Good afternoon. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Mattha Busby.
I’ll be here for the rest of the day, including to cover the BBC’s general election Question Time, featuring Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson all being quizzed by the Question Time audience in Sheffield. Fiona Bruce will be chairing.
The two-hour programme starts at 7pm.
We’ve got three weeks to go until the election, but local council byelections are still taking place and there were six last night. Britain Elects has the results. They will be very encouraging for the Conservatives.
Earlier, Scottish Labour unveiled a pledge to provide free meals for every pupil at every state secondary and primary school throughout the year.
Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour’s leader, said:
It cannot be right that in the fifth biggest economy in the world, one in every four children in Scotland is living in poverty. After a decade of Tory austerity and SNP complacency, it is time for real and radical change.
But it’s not enough to only provide free school meals to those on low incomes. We need a plan that tackles the stigma that can prevent some children accessing free meals and the barriers that we know eligibility and registration create.
A recent YouGov poll put Labour at 12% in Scotland – that is the lowest ever, and may well be an outlier, but the party is running third in nearly all polls, while Leonard is little known to voters. In short, this is a retail offer to voters long on aspiration.
Adam Price launches Plaid Cymru's manifesto
Moving away now from the Brexit party’s “contract” launch to the unveiling of Plaid Cymru’s manifesto.
Adam Price, the party’s leader, struck a defiantly hopeful and optimistic mood at the launch.
Promising to keep his anger in check, he repeatedly stressed there was hope for Wales if it could tap into the power of its people.
He started off with a football joke, claiming that both the Welsh star Gareth Bale and Plaid put Wales first – Bale is in a spot of bother for standing behind a banner suggesting that his priorities are Wales, golf and only thirdly his club, Real Madrid.
“Let’s make the coming decade the decade of hope and change,” Price said. He pledged that by 2030 Wales could be zero-carbon, zero-waste, zero-poverty. “We have the power, we have the potential.”
Price said the answers for Wales would not come from Islington or the Bullingdon Club, but from its valleys and the villages. He said Wales could be the cradle of a “green jobs revolution” and compared his ambition to that of JFK at the time of the space race.
In its manifesto, Plaid promised more doctors, nurses, police, more social housing. “Let’s inject some hope,” he said. “Hope, it’s us. The future, it’s us,” he said.
Despite Wales voting in favour of leaving the EU, Price said:
Europe is core to the future of Wales. This Brexit is not for us. It never was, it never will be.
Here’s a summary of Plaid’s green revolution pledges:
- The electrification of all mainline rail lines by 2030 and electrification of the Valleys railways, followed by the North Wales Coast railway.
- Building a super metro in the south-east of Wales, a new metro system for Swansea Bay and the western valleys, a metro for the north-east of Wales, and reopening rail services in the Amman, Tawe, Neath, and Dulais valleys.
- The creation of a trans-Wales railway and a Cross-rail for the Valleys, expanding the trans-Wales bus network with high-quality buses using renewable energy, and a new, publicly owned regional bus company for the south of Wales.
- The construction of tidal lagoons in Swansea Bay, Cardiff, and Colwyn Bay, an offshore windfarm off Ynys Môn, and a barrage on the River Usk.
- The rollout of a massive £5bn home energy efficiency programme and building 20,000 green social houses.