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Dale’s Diary: Dave and Ed kick off, Maclean dons Marigolds to meet Boris, McCabe looks for lost votes

Dale’s Diary: Dave and Ed kick off, Maclean dons Marigolds to meet Boris, McCabe looks for lost votes

🕔31.Mar 2015

And they’re off in the race to Downing Street with Labour straight into a four point opinion poll lead, which is good news for Mr Miliband. No, hang about the Tories have a four point lead, which is splendid news for Mr Cameron.

Surely, it’s two points either way. Or are Labour and the Tories still neck and neck?

The only thing that can be said with any certainty is that the Liberal Democrats are struggling to trouble the pollsters at all, which is clearly very bad news for Mr Clegg.

One of the unusual aspects of this General Election is that four of the party leaders are fighting to keep their jobs. Ed Miliband’s future will surely be in grave doubt if Labour does not at the very least emerge as the largest party, while David Cameron is toast if he gets kicked out of Downing Street. As for Nick Clegg, you imagine he is already contemplating a nice long rest after May 7. Nigel Farage, meanwhile, has promised to quit as UKIP leader if he doesn’t become an MP, so come on you voters in South Thanet.

The first full day of campaigning saw a predictable exchange of cross fire, but few casualties.

Cameron’s claim that voting Labour would lead to a £3,000 “tax bombshell” for every family came under attack from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, leaving a red-faced prime minister to admit that the figures had been, err, somewhat made up but were probably about right.

Miliband, meanwhile, faced criticism from Labour MPs and activists over the party’s offer of souvenir mugs depicting their five policy pledges – with one of the red mugs proclaiming “Controls on Immigration – I’m voting Labour”. Left wing MP Diane Abbott called it “shameful”, while others not even on the far left tut-tutted at such a blatant attempt to steal the UKIP ground.

Cameron and George Osborne refused to say where £12 billion in welfare cuts would come from, other than to stress that a Conservative government would protect “the most disabled people”. Mr Miliband and Ed Balls launched Labour’s business manifesto, but failed to convince the captains of industry that the People’s Party truly understands small, large or even medium sized businesses.

And it wouldn’t be a General Election without the traditional antics of the hard-left, intent on snatching Labour defeat from the jaws of victory.  John McDonnell, a veteran member of the Campaign Group, hinted that up to 40 Labour MPs could work with the SNP to stop spending cuts being included in a Budget, which is a little presumptuous since we don’t yet have a Labour-led government.

McDonnell argued that there has already been “a shift in terms of the Labour leadership’s thinking and even in terms of Ed Balls’s thinking” on cuts. He says they recognise that “you’ve got to offer an alternative, you can’t come in with austerity-lite it won’t work. Increasingly now, the Labour leadership has recognised that, actually, you can tackle the deficit over a longer period of time, that way you avoid any cuts whatsoever.”

So there you have it. Ed and Ed have recognised there is no need for any further cuts “whatsoever”.

Meanwhile, in Birmingham, it’s all very dirty in Northfield.

Tory candidate Rachel Maclean donned a fetching pair of yellow rubber gloves to clean road signs during a visit by Boris Johnson. This is all part of the Tory voluntary service theme, or getting people to do the things the city council can no longer afford to do thanks to Government spending cuts.

“Had a fantastic morning cleaning up the road signs in our area”, Maclean gushed.

“Great community spirit, encouraged by Boris Johnson.”

Cue pictures of Rachel and Boris in cafe, post office and fish and chip shop.

Boris was encouraged to help paint a fence in Kings Norton, not that much encouragement was needed. The man who is the favourite to take over from David Cameron as Tory leader predictably splashed paint all over his trousers, which is of course not the sort of thing that Dave would ever do, more’s the pity.

Goodness me. What larks. Northfield Labour MP Richard Burden must be quaking in his boots.

It is generally assumed that only three of Birmingham’s 10 parliamentary constituencies have any real chance of changing hands on May 7.

Northfield is the number one Tory target followed by Edgbaston. Labour, meanwhile, is pouring all of its resources into Yardley in a bid to oust Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming.

Not much attention is being paid to Birmingham Selly Oak where Labour MP Steve McCabe is defending a far from impregnable 3,482 vote majority.

McCabe might expect to win easily enough were it not for the mystery of the missing voters.

About 70,000 voters across Birmingham have dropped off the electoral register since the last General Election following a ban on one member of a household registering all persons living at the address.

The situation in Selly Oak is complicated by students from Birmingham University who have either left the city or can no longer register in a home town and university town at the same time. Almost 6,000 voters in Selly Oak have disappeared, most thought to be students, and as is well known young people are more likely to vote Labour….or so it is claimed.

McCabe hardly romped home at the 2010 General Election. Labour’s share of the vote fell by 7.6 per cent while Tory support jumped by 6.2 per cent.

That was on top of a 6.3 per cent fall in Labour support at the 2005 General Election, albeit on slightly different boundaries.

Selly Oak Tory candidate this time is local woman Alex Boulter, who appears not to have made much of an impact so far. Could that be about to change?

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