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Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

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Pic: Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
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Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

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Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

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Rishi Sunak says Nigel Farage ‘playing into hands of Putin’ with ‘completely wrong’ comments on Ukraine war

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Rishi Sunak says Nigel Farage 'playing into hands of Putin' with 'completely wrong' comments on Ukraine war

Rishi Sunak has said Nigel Farage’s comments about the West provoking Vladimir Putin were “completely wrong” and play into the Russian dictator’s hands.

The Reform UK leader is facing a backlash from across the political spectrum for saying that the expansion of NATO and the EU “provoked” Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Follow the latest updates on the general election campaign

Mr Sunak told reporters: “What he said was completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands.

“This is a man who deployed nerve agents on the streets of Britain, is doing deals with countries like North Korea

“And this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us and only emboldens Putin further.”

In an interview with BBC Panorama, Mr Farage said he had been warning since the fall of the Berlin Wall that there would be a war in Ukraine due to the “ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union”.

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Farage: NATO expansion ‘provoked’ Ukraine war

He said this was giving Mr Putin a reason to tell the Russian people “they’re coming for us again” and go to war.

The Reform leader confirmed his belief the West “provoked” the conflict – but said it was “of course” the Russian president’s “fault”.

Asked about comments he made in 2014 stating that Mr Putin was the statesman he most admired, Mr Farage said: “I said I disliked him as a person, but I admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia.”

Mr Putin has served continuously as either Russian president or prime minister since 1999, with elections which have been described as “rigged”.

Mr Sunak is the latest Conservative figure to condemn the comments, after Home Secretary James Cleverly said Mr Farage was “echoing Putin’s vile justification for the brutal invasion of Ukraine”.

Meanwhile, former defence secretary Ben Wallace branded the Reform UK leader a “pub bore…who often says if ‘I was running the country’ and presents very simplistic answers to actually I am afraid in the 21st century complex problems”.

Read more:
Has Farage made first mistake of his campaign?
Who are Reform UK?

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Farage called out over comments

Mr Farage has so far enjoyed a relatively smooth campaign, with his party’s popularity increasing and even overtaking the Conservatives in some polls.

Senior Tories, some of whom want Mr Farage to join them to counter the threat of Reform UK, have until now refrained from the sort of personal attacks they have launched at Sir Keir Starmer.

The most that cabinet ministers have said against him up to now is that a vote for him is a vote to put Labour in Downing Street with a “super-majority”.

Labour leader Sir Keir condemned Mr Farage’s remarks, calling them “disgraceful”.

“I’ve always been clear that Putin bears responsibility, sole responsibility for the Russian aggression in Ukraine”, he said.

“Anybody who wants to stand to be a representative in our parliament should be really clear that whether it’s Russian aggression on the battlefield or online, that we stand against that aggression.”

Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey said: “It is Putin and Russia who are to blame for this, no one else.”

He added: “I don’t share any values with Nigel Farage.”

Following the backlash, Mr Farage posted a late-night tweet appearing to clarify his comments.

The former Brexit Party leader wrote: “I am one of the few figures that have been consistent & honest about the war with Russia. Putin was wrong to invade a sovereign nation, and the EU was wrong to expand eastward.

“The sooner we realise this, the closer we will be to ending the war and delivering peace.”

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Digital Chamber raises privacy concerns over IRS crypto tax draft

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Digital Chamber raises privacy concerns over IRS crypto tax draft

The Chamber proposes adding a field to the form for brokers to indicate if a digital asset has a different tax rate, such as NFTs taxed as collectibles, to prevent errors and ensure accurate reporting.

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Nigeria rejects claims of Binance exec’s poor health in custody

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<div>Nigeria rejects claims of Binance exec's poor health in custody</div>

Mohammed Idris, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and National Orientation emphasized that Gambaryan enjoys full consular support from his home government.

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