Sebastian Payne

Campaign kick-off: 17 days to go

Campaign kick-off: 17 days to go
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The campaign’s focus will swing back to Scotland today, with Nicola Sturgeon launching the SNP’s manifesto in Edinburgh. Ed Miliband is also heading north, to address the Scottish TUC and kick off Labour’s latest efforts to attack the Conservatives on the NHS. To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today’s main election stories.

1. Last chance to vote

More important than any of the news stories, today marks the deadline for registering to vote on May 7. As the splash of today’s Daily Mirror puts it, ‘you can make a difference’. Forget talk of the same old parties with same old ideas, the options on offer at this election are terrifically varied and how your ballot is cast will have an impact on the future of our country.

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) April 19, 2015

There is no excuse to not at least put your name down. Registering takes just five minutes on GOV.UK. Don’t forget!

2. Ransom demands

The prospect of a Labour-SNP deal is hotting up. Angela Eagle suggested yesterday, for the first time, that Labour would speak to the SNP in order to govern. She told the Sunday Politics that her party ‘would speak to any party that has got representation in the House of Commons in order to try to build a majority for a Queen’s Speech’. To add to the Conservatives' glee, the Telegraph and the Times have splashed on the news that the SNP would block defence spending in Parliament if Ed Miliband refuses to scrap Trident. The party’s deputy leader Stewart Hosie has said (£) the SNP would be looking ‘to vote against or table amendments to estimates’. Labour has brushed aside this threat, saying ‘this is posturing by the SNP’ which is ‘only being taken seriously by a Conservative party’.

Aside from the defence threat, the SNP’s manifesto looks set to the party’s most English document to date. The Nats will back Labour on cutting tuition fees, scrapping the coalition’s welfare reforms, building HS2 (starting in Scotland, natch), more for money for Wales, recognition of a Palestinian state as well as freezing energy prices. As Sky News reports, the document is trying to calm fears across Britain: ‘while a strong London is good for the UK, also having a strong Cardiff, Newcastle and Leeds is even better’. But Sturgeon is not going in for expectations management, admitting that she the SNP will be in a ‘very, very strong and powerful position’. Or as the Telegraph and Times put it: holding the UK to ransom.

On the Today programme, deputy first minister John Swinney has said it was still the party’s aim to gain full fiscal autonomy for Scotland in the long term but there were other aims in the near future — not least battling austerity, which Swinney said had done ‘enormous harm to individuals within Scotland’. Sounds as if there will be some common ground with Labour there.

listen to ‘SNP's John Swinney dodges question on bringing down a Labour government’ on audioBoom

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3. On life support

Labour is attempting to keep up its campaign momentum by launching ‘NHS week’, which is essentially more scaremongering on what the evil Conservatives will do to the health service if reelected. The Labour Party has released this poster, warning that the health service is ‘on life support’:

The NHS is on life support after five years of the Tories. Cameron is planning to double the pace of cuts next year.

— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) April 20, 2015

A dossier is due to be released this morning, which will reportedly show that some Tory councillors back more privatisation of the health service. Miliband will tell the Scottish TUC ‘they are not being straight about their extreme plans to double the cuts to public services next year’. Clearly, this is a topic Labour can do well on but are they going too far?