The photo-calls are all done. Bruising debates and difficult interviews are behind us. It’s time to vote (again).
This short but intense general election campaign started rather slowly, but the Prime Minister soon discovered she wouldn’t have it all her own way. And although most political commentators expect the Tory party to end up with a decent majority, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are far from conceding defeat. There will be no towels thrown in before the final seat is declared.
Yesterday, party leaders were touring the country in a final appeal for votes, with national security dominating the agenda, despite Theresa May’s attempts to make it all about Brexit.
Today, many national newspapers stick to their editorial lines and predictably back their favourites. The Daily Mail wants you to vote for Mrs May’s party, as does The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Express. Mr Corbyn is certainly the one for The Guardian and The Daily Mirror, while The Times and Metro have not officially endorsed any candidate.
But the big question for today is not what the pollsters say or what newspapers print, but which political party can mobilise its supporters to turn up at the polling stations, especially in the marginal seats.
The Met Office predictions of hail and thunder for some parts of the country might affect peoples’ desire to leave their homes, so perhaps the predictions of Tomasz Schafernaker and Liam Dutton will be more instructive today than those of Andrew Neil and Michael Crick.
Some 39,000 polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 10pm tonight. A handful of seats are expected to be declared by midnight, with the final results known on Friday afternoon. Buckle up.
Former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify today in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he is expected to disclose new details about whether President Donald Trump attempted to pressure him into dropping an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey will say Trump wanted a "patronage relationship" and asked for his "loyalty". Reacting to the prepared testimony on Wednesday evening, Trump's private legal counsel on the Russia inquiry, Marc Kasowitz, said the president was "pleased" Comey had confirmed he was not in investigators' crosshairs.
Searchers found bodies and debris from the wreckage of a military transport plane that disappeared shortly after taking off yesterday afternoon from an air base in the southern part of Myanmar. The plane – which had 122 people on board, including soldiers’ families and children – was found in the Andaman Sea about 40 miles from Myeik Air Base this morning. There is no word yet on whether there are any survivors.
According to US and South Korean military sources, North Korea fired four anti-ship missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula this morning. South Korea said the projectiles were believed to be surface-to-ship cruise missiles and were launched near the eastern port city of Wonsan. The Pentagon is not expected to release a statement about tracking the launches because these were not ballistic missiles capable of posing a long-range threat.
Business & Economy
Qatar's credit rating was lowered on Wednesday, in the latest fallout from the decision by a group of neighbouring countries to cut diplomatic and trade ties. The downgrade by the S&P Global agency came as Qatar's currency fell to an 11-year low and its stock market tumbled. S&P Global reduced the nation's credit rating to AA- from AA and put the nation on a negative watch.
Profits at Sir Philip Green's retail empire, which includes High Street fashion chain Topshop, plummeted by 79 per cent last year, as the tycoon complained that clothing was becoming a less important part of household budgets. A report filed with Companies House by Taveta Investments showed pre-tax profits for the 12 months to August 27 2016 fell to £36.8m, down from £172.2m the previous year. Total sales fell 2.5 per cent to £2.02bn.
Japan's economy, the world's third largest, expanded at an annualised rate of one per cent in the first quarter, less than half the initial estimate of 2.2 per cent growth and the 2.4 per cent gain seen by economists. Analysts made light of the decline as a "one-off" adjustment in oil inventories that would not thwart recovery.
The FTSE 100 closed slightly lower on the last day of campaigning before the general election.
At the end of yesterday’s trading, the FTSE 100 was down 0.62% or 46.33 points at 7,478.62.
Banking stocks were among the top risers, with Lloyds Banking Group up 1.65% and RBS adding 1.35%.
Analysts said that struggling Spanish bank Banco Popular's rescue by Santander had given the overall banking sector a boost.
On the downside, pharmaceutical companies tumbled. Shire was the biggest faller on the 100-share index, dropping 3.2%.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca lost one per cent, after its announcement that it had sold the rights for its migraine drug Zomig for $302m.
On the currency markets, the pound rose slightly against the dollar, adding 0.33% to $1.2953. It rose 0.61% against the euro to 1.1517 euros.
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Columns of Note
In The Times today, David Aaronovitch recalls Donald Trump’s reaction to the terrorist attack in London and his tweets, aimed at the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. The author concludes that “by insulting him President Trump insulted Londoners”. Further examining Trump’s diplomatic skills, Aaronovitch admits to having changed his mind on Trump’s state visit: “He has insulted us and it is important that, like the French and the Germans, we exhibit a sense of self-worth, a basic dignity, when dealing with this aberration.”
Philip Stephens, writing in The Financial Times, discussed the idealised story of cyber space and the internet, as an independent, free space. He recalls that two decades ago the Internet reality was simpler and although the net has empowered many, “the web cannot pay homage to national preferences or cultural sensitivities”. Stephens concludes, “there will never be a ‘right’ answer on where to fix the balance between security and privacy, or free speech and licence”.
Did you know?
In 2010, a satirical political party in Reykjavik, Iceland, openly stated that it would keep none of its campaign promises. It won 34.7% of the city vote, with its founder, a comedian, becoming mayor. The Best Party used Tina Turner's song "Simply The Best" for its campaign.
House of Commons
In dissolution. The House will next sit on Monday 19th June.
House of Lords
In dissolution. The House will next sit on Monday 19th June.
No meetings - in recess for General Election.