European elections: Alternative history of UK politics

1979 - Conservative landslide
Margaret Thatcher at the 1980 Tory conference

Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives swept all before them in the first ever direct elections to the European Parliament, gaining a massive 48.4% of the vote in the UK and 60 of the 78 available seats. The historic poll took place less than a month after Thatcher's far less emphatic general election victory, but with rain bucketing down across much of Britain, and voters weary of electioneering, just 30% bothered to cast a ballot - half the average turnout across the rest of the European Economic Community, as the EU was then known.

Tory election poster

The European Parliament had existed in some form since the 1950s, with its members chosen by national governments. The EEC eventually caved in to calls for greater democratic accountability in the mid-1970s, but plans for an election in 1978 were scuppered by James Callaghan's Labour government, which could not decide on a voting system. In the end it opted for first-past-the-post, as at general elections, with 81 single member constituencies across Britain. Northern Ireland used the Single Transferable Vote system while the EEC's eight other member states all used some form of proportional representation.

Barbara Castle 1974

One result of this was that the Liberal Party had no representation in the European Parliament, despite gaining 12.6% of the vote. The SNP, with one seat, was the only other British party to get a look in. The Tories were a staunchly pro-European force in those days, while Labour was increasingly dominated by left-wingers who wanted Britain out. Former cabinet minister Geoffrey Rippon, chief negotiator for Britain's entry into the Common Market, was the Conservative group leader in the new Parliament. Stanley Johnson, father of London Mayor Boris, was among the new Tory MEPs, as was Bill Newton-Dunn, father of The Sun's political editor Tom Newton-Dunn, who later crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats and is the only British MEP from the 1979 intake to still sit in the Parliament. Fiery eurosceptic and scourge of the Common Agricultural Policy Barbara Castle - pictured above in 1974 - led Labour's 17 new MEPs.

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1984 - Kinnock's first test
Neil Kinnock in 1984

Britain was in the grip of the miners' strike when it went to the European polls in the summer of 1984. It was a hugely important election for new Labour leader Neil Kinnock, pictured here in a protest against the EEC butter mountain, who was battling to rebuild the party after its humiliating general election defeat a year earlier under Michael Foot. Labour gained a respectable 34.7% vote share and took 15 seats from the Conservatives, who comfortably topped the poll. But, more importantly for Kinnock, the SDP-Liberal Alliance, which had come within 2% of overtaking Labour at the general election, slumped to 19% of the vote and, thanks to first-past-the-post voting, got no MEPs.

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1989 - Labour tops the poll
Neil and Glenys Kinnock in 1988

A landmark election for Labour, which had been transformed into a pro-European force under Neil Kinnock, but was reeling from a hefty defeat at the 1987 general election. The party polled more than the Conservatives for the first time in a national election since 1974, with 39% of the vote. However, it proved to be a false dawn for Kinnock, pictured here with wife and future Labour MEP Glenys, who would go on to lose to John Major in 1992. The Green Party achieved a stunning breakthrough on the back of public concern about climate change, collecting more than two million votes, or 15% of the total. It had only secured 70,853 votes in 1984 as The Ecology Party - but thanks to the voting system the Greens did not gain a single MEP in 1989. It was a good year for the SNP, which doubled its vote.

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1994 - Enter UKIP, more Labour joy
Margaret Beckett

Hardly anyone noticed the debut of the fledgling UK Independence Party, which collected just 150,251 votes - a 1% share. The headlines were grabbed instead by the drubbing of Tory leader John Major at the hands of Labour, under the interim leadership of Margaret Beckett, following the sudden death of John Smith the previous month. The Conservatives lost 14 seats and slumped to 28% of the vote, to Labour's 44%. The Liberal Democrats finally managed to gain representation in Brussels, collecting a 17% share of the vote and two MEPs. They might have had three if Richard Huggett, standing as a "Literal Democrat", had not gained over 10,000 votes in the Devon and East Plymouth constituency. The Greens failed to capitalise on their 1989 surge, losing 78% of their vote.

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1999 - Hague's finest hour
William and Ffion Hague at 1999 Tory conference

William Hague pulled a remarkable result out of the bag in 1999, saving his floundering leadership of the Tory Party and suggesting that he might even be in with a chance of beating Tony Blair. Labour slumped to 26% of the vote, to the Tories' 34%. In retrospect, it is clear Hague's anti-euro message struck a chord with voters, rather than the man himself. This was also the year that the anti-EU UK Independence Party gained its first significant representation, with Nigel Farage among its three new MEPs. UKIP was helped by the introduction of proportional representation, which also meant the Greens gained their first two MEPs, including future Green MP Caroline Lucas. Turnout was a woeful 23% - but European elections in the UK would never be the same again.

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2004 - Kilroy was here
Robert Kilroy-Silk

Signing up TV personality and former Labour MP Robert Kilroy-Silk - fresh from being sacked by the BBC for making controversial remarks about Arabs - turned out to be a masterstroke for UKIP (in the short-term, at least). The party went from three MEPs to 12 on the back of the publicity it generated. Michael Howard's Conservatives topped the poll, getting 4.1% more than Labour, which was suffering a public backlash against the Iraq war. Mr Howard could not convert this into a victory over Tony Blair in the following year's general election, however. Mr Kilroy-Silk attempted to take over UKIP before stomping off to form his own party, Veritas. But the writing was on the wall for the traditional mainstream parties in British politics. The smaller parties were on the march.

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2009 - Brown meltdown
Gordon Brown

The year Gordon Brown came face to face with the scale of Labour's unpopularity under his leadership. The party suffered the indignity of being beaten by into third place by UKIP, which won 16.6% of the vote to Labour's 15.8%. The two parties had 13 MEPs each. The Conservatives, with 27.9% and 25 MEPs, won by a country mile in an another European election result that did not prove an accurate guide to the next general election. It was the first year the SNP had won the biggest share of a Euro poll in Scotland - and the first time since 1918 that Labour had failed to come first in Wales. The collapse of Labour's vote in its traditional northern English heartlands opened the door to the British National Party, which gained two MEPs in an electoral breakthrough that sent a chill through the political establishment.

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Politics Live - PM's Questions

  1.  
    @ShippersUnbound Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: In the House that felt like 4-2 to Cameron. On television I suspect it was 4-2 to Miliband. So I'm going 3-3. More hot air than light

     
  2.  
    12:29: Hinchingbrooke hospital House of Commons Parliament

    Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert raises the privately-run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. Mr Cameron says Labour is in confusion over the extent of private sector involvement in the NHS.

     
  3.  
    12:27: A whisper in Cameron's ear House of Commons Parliament

    George Osborne has a habit of whispering advice to the prime minister as questions are asked, and this week is no exception. He's leaned forward, unlike every other Cabinet frontbencher, throughout these exchanges so he can get past Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers to give Cameron hints.

    David Cameron answers questions at PMQs - with help from George Osborne
     
  4.  
    @nicholaswatt Nicholas Watt, Guardian chief political correspondent

    Tweets: Will @David_Cameron's voice last till end of PMQs

     
  5.  
    Vicki Young, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: Felt like both Cameron and Miliband went off script at #PMQs as they yelled at each other about NHS. Cam's voice croaky from shouting

     
  6.  
    12:25: Skinner on food banks House of Commons Parliament

    Labour veteran Dennis Skinner asks David Cameron to apologise to people using food banks, on "zero hours" contracts and using payday loans. Mr Cameron says the government has acted on food banks and zero hours contracts, and uses the question to mention criticism of Labour election tactics from former Labour ministers Alan Milburn and John Hutton in this morning's papers.

     
  7.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor

    tweets: Small irony. Watching from my sickbed as PM tries to shield himself on NHS by quoting my "weaponise" report. Time for an aspirin! :) #pmqs

     
  8.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson, Political Betting

    Tweets: Today's #PMQs is the best argument against having TV debates. This is dire.

     
  9.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

    Tweets; Miliband let Cameron off the hook for breaking promises by shutting NHS units. Won't keep that #pmqs in his video highlights

     
  10.  
    @thomasbrake Tom Brake, Lib Dem MP

    tweets: #pmqs nhs centre stage. All that was missing was a reference to #savesthelier.

     
  11.  
    @andybell5news Andy Bell, Channel 5 News political editor

    tweets: Win for Cameron - Miiband failed to make new #NHS attack stick after NHS England shot it down - also still vulnerable on the w word

     
  12.  
    12:19: Stuck in the middle? House of Commons Parliament

    Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert is next up after the prime minister's tussle with Ed Miliband. He invokes Stealers Wheel hit Stuck in the Middle with You, saying there are "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right".

     
  13.  
    Robin Brant, BBC Political Correspondent

    tweets: Did I just hear correctly, @Ed_Miliband accused PM of having a 'war on wales' ?

     
  14.  
    12:17: Leaders clash House of Commons Parliament

    More angry exchanges between the leaders. After David Cameron calls the Opposition "completely useless", Mr Milband says there are "99 days to kick out a prime minister who has broken all his promises on the NHS".

     
  15.  
    @iainmartin1 Iain Martin, political journalist

    Even by the standards of #PMQs this is dire.

     
  16.  
    @ShippersUnbound 12:16: Tim Shipman, Sunday Times political editor

    Tweets: Michael Gove doing a good impersonation of the Churchill dog, nodding judiciously as Dave speaks

     
  17.  
    @DavidJonesMP 12:15: David Jones, Conservative MP

    tweets: Remarkably, Miliband raises Welsh NHS; silly, silly.

     
  18.  
    @tombradby Tom Bradby, ITV News political editor

    Tweets: Ed is normally pretty good at PMQs, but he looks a bit flustered today. This issue over the word 'weaponise' is tricky.

     
  19.  
    12:14: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    David Cameron is now questioning Ed Miliband's motives about the NHS. "He told the political editor of the BBC he wants to weaponise the NHS, so I ask him again: get up there and withdraw." Miliband responds - "I'll tell him what my motive is: it's to rescue the National Health Service from this Tory government."

     
  20.  
    12:12: Picture: Ed Miliband asking question
    Ed Miliband in the Commons
     
  21.  
    12:13: House of Commons Parliament

    Now we're on to this morning's story about "major incidents" being declared by NHS trusts. Mr Cameron says the new guidance on when one can be declared was issued by the NHS in the West Midlands, "without any instruction" from ministers or the Department of Health.

     
  22.  
    12:10: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    Ed Miliband is asking about David Cameron's "bare knuckle fight" to preserve A&E and maternity units. The PM responds by returning to the Labour leader's comment - to BBC political editor Nick Robinson - about wanting to "weaponise" the NHS. He demands an apology, Mr Miliband says it is a "ridiculous smokescreen".

     
  23.  
    @iainjwatson Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: No surprise that Ed Miliband goes on the #NHS consistently top of voters concerns according to polls

     
  24.  
    12:09: Picture: Ed Miliband House of Commons Parliament
    Ed Miliband
     
  25.  
    12:08: Cigarette packaging Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman has refused to say directly if David Cameron supports moves to bring it in The government has pledged to give MPs a vote on new regulations before the election. Asked if the PM was concerned about the prospect of a rebellion by some of his own MPs the spokesman said: "The right thing to do is to proceed as the government has set out for some considerable time."

     
  26.  
    12:06: Labour's Eds listen to first answer
    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband
     
  27.  
    12:06: NHS at PMQs House of Commons Parliament

    The NHS gets its first PMQs mention in question two, from Labour MP Lilian Greenwood who suggests the health service is not a priority for David Cameron. The PM says the government has invested in the NHS and attacks Labour's record in Wales.

     
  28.  
    @MartynExpress Martyn Brown, Daily Express political correspondent

    Tweets: Women on front bench - Tories 8 v Labour 8 #pmqs

     
  29.  
    12:05: Picture: Cameron takes first question
    David Cameron
     
  30.  
    12:04: Picture: Frank Field House of Commons Parliament
    Frank Field Labour MP Frank Field asks when the Chilcot inquiry report will be published
     
  31.  
    12:04: PMQs under way

    Labour MP Frank Field gets Prime Minister's Questions up and running, asking about delays to the Iraq War inquiry. David Cameron says he too is frustrated at the timing.

     
  32.  
    12:04: UKIP defector James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale says most voters won't be too bothered by the negative stories emerging about Amjad Bashir, the former UKIP MEP who has defected to the Tories. He says: "As ever with defections, they are never as clean as political parties would like. The problem for UKIP is that most voters are less aware of the detail that goes on underneath."

     
  33.  
    @nedsimons 12:03: Ned Simons, Huffington Post UK assistant political editor

    Tweets: Can't wait for Miliband and Cameron to shout NHS statistics at each other for ten minutes. #PMQs

     
  34.  
    12:01: Miliband's only PMQs option: The NHS James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale on the Daily Politics says he thinks the Labour leader will focus all six of his questions on the NHS. "I would be amazed if Ed Miliband doesn't go on health - that's his subject of the week, he has to go on it. "

     
  35.  
    12:00: Immigration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Earlier on Daily Politics David Willetts was pressed by Andrew Neil to accept that the Conservatives have failed on immigration. Ministers had sought to cut net migration below 100,000. Mr Willetts suggested a Tory-only government might have made more progress, saying: "We had a commitment in our manifesto which was not part of the coalition agreement and therefore not the basis on which the government was to act."

     
  36.  
    12:00: NHS England BBC News Channel

    Dr Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, says: "Local hospitals continue to have responsibility for deciding whether to declare major incidents, but before doing so best practice dictates that they take account of the wider impacts on other parts of the NHS so that patient safety in the round is protected. That's why NHS England's local area team in the West Midlands decided to issue these guidelines. This was not a decision of the Department of Health."

     
  37.  
    12:00: Major NHS incidents BBC Radio 5 live

    John Pienaar tells 5Live that Guidance to NHS Trusts on declaring a major incident will surely feature during PMQs

     
  38.  
    11:57: EU-US trade deal

    Trade minister Lord Livingston is facing questioning about the EU-US trade deal which many fear could reduce Britain's control over the NHS. Around 150,000 people responded to a recent EU consultation on the issue voicing their concerns, most of them negative. But Lord Livingston, a strong supporter of the deal, is not concerned. "Ninety-seven per cent of the responses were standard," he says. "I'm not entirely sure that represents the totality of everyone's views. However, it's important we recognise everyone's concerns."

     
  39.  
    11:55: 'No-go areas' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail sketchwriter, is on BBC Two's Daily Politics talking about the issues the political parties would rather steer clear of. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour want to discuss Trident, he claims, while the Liberal Democrats are keen to avoid talking about anything connected with tuition fees. "There are issues that are of great interest to the voters, and yet the politicians are shying away from it," Letts says. "It's totally unsustainable, particularly with such a long election campaign."

     
  40.  
    11:52: 'Responsibility of the government' House of Commons Parliament

    Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis cautions MPs on the government side about "believing everything that you read in the Sun" concerning alleged contacts between Labour and Sinn Fein.

    Conservative Andrew Robathan had suggested that Labour should speak to Sinn Fein about security in Northern Ireland.

    Mr Lewis says that Conservatives are asking that "the Labour party take responsibility for things that are clearly the responsibility of the government".

     
  41.  
    11:46: Daily Politics line-up

    Joining Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn on Daily Politics are ex-Conservative minister David Willetts and Labour's shadow minister Caroline Flint. They are discussing the suggestion that up to 100 Conservative MPs might oppose the plan to bring in standardised (plain) cigarette packaging.

    Daily Politics
     
  42.  
    11:42: Labour and Sinn Fein House of Commons Parliament

    Conservative MP Andrew Robathan asks about a story, reported in the Sun, that "the Labour party have been talking to Sinn Fein about a possible link-up after the election".

    A cry of "absolute rubbish!" is heard from the Labour benches.

     
  43.  
    11:38: Northern Ireland questions House of Commons Parliament

    Northern Ireland questions have begun in the Commons. The first question is from Labour MP Tom Greatrex, about the the security situation in Northern Ireland. NI Secretary Theresa Villiers tells him the threat level remains "severe" but there have been "a number of significant arrests, charges and convictions".

     
  44.  
    @EmmaReynoldsMP 11:32: Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister

    tweets: Since 2010 we have been building 356 fewer homes than we need - Gov't is presiding over the lowest level of house building since 1920s.

     
  45.  
    11:24: 'Trojan horse' plot

    Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw has called on the Department for Education to do more to help schools involved in the alleged "Trojan horse" plot in Birmingham to recruit more good staff. "There are big problems about leadership and staffing, in recruiting people," Sir Michael says.

    Sir Michael Wilshaw
     
  46.  
    11:23: Commons questions House of Commons Parliament

    MPs will meet in the House of Commons in a few minutes' time.

    Prime Minister's Questions is at noon and Labour's urgent question on the NHS will follow.

    First, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will take questions from MPs. That's from 11:30 GMT.

     
  47.  
    11:14: Ambulance times 'worst on record'

    Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's tweets refer to the story emerging from Wales today that its ambulance response times are the worst ever. Just 42.6% of call-outs met the eight-minute target time in December, well below the 65% target. Tracy Myhill, interim chief executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, has conceded the figures are "unacceptable" - but also points out the 40,000 calls received that month are a record high.

    Ambulances at a hospital The Welsh Ambulance Service has said it was working to address underlying issues
     
  48.  
    11:11: Urgent question

    We'll be hearing plenty more about hospitals' "major incidents" in the House of Commons today. Labour's Andy Burnham has just been granted an urgent question on today's developments, which will follow PMQs. Will Ed Miliband choose the same subject for his clash with David Cameron?

     
  49.  
    11:10: Strike news

    The PCS union says workers at the National Gallery in London are to stage a five-day strike in a row over the privatisation of services.

    National Gallery staff protest
     
  50.  
    11:04: Hunt hits back

    More from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has responded to Labour criticism over revised guidance on when some hospitals can call a "major incident". In a series of tweets, he says a local decision taken in the West Midlands has been "cynically exploited" by Labour's Andy Burnham and criticises the NHS in Wales, for which Labour is responsible.

    Jeremy Hunt tweets
     
  51.  
    Sebastian Payne, The Spectator

    tweets: I'm going to be covering #GE2015 for @spectator in a Mini. Track my progress at http://specc.ie/1CcLE4b #MiniElection

    Sebastian Payne
     
  52.  
    10:55: Trident staying put

    A Ministry of Defence spokesman denies a report in the Daily Mail that officials are examining plans to move the Trident nuclear fleet from Scotland to Wales.

    The spokesman says: "The Ministry of Defence is not doing any work on this. There are no plans to move the deterrent."

    Trident
     
  53.  
    10:52: Ofsted under scrutiny

    MPs continue to press Sir Michael Wilshaw - they want to know whether allegations that inspectors asked children inappropriate questions about sexuality and faith are true. He's insisting that, having "looked at the evidence base thoroughly", there is "no evidence to suggest inspectors used inappropriate language to these children". What the inspectors were trying to establish, he explains, is whether homophobic bullying was taking place. So they had to use direct language in order to establish this.

     
  54.  
    @Jeremy_Hunt Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

    tweets: Labour should focus on improving care for patients in Wales instead of trying to score political points in England.

     
  55.  
    10:45: Care costs: Regional variations BBC News Channel

    Paul Lewis, who presents Moneybox on BBC Radio 4, says the costs of care in old age vary widely in different areas. There will be a £72,000 cap on costs in England from 2016, but no such measure in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, he adds.

    Care calculator launched by BBC

    Paul Lewis
     
  56.  
    10:42: Jonathan Beale, BBC Defence Correspondent

    tweets: Best factoid in Fallon speech : the MOD owns 15 golf courses! #defence

     
  57.  
    10:35: Christian schools & Ofsted

    Sir Michael Wilshaw is in defensive mode over at the Education Select Committee where MPs are quizzing him on Ofsted's critical reports for Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland and the Durham Free School. He denies a "political agenda" against Christian schools, telling MPs the lead inspectors were "very critical of what they saw".

    "They saw poor behaviour, they saw declining standards, they saw a lot of bullying. I think it has to be recognised that parents always - even when schools are declining very badly - always try to support the school. These two schools are doing badly. Parents deserve better."

     
  58.  
    10:25: Care calculator

    Caring for people in old age - and how it should be funded - is rarely far from the political debate. The BBC has launched an online guide which will tell you how much care costs in your area.

    Older person's hand
     
  59.  
    10:20: On the committee corridor

    It's not just Ofsted's Sir Michael Wilshaw who's facing questions in Parliament today:

    • Mark Harper, the disability minister, is being grilled over the impact of the coalition's disability and incapacity benefit reforms.
    • Universities minister Greg Clark faces questions over the government's approach to science policy.
    • And, starting at 10:30 GMT, trade minister Lord Livingston will again address the concerns of some MPs that the EU-US trade deal known as 'TTIP' imperils the NHS.
     
  60.  
    @jamswilliams85 10:19: James Williams, BBC Wales Political Reporter

    tweets: The @WelshGovernment has announced how it will spend the £70m of extra money it got as a result of the Autumn Statement.

     
  61.  
    10:12: NHS incidents: Who approved guidance? BBC News Channel

    Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham says he wants to know who approved guidance, issued in the West Midlands, on when NHS trusts should declare a "major incident". He says the "perception on the front line" is that it is "more about news management than patient safety".

    Andy Burnham
     
  62.  
    10:11: Labour "woos" Sinn Fein The Sun

    The Sun is reporting that Labour has sought talks with Sinn Fein about forming a post-election coalition. The paper quotes a Sinn Fein source saying he'd been approached by members of the shadow cabinet. Sinn Fein have not taken up their five seats in Parliament and say they have no intention of doing so.

     
  63.  
    10:06: Ofsted's Sir Michael Wilshaw

    Things are up and running in Parliament already this morning, Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, is giving evidence to the Commons Education Committee. You can watch it as it happens on the BBC's Democracy Live site

     
  64.  
    10:03: Fracking decision

    It could be a landmark day for fracking in the UK, as Lancashire County Council decides whether or not to give the go-ahead for two drilling sites on the Fylde Coast. If it says yes, it will be the most significant development since the government called a halt to shale gas exploration in 2012, because of concerns it may have caused two minor earthquakes near Blackpool.

    BBC Breakfast's Graham Satchell has been following one woman's campaign against the application.

    fracking map
     
  65.  
    09:59: Labour List

    tweets: Labour announce plans to help build more homes http://labli.st/1CxqDzT

     
  66.  
    09:58: TV debates & NI parties The Guardian

    Northern Ireland parties Sinn Fein and the DUP are both separately considering legal action in an attempt to secure a place in the proposed TV election debates - the Guardian is reporting. Politicians have clashed over who should be included in the debates, and broadcasters are now planning to stage one involving the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems, Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

     
  67.  
    09:52: NHS incidents: 17 questions

    Here is the document at the heart of this morning's story about guidelines on "major incidents" that have been issued to NHS hospitals in the West Midlands. It sets out 17 questions for trusts to consider before declaring one.

    Major incident guidelines
     
  68.  
    09:47: NHS incidents

    More on the developing story on new guidelines that have been issued to some NHS trusts on declaring "major incidents". A spokesman for NHS England says the guidelines are not designed to deter hospitals form declaring a major incident. He says: "This is not a note saying don't call a 'major incident'. It is advice to them saying if they are going to declare a major incident here are some things that might help."

     
  69.  
    09:41: Daniel Finkelstein, Times Columnist

    tweets: So @Nigel_Farage, in @DouglasCarswell 's list of conditions for supporting a government, immigration doesn't figure. Is this official?

     
  70.  
    09:36: Sir Jeremy Heywood & jargon

    Daily Mail sketch-writer, Quentin Letts, has accused Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood of "pure Stalinism" in his use of language.

    "Stove-piping" and "horizon-scanning" were among phrases used by Sir Jeremy while giving evidence to the Public Administration Committee on Tuesday. Letts tells the Today programme that opaque language could be an attempt to baffle.

     
  71.  
    @paulwaugh 09:29: Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome

    tweets: Milburn/Hutton/Mand feel like drummer + guitarists trying to get band back together. But minus lead singer Blair. Discuss #UglyRumours #WRM

     
  72.  
    09:26: NHS incidents

    Labour's Andy Burnham has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt querying new guidelines on "major incidents" issued to NHS hospitals by the West Midlands NHS region. He writes: "Procedures for declaring major incidents are long-established in the NHS and it is a highly unusual move for new guidance to be issued in the middle of a difficult winter. This had led some in the NHS to question the motives behind it."

     
  73.  
    09:22: UKIP & the smoking ban
    nigel farage

    UKIP would overturn the smoking ban as one of its election pledges, the party announced yesterday. The Times is carrying the story today saying Nigel Farage's party has promised to "amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms". It has also set out its opposition to plain cigarette packaging.

     
  74.  
    09:11: NHS incidents Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham is writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in relation to the new guidelines on "major incidents" issued by the West Midlands NHS region. Mr Burnham is asking whether similar guidance has been issued in trusts in other parts of the country.

     
  75.  
    09:00: Breaking News Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The BBC has seen new guidelines that have been issued to some NHS hospitals over when they can call "major incidents." The new guidelines issued by the West Midlands NHS region include 17 additional criteria, prompting accusations that hospitals are being pressurised not to declare "major incidents". It is understood the new guidelines were drawn up after a spate of hospitals earlier this month announced they were declaring "major incidents" because of pressure on bed spaces.

     
  76.  
    08:51: Social care debate BBC Radio 4

    On the Today programme, Chris Ham, of the King's Fund, says there is a growing consensus that health and social care should be integrated. They are currently funded separately - but councils, which are responsible for social care - are warning they are struggling to cover their costs. Merging the two is a key plank of Labour's health pledges ahead of the election. With the NHS facing funding pressures of its own, Prof Ham warns against "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

    Social care
     
  77.  
    08:43: Calls for MP to be replaced

    The Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset is facing calls from within his own party to be deselected as a candidate in the general election.

    West Somerset Council's Conservatives group have passed a vote of no confidence in Ian Liddell Grainger.

    In the voting papers obtained by the BBC he was described as "back-stabbing" and using "unethical manoeuvres".

    He is yet to comment but the body in charge of selecting the candidate says it has "every confidence in him".

    Ian Liddell-Grainger MP
     
  78.  
    08:35: Call for stronger parliaments

    More should be done to strengthen parliaments in developing countries. The International Development Committee says a strong parliament "will inevitably ensure greater transparency and better use of state revenues including official development assistance".

    The committee's new report on parliamentary strengthening recommends the Department for International Development puts parliaments at the heart of its governance work.

     
  79.  
    08:30: 'Ethnic kinship' vote fraud warning
    polling station

    The elections watchdog is warning that a lack of campaigning by mainstream political parties in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities makes those areas vulnerable to electoral fraud. The Electoral Commission says there is a political "void" in some communities.

    It suggests this void is being filled with "ethnic kinship networks" which could undermine the principle of free choice for voters.

     
  80.  
    @chhcalling 08:25: Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris

    tweets: Went to a restaurant and had some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Alas I couldn't find a German to pay for it.

     
  81.  
    08:20: Ministry of Defence savings
    Ministry of Defence property

    The Ministry of Defence will have to sell off more military land and assets to make savings in the coming years, the defence secretary is indicating. Michael Fallon is expected to say in a speech this morning that his department's finances are in better shape than they once were but savings still need to be made.

    He will say the emphasis should be on supporting frontline troops by selling off more of the MoD's large estate.

     
  82.  
    @benatipsosmori 08:11: Ben Page, Ipsos MORI chief executive

    tweets: 100 days before 2015 election vs 2010 GE15 #politics pic.twitter.com/r8eH9eCIUa> some big differences for opposition party now!

    Vote share chart
     
  83.  
    08:05: Westminster today
    Palace of Westminster

    What will Ed Miliband choose to go on at Westminster's big event, Prime Minister's Questions, and what will David Cameron have lined to up to respond?

    PMQs is at noon, right after Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons. The House of Lords will continue to consider the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

     
  84.  
    07:58: What next for Boris Johnson? Tim Donovan Political Editor, BBC London
    David Cameron and Boris Johnson

    London Mayor Boris Johnson (pictured on the right) has been touring northern towns, posing with a Kalashnikov in Kurdistan, and is to travel to Washington soon.

    People cannot help but notice that he is busy and the activity is hardly confined to life behind a desk at City Hall where his writ has a full 17 months to run. So what lies in store for London Mayor Boris Johnson?

     
  85.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: BBC Westminster Election Countdown Clock (err...whiteboard) crisis: someone's used a permanent marker again:

    bbc board
     
  86.  
    07:42: Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News
    Department of Health images of how standardised packaging may look

    The government is facing growing opposition from Conservative MPs over its plans to introduce standardised packaging on packets of cigarettes.

    Opponents believe as many as 100 Tories could vote against the plans which could become law before the general election.

    Ministers say MPs will have a free vote on the issue.

     
  87.  
    07:38: Taiwan watch gaffe
    susan kramer

    A UK government minister has had to apologise for giving a watch to the mayor of Taiwan's capital city, Taipei, without realising such gifts are taboo. Susan Kramer said she did not know giving clocks suggests time is running out for the person who receives it in Chinese culture, and said sorry.

     
  88.  
    07:31: Terror bill BBC Radio 4
    Graduates

    One of the vice chancellors who has written to the Times has been on the Today programme discussing universities' role in tackling extremism.

    On the government's plans to force them to report extremist activity, Professor Anthony Forster, of Essex University, said universities were at their most effective when they were "ensuring academics and students are free to question perceived wisdom within the law".

    He says the bill as it stands is not the best way to maximise universities' contribution.

     
  89.  
    07:28: Terror bill

    Should universities be obliged by law to prevent people being drawn into terrorism - for example by reporting extremist activity?

    That is part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill which is continuing to be debated during its committee stage in the House of Lords today. But a group of vice chancellors has written to the Times arguing that universities should be exempt.

     
  90.  
    07:21: Pensioner payments BBC Radio 4
    david cameron

    David Cameron's hint yesterday that pensioner benefits may continue to be protected despite the welfare cuts mooted for after the election also features in the newspapers. The prime minister told the BBC there were no "huge savings" to be made from restricting access to payments like the winter fuel allowance.

     
  91.  
    07:11: Councils hit by cuts
    council bin collection

    Elsewhere today, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee are warning that councils in the most deprived areas of England are being hit the hardest by funding cuts. They say in a report that government cuts have not been applied equally since 2010 - with local authorities in the poorest areas seeing the biggest reductions.

     
  92.  
    07:09: Burnham interview BBC Newsnight BBC Two, 22:30
    Andy Burnham

    As we've seen, Labour and the NHS are making some of this morning's headlines. The party's health spokesman Andy Burnham was on the BBC's Newsnight last night, setting out his plans for the service.

     
  93.  
    06:54: Key dates

    The parties have been ramping up their campaigns - with 99 days until people go to the polls. The BBC's Jo Coburn highlights some key dates between now and then.

     
  94.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC 06:42: Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: A couple of broadsheet front pages Labour would rather not see--following up #wato's Alan Milburn interview

    Newspapers
     
  95.  
    06:37: Making the headlines

    Former Health Secretary Alan Milburn's comments yesterday - in which he called for Ed Miliband to promise NHS reforms and compared Labour's campaign to the 1992 general election - feature on the front of the Times and the Daily Telegraph this morning.

     
  96.  
    06:29: Poll tracker

    The polls will be coming thick and fast in the coming months - keep up to date with the BBC's new interactive poll tracker, which lets you see the results of polls conducted by a range of organisations.

    The tracker also includes a timeline of key events, so you can see how public opinion might have shifted at important junctures in the past five years.

     
  97.  
    06:17: The day ahead
    David Cameron

    The big event today, as it is on most Wednesdays, is Prime Minister's Questions, which begins at noon in the House of Commons. There are, at most, only eight of these sessions left before the election so David Cameron and Ed Miliband will be more eager than ever to come out on top.

     
  98.  
    06:10: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 99 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.

     
  99.  

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