British Press and Social Media
Sturgeon to Shine at SNP Conference
GLASGOW --- Nicola Sturgeon may be delivering the most important speech of her political career as she makes the case to the conference and Scottish people for an independence referendum in the next year, daring to defy London and Theresa May, who won seats in Scotland despite still reaching a mandate to govern in Scotland. At least, according to the First Minister. Her logic may be questionable in a UK-wide election, but in Glasgow, the sentiment has been met with furvor, with the Scottish National Party being solidified as the third largest party in the UK and the largest political force in Scotland.
"I like the First Minister," said Margaret, a woman in her 30's. "She's a strong leader, she isn't afraid to fight for a better Scotland. Westminster has only looked out for their friends, cronies, and the Southeast. They haven't done enough for the north of the country, or the other countries in the United Kingdom. The devolution settlement has cut Scotland's budget by £2 billion and I think it's time to have a conversation about where our tax goes."
It's people like Margaret who have popped up around Glasgow and the Highlands that have given the SNP their political relevance, while the Lowlands and Edinburgh have stuck with the traditional UK parties, Ruth Davidson getting a boost for the Scottish Unionists. So, in the minds of many around Glasgow, it is SNP vs. Unionist Government in London.
"It's going to be either an SNP government that is anti-austerity, pro-aspiration....or we get Unionists who take our tax money, take our resource money, and give us nothing back," said Oliver, a farmer from Northwest Scotland.
Will the Theresa May bogeyman stick? Only if the Unionist Government in London decides to pick a fight with the SNP. After winning the election, the Prime Minister has largely ignored and given little to the SNP for them to grasp onto. That could change after Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the SNP conference this week.
New Poll Indicates Government Reaching Peak Numbers
Polling suggests Sir Keir Starmer & Labour has some work to do to even stand on the figures he reached during the election.
SALFORD -- If the Opposition wants to take on the Government and retain the seats they achieved in the previous election, they've got a lot of work ahead of them. An IPSOS/Mori poll, the first after the June general election, shows the Liberal Party ahead by 12 points of Labour (40-28), with the Progressives going up by 1% to 15% That would give the Liberals another term of government by almost 70 seats, a slight expansion, with Labour losing seats to the Progressives, with them gaining some from the SNP, who have tumbled lower.
A shock in the polls could be the rise of UKIP after the London terror attacks. Their message of controlling immigration and potentially using British hard power to end the Dromund Kaas conflict and control the European agenda seems appealing to those who feel the country they knew is changing and changing too fast. UKIP entered this polling at 7%, the SNP at 4%, and the Greens performing very strongly at 6% nationally.
Opinion: UKIP not to be ignored at next general election
The Prime Minister may be popular and bringing the Liberal Unionists with her, but a stiff challenge from the right by UKIP could squeeze this centre-looking Theresa May
Conference season is a display of where the parties think their future is, particularly the conference after a general election. Labour are all over the place and lost, with Keir Starmer charged with bringing a fractured tent on the left together (a tough ask, with the Corbynistas not willing to give up their hold on the party despite losing the leadership). The Progressive Party is a non-entity, the SNP and Plaid obviously can only vote in Scotland and Wales, and the Greens are another non-entity. That leaves UKIP.
I worked in Europe as the UK Councillor for a while and leader of the European Liberals, and I was proud of what we were able to do, which is challenge the left on their ideas. Let's be perfectly clear: the left does not have a monopoly on good ideas, compassionate policy, and ideas that would work best on a European level. In fact, a health dose of Euro-scepticism and anti-federalism at the European level keeps us from marching towards a European super state, something that the British public would not have asked for. The integration we have now is enough and perfect the way it is, but there are signs that the union is entering a new phase.
Terrorism in London, quarrelling national governments, and the like have been met with abject silence from European institutions, and that is a significant problem. A YouGov survey on the EU showed that nearly 60% of British voters are disappointed in the European Union's lack of effort in the last few years to improve, and 55% want Britain to have a say on whether or not it remains in the EU. In steps UKIP and Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins. These two political firebrands have re-engaged the right and brought the ideas of controlled immigration and challenged the status quo that more Europe is inherently good in the last two years, and in recent polling, surged the party ahead. In the very immediate moments, Theresa May is immensely popular, followed distantly by Nicola Sturgeon, Keir Starmer, and Vince Cable in that order. Hopkins and Farage could be the double team that leap frogs UKIP into a serious contender on the right, pushing the Government to do the right thing for the country.
Ignoring the anger of the electorate and the populism that is starting to bubble, particularly in the centre and North of the country and she risks being a polarising figure, something she is not enjoying. Right now, Theresa May can boast that 80% of the right, and 25% of the left would vote for her party again if an election were held in 2018. That is incredible. Farage and Hopkins, though, are gaining traction with the latest terror attack and are bringing to the front things that the Liberal Unionists didn't want to hear. Hopefully they get it and get it soon, or we could find ourselves with an interesting political 2018 and beyond.
Written by Julia Hartley-Brewer, Guardian columnist, BBC Radio 4 host of Political Thinking with Julia, and former UK Councillor and leader of the European Liberals
Breaking: Scottish First Minister Announces Independence Referendum Bill
EDINBURGH --- Nicola Sturgeon has asked for an emergency session of the Scottish Parliament to consider, debate and vote on an independence referendum bill, despite the SNP having a minority government in Holyrood. The referendum bill may make it through the Scottish Parliament, as Labour and Progressives have not ruled out entirely the idea of allowing a vote in Scotland for Independence, which would grant the proposal safe passage while Scottish Unionists would vote against.
Opinion: Sturgeon's Indy Gamble Will Backfire
Ruth Davidson, Liberal Party leader in Scotland, delivering what could be her crowning speech in the Scottish Parliament
"Scotland's place is in the United Kingdom, steering and leading by example for the rest of the union," said a determined Ruth Davidson on the floor of the Scottish Parliament during the emergency session of Parliament in Holyrood. Many times before has the SNP tried to stoke up Scottish fears of Tory cuts in Westminster, but now it seems there is a chord being struck that puts Edinburgh in direct conflict with London. Many times before in the history of devolution in Scotland, it would have been an acknowledged fact that the Scots would remain in the United Kingdom. In fact, during the Labour dominance of UK politics and the first Scottish governments starting in 1999, that would have been the case.
However, the First Minister has done something clever: she has projected on the idea that progressivism and being Scottish are one in the same, and has found a way to put the previous party in power (SDLP) and the UK Government currently (Liberal Unionist) as bed-fellows. Nicola Sturgeon is masterful at casting even the Progressive Party as part of a London cabal to steal away Scottish money and Scottish powers and subject Scotland to humiliation in the union. Therefore, according to her supporters, the only way to escape that fate is to declare independence.
It's a nuanced message, but it is a very powerful one that is working to change the political landscape in Scotland, and while Johann Lamont leads the Labour, she seems less and less viable an option to keep Scotland in the union. Her uninspired, dry, lazy defence of the United Kingdom is trying to toe the line of working with the Liberals and the UK Government in keeping Scotland in the union and the distancing of Labour with the UK Government has led to mixed messaging, bad reviews, and an SNP that is creeping towards the 50% mark in popularity. What's worse, the pro-independence movement, which sat at 20% as late as two years ago, has now crept up towards 40%. That can only bolster Sturgeon's hand. Why the creep upwards?
It's both the rise of the Liberal Party in Westminster and the demise of the Labour in Scotland that has allowed the SNP to play the progressive, centre-left card. Despite their record being mixed on ideology (personally, I'd describe the SNP as centrists with a very solidly right management of the economy posing as the progressive left and giving a few SJW's a bone here or there), Theresa May and the UK Government are being positioned as the villains. So who will fight for the union?
Ruth Davidson. That's who. She gave a rousing defence of the Union which will hopefully jog the 60% Scots to call their representatives and tell Nicola Sturgeon not to go forward with this idea, but she may be the only one in Scottish politics in Holyrood or Westminster who could defend the Union now. Despite some allegiances in this paper, I implore all Scots to vote no on this senseless, divisive referendum idea and instead push for devolution at its maximum levels.
Alistair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Miliband Labour Government, political commentator for BBC Scotland
Scottish Parliament Passes IndyRef Bill; Westminster to Respond
The Scottish Parliament has voted in favour of an independence referendum in a vote that split across the minor parties and the SNP vs. the two major UK parties. In a move that put Johann Lamont and Ruth Davidson on the same side of politics, it just wasn't enough to overcome the deal that the SNP made with the Progressive Party and Greens (71 to 58). The First Minister laid out her plans to put the independence referendum in September of next year with the support of Westminster.
"I hope that London will legally allow this referendum to go ahead. Theresa May has been popular across England and Ireland, but Scotland did not provide her with a mandate to govern, the SNP winning the majority of Scottish Westminster seats. We believe that Scotland will be better off away from the United Kingdom as a more progressive, open society that does not wage war with others in Europe and respects the international community. The choice to stay in the United Kingdom should be given to the Scottish people. Clearly, we put referendum in our manifesto and we won the most seats in the Scottish elections, therefore we have a mandate from the people of Scotland to go to Westminster and ask for the Scottish people to be given the choice. I and others in the Scottish Government believe that we can succeed and be better off outside of the UK, but we will trust the will of the people," Nicola Sturgeon said at Bute House this morning.
Theresa May has not commented yet, nor have any relevant UK Government ministers.
Andrew Marr: Good morning, this is the Andrew Marr Show. On today's programme:
- The Budget is coming in on 22 November and we have Treasury Secretary Sajid Javid to give us a preview of what the Government is planning for the economy in the next fiscal year.
- Is Keir Starmer an effective enough SDLP Leader? New polling shows the Social Democrats behind by nearly 8 points, and a lost election in 2017 could spur a leadership spill in 2018. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is in to say if she does or does not support Sir Keir in his current position.
- Is the Government sacrificing security for taking in migrants from Dromund Kaas? After the terror attack this fall in Piccadilly Circus, is the Government not doing enough to keep Britain safe?
All that and more on the Andrew Marr programme.
AM: First, we know that the Budget is coming up so the Exchequer has sent out allies to set the groundwork for expectation on the budget. I'm pleased to welcome Sajid Javid, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Welcome to the programme, Chief Secretary.
Sajid Javid: Happy to be here, Andrew.
AM: The Budget is set to be handed down from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, in about 17 or so days. Is there anything that we should be looking for in the economy that the Government will be moving towards?
SJ: Well, first I'd like to say that as you know, I can't say what's in the Budget until it has been handed down by the Chancellor. What I can say is that there's a lot of good ideas bouncing around the Treasury and Cabinet, and we will be looking to continue the Government's programme of creating a Britain that works for everyone. That means we'll be backing British business, improving British infrastructure, and giving our children and workforce the education it needs to meet the demands of the 21st century.
AM: The biggest criticism that the Government has faced is that wages have been growing slower than at historical levels in Britain. What will you do to solve that problem?
SJ: Well, what I can say is that we have the highest amount of people in work in our peacetime history. We have more people making more money than ever before. Average wages are at £50,200 now, the highest its ever been. We have the strongest currency in the European Union, with many more people investing in government bonds on the LSE. We are a powerhouse economy, and the Government simply wants to ensure a steady hand is at the helm making the investments to magnify the effect of this time for our children and grandchildren. That includes the National Broadband Network, which has now been in effect for two years now and has seen internet speeds and access boom across the United Kingdom...
AM: But what about those who feel they are stuck at the bottom of the wage ladder?
SJ: Andrew, let me finish. We are investing in the infrastructure needed to continue to have good, high paying jobs for everyone in the United Kingdom. That's the goal of this Government. So I'd respond to that claim with evidence that we are building economically sound policies that will bring greater economic stability and growth for the future and that the growth of the country will lift wages naturally.
AM: But the bottom 10% are at £19,400 annually and the richest 10% start at £112,600 and are concentrated mostly in the south east. Surely, those people who want wealth to spread and prosperity to spread will be upset that you haven't made many investments north of London since coming into power.
SJ: I disagree with that claim, Andrew...
AM: Then what would you tell the people who think that way?
SJ: The Government has put in the Universal Credit to help people out of poverty with the freedom to invest in whatever they like. We've heard people have used it to buy groceries at the supermarket or as a down payment on their first home or a new car. That is what welfare is intended to do, Andrew. Lift people out of poverty and give them the tools to better their lives. We've paid for it through closing income and corporation tax loopholes on the biggest businesses and the highest income earners.
AM: Universal credit is means tested though, meaning that as people earn more, they get less. That kind of squeeze on people's incomes surely is not something that will help the bottom percentages of British income earners.
SJ: No, that's not our policy at all. Yes, the Universal Credit is means tested, but that also allows us to guarantee a basic rate of £1,000 to every household income under £30,000 a year. We are a One Nation conservative Government that wants to give people the means to get on in life without endless interference of the state. As such, we definitely subscribe to the way that the Universal Credit has been settled.
AM: The Office for National Statistics has said that the UK loses nearly £15 billion annually due to lack of proper infrastructure, particularly in transportation. The Government has built the expansion on London Stansted and Gatwick, giving London 3 major airports. High Speed 2 has been completed, with High Speed 3 spurs continuing to Edinburgh via Leeds-Newcastle and Dublin-Glasgow via Blackpool estimated to be completed next year and High Speed 4 to Cardiff wrapping up in 2020. All of these projects put together has cost nearly £150 billion over the course of the 15 years of their construction, starting from the previous SDLP Government. Many would rather see a widening of existing railways under National Rail, something that the Transport Secretary could do today...and also the expansion of motorways, particularly around major cities in Britain.
SJ: Why not do all of it? The Government is committed to, over the course of the next 10 years, £120 billion in projects jointly funded by the Government and by the UK Infrastructure Bank, established under this Government. It is right to tackle all 3, and at £12 billion annually, it is the right thing to do to make sure we have transportation infrastructure to not only get goods to port, but also to get people across the country to greater economic opportunity, greater cultural opportunity.
AM: Most of the time, the Liberal Governments of the past would be cutting taxes, traditional Tory pledges to reduce public spending. Adding that £12 billion there, promises to increase NHS spending by £2 biillion, defence spending at nearly £390 billion annually....will you be spending more or less than the £1.5 trillion target you have set for yourself as a Government on budgets?
SJ: I cannot say anything about that due to market sensitivity, but we will make sure that the Government lives within its means and that we do not saddle the future of our country with great big heaps of debt. We want to get to 40% of GDP by 2020, and the Government will do everything it can to meet that target.
AM: Like what?
SJ: Prudent fiscal responsibility.
AM: So higher taxes or cutting public services and spending?
SJ: Andrew, I have already said I cannot comment. What I can say is that the Government will show its record on prudent fiscal responsibility to be accurate and we will continue to find economies where we can without sacrificing the world-class public services that the United Kingdom is known for like the National Health Service.
AM: I do think we're out of time. Thank you...Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid.
SJ: Thank you, Andrew.
Mini-News: Autumn Budget "A Worker and Innovator Friendly Budget" - Chancellor
LONDON --- The Chancellor will be firmly in the spot light on Wednesday as he presents the first Autumn Budget in quite some years. Phillip Hammond inherits a strong, still growing UK economy that looks to be at the forefront of European economic growth, the fourth largest economy in Europe behind Inquista, the Duxburian Union, and Angleter and what the Government has signalled is that innovation and middle class friendliness is the hallmark of this budget.
"The Autumn Budget will be a budget that will unite innovators with capital, and secure more in pay packets for British workers," the Chancellor said before dashing off.
Politics: New Poll Shows Large Gap between Liberals and Social Democrats; SNP Falters
The Prime Minister will be grinning as her party continues its 12th consecutive poll in almost 8 months after the election. The Liberals and Labour are 8 points apart in the latest Ipsos/Mori poll, with the Government getting a 2% bump up after the Budget. Measures that included technology subsidies for start ups in Ireland and Scotland has helped raise the Prime Minister's numbers. If an election were held today, almost none of the seats would change in England, Ireland or Wales. The Scottish equation, however, changes dramatically. The SNP which was on at 3.1% nationally was down to about 2.5%, which means that in Edinburgh and across Scotland, seats would change hands. Where would they go? Back to Labour and to a couple of Liberals running in those seats, which means that both major parties have seen off quite a huge challenge in the general elections when it comes to Scotland.
What does this mean? Nicola Sturgeon seems to have radically charged politics in Scotland and that included threats to call an independence referendum. The Liberal Unionists and Social Democrats both have decided that they would fight for the Union, as would the Progressives. That combination of parties would soundly defeat a referendum vote right now 68-32, and with the SNP already forming a minority government in Holyrood, would they risk what could be set up as a vote of confidence in the Scottish government and head to yet another election on Scottish independence, or would they work on some other angle? Perhaps spinning the Budget and other decisions in London to get more support for a majority government in Holyrood would be beneficial as well.
In terms of the UK Government, they have more political capital to use. They have done a good job of proving their economic competency and are trying to develop the economy in other parts of the United Kingdom, including Ireland and Scotland, with Scotland not being merry hunting ground for the Liberals. This Government is playing a longer ball than most governments in the past, including the near two decade rule of the Social Democrats between 1997 and 2015. Now guaranteed 7 years of Government, the Liberal Party have an opportunity to shape and mould the centre ground in their image, and it is very likely they'll get it.
Winter Weather Causes Travel Headaches
Snow across the United Kingdom has fallen, with significant falls of up to 25 centimetres in Scotland, Ireland and northern England, with 15-20 centimetres expected to fall around central and southwest England. The travel nightmare has shut down several airports and trains have been delayed or cancelled altogether across Britain. The Met Office has warned that London and the southeast will experience significant rain and wintry mix and wind speeds up to 70 mph (110 km/h).
London Stansted, Birmginham, Edinburgh, and Dublin airports had to wait as snow was cleared from their runways before flights could take off, but as the day has worn on, it has grown apparent that air travel across the United Kingdom has been interrupted due to the inclement weather.
PM Looks at Minor Reshuffle Ahead of Parliament Resumption
LONDON --- Ahead of the resumption of Parliament on Monday, the Prime Minister looks at a minor reshuffle of lower ministry portfolios ahead of the first sitting week, which will put SDLP Leader Sir Keir Starmer under increasing pressure. The Government has looked unflappable and unbothered since winning the 2017 general election and is heading into its third year of existence with uninterrupted leads in the polling since May 2015. When asked about feeling within Cabinet, Education Secretary Jo Johnson had this to say:
"The Prime Minister has encouraged a healthy amount of dialogue while maintaining authority and control as the leader who has won two elections, and delivered us at least seven years of Government. It is a perfect balance of colleague, Cabinet-style authority and authoritative leadership without being authoritarian."
The Government has been quite lucky that it, so far, has not been rocked by scandal or tainted by bad decisions in the polls. The decision to get back into the Dromund Kaas conflict and help end it is entering its third year, and the High Speed 3 links look likely to be delayed by this year's winter weather and the Government's preferred contractor is looking like it is in financial trouble. Perhaps we will see what the Government is made of in 2018.
Politics: Breaking - Labour To Hold Leadership Contest
LONDON --- Emily Thornberry has taken hold of the centre wing of the Labour Party and pushed Sir Keir Starmer into a leadership contest. Labour are behind the Liberals by nearly 10 points right now, which would take them into unseen depths of wilderness since the last long period of Liberal Prime Ministers Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major. Guaranteed 7 years in power, Theresa May and her Government have capitalised on their lead by pivoting towards the centre, offering some programmes that would appeal to Labour voters. The British Infrastructure Investment Fund and the UK Business Capital Fund are both institutions that were created by Theresa May to promote infrastructure projects like the National Broadband Network, which was completed at the end of 2017 and the Oxbridge Tech Corridor, promised in the Autumn Budget last November.
These programmes took a lot of the punch out of Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Opposition, and the "right wing" of Labour finally had enough. Emily Thornberry, the Deputy Labour leader and Shadow Foreign Secretary was reported as cornering Starmer and displayed dissatisfaction with him as a leader. The party, also deeply fractured, has much to do to capture back key seats in Scotland and the north of England as they have "failed to stand up for the common man".
The vote is incoming today, but it is likely that Tom Watson will become Acting Leader of the Labour Party and the two will face off in a heated leadership contest.
Quick Headline: Labour Leadership Challenge Begins
THE dates have been set, and the timetable has started. The Labour Party's leadership contest is now underway, and it looks like Sir Keir Starmer will have stiff challenges from Emily Thornberry, who is looking like the favourite to lead the party, Chukka Umunna, and David Miliband, brother of former Prime Minister Ed Miliband. After losing the 2015 and 2017 general elections, Labour is looking to reset and try and find someone who can either knock down some of Theresa May's popularity, which is cruising at the moment at nearly 70% compared to the near 30% for Starmer, and the party's lead in the polls, which is at 42% to the Labour's 35%.
The vote will be from March 22nd to April 26th, with the result announced April 28th.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Goes to the King to Dissolve Oireachtas, Calls General Election
DUBLIN --- In accordance with the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the Taoiseach went to the King at Dublin Castle and requested that the Sovereign dissolve the Parliament and call for a general election. Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael have waited for this election to since 2012, but with the UK General Election happening in 2017, the Irish election had to wait until at least a year after it. So, with the same Irish Parliament for 6 years rather than 5, the Taoiseach triggered the election to coincide with the local elections across the United Kingdom.
Initial polling suggested that Fine Gael would need a coalition partner to reach another term of government, with Fianna Fail and the SDLP behind a game second and third.
Politics: Thornberry Sets Out Vision for Labour
Tom Sandars: Good afternoon. Today is the 15th of March, and this is the 3 O'Clock news break.
Emily Thornberry, the leading candidate to challenge Sir Keir Starmer for the Labour Party leadership contest has laid out her vision of the Labour Party and its credible plan to get back into Government at the next general election. Here's Laura Kuenssberg with the story.
Laura Kuenssberg (recording): Emily Thornberry sets out her plan to bring the Labour out of Opposition and into Government at the next general election as the leadership contest begins in full force this week. She opened with a launch of her campaign to become Labour leader where she laid out her "Plan for a Better Britain".
Emily Thornberry (recording): With ideas that show the practical, problem solving beliefs that we as Social Democrats, Ordo-Labourites, and traditional Labour members of our party, we can get back into Government. Britain has had three years too many of this Government and the results are shocking. More people in poverty than ever before, more people in part time work, and more people unable to make ends meet when they take home their pay packets. We have seen this Government preside over 30,000 job losses in manufacturing, and Theresa May needs to be held to account over her record. I plan on getting our party and our ideas back into the public sphere and credibly hold this Government to account.
LK: Thornberry, as of now, is a comfortable distance ahead of Starmer, with more of the traditional supporters , what they call the Old Labour Wing of the party appreciating her stance on the economy and working to moderate some of the social tendencies of the party. The remaining candidates, Chuka Umunna and David Miliband, are further to the right, solidly in the Ordo-Labourite wing of the Labour and are expected to push for huge re-nationalisation projects. Thornberry, by comparison, sticks to policies that will bring manufacturing back to the UK like excluding products made by British companies overseas from any tariff-free deals which are considered left-wing and popular among the Old Labour Wing of the party. With Thornberry looking like the favourite right now, all eyes will be on the remaining challengers, including the incumbent, for any further moves. For BBC Radio 4, Laura Kuenssberg.
Ireland 2018: Polling Shows Government Losing Ground
The latest news polling across Ireland with the last week of campaigning ready to go show that Fine Gael (Irish Liberals) has lost ground to Fianna Fail and Irish SDLP. The Irish election could see a hung Oireachtas. The Irish Times/IPSOS poll:
Fine Gael: 28%
Fianna Fail: 25%
Irish Labour: 25%
Irish Progressives: 12%
Poll: Labour Leadership
Who is your preferred candidate to lead the Labour Party?
Emily Thornberry (Finsbury) - 45%
David Miliband (South Shields) - 30%
Chuka Umunna (Streatham) - 15%
Sir Keir Starmer (St. Pancras and Holborn) - 10%
Siobhan O'Rourke: Good evening, I'm Siobhan O'Rourke and you are watching RTE's coverage of Election 2018. Dea-tráthnóna, tá mé Siobhán O'Rourke agus má tá tú ag breathnú clúdach RTÉ ar Thoghchán 2018. We have the exit poll and prediction coming into the studio in a couple of minutes. Who will form the next Irish Government, will it be Fine Gael, the Irish Liberals carrying on more of Theresa May's successes in elections since 2015, or will someone else be in poll position to form government. Perhaps Labour, desperate for a win? Fianna Fail? The Progressives, will UKIP or the Greens play spoiler? Let's find out in a few moments. Joining me in the studio are Australia's dynamic duo of electoral politics, Peta Credlin and Kristina Keneally, and BBC host of Daily Politics, Andrew Neil.
And here is the exit poll:
Labour - 38%
Fianna Fail - 20%
Fine Gael - 23%
Progressives - 12%
UKIP - 7%
Regional Vote - National Forecast:
Fianna Fail (%) 20 Labour (%) 35 Progressive (%) 15 Fine Gael (%) 20 Green (%) 10 UKIP (%) 2
Based on those numbers, we can predict that Labour will have the choice to form the next Irish government, though they will need a coalition partner. At 69 seats, they are short of the 83 needed for an overall majority by 14. They could either talk to the Progressives or Greens as a natural ally, and Fianna Fail if those talks fail. They could also choose a confidence and supply deal.
Fine Gael, the previous government have been reduced to 30 seats, 27 for Fianna Fail, 20 for the Progressives, 19 seats for the Greens and potential zero seats for UKIP, despite a higher vote than they've had in the constituencies.
Irish Parliamentary Election 2018: Labour Largest Party, Looks to Form Coalition
DUBLIN --- The Dail Eirann has been set and including a few overhang seats for the Greens, who had their best result in Ireland ever, the 175 seat Dail will be led by a Labour coalition of sorts. The first coalition negotiations have gone well between Labour and the Irish Progressive Party, and it may result in a confidence and supply measure between Labour and both the Progressives and the Greens. It would be the first Labour Government in the history of Ireland's devolved parliament. Of course, Sir Keir Starmer, who had been preparing for the Irish election before the UK Parliamentary Labour Party decided to start a leadership contest, is touting this as a success of his brand of Labour, while Emily Thornberry says that the credit is due to her ally in Dublin, Brendan Howlin, who is backing Thornberry regionally, as is First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones.
"It is a victory that shows that with the right messaging about making an economy that works for the many, we as a Labour Party can win in traditionally conservative areas of the UK like Ireland, the Home Counties, and the southwest," Thornberry said on the Andrew Marr programme. "I am excited for the new Taioseach, Brendan Howlin, and what he can bring to the Irish Government.
This is also seen as the first political setback to Theresa May, who despite winning two elections (2015 and 2017), will see her party's standing in the House of Royal Councillors reduced, which will mean some key legislation in the future will find a bit of resistance. She also campaigned personally in Dublin for the Fine Gael Irish Government. Now, Labour will hold the Welsh and Irish Governments as well as potentially the Northern England Assembly and London.
What does this mean for the Liberals? Their base is not coming out for the regional elections, where a lot of policy decisions closer to home will be made. However, that may work to Theresa May's advantage as now she has a contrast for whomever will lead Labour into 2022 more widely. Add to that the surge of Scottish Liberals in the SNP-controlled Scottish Parliament and an unstable Labour in Wales, she may find herself better positioned after local and English regional elections in May. The way it could break though is currently hanging in the balance.
Ireland 2018: It's a Government! Labour Signs Supply Deal with Fianna Fail
BREAKING: Labour has reached a coalition deal with Fianna Fail to run the next Irish Government. Taoiseach-elect Brendan Howlin will set out the Irish Government cabinet shortly.