Friday News Review

Mixed news on AV referendum

The battle between the Yes and No camps before next month’s referendum on the voting system is still wide open, according to a poll for The Independent. The findings will come as a relief to supporters of a switch to the alternative vote (AV) after recent surveys gave the No camp a lead of more than 10 points. The poll, by research agency TNS, found that 34 per cent of people oppose AV and 32 per cent support it, with 21 per cent replying “don’t know” and 13 per cent saying they would probably not vote in the 5 May referendum. According to TNS, one in four people who voted Liberal Democrat at last year’s general election oppose AV (26 per cent), while 74 per cent support it. In a mirror image, one in four people who backed the Conservatives last year favour AV (23 per cent), with 77 per cent opposing it. Labour voters are against a switch to AV by a margin of 53 to 47 per cent. The rival camps believe that this group could hold the key to the result. The pro-AV organisation will mount a major push to win over Labour supporters. – the Independent

The ‘Yes to AV’ campaign was dealt a fresh blow after a poll showed older voters were largely opposed to ditching the one person, one vote system. A survey of nearly 12,000 over-50s by Saga showed just 32 per cent were in favour of AV while 50 per cent wanted to stick with first-past-the-post. English over-50s were especially sceptical about AV, with more than 50 per cent opposed to it. Meanwhile older Scots are 41 per cent in favour, compared to 50 per cent of over-50s in Northern Ireland. Mature voters are more likely to turn out to vote and less likely to change their minds, which could make the battle for the Yes campaign even harder. The poll came as David Cameron risked controversy by using John Major’s Conservative administration as an example of a ‘bad government’ which only first-past-the-post could conclusively boot out. – Daily Mail

Gordon’s back

Gordon Brown claimed yesterday he was “not interested” in polls showing Labour heading for defeat to the SNP, as campaign chiefs insisted they would not change course, despite the sudden slump in their fortunes. In his first intervention on the campaign trail, he dismissed the surge in SNP support, saying Labour’s focus on job creation would resonate with “worried” voters as polling day drew near. But the latest poll finding, which suggests the SNP is within touching distance of an overall majority, will only confirm growing concerns within the party that the election is slipping out of their grasp as election day comes into view. Some Labour candidates insist they are untroubled by the poll ratings, claiming voters “on the ground” are backing Labour more enthusiastically than in the 2007 election. – the Scotsman

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has hit the Scottish election trail as campaigning continued ahead of the 5 May Scottish election. Campaigning in Dunfermline, Fife, Mr Brown said the Scottish Parliament election was all about creating jobs. “I’ve just been talking to people who are worried about the prospects for their children,” said the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP. “The only party making jobs a priority, and it’s in our DNA, is Labour. It’s about creating jobs for young people. It’s about making sure we have employment prospects for adults in this area and in other areas. It’s about creating a quarter of a million jobs in the next 10 years.” – BBC News

Ed to air views on Blue Labour

Ed Miliband is to make his most direct engagement with the suddenly fashionable Blue Labour movement with a speech covering controversial areas such as personal responsibility, anxiety about the pace of change, and building stronger communities. The Labour leader has long shown an interest in the ideas of a self-described “ragtail group of academics” led by Maurice Glasman and including one of Miliband’s best friends from university, Marc Stears, with whom he ran a student rent campaign). They are joined by Jonathan Rutherford and the already well-known MP Jon Cruddas. Blue Labour is more concerned with the 4 million working-class voters who have deserted Labour since 1997 than with the party’s lost 1.5 million middle-class voters. Critics describe the movement as nostalgics looking for an arcadian past. Glasman fronts the operation, offering deliberately provocative comments – one suggestion is that Labour lied about immigration – but all four have crafted its central ideas. – the Guardian

‘As Ed Miliband prepares to face Britain’s voters for the first time next month, he talks of a Labour Party that is not so much one colour as positively kaleidoscopic. He appears relaxed by the news, revealed in The Times this week, that leading new Labour figures are compiling a “Purple Book” of modernising policies to pressure him into reform. So relaxed, in fact, that he is writing the foreword himself. He is also showing interest in the “blue Labour” tract of the social activist and academic Maurice Glasman, now Lord Glasman after he was elevated to the peerage by Mr Miliband. This criticises the party for putting too much faith in the state and losing sight of “flag, faith and family”, the core values of its traditional base. “Purple Labour, blue Labour,” says Mr Miliband as he heads for a day’s campaigning in Wales. “I would be tempted to say, let a thousand flowers bloom,” he smiles. “But that’s not a particularly appropriate historical analogy.” ‘The Purple Book, so-called to draw comparisons with the Orange Book of Liberal Democrat modernisers, could have posed a problem for his authority. He has solved that by embracing the whole project as part of the wide-ranging debate on Labour’s future. – Progress

Ed’s new voice

Ed Miliband is to have an operation to improve his voice and help turn him into an election winner. Aides have told the Labour leader to have surgery to cure his “bunged up” sound. He is expected to have his adenoids – fleshy growths behind the nose – removed during Parliament’s long summer break. The op, usually performed under general ­anaesthetic, takes about a week to recover from and should get rid of his nasal drawl. Labour spin doctors have been worried about the 41-year-old’s voice ever since his surprise victory over his older brother David in the party leadership battle. One party insider said: “Ed should have had it done before he stood for the job. It’s a conversation that has been had. It’s difficult to find a convenient time when you are leader of the ­Opposition but the summer recess would be an obvious choice.” – the Mirror

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