To mark ten years since the 2010 general election, I will be looking back at the election campaign as it happened 10 years ago to the day. Each week I will be doing a recap of the campaign as it happened, including the pivotal moments that decided the victors and the vanquished.
In this blog, I’ll be taking a look at the events that made up the third week of the general election campaign.
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The week started on a somewhat bad note for Cameron – first from a life-size ‘chicken’ sent by the Daily Mirror, a left-wing tabloid, heckling him, and then by having an egg thrown at him by a student while campaigning in Cornwall.
Meanwhile, Brown’s call for a “progressive alliance” between Labour and the Liberal Democrats was rebutted by Nick Clegg in an interview with the Telegraph, describing the prime minister as a “desperate politician” and added that he would find it difficult to work with him in the event of a hung parliament.
Clegg, however, was not exempt from challenges at the start of this week of the campaign. Despite riding high in the opinion polls, a notebook from one of his aides was left in a taxi, which revealed that he was allegedly coached to copy David Cameron – something which Clegg denied. In addition, the Telegraph revealed that the Lib Dem leader received payments from party donors to his private bank account.
Round two of the leaders’ debate
The second debate took place on April 22nd in Bristol, hosted by Sky News’ Adam Boulton and covering foreign affairs – including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the European Union, climate change and international development.
There was no love lost between Clegg and the two main party leaders, with both Brown and Cameron trying to portray the Liberal Democrat leader as naive, particularly over his party’s policy to scrap Trident; Brown went as far as telling him to ‘get real’ to the threats facing the country.
Cameron attacked Brown on a set of leaflets distributed by Labour, claiming that a Conservative government would scrap free eye tests and free bus passes for the elderly – he refuted the claims and called on Brown to pull the literature from circulation. Brown denied knowledge of the leaflets, but pointed out keeping those benefits was not in his party’s manifesto.
Cameron also emphasised that his party was the only choice to bring about real change and a “clean break from the last 13 years”, dismissing claims by Brown that a Conservative government would pose a threat to the economy as “desperate”.
The debate is seen as a tie between Cameron and Clegg, both leading in different snap polls after the conclusion of the 90-minute debate.
The last of the party manifestos were launched this week, starting with the SNP on April 20th. The pro-independence party pledged to abolish the House of Lords, scrap Trident and stop the £5 billion ID card scheme. The manifesto also called for a referendum on independence for Scotland, and promised to work in partnership with Plaid Cymru in the event of a hung parliament, with no intention of any coalition agreement with ‘London parties’.
The British National Party launched their manifesto on St George’s Day this week. The party’s policies focused on ‘bringing our boys home’ from the war in Afghanistan, the abolition of multiculturalism and an immediate halt to all immigration with voluntary resettlement for migrants. The party also pledged to withdraw Britain from the European Union, and invite Ireland to join a pan-British parliament as an equal partner. Party leader Nick Griffin announced in 2009 that he would be standing in the seat of Barking against Labour’s Margaret Hodge, where the party won 12 seats on the local council and 17 percent of the vote in 2005.
The far-right party was not far from controversy this week – an altered version of the BNP’s party election broadcast, featuring an image of the food extract Marmite led to a threat of legal action by Unilever. Griffin claimed that the image had been added by someone who had received the broadcast for review, but also said it had been inserted in response to a recent advertising campaign by Marmite which he claimed mocked the party. The party would later settle out of court for an unknown amount, estimated at up to £170,000.
The decision by the BBC to air its broadcast (sans Marmite) led to protests at Broadcasting House in London by the anti-fascist groups Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism.
In other news
A small selection of some of the other stories that made headlines this week 10 years ago:
- David Cameron promises legislation to force new unelected prime ministers to call an election within six months of taking office
- Gordon Brown attacks Conservative plans for cuts which would “put the recovery at risk”
- Nick Clegg said he would not help Gordon Brown “squat in Number 10”, and hinted that the price for a coalition deal could be a change in the voting system – Cameron expressed his support for first past the post
- The election is postponed in the constituency of Thirsk and Malton, after the UKIP candidate passed away from a heart attack
- The oil drilling platform Deepwater Horizon explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and creating one of the largest oil spills in history across the US coastline
- British airports reopened and passenger flights resumed after a shutdown caused by the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland
- A medical team in Barcelona announce the success of the world’s first full-face transplant
- Russia and Ukraine sign the Kharkiv Pact, leasing naval facilities in Crimea until 2042 – the treaty was terminated in March 2014 after the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia
- Bishops in England and Wales offer an apology for the sexual abuse of children that took place within the Catholic Church
- In an interview with the Telegraph, UKIP leader Lord Pearson controversially suggests voters should support eurosceptic MPs from the Conservatives and Labour, even in seats where the party is standing candidates
- Up to 36,000 people take part in the London Marathon
- Palestinian Islamic group Hamas release an animated cartoon to persuade Israel to trade hundreds of jailed Palestinians for the hostage Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in Gaza since 2006 – he was eventually released in 2011 in exchange for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners
The effects of ‘Cleggmania’ began to wane this week, turning into a battle for second place between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives averaged 33.4 percent this week, down slightly on their 34.1 percent last week. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats overtook Labour for second place with 29.7 percent on average, up from 26.8 percent last week. Labour’s average fell 1.2 percent to 27 percent.
A rough seat projection from the BBC’s election model at the time puts the Conservatives ahead of Labour by only one seat, with the Liberal Democrats 160 seats behind Labour – despite being almost three points ahead of them in the polls.
Such a result would mean Clegg would have the power to support either party in a hung parliament and provide a comfortable majority.
Next week, the party leaders face each other for the last time amid a growing three-horse race, newspapers start to announce their endorsements, and Brown is caught on mic making some remarks about a Labour voter.