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Election campaigns begin to warm up

The election may still be 83 days away but the party campaigns are well under way. Harriet Harman has gone on the road in a pink minibus to reach disillusioned women voters, a move which was widely panned as "patronising". In the Commons, Miliband and Cameron continue to slug it out. This week the point of attack has been tax avoidance and evasion, with Miliband accusing the Conservatives of taking donations from people avoiding taxes by keeping their money in Swiss bank accounts. Lord Stephen Green, the former head of HSBC which had a subsidiary in Switzerland used by the “dodgy donors”, had even been made a trade Minister in Cameron’s government.

Cameron defended Green, reminding the House that his appointment had been welcomed by Labour and had themselves appointed him to chair their business advisory council. Moving into attack mode he observed that Conservative donors do not write his party’s policies or choose its leader as the trade unions did in the Labour Party. He also said we should all pay our taxes and his government had done more to stop tax evasion and avoidance than any previous government.

Miliband was trying to show voters that Cameron’s judgement is not to be trusted and Cameron retaliated by characterising Miliband as a failure. Economic growth is faster than in any other developed nation, inflation is low, unemployment is down, wages are increasing and taxes had been cut for millions of people but Miliband won’t talk about these achievements because he had forecast that the government’s policies would not deliver them.

Labour has been campaigning on the “cost of living crisis”, claiming that workers are £1,600 a year worse off than in 2010 and wage rates in the private sector are only increasing by 2.1%. Miliband says the Conservatives are the party for the wealthy, not the ordinary working men and women. To counter this, Cameron has this week called employers to give their employees bigger pay rises. He reasoned that inflation is low, the economy is growing and corporate profitability is at record levels so firms can afford to be more generous to their workers. He has also backed increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020. He is seeking to show that he can be tough on business and stand up for the hard working citizen.

On a totally different matter, Premier Christian Radio was the subject of an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons this week. Premier is threatened with the loss of its licence to broadcast nationwide on the DAB digital network so that its place could be taken by another pop music station. Four MPs argued why this would be a bad move, contrary to the intentions of the 1996 Broadcasting Act, reduce the diversity of output on the network and harmful for the many housebound listeners and others who value Premier’s programmes. Whilst not intervening in the commercial relations between Premier and Arqiva who run the network, the Broadcasting Minister expressed the hope that Premier’s future would soon be made secure.