Suspicion mounts that a sleeper lurks under deep cover in the heart of Associated Newspapers, with a mission to improve Ed Miliband’s image.
Following the daily title’s deranged depiction of his father as “The Man Who Hated Britain”, The Mail on Sunday excites further affection by serialising a book written by former Doncaster mayor Martin Winter (“the man who made Ed Miliband an MP”). From the admittedly limited coverage (pages 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, plus the main leader), the “scandal” is Winter’s claim that the Eds Miliband and Balls knew the economy was about to tank a year before it happened in 2008, “but kept it secret”.
According to the leader, this “reignites David Cameron’s case that Labour simply is not fit to be trusted with the economy”. Aha. Presumably, the ideal way to prepare for the oncoming storm – a global event, as the paper fails to mention – would have been to cause catastrophic panic by heralding it well in advance.
Anyway, with that “bombshell” detonated, Winter takes us back to 2005 when he first met the “unbelievably gracious and charming” Miliband and his boss, Gordon Brown, over tea at the Treasury, and then hosted Miliband at his home.
Experts' predictions for the general election
Experts' predictions for the general election
1/10 Andrew Hawkins (ComRes)
Just as the polls in 2010 pointed to no overall majority for any party, the overwhelming evidence points to Labour either being the largest party or getting a small majority, probably below 20. The Lib Dems and SNP should each win between 25 and 35 seats, with single-figure wins for both Ukip and the Greens.
2/10 Joe Twyman (YouGov)
I predict it will be close. I predict a few tremors, though earthquakes are unlikely. I predict the eventual winner may not be the direct result of public opinion, but instead the outcome of political negotiations. It’s too early to predict numbers given all the uncertainties surrounding (among other things) Ukip, the SNP and the Lib Dems. It is possible that it will be close between Conservative and Labour in terms of both votes and seats. The Lib Dems might retain 20-30 seats and the balance of power, despite small gains for the SNP, and at most half a dozen Ukip seats. Gun to my head? Labour minority government.
3/10 Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)
A mug’s game for this election months away, but my predictions in order of likelihood: most likely a hung parliament or coalition of some kind, closely followed by either a small Labour majority or an equally small Conservative majority. Given how close the parties are, the unknown performance of Ukip in key marginals, the effect of incumbency on Lib Dem losses, the final size of SNP surge and so on, to be more precise is simply foolish! Professor Tetlock, who found that forecasts by experts were only slightly better than throwing dice, weighs heavily upon me!
4/10 Rick Nye (Populus)
I can see a hung parliament, where Labour is the largest party in terms of seats – though not necessarily in terms of votes, with the Lib Dems having 30 seats or fewer, the SNP having up to 20 seats and Ukip having no more than five seats. In short, it’s going to get messy and stay messy for some time to come.
5/10 Nick Moon (GfK)
I can’t recall there ever being an election more difficult to predict than this one. I’m confident no party will have an overall majority, with the Tories probably the largest party but no single partner for a viable coalition, with the Lib Dems on 25 seats, the SNP 20, Ukip three, and the Greens one.
6/10 Damian Lyons Lowe (Survation)
We might have expected a workable Labour majority, were it not for the wild-card rise of the SNP in Scotland. Survation’s December Scottish polls suggest an almost complete wipeout by the SNP in Scotland and result in 40+ seat gains – mostly at Labour’s expense. My current predictions are: Labour the largest party by 40-50 seats over the Tories, no overall majority; Tories 235-255 seats; Lib Dems 20-30 seats; SNP 30-40 seats – maybe held back from potential support level by opposition incumbency and tactical voting by pro-unionist voters. Finally, Ukip, 5-10 wins from Conservatives, including Rochester and Clacton, and potentially a single Labour-seat surprise.
7/10 Michelle Harrison (TNS)
The battleground over the next three months is at the kitchen table – the difference between what the statistics tell us about the economy, the experience that Britons are having of managing their household budgets, and where – and if – they believe politics can make a difference. In this regard, the disconnect with the major political parties is more interesting than the horse race.
8/10 James Endersby (Opinium Research)
Our first poll for 2015 shows Labour one point ahead [see above], but polls four months out from an election are snapshots, not predictions. It would be extremely unwise for a pollster to make a firm prediction now. At the moment, Opinium’s estimate on polling day would be the Tories slightly ahead on vote share, but Labour slightly ahead on seats. These numbers are based on a uniform swing, with tweaks to Green and Ukip numbers based on local information: Labour 320 seats, Conservatives 271, Lib Dems 20, SNP 16, Plaid Cymru three, Greens two, Ukip four. A hung parliament with Labour potentially closer to a majority coalition than the Conservatives.
9/10 Martin Boon (ICM)
I’ve not recovered from the Scottish referendum campaign yet, and here we go with another wildcard strewn nail-biter. For me, Labour on 30 per cent will only fractionally nudge past their woeful 2010 showing – behind the Tories on 33 per cent – but enough to secure more seats (290 for Labour, 280 for the Tories) on boundary wackiness. The Lib Dems will secure 14 per cent of the vote and 35 seats; Ukip will also get 14 per cent, but that only gets them a couple of seats. As for Scotland, I’m bewildered, but as you asked I’ll say 30 seats for the SNP, which wipes out a breathing-space victory in seats for Labour.
10/10 Lord Ashcroft (Lord Ashcroft Polls)
Declined to take part. His spokeswoman said: “As he has said many times, his polls are snapshots not predictions.” Health warning: when The Independent on Sunday carried out a similar exercise in April 2010, at the start of that year’s election campaign, eight out of eight pollsters predicted a Conservative overall majority.
But what explains Winter’s transition from Ed-lover to soothsayer of cataclysm should he reach No 10? Is it that Ed burned his carpet with a misplaced convector heater? Was he bamboozled by the Winter children’s breakfast debate as to whether a Seurat painting belonged to the Pointillist or Expressionist schools? Or that he allowed those kids to browbeat him into overpaying them for help with campaign literature (“If he can’t cope with our Marcey,” Winter asks, “how’s he going to cope when it’s Putin?”)?
While it may be the above – and if a fellow can’t handle a convector heater, what’s he gonna do with the nuclear codes? – the lines that leap out from his portrait of a startlingly decent politician are these: “I had already told very senior party officials I wanted to be a successful mayor,” Winter recalls in his entry about that Treasury tea, “and then join the Lords. It had been indicated that I had every expectation of achieving that.” Hell hath no fury like an ambitious apparatchik with a scorched carpet and no ermine to cover the hole.
Safety first for all MPs – except George
The right not only to free speech but to have that right protected is sovereign, it appears, unless you are George Galloway. The man who savagely beat up George last summer, we learn, was not his only attacker.
Two others with scant appetite for the Galloway take on Israel/Palestine have recently assaulted him – one verbally, the other physically as he took his three-year-old son to a Christmas event in Hyde Park.
Given the potential consequences should a fourth carry a knife, you’d have thought the state would offer him protection, but neither the police nor John Bercow are eager to help. If the Met is unwilling to spare one of the many officers who accompany Mr Tony Blair on his philanthropic world tour, Bercow might persuade them. He wouldn’t want his time as Speaker to be remembered for one inexplicable abnegation of his duty to protect MPs.
Thierry lays down his life for Sky – and £4m
Not since the disciples laid eyes upon the risen Christ has a coming been greeted with the beatific fervour that attended Thierry Henry’s arrival as a Premier League pundit on Sky Sports. If you missed the relentlessly screened trailer, it featured the Frenchman in sub-Cantona mode. “This league gave me everything. I took it, I embraced it, but then you have to give something back.” Oh, you do, especially for £4m a year. “You can always do better, dream better, learn better, teach better … I always believe in better. That’s how I will die” By weirdest happenstance, “always believe in better” is also the broadcaster’s mantra. Greater love hath no pundit than that he lay down his life for a Sky slogan.
Oh ****, it’s the return of the asterisk
Such starry days for the asterisk. Confined for so long to the F- and C-words (and “t*t” when printed within 0.35 inches of a Page 3 nipple), it can thank Celebrity Big Brother for the revival. In recent days, the Daily Mirror has pioneered “n***o”, after a housemate used the word “negro” of fellow contestant Alexander O’Neal, while The Sun gave a debut to “f****t” after O’Neal called an American gossip writer a “silly ass faggot”. I remember a time when “ass” was rendered as “a*s” in The Sun, so nothing is set in stone. But, for now, Mr Brain’s is warned against wasting any money on advertising its choicest f*****s in the more effete outposts of the Murdoch empire.
Grant Shapps, the Tories’ prolier-than-thou poster boy
With the Conservative press swinging behind the Tory election drive, Grant Shapps is delicately interviewed in The Times. The Tory chairman was on fine prolier-than-thou form as he celebrated Nando’s (“I do like junk food. For me, Nando’s is a step up”), while his interviewers alerted us to his “modest 1920s home in his Welwyn constituency”. Lack of space precluded reference to Grant’s old career as a proselytiser of vulgar wealth, when as “Michael Green” he published the Stinking Rich series. Also omitted was his ownership of two planes, and his recent objection to a plan to build homes on the airfield where they are kept. No one could argue with his vehicular needs – a chap needs quick access to Nando’s when the peri-peri craving takes hold – and it’s hard to imagine a stronger candidate for the crucial role of Tory Dennis Skinner.Reuse content