The prospect of a parliamentary alliance between Labour and the Scottish National Party injected an element of fear into the election campaign. The SNP manifesto promised to increase spending and to find a way to stop the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, said she wanted to make Labour in government ‘bolder and better’. Lord Forsyth, a former Conservative Scottish secretary, said that the building up of the SNP, to take seats in Scotland, was a ‘dangerous view which threatens the integrity of our country’. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said the Tories should not be ‘talking up’ the SNP. Even the Democratic Unionists began to eye prospects for advantage in a hung parliament. Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was praised on Twitter for wearing a North Face jacket, popular among northern youths who affect a gangsta style. Nigel Farage took part in a televised debate wearing a brown suit.
Unemployment fell by 76,000 to 1.84 million (5.6 per cent), the lowest since 2008, although in Scotland it rose by 9,000 to 6 per cent. Wonga, the short-term lender, made a pre-tax loss of £37.3 million in 2014. Tesco reported the worst results in its history, a pre-tax loss of £6.4 billion. The United States authorities alleged that Navinder Singh Sarao from Hounslow had illegally contributed to the so-called ‘flash crash’ of the Dow Jones index in 2010. Which? compelled the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate confusing pricing in supermarkets. The number of drivers in England and Wales given penalty points for using mobile phones at the wheel fell by 24 per cent last year to 72,753; in 2010 it had been 122,752.
Six people from Rochdale, sent back to Britain after being stopped at the border between Turkey and Syria, were released without charge. A couple from Slough, bound for Syria overland with four children, were arrested in Turkey. Lord Mason of Barnsley, who as Roy Mason served as defence and Northern Ireland secretary, died aged 91. Roads in Holborn in London remained closed three weeks after an underground fire that raged for two days and blacked out a wide area. The Queen’s 89th birthday was marked at Windsor with a 41-gun salute.
About 800 people drowned when a vessel packed with Syrian, Eritrean and Somalian migrants, many locked below decks, capsized off Libya. Only 27 survived, including the Tunisian captain, who was charged with reckless multiple homicide by Italian authorities. EU leaders met, undecided what to do about the crisis, which had seen 10,000 migrants rescued by the Italian coastguard in a week. The Pope called on the international community to prevent more deaths: ‘They are men and women like us, our brothers and sisters.’ Katie Hopkins, a television personality who has a column in the Sun, wrote: ‘Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches.’ Veuve Clicquot champagne from three bottles retrieved from a ship wrecked in the Baltic in the 1840s was found to contain 14 per cent sugar, a touch of arsenic and hints of leather and tobacco.
Islamic State posted a video purporting to show the murder of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, some beheaded on a beach and others shot in the head in the desert. The civil war in Yemen left 150,000 homeless. Houthi rebels closed in on Aden. An airstrike as part of a Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign hit a missile base in Sanaa, the Yemen capital, killing at least 25 people and injuring 300. Mohammed Morsi, deposed as president of Egypt in 2013, was sentenced to 20 years in jail. French police said the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, called for an end to attacks on migrants in South Africa, several of whom had been killed, saying that his earlier remarks that they should ‘go back to their countries’ had been taken out of context.
The Greek government ordered its public-sector bodies to hand over any reserve cash to help meet a payment due in May to the International Monetary Fund. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly published aerial pictures of a runway built by China on reclaimed land on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. China agreed to invest £30.7 billion on a network of roads, railways and pipelines to Pakistan. A Japanese magnetic levitation train reached a speed of 374mph. Phil Rudd, the drummer of the Australian rock band AC/DC, pleaded guilty to a charge of a threat to kill after he criticised the launch party for his new solo album Head Job. CSH
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