We’re going to close down this live blog now. Thanks for reading and commenting. Here’s a summary of the day’s developments:
- Voters all over Great Britain began heading to the polls in a series of elections. Scottish parliament and Welsh Senedd elections, as well as local votes and others were being held in three of the four constituent nations of the UK.
- The protests over post-Brexit measures in the waters around Jersey continued. French fishermen displayed their anger, while patrol vessels from both the UK and France kept watch.
- Senior party figures in the UK were seen at polling stations. There were the traditional images of the leaders of the major parties heading in to cast their votes.
If you’d like to read more, my colleague Heather Stewart and I have put together this article:
Once results start rolling in, which may go on for some time, you’ll be able to follow them here:
The London mayor Sadiq Khan has tweeted:
Millions of people are casting their vote in elections across England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday, the first since the start of the Covid pandemic and with a host of new safety measures in place – including advice to bring your own pencil or pen.
Polling stations have been transformed for Covid safety with plexiglass screens, one-way systems, hand sanitiser, social distancing markers and sterilisation of surfaces, Jessica Murray and Alex Mistlin report:
The Home Office’s refusal to give the families of people from the Windrush generation preferential treatment when charging fees to enter the UK is unlawfully discriminatory, the high court has ruled.
Lynda Mahabir, a 52-year-old woman who was born in Trinidad, suffered a “colossal interference” with her right to family life when she was separated from her husband and five children for more than two years, a judge said on Thursday.
Judge Tim Smith ruled that the Home Office’s insistence that Mahabir’s family had to pay nearly £23,000 in fees to join her in the UK left her with “a thankless choice”. The judge said:
Either she had to forgo the remedies which the [Home Office] had put in place with the express intention of remedying the injustice suffered by her and others like her, or else she had to break up the family.
She chose to do the latter, in the hope no doubt that it would be only temporary, but in the process she has suffered (a) colossal interference with her right to family life.
Keen political observers can’t have failed to have seen calls for people going to vote today to bring their own pens and pencils to the polling station. This isn’t because there is some kind of national pen shortage. Actually, it’s one of a number of hygiene measures introduced in an effort to make the election Covid-safe. Guardian reporters Jessica Murray and Alex Mistlin have more on the new rules.
The continuing coronavirus pandemic has put a hard stop to most in-person high-level diplomacy for the past year, but Boris Johnson today said he hopes to see negotiators meeting in person for the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November.
Speaking via video link to the 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, an event convened by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Johnson said he hoped countries would hammer out the final details of “an era-defining outcome for our planet and future generations”.
The PA Media news agency quoted the prime minister as saying:
This will be the decade in which we either rise up and tackle climate change together or else we sink together into the mire. And this year at Cop26 will be the moment the world chooses which of these two fates awaits us.
While the solution to our climate conundrum is, on the surface of it, simple to achieve net zero to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5C, the complex nature of international diplomacy is such we can’t just expect or hope to make progress in 10 days of talks in November.
The stakes are too high for Cop26 to become some sort of last-minute dash to the line.
Johnson said countries should spend the next six months leading up to the talks “untangling the knots and unblocking some of the stickiest issues”.
If we do the hard miles now, I hope that in November we can meet in person in Glasgow to hammer out the final details of what must be an era-defining outcome for our planet and for future generations.
Back to today’s elections, and the leaders of Scotland’s political parties have cast their own votes for elections to the Scottish parliament.
Anas Sarwar, the leader of Scottish Labour, voted at his local polling place at Pollokshields Burgh Hall in Glasgow on Thursday morning. He is standing against Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, in the Glasgow Southside constituency, which includes Pollokshields.
Nicola Sturgeon had already voted by post but she joined SNP candidate Roza Salih at Annette Street primary school polling place in Govanhill, Glasgow, to lend her support and meet a Syrian family as they cast their ballots. This year’s poll is the first in which people with refugee status are entitled to vote.
The Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie cast his ballot at Notre Dame primary school in Glasgow’s west end. Arriving on his bike, Harvie posed for press photographers before entering the polling place, wearing a face mask bearing the LGBT rainbow flag. After voting, and at the behest of the photographers, Harvie rode a bike pulling a small billboard adorned with his face.
The Alba party leader, Alex Salmond, cast his ballot in Strichen, Aberdeenshire. He told reporters he had put forward a “positive case” for “urgency” on Scottish independence. Questioned about his feelings on returning to his local polling station with the Alba party on the ballot paper, Salmond said it was a “different experience, but a familiar one”, adding: “Polling day is always an exciting day.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, has already voted by post.
The Guardian video team has prepared this report showing dozens of French fishing boats gathering in the waters off Jersey for a protest blockade.
British naval patrol vessels arrived in the waters around Jersey on Thursday as scores of French boats gathered at the port in St Helier to protest against post-Brexit fishing rights.
It followed French threats to cut off electricity to Jersey, a self-governing dependency of the UK off the tip of northern France. French fishers are protesting over new licences issued on Friday that restrict for the first time the number of days they can operate in shared waters.
Anti-independence voters planning to vote tactically to stop a Scottish National party candidate winning in their constituency or region are more likely to back the Conservatives than Labour or the Lib Dems, a poll suggests.
Unionist campaigners have spent tens of thousands of pounds urging pro-UK voters to act tactically. Two of Labour’s three constituency seats, East Lothian and Dumbarton, are at significant risk of falling to the SNP; several Tory seats in the north-east are also highly vulnerable.
A YouGov poll for the Times, reported today, found that nearly 50% of voters in Scotland who plan to vote Tory are doing so primarily to prevent a pro-independence majority in Holyrood.
That implies the Scottish Tory strategy of amplifying the prospects of an SNP majority and a second independence referendum has worked; the Tories have urged unionist voters to lend their regional list votes to the party to thwart the SNP’s ambitions.
The YouGov poll, conducted from Sunday 2 May to Tuesday 4 May, found 29% of pro-UK voters were choosing who to vote for based on blocking pro-independence candidates. Of those voting Tory on the top-up lists, 47% did so because of their opposition to independence; 41% were doing so in constituencies. It found 32% of Labour voters would act tactically in constituency votes, and 33% of Lib Dem voters.
These data suggest pro-UK voters are reacting to the SNP’s substantial 25-point lead in the opinion polls. Coupled with an increase in a backing for the Scottish Greens on the regional lists, there is widespread agreement pro-independence parties are likely to win a majority today.
YouGov found only 14% of yes voters in the 2014 independence referendum were putting the constitution first, although 19% of SNP voters said they would back the Greens on the list and 4% Alex Salmond’s hardline nationalist Alba party. That suggests pro-independence voters are thinking tactically too, to promote a pro-referendum “super majority” in Holyrood.
Struggling to understand why Royal Navy and French patrol vessels have been sent to Jersey? My colleague Daniel Boffey has put together this piece on the background to the dispute:
Boris Johnson has spoken to Jersey’s chief minister, John Le Fondré, its deputy chief minister, Lyndon Farnham, and the minister of external affairs, Ian Gorst, this morning. A Downing Street spokesperson said:
The chief minister updated the prime minister on the latest developments with French fishing vessels around Jersey’s coast.
The prime minister reiterated his unequivocal support for Jersey and confirmed that the two Royal Navy offshore patrol vessels would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure.
They agreed to stay in touch as the situation develops.
Returning to the Brexit story, the European Commission has said it is continuing discussions with the UK over licensing arrangements for French boats fishing in Jersey waters and has called for “calm” in the situation.
Its spokesperson Vivian Loonela said that under the trade and cooperation agreement, any new specific conditions that limit EU fishing activity in UK waters “need to comply with the objectives and principles” that have been set out.
Those conditions have to be non-discriminatory between the UK and the EU. Also, but it is an important point, these conditions have to be notified in advance to the other party, so that there is sufficient time to assess and to react to the proposed measures.
Based on that, we have indicated that until we have received further justifications from the UK authorities, we consider that these new conditions should not apply.
We are continuing our discussions with the UK, we call for calm in this situation, and we are doing what is foreseen in the agreement, as well as keeping in mind of course the best interests of our fishing community.
A voter has cast his ballot in a car boot after the church warden opening his polling station “overslept apparently”.
Toby Porter said he cast his vote in Oxford at 7.25am but the normal polling station was not up and running until 7.30am. He said about a dozen people voted in the car before the centre at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies was opened. He told the PA news agency:
We found it funny. Everyone was enjoying the novelty.
Laura Lock, the deputy chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said some polling stations in cars are seen at each election.
All polling station staff are trained on how to set up temporary polling stations for cases just like this. Unfortunately, we do find key holders oversleeping, so every election we see a handful of polling stations in cars until access to the building can be sorted.
A spokesman for Oxford city council said: “The keyholder overslept and for a short time at 7am electors were voting using the POs’ (presiding officers) cars. This is standard procedure when a station building isn’t open on time and part of the training we give them. The key is that ballot papers are ready to be issued at 7am, wherever that may be. The building was open within 15 minutes.”
Here’s a rundown of the elections happening today:
Away from the elections, a Brexit row is continuing in the waters around Jersey, where France has dispatched two patrol boats. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reports the two police vessels were sent after Britain deployed a pair of Royal Navy vessels to the Channel Island.
Earlier, dozens of French fishing boats gathered off the Jersey capital, St Helier, amid fears they were preparing to blockade the harbour. Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said he would be speaking to the French fishers in an attempt to defuse the worsening row. He told BBC News:
It’s important that we respond to threats, but the answer to this solution is to continue to talk and diplomacy.
HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK government to “monitor the situation”.
The row erupted after the Jersey government said French fishing boats would be required to obtain a licence to fish in the island’s waters under the terms of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU that came into force last week.
It caused anger in the French fishing communities, who complained boats that had operated there for years were suddenly having their access to the fisheries restricted.
Earlier this week, the French maritime minister Annick Girardin said Paris would cut off electricity to Jersey – which gets 95% of its power supply from France – if the dispute was not resolved.
Prime minister votes
Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds have left a polling station in Westminster – just a short walk round the corner from their flat in Downing Street.
Johnson, who has regularly referred to these elections when trying to divert attention away from recent allegations of corruption, also shared a video on Twitter encouraging people to go out and vote Conservative:
Labour strategists say their electoral chances this week have been hampered by two welcome, and successful, government policies: the furlough scheme, under which the state has paid millions of people’s wages, and the successful delivery of the Covid vaccine.
Keir Starmer’s team point out that the feelgood factor from the vaccine rollout, and the relaxing of restrictions on voters’ everyday lives, would be a challenging backdrop for any opposition party. And they insist his is a long-term project of restoring Labour to winning form by the time of the next general election.
Starmer himself has repeatedly said he and his colleagues have “a mountain to climb”, and his allies are pinning their hopes for today’s elections on modest gains far away from the “red wall”, in Scotland and the south of England.
Scottish leaders vote
The leaders of Scotland’s political parties are heading to the polls to cast their own votes in the Scottish Parliament election.
The Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar voted at his local polling station at Pollokshields Burgh Hall in Glasgow on Thursday morning. Sarwar is standing against the first minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Glasgow Southside constituency, which includes Pollokshields.
Flanked by his wife and four-year-old son, Sarwar was in a buoyant mood, chatting with voters and answering questions from journalists. He urged people to cast their votes for Labour.
Sturgeon has already voted by post but joined SNP candidate Rosa Salih at Annette Street Primary School polling station in Govanhill, Glasgow, to lend her support and meet a Syrian family as they cast their ballots.
The Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater will vote at a primary school in Edinburgh, while her fellow co-leader Patrick Harvie will vote at a school in Glasgow.
The Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross will vote in Moray, while the Alba Party leader Alex Salmond cast his ballot in Strichen, Aberdeenshire.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has already voted by post.
Voters in the village of Farr, near Inverness, are having to fight through snow to get to their polling stations.
Keir Starmer arrives to vote
The Labour leader Keir Starmer has voted at a polling station inside a community support centre in north London.
He arrived on foot at the Greenwood Centre in Kentish Town at 9.30am, accompanied by his wife Victoria. He left the building around four minutes later and walked away hand-in-hand with his wife while followed by photographers. Asked by a reporter how he was feeling, Starmer said: “Good”.
Polls open in huge set of elections
People across the UK are heading to vote in a series of elections that include several originally due to be held last May but postponed due to the pandemic. Voters will be sending representatives to Holyrood, the Senedd and, in one case, the House of Commons.
People also go to the polls in local elections, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections across England.
Please keep posting your comments below, but don’t say how you voted. The Representation of the People Act outlaws the reporting of how people voted.