The Contented Politician
It has been reported in some sections of the media that Gina Ford is writing a political blog. This is not the case. The Contented Baby team, with the help of some of our website members, will be putting together regular round-ups of the main events and issues that are likely to interest members in the run-up to the general election.
Gina, meanwhile, is concentrating on all things Contented Baby-related. To read her latest news, please click here.
Weekly Round-up (Latest)
In a few days time, we'll know who has won the keys to 10 Downing St. However, after the most extraordinary election campaign in decades, even the experts are hedging their bets...
Following a disastrous week for Gordon Brown, the signs are that Tory leader David Cameron will become the next Prime Minister; but the polls suggest he's not yet home and dry. LibDem leader Nick Clegg is still capitalising on his X factor-style success in the TV debates, meaning a hung parliament remains on the cards.
Labour is fast running out of time to get its campaign back on track after a catastrophic gaffe by the Prime Minister in Rochdale last Wednesday. Breaking every rule in the spin doctor's book, Gordon Brown left his microphone on his lapel when he climbed back into his car - allowing the world to hear his private thoughts on the lady he'd just talked to.
The blunder - exacerbated by pictures of the Prime Minister with his head in his hands, as he listened to the recording of himself labelling Gillian Duffy a "bigot" - threw Labour's campaign into disarray and triggered an extraordinary media circus. Brown tried to limit the damage by making a humiliating trip to Mrs Duffy's house to apologise in person, but many commentators believe the incident will prove his undoing.
As well as exposing a less pleasant side to Brown's character, the episode catapulted Labour's record on immigration to the top of the agenda. It's a subject they have been trying hard to avoid, knowing many voters are angry and worried about the number of foreigners who have settled in Britain, legally and illegally, in recent years. Thanks to Mrs Duffy's questions about the influx, the issue took centre stage for the rest of the week.
Labour insists immigration figures are now falling, with the introduction of a points scheme for foreign workers, modelled on the successful Australian immigration system. This restricts entrance, other than to workers with the skills Britain needs. But the other parties accuse Labour of losing all control of immigration over the last decade, with up to 900,000 illegal workers now in the UK. The Conservatives promise to introduce far stricter controls, including a cap on the number of incomers and a proper system for monitoring the departure of foreigners who have been allowed entry for limited periods. Amazingly, there is no "checking out" system at present. The LibDems would offer a one-off amnesty for those who have been here illegally for more than a decade, to get them into the tax system.
The final TV debate on Thursday night was watched by eight million people; a more assured Cameron was widely considered to have been the victor. The main topic was the economy. In opening statements, the Tory leader pledged never to take Britain into the euro; the LibDem leader again talked about offering a new type of politics; and the Prime Minister played up his role in protecting the country from the worst effects of the global recession. He took credit for keeping interest rates low throughout the downturn, preventing mass repossessions and saving Northern Rock. The other two parties blamed him for allowing borrowing to spiral out of control and failing to get the banks lending again.
Cameron came under intense pressure over his party's controversial pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £2m for married couples - a policy he announced at the height of the property boom back in 2007. Brown questioned why the Conservatives would give a tax break to a few thousand of the richest people in Britain. Cameron stood by the measure, saying only the super-wealthy should pay death duty on their estates.
At the weekend, the latest Sunday Times YouGov poll put the Conservatives on 35, LibDems on 28 and Labour on 27 - exactly the same as a week ago. It's not enough to give Cameron a working majority.
Labour's tired troops are battling on, pinning their hopes on the millions of voters who have yet to make up their mind. Tony Blair is back in town, trying to sprinkle some of his old star-dust on the campaign as it threatens to descend into farce. A few days ago, a photo opportunity involving the cabinet was interrupted by a car crash. According to witnesses, the driver of the car appeared to be trying to avoid a dust-cart, one of whose occupants was shouting abuse at the ministers. You couldn't make it up. Meanwhile, Brown's key speech at the weekend was disrupted by a heckler, who had to be bundled out.
Nobody can be sure what is going to happen on Thursday; but, after this blackest of weeks, Gordon Brown may be relieved the end is in sight. He's probably not the only one...
The ContentedBaby Team