French voters are facing a choice between two radically different visions for the future of their country after last night’s first round of voting in the presidential election.
The historic result means that Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old centrist who has never held political office, will now face the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, in the battle to become France’s next president. Macron came out top with 23.9 percent of the vote, an amazing victory for the former investment banker who only launched his political movement last year. Le Pen achieved 21.4 per cent with 95% of the total votes counted.
It was not such a good night for France’s conventional parties, with the centre-right and centre-left parties roundly beaten at the ballot box. Former prime minister François Fillon, whose campaign was damaged by claims he paid family members for parliamentary jobs they allegedly never performed, came third on 20 per cent. The candidate of the ruling Socialists, Benoît Hamon, was a humiliating fifth, with 7 per cent.
Both candidates will now take their contrasting messages to the French people ahead of the final vote on 7 May. Macron will argue his case for globalisation and European integration, while Le Pen will continue to call for a withdrawal from the European Union and the euro.
Closer to home, the first full week of campaigning in the general election gets underway today. Over the weekend, senior Conservatives confirmed that a cap on household energy bills will be included in their manifesto, while Jeremy Corbyn will seek to create four new UK-wide bank holidays on the patron saint’s day of each of the home nations if he becomes prime minister after June’s vote.
Somehow I don’t think this will be the last of the giveaways promised by the parties over the next six weeks…
Tony Blair has urged voters to back the candidate that opposes a hard Brexit, a move which is likely to anger leftwing activists in the party. The former prime minister said it was imperative not to give Theresa May a “blank cheque for Brexit at any cost” and in some cases that would mean tactically voting for the Conservative candidate. (£)
Ivanka Trump will tomorrow arrive in Germany to meet European ministers and the head of the International Monetary Fund in what will be her first official trip as a member of her father’s administration. The “first daughter” will take part in the W20 Summit, a gathering linked to the economic meetings of the G20 nations that is intended to promote “women’s economic empowerment.” (£)
A hospital patient in Wales has been waiting nearly four years to leave hospital after being declared fit for discharge. The delay came to light after Conservative Assembly member Darren Millar requested details of delayed discharge in hospitals. Millar called the incident "truly scandalous."
Business & Economy
The European Court of Justice could still be the ultimate authority in London’s financial services for three to five years after Brexit and possibly longer in financial disputes. The plans are being considered as part of a wider settlement on access to the single market.
Andrew Bailey, head of the Financial Conduct Authority, has warned that global regulatory co-operation is at risk if the US dismantles its process for failing banks. The warning comes after President Donald Trump signed an order on Friday that opens the door to revamping the fund set up in the Dodd-Frank reforms to help regulators shut failing banks. (£)
A survey of corporate treasurers show that more American companies expect to increase their holdings of cash than plan to spend, a move which could signal that Donald Trump’s promises of tax reform, deregulation and infrastructure spending has so far failed to attract US executives into increasing investment. (£)
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Columns of Note
Our own Kevin Pringle looks back at the events which led to Theresa May calling a snap general election, arguing that it was the vote for the status quo in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 that has started the extraordinary chain of events in our political landscape. (£)
Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, has written in the Guardian about Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election. To Verhofstadt, the election is being driven by the “opportunism of the party in government, rather than by the people they represent.” He goes on to say that EU agencies based in the UK will be relocated, possibly as quickly as June, and European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency will not remain in a post-Brexit Britain contrary to UK government claims.
Did you know?
The London Marathon is the Guinness World Record's largest annual fundraising event in the world, a record it has broken in each of the last ten years. An inspirational act of sportsmanship was witnessed yesterday from Matthew Rees, who helped fellow runner David Wyeth through a painful final 200 metres.
House of Commons
Communities and Local Government
Business of the House (24, 25, 26 and 27 April) - Mr David Lidington
House of Lords
Principal Brexit negotiation issues following the invoking of Article 50 - Lord Dykes
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House of Commons
Justice, including Topical Questions
House of Lords
Improving standards of literacy in the workforce - Baroness Rebuck
Scottish Government Debate: Child Tax Credit Cuts
Stage 1 Debate: Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill
Financial Resolution: Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill
Legislative Consent Motion: Criminal Finances Bill – UK Legislation