Pick of the Week: Sturgeon surging
The top five most-read articles on Politics.co.uk this week.
Most polls suggest he's on the edge of losing his seat along with many of his fellow Lib Dem MPs. So why's Nick Clegg looking so chipper? Could it be that he's just demob happy, or could it be that he expects the Lib Dems to pull off a last-minute recovery? One poll out today finds the party edging back into the teens for the first time in a long time, while constituency polls have shown they remain surprisingly resilient in many of the seats the Conservatives previously assumed would be easy pickings. Clegg has had a horrible few years as party leader but he's looking more confident than he has for some time. Could things finally be looking up?
The first week of the election campaign has been great for fans of the political photo-op. So far we've had George Osborne fixing a car, Nick Clegg painting a wall and David Cameron feeding a lamb. But while voters have had plenty of opportunities to see the party leaders posing for the cameras, opportunities to see them under serious scrutiny have been few and far between. Instead we've witnessed a series of carefully controlled media opportunities, vetted questions and a procession of journalists with little else to report on but what the prime minister last ate for lunch.
Yet amid the stream of photo-ops, there has been at least one substantive policy announcement this week. Labour's proposal to abolish the non-dom tax break caused a panicked reaction both among the Tories and their supporters in the press. While many newspapers attacked the proposals as "anti-business" and "cataclysmic", a series of polls found they had massive public support, even among Conservative voters. The announcement has been followed by some of the best polls for Labour in months, with Milband's own approval ratings also surging. Is this a sign that Miliband has finally found his voice?
Polls at the end of last week's UK leaders' debate failed to give either Miliband or Cameron a clear win. However, while the two men struggled to stand out, the leader of the SNP had no such difficulties. Sturgeon's articulate, confident and persuasive performance won over voters both north and south of the border. When former SNP leader Alex Salmond stood aside last year, many commentators predicted that the SNP would fall back. Instead, a new poll out today suggests their support has actually risen to new highs. So will this popularity last all the way until polling day, or will Sturgeon and her party go the same way as Cleggmania in the final stages of the 2010 general election?
When Jim Murphy took over as Scottish Labour leader at the end of last year, the party hoped he could at the very least stop any further collapse of the party's fortunes, if not actually reverse them. Recent polls suggest he has failed on both counts. Yet it is his comments about what happens the day after the election that could cause the most damage to Labour's chances. His repeated insistence that the largest party should form the government, risks coming back to haunt Labour if they fail to win the most seats. Contrary to what Murphy believes, in a parliamentary system the right to form a government always goes to the party best able to win the backing of the majority of MPs. As things stand, that party is Labour, even if they win narrowly fewer seats than the Tories. This is a massive inbuilt advantage, but it is an advantage Murphy is apparently determined to give up.