• If Scots vote as the polls suggest, then Nicola Sturgeon will soon have some claim to being called the most successful British politician of her generation.

    In just a few short months, Sturgeon has taken her party from referendum defeat to the brink of the most remarkable election result in recent political history.

    She outshone her rivals in the two leaders’ debates, with English viewers judging her to have come first according to some polls. Her approval ratings are also now the highest of any party leader across the UK, with even many English voters saying they would back her party next month given the chance.

    Whatever you think of her politics, Sturgeon is a formidable politician at the height of her game. Yet to read the coverage Sturgeon has received in recent weeks is to read about somebody completely different.

    Descriptions of Sturgeon in the Westminster-based press have run from the hyperbolic to the offensive. In recent weeks she has been described variously as a hostage-taker to

    Read More »from Media sexism against Sturgeon shows how far our politics has to go
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    I nearly spat out my “special-offer” cornflakes this morning when I read the news that supermarkets have been accused of offering bogus bargains and costing shoppers hundreds of millions of pounds.

    Of course, like practically everyone else, I know full well that stores like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons use pricing tricks to rip off customers.

    Yet these new allegations by Which? – that will now force the regulators to investigate - still stuck in my craw.

    Under the spotlight are “was/now” promotions, multi-buys and so-called shrinkflation, when the packaging and not the price shrinks.

    In the first case, Which? gave the example of a Nestle Kit Kat Chunky Collection Giant Easter Egg, which was advertised by Ocado at £7.49 for just ten days in January, but was then sold “on offer” at £5 for 51 days.

    On the multi-buy front, it revealed how Asda increased the price of a Chicago Town Four Cheese Pizza two-pack from £1.50 to £2 when it introduced a two-for-£3 deal.

    Meanwhile, Tesco

    Read More »from The ‘bogus bargains’ scandal shows how big supermarkets treat us like fools
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    If the shameful inaction of the EU over refugee deaths in the Mediterranean weren’t enough, they’ve now worsened their moral standing with half-truths and misrepresentations.

    As news came in that Sunday’s death toll was likely to be around the 800 mark, the European Commission released its ten-point plan to deal with the crisis. There was a lot of talk of countries acting in unity and common purpose, but the language of the proposals was incredibly vague. If you dig into their proposals you see this isn’t about saving lives. It’s about controlling the border.

    Strap yourself in for the standard EU jargon: Operations Trident and Poseidon will be “reinforced”, with increased “financial resources” and “assets”. Their “operational area” will be extended, but they will remain within the mandate of “Frontex”.

    There’s a lot to unpack there, but the vital part of the puzzle is in the last suggestion. Frontex is a border control programme, not a search and rescue programme. Yes, it must save lives

    Read More »from This isn't a migrant rescue plan – it's an EU border-control plan
  • It all comes down to numbers. Try playing the BBC’s majority-builder game, which offers some likely scenarios and gives you the chance to work out plausible governments.

    More often than not you’re likely to find the Conservatives fall short, even with Lib Dem and DUP support. Labour is often relying on either the SNP and/or the Lib Dems to get into power.

    That reflects the balance of probabilities as assessed by the Political Studies Association, a group of unspeakably clever academics who suggest the most likely scenario is bad news for Cameron.  

    "The single most likely outcome is at the bottom of the pie chart,“ says Dr Stephen Fisher of the University of Oxford.

    [UK General Election 2015 Live]

    "That is a seriously hung parliament with the Conservatives as clearly the largest party but a majority on the left, including the SNP and Liberal Democrats.”

    His findings are supported by the academics at electionforecast.co.uk, which give the Conservatives a mean 284 seats, compared to 276

    Read More »from Miliband is now most likely to be next prime minister
  • Midway through the general election campaign, both Labour and the Conservatives are changing their tactics – and it’s a triumph for voters.

    “I’m not going to talk about anything other than winning an overall majority,” David Cameron rather steadfastly insisted on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show this morning. His actions - and those of Labour this week - suggest the alternative is exactly what both the Conservatives and Labour are focusing on.

    Back in 2010 the British electorate delivered an equivocal verdict on David Cameron and Gordon Brown’s parties. Neither were really trusted enough to rule by themselves. Voters set up a scenario where both would have to act more cautiously and carefully. Whichever ended up in power, the Tories or Labour would have to behave differently.

    In the event, not that much did change. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats’ staunch embrace of power the resulting coalition felt more like business as usual than anyone could have anticipated. That experience has defined

    Read More »from The 2015 campaign has reached its watershed moment
  • In ordinary circumstances votes, like wives, are not casually swapped around. But that appears to be changing in 2015, as a group of determinedly anti-Tory activists encourage left-leaning types to switch sides.

    The basic idea behind VoteSwap relies on the old principle of tactical voting: that voters could be persuaded to choose a party other than the one they support in order to stop their political enemy from winning.

    Normally this is a straightforward, somewhat grubby process. It is not especially healthy. It is a perversion of the democratic system. But it has the promise of being effective in preventing the hated alternative from triumphing. In Scotland, such is the enmity provoked by the SNP surge that unionists are fostering a frenzy of tactical voting ahead of May 7th.

    The prospects in England are more limited. But on the left of British politics the enemy is clear enough.

    Stopping David Cameron from spending the coming years in No 10 via tactical voting is a tough ask, though. As

    Read More »from Vote-swapping: A new way to kick the Tories out of power
  • By Professor John Street

    As with shopping malls, so it is with election campaigns. Somewhere in the background, there is a soundtrack, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle - but always designed to programme the listener’s responses or heighten the emotion.

    Nigel Farage strode on stage early in the campaign to the sound of the Monkees’ I’m A Believer (for some reason he eschewed the opportunity to reprise Mike Read’s Ukip calypso). An example of the not-so-subtle approach, there.

    Most of the other parties have been a bit more restrained. Perhaps they’re fearful of the time, back in 2010, when the pop group Keane took umbrage at their song Everybody’s Changing being used by the Conservative party. Ukip were unlikely to get grief from the Monkees, and indeed Keane had no grounds for complaint: the song had been legally licensed (unlike the British National Party’s use of a song by the Manic Street Preachers).

    But the Tories have not always been very wise in their choice of music. They

    Read More »from This year's election soundtracks won't win many votes
  • BBC debate: Sturgeon spoke up for Scotland

    By David Torrance

    It didn’t really matter how well Nicola Sturgeon performed in last night’s opposition leaders’ debate. The Scottish first minister could have said nothing at all for an hour-and-a-half and some poll somewhere would still have shown that a majority of Scots thought she’d walked it. For the SNP leader is well liked by most voters in Scotland, and therefore she gets the benefit of the doubt.

    That said, in the splendid surroundings of the Methodist Central Hall a stone’s throw from the ‘Westminster system’ nationalists once derided and now want to play a fuller part in, the SNP leader did not need the benefit of the doubt. Sturgeon did extremely well; indeed, probably better than she had performed in the initial seven-way leaders’ debate two weeks ago.

    There had been speculation Sturgeon would get a tougher ride, Labour having learnt its lessons from two lively Scottish leaders’ debates in which the first minister was treated more like an incumbent than an insurgent. That,

    Read More »from BBC debate: Sturgeon spoke up for Scotland
  • The conventional wisdom in politics is almost always wrong and so it proved last night. Most commentators predicted that the BBC leaders’ debate would be a disaster for Miliband and an open goal for Nigel Farage. The opposite turned out to be the case.

    As the only candidate with any chance of becoming prime minister, Miliband inevitably came under fire from all sides. But rather than crumbling as many predicted, Miliband remained calm, reasoned and persuasive throughout.

    Farage’s performance on the other hand was all over the place. It started off well enough as he played the candidate “saying what you’re all thinking at home”.

    But rather than bank this camaraderie with the audience, Farage instead decided to turn on them, accusing them of “bias” against him. The huge jeers and boos that followed destroyed any good feeling that Farage might otherwise have received.

    As the debate went on, things only got worse for Farage and better for Miliband. While Farage ranted about an EU army,

    Read More »from BBC Debate: Miliband scores and Farage misses
  • <span id=yui_3_0_0-2-1429212660247 class=yui-editorial-embed><span id=schemaorg><span id=yui_3_9_1_1_1429262478593_911 class=yom-figure yom-fig-middle style=width: 630px;><span id=yui_3_9_1_1_1429262478593_1011 class=legend>Radamenes comforting another cat at an animal shelter in Poland. (Imgur)</span></span></span></span>

    Radamenes, a black cat in Bydgoszcz, Poland, is helping animals recover at the same veterinary clinic that saved his life.

    Once near death himself, Radamenes beat the odds and survived a serious upper respiratory infection. His owners feared the then 2-month-old kitten would never recover — they even considered euthanasia — but veterinarian Lucyna Kuziel-Zawalich took a liking to the sick cat and nursed him back to health before taking Radamenes in as her own, Mashable reported.

    As he recovered, vets at the clinic were surprised to see the feline start hugging and cleaning other animals at the clinic, Bored Panda reported, especially those who were recovering from serious operations.

    Nurse catNurse cat

    Now known as both the clinic’s mascot and “full-time nurse,” Radamenes is also getting a taste of online fame this week. After TVN Meteo, a Police news website, published photos of the cat at work, the story of the cat giving back went viral.

    Check out more photos on imgur.

    Cat person or not, sometimes you

    Read More »from Radamenes The ‘Nurse Cat’ Comforts Other Sick Animals At Polish Animal Shelter


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