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The Campaign 2015: cash for access and awkward silences

The Hippo Collective is pleased to present this weeks report on the General Election Campaign. This week’s edition includes the Straw/Rifkind cash-for-access scandal, Labour’s long awaited tuition fees policy, and the Green Leader’s poor media performances.

“Every political career ends in death or failure” – Here’s two more failures

Two old men were filmed boasting to an attractive young woman – so what’s new here? Well… the old men are two former Foreign Secretaries (pictured above), the attractive young woman was a journalist posing as a representative of a fictional Chinese company, and what they were boasting about is ILLEGAL. Malcolm Rifkind said ‘I have to earn my income… I can do what I like’ when asked by undercover journalists to represent the interests of an invented Chinese company. Jack Straw boasted about how he had already used his influence to change EU policy and Ukrainian Government policy on behalf of a firm, and that he was willing to do the same for this one for £5000 a day.

Rifkind made his bad case worse still by saying he is ‘entitled’ to earn an income from other sources. So far into the election campaign there is no time for dead-weight or stragglers. In a meeting with Chief Whip Michael Gove it was made clear to him – jump or be pushed. He chose to jump. He resigned his position as Chairmen of the Security committee, and will not stand again in May.

Straw has referred himself to the parliamentary standards committee, and is awaiting their verdict. He is apparently not under great pressure to stand down as an MP, and he has no position as important as Rifkind from which to resign. Straw helped his case by not saying anything inflammatory!

The main result, however, is Miliband has jumped on the issue. He repeatedly asked Cameron to agree to a bipartisan agreement to stop MP’s from also working as chairmen of companies, or as consultants. Cameron would not be swayed. Miliband claimed he wanted to ‘clean up this house’, or maybe he wanted to score political points on Cameron – surprisingly, I actually lean towards the former as his reason.

 

Labour’s University Fees Cut Sounds good, but is it?

After months of bluster Labour has finally announced its policy on university fees, they will cut the fees cap by £3000 to £6000 per year, along with an increase in the maintenance grant for students whose parents are on low incomes. The delay has reportedly been caused by disagreement over direction of policy within Labour’s leadership, but it seems Ed has put his foot down and pushed the policy onto Labour’s agenda.

David Cameron’s complaints that there will be less funding for universities and therefore poorer quality of service are unfounded; the shortfall will be made up with more government funding. This, however, is not the greatest problem with the policy. This is a policy that sounds pro-students, and Labour will be relying on how the policy sounds in order to win over both students and older voters. The problem is in the specifics, firstly, it will be expensive, costing £2.7bn. Secondly, this money is under the current system coming more from the better off or better paid graduates. The result is that the graduates that earn more will be contributing less to the system, the government would pay instead. I welcome the idea of students paying less (and preferably nothing) for their education, but this doesn’t seem to be the outcome the Labour Party would want. Therefore, I conclude that it’s a policy created for its style over its substance.

 

I… Erm… I had a title… but… erm… It’s entirely slipped my mind…

Last Tuesday Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, had what has been described as ‘the worst party leader interview ever given’. When questioned on LBC radio about the Green’s ‘fully costed’ housing policy she completely failed to explain how much it would cost, or where the money would come from. She then, after some considerable awkward silences, broke out into coughing and complained she had a cold. This adds to the growing list of poor media appearances for the Green Leader, at the end of January she had another weak interview with Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics. I have some sympathy for her, everyone has bad days – she just doesn’t seem to handle the pressure of serious interviews as well as a party leader should.

This has prompted some serious concern within the Greens. The Election debates are likely to be one of the most influential factors affecting the minor parties’ success, and the Greens realise this. The Greens attempted to sort this by negotiating with the broadcasters to allow the single Green MP, Caroline Lucas, to debate in place of the leader. They were shot down – told that they were leader debates. Natalie isn’t going to get away with it that easily.

 

The Polling Report:

The average of Polls remains almost unchanged, with Labour on 33%, Conservatives on 32%, Lib Dems on 8%, UKIP 15% and Greens 6%. The Greens are the only noticeable change, with the drop probably down the above mentioned interview.

More interestingly, the more detailed constituency polls continue to unanimously tell us that a Hung-Parliament is inevitable unless something drastically changes. Labour are being hammered by the SNP in Scotland, as it seems increasingly likely that they will win over 50 of the 59 Scottish seats. Another interesting dynamic to include is that neither main party nor the Lib dems will have the seats to form another coalition – Tory/Lib/Ukip is possible, as is Labour/SNP, as well as many others. My money is on Labour/SNP at the moment.

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