One month to go: farm visits and French intrigue on the UK campaign trail

Lending a hand.
Lending a hand.
Image: Reuters/Russell Cheyne
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The long Easter weekend marked the start of more intensive campaigning ahead of the UK’s May 7 general election. Here’s what caught Quartz’s eye this week:

Walking a tightrope

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, gave herself and the SNP a boost with a convincing debate performance last week. This week, she faced a backlash. First there was a leaked memo that suggested she prefers David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, to stay in the job rather than see Labour’s Ed Miliband take over—a stance that would be anathema to most SNP supporters. Sturgeon and the French ambassador vehemently denied that such preferences were mentioned, and an official investigation into the source of the leak was launched.

Sturgeon—dubbed the most dangerous woman in politics because of the sway her party may hold in a hung parliament—also faced the Scottish leaders of the main parties in a Scotland-centric debate this week, where she was forced on the defensive about her economic plans and vague answers to questions about whether she would call another referendum on Scottish independence. At one stage, she was booed by the audience.

Photo op of the week: Animals

After two wooden debate appearances, Cameron showed his soft and cuddly side by bottle-feeding a lamb in the vicinity of photographers.
Unfortunately for the folksy, down-on-the-farm image that this may have fostered, he was later caught on camera curiously eating a hot dog with a knife and fork. But even that was preferable to the run-in a Lib Dem campaign bus had with a pigeon, which quickly became a joke among journalists.

Breaking taboos

After UKIP leader Nigel Farage blamed foreigners with HIV for overburdening the National Health Service last week, two Liberal Democrat candidates revealed that they are HIV positive. Paul Childs and Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, standing in Liverpool Riverside and Vauxhall, respectively, had harsh words for Farage. “It’s just scaremongering, scaremongering to get votes,” Childs said. “It’s playing on people’s ignorance and fear.”

Keeping up with the Camerons

Party leaders and their spouses have been opening up their homes and their souls to scrutiny as campaigning gathers momentum. David and Samantha Cameron drew both sympathy and criticism for talking about their son Ivan, who died in 2009 at the age of six. Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Durántez made much of their decision to live in a normal home instead of a “bubble” in a televised interview. And Ed Miliband took his children to school with a journalist in tow, as you do.


This week, various UKIP representatives praised Vladimir Putin for “standing up for his country” and worried that the EU was brainwashing children through pro-union coloring books.

Singing from the same hymn sheet

The Green Party released a video that depicts the leaders of several other parties as members of a boy band. “Austerity, austerity!” they sing. “Let’s frack this green and pleasant land.”

Notable quotable

With an election that looks set to underline as never before the end of two-party politics, there is an opportunity for British politics and politicians to change. If coalition politics is to become the new norm – especially if electoral reform takes place – then the notion of compromise and consensus will become much more prevalent. If so, then we might finally begin to start having the debate about the EU and Britain’s role in it that we have missed for so long.

From “Why do British politicians find it so hard to talk about the EU?” by Simon Usherwood.


It was a good week for Labour, which pulled ahead of the Conservatives—just—in a clutch of polls. Miliband also overtook Cameron in personal popularity ratings for the first time. But how will this translate into actual seats? Bloomberg rather brilliantly explains the challenge of building a coalition government through the medium of Lego:

Odd and ends

John Cleese, a Lib Dem supporter, stood in to play Nigel Farage for the party’s debate rehearsal. The parties’ official campaign posters are out, and “predictably they are all hopeless.” Song titles adapted to include constituency names became a thing (“Shipley Baby One More Time”, “Hove Will Tear Us Apart”, “Sexual Ealing”). And finally, this poor girl—perhaps channeling the public mood—can’t wait for the campaigning to end:

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron reads a book to Lucy Howarth, 6, and Will Spibey, 5, left, during a visit to Sacred Heart RC primary school in Westhoughton near Bolton, England, Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
Tough crowd.
Image: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Quartz’s weekly campaign wraps:

April 3: It begins: the debates, debacles, and “Democats” out on the UK campaign trail