Friday News Review

Last roll of the dice for Labour in Scotland

Ed Miliband, Labour leader, has warned that Britain is heading for “disaster” if Alex Salmond’s nationalists continue their charge towards victory in next week’s elections to the Scottish parliament. Mr Miliband has watched in dismay as Labour’s apparently impregnable poll lead in Scotland has evaporated. He told the Financial Times the SNP would use a victory in Holyrood to press for Scottish independence, threatening the union and distracting political energy from the need to revive Scotland’s economy. “If Alex Salmond were to win a second term, he has said it would give him moral authority in relation to independence,” said Mr Miliband. “I think that would be a disaster for Scotland; I think it would be a disaster for the United Kingdom.” Mr Salmond has run a textbook presidential campaign to overhaul his party’s double-digit poll deficit of just a few months ago: opinion surveys now suggest he is on course for a second term as first minister. – the FT

Despite the SNP appearing to be on track for a comfortable victory in the polls, Miliband described the Labour effort as a ‘good campaign’ that had focused on the important issues. ‘Do you want a government in Scotland that is fighting on the issues that matter to you? Or do you want a government in Scotland led by Alex Salmond, an SNP government, which is going to be distracted by the issue of independence?’ he asked. The leader went on to note the elections in Holywood are vital not only in Scotland but for the whole of the UK. Miliband said it is not too late for Scottish voters to back Labour and instigate change in the country. A victory for his party, he asserted, would be a statement that people are unhappy with the direction taken by the Westminster government. – Metro

“They put the socialism in, they take the sense of humour out”

The Prime Minister was accused of sexism by Labour after his Commons put-down to Angela Eagle at Prime Minister’s Questions. Mimicking a catchphrase used by Michael Winner, the film director, on a television insurance advertisement, he repeatedly told her to “calm down, dear”, prompting calls for him to apologise. But yesterday he brushed off the row and made light of the remarks. He said: “I don’t know what it is about some people on the Left. It seems that when they put the socialism in, they take the sense of humour out. “I got home last night and my wife said to me: ‘What sort of day did you have, dear?’ And I told her I was attacked by Harriet Harman [Labour’s deputy leader] and defended by Michael Winner, and she said: ‘What on earth were you up to?”‘ – the Telegraph

The Stoate strikes back

Howard Stoate, the former Labour MP who left parliament to focus on his work as a GP, has attacked David Cameron for quoting him “out of context” on the government’s health bill. The comments triggered heated exchanges during which Cameron told a female shadow cabinet member to “calm down, dear”. Stoate, the former MP for Dartford, writes in the Guardian that doctors do not “glibly accept every aspect of the health bill; it clearly has many inherent problems”. He says Cameron “should stop using the health service as a political football and allow GPs to get on with the job of improving health services”. “I [had] said many GPs were enthusiastic about the chance to help shape services for patients,” he writes. “I was referring to GPs in my own borough of Bexley, south London, and qualified this by saying GPs in the borough had a head start, building on their experience of commissioning over the last four years. Taken out of context, and interspersed with condescending comments to backbench MPs, Cameron’s quote is entirely misleading.” – the Guardian

Tory ‘No’ plotters have back up plan

Secret moves are planned by senior Conservatives to overturn the result of next week’s referendum on electoral reform if the country votes to scrap the first-past-the-post system… Under the plan, supporters of first-past-the-post would approach the Commons business committee of MPs, which has the power to set aside time for issues concerning backbenchers. Although recent polls show the No campaign in a comfortable lead, large numbers of voters still appear not to have made up their minds how – or whether – to vote. The tactic of using the business committee to force a Commons division was successful in overturning moves to give the vote to prisoners. A senior Conservative MP said last night: “Suppose there was a tiny majority in favour of AV, but only 20 per cent of the country took part in the referendum; people on our side would find it hard to accept. There would be contact with the business committee.” He suggested a turn-out of 50 per cent should be required to give legitimacy to a Yes vote – a hurdle that could be impossibly high to clear. – the Independent

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