop you from reaching your potential. We want to smash the glass ceilings that keep you from achieving what you want to achieve. Your talent and your hard work, not the circumstances of your birth, should decide what you can be.

Here are five quick observations from me about last night’s event.

Nigel Farage was a disgrace

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Liberal Youth members fight NUS Liar Liar campaign by donating to Liberal Democrat campaigns to #trollNUS

The National Union of Students has spent £40,000 of its money on billboards urging people to vote against MPs who broke its pledge on tuition fees in 2010. This, it should be noted, was a pledge in which they did not believe themselves. When the Browne Review came out, they were calling for a Graduate Tax. The system implemented by the Coalition is not a million miles away from that.

It should also be noted that NUS is not endorsing those Liberal Democrat MPs who actually kept the pledge, either.

The whole point of a liberal youth organisation is to stand up against unfair, collectivist nonsense wherever it may be found. Liberal Youth’s response to the NUS is very creative. It’s encouraging people to donate to Liberal Democrat candidates to troll NUS. Some of them have been making a special point of donating to Nick Clegg’s campaign to annoy NUS to the max.

This is not to say that they totally endorse what the Liberal Democrats did on tuition fees. They know we made a big mistake, but they see the nakedly partisan NUS campaign for what it is. Where was their campaign against Labour MPs who introduced tuition fees and top-up fees when they said they wouldn’t?

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Why Labour and Conservative supporters should vote Liberal Democrat

We are facing four main scenarios for after this election; they are:

  1. A Labour led government with some sort of support from the SNP.
  2. A Labour led government with some sort of support from the Liberal Democrats.
  3. A Conservative led government with some sort of support from the Liberal Democrats.
  4. A Conservative led government with some sort of support from UKIP and the DUP. (Blukip)

It is hard to dispute that a Conservative in a Labour – Liberal Democrat contest should vote Liberal Democrat, and likewise a Labour supporter in a Conservative – Liberal Democrat contest. I will argue that for the first time, the converse is also true. Conservatives and Labour supporters should elect Liberal Democrats competing with their own candidates.

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A chance to take part in Channel 4/Shout Out Youth Leaders’ debate

We’ve been contacted by Shout Out, a news network for young people who are looking for audience members for a youth leaders’ debate they are holding a week on Tuesday, 28th April, at 8pm in Central London. It will be broadcast on All 4, Channel 4’s digital channel. Channel 4 News reporter Fatima Manji will chair the debate with representatives from the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SNP and UKIP. Alex Harding, the Chair of Liberal Youth, will be our representative. The leaders will field questions on issues that matter to young people from a studio audience, made up entirely from voters aged 18-25, some of whom will be visiting the ballot box for the first time.

Matteo Bergamini, the founder of Shout Out UK said:

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Opinion: A manifesto for young people

Young people are neglected by politics, and understandably so. With less than half of 18-24 year olds voting at the last election, few campaign strategists would advocate making serious commitments with relatively few votes up for grabs.

There has therefore been a temptation for all parties, the Liberal Democrats included, to save their eye catching commitments for older voters. Pensioners have both a high turnout and are generally more numerous than the young in the first place, are therefore rewarded with expensive policies such as the triple lock on pensions and free bus passes.

Nevertheless, to neglect younger voters would be a mistake, if for no other reason than we won’t be young forever. With the rest of our lives to vote, but also crucially to volunteer as activists, there is a lot at stake. Is it preferable to ignore us and hope to win us over from another party in later years, or to do something to earn our support in the present? And who knows, in presenting compelling, believable offers to young people, which take into account their views, then just maybe more will see the point in voting now.

And you know what? Our Liberal Democrat manifesto does just that.

Over the last couple of years the party has given Liberal Youth the chance to put forward our ideas and views into the manifesto process. The manifesto team and Federal Policy Committee have been genuinely willing to listen and the impact of this on the final document is significant.

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Bizarre headline of the day

Lib Dems enlist drunk raccoon

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Opinion: Do UKIP’s sums add up? Absolutely not!

ukip manifestoLike the Lib Dems and Greens (and unlike the biggest two parties), UKIP have released a manifesto that includes a list of what each policy costs (see pages 74-75). They have even had an independent body check that those costs sound reasonable, and put a lot of emphasis on their manifesto being “fully costed”. Kudos to them, you might say, but unfortunately their sums don’t add up.

For 2019-20 they have identified £32 billion of savings – largely from slashing overseas aid, ending EU contributions, cancelling HS2 and reducing Scottish spending. And £32 billion is then used for tax cuts (such as scrapping inheritance tax) and some spending increases. In this sense – and assuming all of these costs are indeed correct – the sums do balance. But…

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Lord Navnit Dholakia writes..Lib Dem BAME manifesto takes pro-active approach to valuing different cultures, combating racism and reducing inequality

My core belief that we all have a right to be treated fairly without reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnicity is one of the reasons I have remained committed to the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats for over fifty years. The party’s fundamental rejection of prejudice and discrimination is just as important now as it was when I joined the Brighton Young Liberals in the 1950s.

Britain has a proud record in race and community relations, but at a time when we see the rise of the divisive politics of parties like UKIP, it has never been more important for the Liberal Democrats to stand up for equality and diversity.

Today the party has launched its BAME Manifesto. It spells out how we will continue to protect the rights and opportunities of Britain’s ethnic minorities – the right to live in peace, to receive an education, to get a job, to raise a family free from fear, and, above all, the right to be treated fairly without reference to race, colour, national or ethnic origins.

Our culture and economy is stronger as a result of the diverse range of people who have chosen to make Britain their home. In government we’ve made huge progress in securing Britain’s economic recovery and helping businesses to grow. Self-employment and the small business sector is especially important for BAME communities. In the past 12 months alone a third of all the new businesses set up through the Start-Up Loans initiative have been by Black and Minority Ethnic entrepreneurs. But there is still more to be done to help BAME entrepreneurs. So we will build on the Coalition’s BME Access to Finance report to identify ways to encourage more BAME applicants to apply for finance and set up small businesses, and monitor and tackle the BAME pay gap. We will build on what we have already achieved in government by raising the tax free personal allowance to at least £12,500 by the end of the next Parliament, ensuring that many BAME workers who work part time or on low to middle incomes benefit from a further tax cut.

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Beware of Blukip

blukip

 

Nick Clegg has today been warning voters to Beware Blukip.

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Poll sensation for Jo Swinson – new poll shows she’s ahead of SNP in tight race

A new poll carried out by Survation for the Liberal Democrats has shown that Jo Swinson is in a tight race with the SNP in her East Dunbartonshire constituency.

The Kirkintilloch Herald reports:

The poll, with methodology designed by the LibDems but carried out by an independent company, shows a mere two per cent divide between Ms Swinson from SNP candidate John Nicholson.

It also predicts that Labour will take just 16 per cent of the vote and the Conservatives just 13 per cent.
The results were: Lib Dem 34.5%, SNP 32.1%, Lab 16.2%, Con 13.1%, Green 2%, Ukip 0.7%

A total of 413 people took part in the telephone poll with seven questions, carried out on April 9.

We can now bring you the full analysis including all the tables which you can access here.

This fieldwork was carried out in the wake of high profile visits to the constituency by both Nick Clegg and Nicola Sturgeon.

Jo’s incredibly well known, and popular even amongst other parties’ voters. There can’t be very many MPs whose name is recognised by 96.7% of people. 60% of people overall have a favourable opinion of Jo.  56.1% of people who currently say they are voting Labour think favourably of her, as do 45.1% of those currently saying they will vote Conservative and 68% of those who have not yet decided who they will vote for.

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Labour is confused on immigration

Labourleaflet039I went to see David Hare’s play ‘The Absence of War’ last night. I hadn’t seen it before and it is absolutely gripping at this stage in the election campaign. So if you can make it to the Rose Theatre in Kingston between now and 25th April, you are in for a treat.

The plot follows the (fictional) Labour leader and his core staff during the election campaign in 1992, and examines whether it is possible for politicians to maintain their integrity and project their real personalities, when all around are urging party discipline.

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Democratic dashboard

Democratic dashboardI’ve been telling you about a number of independent election-related websites that either provide you with an answer to a simple question (Do I need my NI number to vote?) or mash-up data from many sources in one convenient package (Online democracy tools that inform the general election debate). Today’s example is one of the latter.

When you go to Democratic dashboard you enter a postcode and are then presented with a rich selection of information about the constituency, its history and demographics, the current candidates and the polling forecasts. This is probably the most comprehensive collection of data readily available for voters.

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