Online political advertising is a black box and democracy should be worried

Companies are promising to sway the electorate using high-tech targeting of voters in ways that aren’t easy to keep track of

As your mind wearily contemplates being exposed to yet another political campaign, are your dreams haunted by battle buses, billboards and TV debates? Or is it Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google?

On the evidence of last year’s EU referendum, much of the campaigning, and much of the money spent on political advertising, will be online. And it will happen in a way that will be largely hidden from scrutiny by either the public or regulators.

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If we overreact to this attack on Paris then terrorism will ‘just never end’ | Simon Jenkins

Politicians, like Donald Trump, are eager to rush to publicise terrorist incidents – turning a violent crime into a global event and giving celebrity to fanaticism

It just never ends,” says Donald Trump, referring to the shooting in Paris last night. He is right, but not as he means it. What never ends is the readiness of politicians to rush to publicise and thus enhance and promote terrorist incidents. Once again Islamic State’s useful idiots are turning a violent crime on a Paris street into a global event. French ministers are plunging into their bunker. French election candidates are cancelling their campaigns. The only sane response was from an early jogger in the Champs Élysées. Asked how she could be in such a place, she replied: “Why not? We continue as normal.”

Related: Fears that Paris shooting will affect presidental election as first round looms

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Government drops plan to raise probate fees

Ministry of Justice says snap election means plan to increase fees to as much as £20,000 would not be completed in time

The government has dropped plans to sharply increase probate fees before the election, raising the possibility that the proposals could be dropped altogether.

The controversial Ministry of Justice scheme to raise £300m a year extra on the fees by charging up to £20,000 for large estates was authorised by the justice secretary, Liz Truss.

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Anything but the Tories: Bristol West voters weigh up their options

Constituency residents favour Jeremy Corbyn but flirt with the idea of switching between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens

Martin Wells, a psychotherapist from Bristol, admitted he had not voted for a while. “I’ve been Labour all my life but I fell out of the habit of voting. I think I had just lost interest in all politicians.”

But then came the 2015 general election, Brexit and the triumph of Donald Trump. “It made me sit up and think.” Wells plans to back Labour this time. “I like Jeremy Corbyn. He makes me feel more optimistic. I will vote for him.”

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No dissent, no risks, no TV debates: May’s election stall offers only cynicism | Alex Salmond

Lynton Crosby’s influence in this campaign is already plain. And with Corbyn and Farron looking feeble, only the SNP can be relied on to resist

The UK as a political entity is notoriously difficult to change. Progress is often in inches not metres, and in small drips rather than flash floods. Thus the House of Lords is reformed but unelected, and the House of Commons is only elected by an unreformed system. The Scottish parliament and its sister assemblies in our neighbouring nations are the exceptions that prove the rule.

However, within 24 hours of calling a general election, Theresa May managed to dump two of the most recent reforms to political practice in the UK. They were modest and had only made a small scratch in the mould of Westminster politics, but they were progressive – and have now been junked.

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The snap: the election campaign that just cannot escape Brexit

EU negotiation documents take hard line on UK terms … Lib Dems launch their remainer pitch … and things get fishy with talk of sardines and fish fingers

Good morning and welcome to the beginning of the end of a week in which the UK sharpened its pencils for yet another run at the ballot boxes.

I’m Claire Phipps with your morning rundown of all things electoral. Follow the whole day long on our live blog here.

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General election 2017: Corbyn talks schools as Lib Dems launch campaign – politics live

Live coverage of the day’s politics as Jeremy Corbyn tries to switch focus to education – but leaked EU documents cause more Brexit ructions

Good morning and welcome to the beginning of the end of a week in which the UK sharpened its pencils for yet another run at the ballot boxes.

Andrew Sparrow will be along later to cover the day’s campaign action; in the meantime, settle in with your morning rundown of all things electoral. Comments are open below or you can find me on Twitter @Claire_Phipps.

All I can say is, in 2015, almost exactly two years ago, I was given 200-1 as an outside chance.

With a larger majority [May] can more easily stand up to her ultra-Eurosceptic backbenchers, some of whom seem actively to want Britain to crash out. That explains why the pound rose this week.

The election also buys Mrs May time. Holding a vote this year means that she need not face the polls again until 2022, three years after Britain’s formal exit from the EU. Avoiding the pressure of an imminent contest at home will further strengthen her against the headbanging fringe of her own party and the right-wing press, which screams treachery at any hint of the compromises needed to secure a deal with the EU.

Counterintuitive as it sounds, there’s a risk for Labour in jumping aboard the current posh-bashing wagon which doesn’t necessarily apply to other parties. As Gordon Brown’s pollster Deborah Mattinson has argued, when focus groups were asked about his desire to raise taxes on the rich, they didn’t balk at the definition of ‘rich’ or even at the risk that one day they might be eligible. They just complained that it was old-fashioned: it reminded them of 70s Labour.

The paradox is that raising taxes may scream ‘politics of yesterday’ to voters Labour needs to win over, when in many ways the idea has never been so contemporary. Crumbling public services, a mountain of debt to repay, and an ageing nation of pensioners with a post-Brexit aversion to letting young, taxpaying foreigners move here all adds up to one logical conclusion: tax rises loom almost regardless of who wins in June.

I expect the manifesto to be distinctly unglamorous, indeed anti-glamour, and all the better for that. I would expect more emphasis on improving technical education and renewed focus on those overlooked parts of the country where educational opportunity still lags far behind the capital. I would also expect policies to boost productivity, including changes to corporate governance as part of a strengthened industrial strategy focused on boosting employment outside the southeast. I think we might also see an assault on establishment glitz: Lords reform, changes to the honours system, heightened probity in appointments and the exercise of patronage.

There will be things, I’m sure, that we will want to put into the manifesto that we won’t be able to put in just yet, so the manifesto may even be a rolling manifesto, in that there’ll be other things coming in at the end.

All I'm saying is if we can all agree to make #VoteFishFinger a thing then the next 7 weeks might be bearable pic.twitter.com/tBl91nxVej

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Could VAT on meat help us save the planet? | Simon Fairlie

One of the best ways of tackling climate change and feeding the growing world population is also one of the simplest

A day would come, Percy Shelley predicted in 1813, when “the monopolising eater of animal flesh would no longer destroy his constitution by eating an acre at a meal”. He explained: “The quantity of nutritious vegetable matter consumed in fattening the carcass of an ox would afford 10 times the sustenance if gathered immediately from the bosom of the earth.”

Two hundred years later, mainstream agronomists and dietitians have caught up with the poet. A growing scientific consensus agrees that feeding cereals and beans to animals is an inefficient and extravagant way to produce human food, that there is a limited amount of grazing land, that the world will be hard-pressed to supply a predicted population of 9 billion people with a diet as rich in meat as the industrialised world currently enjoys, and that it’s not a very healthy diet anyway. On top of this, livestock contribute significantly towards global warming, generating 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions, according to one much-quoted estimate from the United Nations.

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Earning £70k? Whoever wins the election they’ll probably pay more tax | Gaby Hinsliff

Britain’s public services are crumbling, and though the highest paid 5% may not feel rich they will be targeted

It’s a strange quirk of the rich that they never really think they’re rich. Comfortable, perhaps. Fortunate, maybe. But even when they’re rolling in it, people usually avoid the R-word. Famously, a survey of dollar millionaires found almost half denied they were wealthy, arguing that only applied to people with $7.5m (£6m) or more. Billionaires presumably feel poor compared to trillionaires. There’s always someone with a bigger yacht.

Related: How much do you have to earn to be rich? £70,000, says Labour

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Nigel Farage says he will not stand in June general election

Former Ukip leader quashes speculation he would stand for election as MP, saying he would rather remain in Strasbourg

General election 2017 - live updates

The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage will not stand as a candidate in the general election, although he has admitted he had been tempted to stand for Douglas Carswell’s seat in Clacton.

Farage, who had a high-profile split with Carswell which saw the MP quit Ukip a few weeks ago, said the constituency would have been an “easy win” but his attention was focused on the European parliament.

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Theresa May is not just breaking her promises – she is breaking our politics | Clive Lewis

They once called themselves the one-nation party. But under this leader, the Conservatives look like they hope to run a one-party nation

Yesterday I voted against the government’s motion for an early election. Not because I want to see the Tories in office for another day, of course – I want to see them out of power and would have voted against them in a confidence motion without a second thought – but because this is yet another example of their cynical contempt for democratic norms.

Related: An insurgent Corbyn will demolish media claims that the election is a done deal | Matt Zarb-Cousin

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Ruth Davidson under attack over child tax credit form for rape victims

Sturgeon accuses Scottish Tory leader of ‘utterly shameful’ behaviour by refusing to denounce UK government policy

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, is under attack after refusing to condemn a questionnaire sent to rape victims who want to claim extra child tax credits.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, accused Davidson of “utterly shameful” behaviour after she sidestepped Sturgeon’s demand to repudiate the so-called rape clause linked to UK government policy that caps tax credits to a family’s first two children.

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Greens kick off election campaign by reaching out to young people

Party vows to scrap tuition fees, extend the vote to 16-year-olds and protect the environment at launch in Bristol

The Green party focused on young people at its election campaign launch in Bristol, pledging to fight to scrap tuition fees, give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote and protect the environment that youngsters of today will grow up in.

In a city where there has been a spate of suspected suicides among its student population, Molly Scott Cato, the Green candidate for Bristol West, said there was a mental health crisis among young people because of the bleak future they faced.

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EU toughens Brexit stance and demands UK pay liabilities in euros

Leaked documents reveal Brussels’ position has hardened on a number of fronts, and downplay hopes of trade deal

The EU is toughening its Brexit negotiating stance after consultation with member states, further downplaying hopes of a trade agreement before the UK leaves while insisting that Britain settle its divorce bill in euros rather than sterling.

Leaked documents reveal that the EU’s position has hardened in recent weeks since the publication of the European council’s draft guidelines, which offered sight of the bloc’s opening stance last month.

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The biggest loser in the general election will be Northern Ireland | Kathryn Gaw

Northern Irish voters don’t want Brexit. But that is what they are going to get, thanks to Westminster politicians who clearly have no plan for the country

The general election couldn’t come at a worse time for Northern Ireland. As Brexit looms without any clarification on the border issue, Stormont is without a working government, and the Northern Irish people are facing direct rule from Westminster politicians who have no presence in the province, meaning that the future of Northern Ireland is likely to be decided by voters in England and Wales.

This will be Northern Ireland’s fourth election in two years, not including the EU referendum, and it comes with incredibly high stakes. Yet residents will have no say in the result, even as they are set to be the most affected by it.

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European parliament chief urges May to agree swift deal on EU citizens

Antonio Tajani presses British PM to defend rights of EU citizens in UK during one-to-one meeting in Downing Street

The president of the European parliament has pressed Theresa May to agree a swift deal on the future of EU citizens living in Britain during their first one-on-one meeting in Downing Street.

Antonio Tajani, an Italian who recently replaced German veteran Martin Schulz as the international representative of the key EU institution, said he was optimistic the prime minister would respect all existing rights enjoyed by European citizens because she wanted the same in return for British citizens abroad.

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‘The establishment v the people’: Jeremy Corbyn sets out election stall

Labour leader refuses to rule out referendum on Brexit deal, saying priority is tariff-free access to European market

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have refused to rule out Labour offering a new referendum on an eventual Brexit deal, with the Labour leader only saying the party wanted an arrangement which secured trade with the EU.

Answering media questions following a passionate speech to formally launch Labour’s general election campaign, Corbyn was asked about reports that Labour could offer a second referendum.

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Theresa May will use election manifesto to ditch Cameron’s pledges

Brexit, immigration and spending on NHS and education expected to feature strongly as PM seeks to secure own mandate

• General election 2017 - live updates

Theresa May will use her manifesto as an opportunity to obtain her own mandate from the British electorate and ditch a string of promises from David Cameron’s 2015 document.

It will come as no surprise that delivering Brexit will be at the heart of the offering, but spending commitments on health, education and overseas aid may yet be revised – as well as targets on immigration and pensions.

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Labour hopes to turn underdog status to its advantage

Jeremy Corbyn is clearly up for the fight but the polls show he and his party have a mountain to climb

• General election 2017 - live updates

Punchy, combative, fired up. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour hit the campaign trail on Thursday was a taste of how the party hopes to turn its status as the underdog in June’s general election to its political advantage.

Corbyn does not relish the mannered conflicts that take place across the dispatch box in the House of Commons; but he is happiest at packed rallies of enthusiastic supporters, or out meeting members of the public.

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With a whiff of sulphur, George Osborne was gone – but for how long? | Polly Toynbee

Devious, cunning and cruel, as Tory chancellor he imposed his mendacious mantras on the national psyche. His legacy is a poisoned political landscape

Most politicians intend to do good, as they see it. It’s an odd quirk in public attitudes that the idea of democracy is revered but its practitioners are, mostly, reviled: from graffiti in ancient Rome, it was ever thus. Political commentators need to appreciate the practitioners, however opposing their views.

But there are some bad hats and chancers in politics. George Osborne, who leaves the grand stage of the Commons at the age of 45 saying, “I want new challenges”, was a gamer, departing now to throw his dice in journalism and the City.

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Journalist booed after asking Corbyn about ‘Islington elite’ – video

ITV News’s Libby Wiener is booed by Labour activists after accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being part of the ‘Islington elite’. Corbyn says that he is proud to represent Islington North, where many live in poverty. Corbyn was taking questions after his first major campaign speech in Westminster on Thursday

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Tactical voting to beat the Tories: does the maths equal a coalition?

Every few years, someone suggests forming a progressive coalition to beat the Conservatives. Could a Lib/Lab/Green alliance really beat Theresa May?

Every time there’s an election, which is often, some bright spark on the left comes up with an amazing idea. “There are the Tories, right, and Labour, who are trying to stop them, and then there are all these other parties like the SNP and the Lib Dems and Caroline Lucas and the Welsh one. So here’s a thought: what if they all clubbed together and just decided to beat the Tories?”

It’s a compelling thought, if you ignore political reality and you can genuinely imagine Nicola Sturgeon playing Nick Clegg to a Prime Minister Corbyn. If you could get the so-called ‘progressive coalition’ of Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Greens to vote in perfect harmony, with all their existing supporters voting tactically in perfect harmony to keep the Tories out in each seat, what would actually happen?

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An insurgent Corbyn will demolish media claims that the election is a done deal | Matt Zarb-Cousin

Theresa May’s campaign strategy appears to be to say as little as possible. This will allow the Labour leader’s voice to cut through and connect with voters

It’s still fresh in my mind: the moment just a few months ago that Theresa May’s spokesperson first categorically ruled out a snap general election. And there were many such denials. This week’s announcement of that very thing may have taken us all by surprise, but Labour has been preparing for it since the Conservatives anointed Theresa May prime minister last July.

On Wednesday evening, while Theresa May was locked in a Bolton church with cherry-picked Conservative activists, Jeremy Corbyn was delivering Labour’s message on the streets of Croydon. Over the course of the next eight weeks, most people will engage with domestic party politics for the first time since the last general election. Many will be paying attention to what party leaders have to say for the first time ever. Unlike the commentariat, the general public doesn’t revel in every twist and turn of Westminster politics. The way politics is often covered in the mainstream press, as though it’s some sort of Netflix drama, does not really chime with the serious conception people have of politics.

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