Election Diary

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Indy Politics

Good day

Good day

Brian Sedgemore, whose defection electrified the election campaign and provided a major publicity coup for the Liberal Democrats.

Bad day

Environmental campaigners, who stormed past the police guarding John Prescott's house in Hull, clambered on to its roof and tried to install solar panels. But the Deputy Prime Minister wasn't at home and, according to him, all they managed to accomplish was "terrorising" his wife.

Gaffe of the day

After announcing a £10m action plan to tackle hospital infections and the spread of MRSA, Michael Howard travelled to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neuro Surgery in London. But he found himself rebuked when he forgot to scrub his hands with disinfectant before shaking hands with patients.

The ultimate insult

Peter Kilfoyle, whose Liverpool Walton constituency contains Liverpool and Everton football grounds, on the defection of Brian Sedgemore: "He is no more a Liberal Democrat than I am a Man Utd supporter."

Quote of the day

"What I'm most concerned about is the feelings that will be engendered amongst his colleagues of three or four weeks ago from the Parliamentary Labour Party fighting marginal seats. For them, his statement will appear to be a lance right through the spine." - Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty, the former Labour leader, accuses Brian Sedgemore of betraying his former colleagues.

Q&A

1. Who will be learning Welsh during his retirement?

2. Why did several Mr Spocks picket Tory headquarters yesterday?

3. Who, Robin Cook believes, "deserves a medal"?

Answers

1. Brian Sedgemore, who plans to spend his post-Westminster life at his Pembrokeshire home.

2. Labour Party activists, complete with giant plastic ears, were highlighting John Redwood's disappearance during the campaign.

3. The 100,000 people in true-blue Surrey who insist on sticking with Labour.

Great British Elections: 1951

Scare tactics and negative campaigning in elections are nothing new. This will forever be known as the "Whose finger on the trigger" election, from a Daily Mirror headline which suggested that voting for the Tories rather than the incumbent Labour government would lead to war with the Soviet Union. It worked, in the sense that the 1951 election saw Labour poll more votes nationally than the Conservatives. However, Clement Attlee's Labour government lost power because the Tories ended up with more seats in the Commons. Just as the vagaries of the British first-past-the-post system work against Michael Howard today, half a century ago they favoured his illustrious predecessor, Winston Churchill. This election was also a classic example of a government losing a contest rather than an opposition winning one. By the 1950 election Labour had run out of steam; its leaders were old or dying and much of its radical programme of 1945 was complete. It won then, narrowly, but Attlee felt he couldn't carry on with such a small majority, and called another election in 1951. Even the morale boost of the Festival of Britain, complete with the Dome of Discovery, couldn't restore the government's fortunes. The Conservatives may not have been bristling with ideas, but they reassured the nation that they accepted the "post-war settlement" and would not abolish the NHS. Churchill's Indian Summer and a decade of rising prosperity and Tory pre-eminence beckoned.

Sean O'Grady

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