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Election Daily

Election Daily: Nigel’s Electoral Reform

Nigel Farage returns to the fray, to Clacton and our TV screens.

8:26 AM GMT+1 on June 4, 2024

    OK, game on. Yesterday, we were a week into the election campaign and things appeared to be largely coasting. Yes, we had a gaffe here and a paddleboard incident there, but it all seemed relatively predictable. Then along came Nigel Farage. 

    Yesterday, the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader announced his plan to lead Reform UK and run as an MP in Clacton, Essex – seemingly blindsiding everyone. 

    Farage's entry into the election is a "potentially damaging blow" for the Conservative party’s "faltering" general election campaign, thundered The Guardian. Farage himself claims that Reform could be "neck-and-neck" with the Conservatives in the polls within a week.

    So is he right and is this all as momentous as it feels? Here's how the best UK news and pods digested the shock announcement – plus all the other enthralling happenings of the past 24 hours.

    Talking Politics ITV News:  ITV's flagship political show has now gone daily for the duration of the election. Host Tom Bradby was joined by Anushka Asthana and Robert Peston who responded LIVE as Farage announced he was taking over the Reform Party and running to be an MP. "News in, news in" Asthana shouts, with a hint of the mania I think we all felt when we heard what Reform's "emergency election announcement" was actually all about. 

    The Rest Is Politics: Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart dive straight into the big questions we have all been wanting answers to: What do Nigel Farage's plans to run as an MP in Clacton mean for Rishi Sunak? And should Ed Davey tone down his campaign stunts? I, for one, hope Davey dials things up rather than down. After deputy leader Daisy Cooper tried – and largely failed – to use a boat to gatecrash a Rishi Sunak event, it feels like maritime goofs are rapidly becoming the Lib Dems' schtick. I digress. This show is a good primer for what Farage's entry into the race means not just for this election but for the future as well.

    BBC Electioncast: Adam Fleming, Chris Mason and Alex Forsyth are also discussing what Farage's decision to run means for the rest of the campaign. Marianna Spring gives another update from her undercover voters to try to unearth the malicious content that is appearing online and who is being targeted. Instructive stuff in an era where disinformation poses a potential substantial threat.

    The Two Matts: Farage running is "the worst news Sunak could have wished for", according to Matthew d’Ancona and Matt Kelly of The New European. What does Farage want from his seventh attempt to become an MP? The answer, say the Matts, may come from Canada in 1993. I can't imagine either Labour or the Conservatives are underestimating Reform's threat, both short- and long-term.

    Coffee House Shots: Host James Heale talks to The Spectator's Fraser Nelson and Katy Balls about whether Farage will now "crush the Tories". It doesn't seem implausible.

    Today in Focus: I feel kinship with all newsletter writers, which is probably why I enjoyed the take of The Guardian's First Edition newsletter editor Archie Bland on the Farage fandango. 

    Sky News Daily: Is a massive majority better than a small majority? The first major polling projection by YouGov suggests Labour could be on track for a majority of 194 seats, bigger than what Tony Blair achieved in 1997. Host Niall Paterson talks to Sky's chief political correspondent Jon Craig about what that could mean, and to Scarlett Maguire, director of the polling organisation JL Partners about polling's dark arts.

    The New Statesman Podcast: Hannah Barnes, associate editor at the New Statesman, is joined by Freddie Hayward, the mag's political correspondent to discuss Labour's military plans, particularly their "triple lock" which focuses on nuclear submarines and a constant at sea deterrent for the UK. Quite a shift from what we would have got if avowedly anti-nuclear Jeremy Corbyn who said he would instruct the UK's defence chiefs never to use the Trident nuclear weapons system if he became prime minister in 2020. An important conversation going on in this pod.

    The News Agents: The team asks whether Kemi Badenoch actually understands the difference between sex and gender? Badenoch yesterday announced that the Conservatives will change the Equality Act to rewrite the definition of sex and allow organisations to bar transgender women from single-sex spaces, including hospital wards and sports events. But according to the News Agents when she announced her new policy she "ended up sounding more confused than when she began". With no respect for accurate punctuation, they also ask in their show title whether Farage is "the Tory's worst nightmare". Oh wait, I just checked again and they have republished the episode with a new title. One nice choice bit from their Farage chat goes: "We should spare a thought for Conservative candidate Giles Watling who probably thought he had a nice quiet race… 'OH S*** Nigel Farage is going to run in my constituency!'". RIP Watling.

    The Daily T: Camilla Tominey and Kamal Ahmed ask whether the Tory pledge to rewrite the Equality Act and clear up "confusion" on the legal definition of sex goes far enough. Which is very much how you would expect this publication's podcast to tackle this particular issue. They also get their Farage on. 

    Politics Without the Boring Bits: Lots of great stuff in this show. Host Matt Chorley talks to a bunch of MPs leaving Parliament about their highs and lows, best and worst bosses, and what they have learned from politics. Picking up on the Badenoch announcement, Libby Purves and Rachel Sylvester talk about whether the culture wars are benefitting the Tories. According to Sylvester: "What matters during an election campaign is what you and your party choose to highlight and prioritise". The Conservative politician Oliver Letwin, she says, used to talk about the "aroma of a party" – i.e. what does the party smell like? It is possible some not very flattering olfactory comparisons may be being drawn around the country as people inhale this question today.

    Politics Weekly: It's tonight everyone! Grab your popcorn, crank up your TV speakers and settle in for a jolly old slanging match, because tonight Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak duke it out in the first big leaders' debate. The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar and Kiran Stacey discuss how the pair will likely have been preparing for this moment.

    The Today Podcast: The hosts of BBC Radio 4's big news show Amol Rajan and Nick Robinson are also looking at the head-to-head debate. What can the two leaders learn from previous election debates? And how do they deploy the perfect zinger – and the imperfect one for that matter? "Fluffed zingers" sounds like the makings of a fun electoral drinking game. 

    And now for something completely different
    Lucy & Sam's Perfect Brains: Lucy Beaumont and Sam Campbell, who have both made memorable appearances on Taskmaster, have united for a new podcast, which we here at Podcast Rex have previously described as "beautifully obscure and surreal". In the first five minutes of the latest show for example, the hosts imagine what it would be like to live on a flake of Nicole Kidman's skin. Cue alien spaceship musical sting taking us to the next segment. This is the definition of escapism, which, let's face it, we all need at times like this.

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