It’s an open race in GB – but open and shut in NI?

Well, they’re off. Timetable below, courtesy the FT. Just under a fortnight to the nominations deadline. Locally, despite the Ucunf fiasco. what’s the betting that unionism can’t get its act together, with all those distractions added? Just as the powersharing coalition has weathered its latest storm, they’re all set to fight the bit out again. Who is the real enemy and who is merely the opponent? Will the DUP and SF leading roles survive the contest? There’ll be plenty of wobbling over the next five weeks. The personal politics have never been so bizarre and may affect calculations but in my blissful ignorance of the intimate details, I’ll stick my neck out and say the personal pressures on Messrs Robinson and Adams will count for little. In GB the Nats have their work cut out trying to join the leaders’ debates. With the polls all over the place, and the Guardian’s latest breaking the recent trend of a lengthening but still unemphatic Conservative lead, it’s safe to plump for a close election; but who can tell at this stage? A low turnout could be the biggest bugbear of all.

Thursday, April 8 – adjournment
The last effective working day of the Westminster parliament’s sitting is expected to result in a scramble to push through government legislation.

Monday, April 12 – parliament dissolved
Writs are issued for the UK’s 650 constituencies for the House of Commons. Every seat in the lower chamber of parliament then becomes vacant, although ministers retain their positions as heads of departments in a caretaker capacity until the next government is formed.

Thursday, April 15 – first leaders’ TV debate
ITV, the commercial broadcaster, is expected to host the first instalment of a three-part televised debate among the leaders of Britain’s three main political parties: Gordon Brown of the Labour party, David Cameron of the Conservative party and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. The theme will be domestic affairs.

Tuesday, April 20 – registration deadline
Nomination papers must be delivered by 4pm, while the candidates for each constituency are announced at 5pm. Voters must be registered on the electoral roll by this date.

Thursday, April 22 – second TV debate
Sky, the satellite broadcaster, is due to host the second leaders’ TV debate on the theme of foreign affairs.

Thursday, April 29 – third TV debate
The economy will be the theme of the last leaders’ TV debate, which will be hosted by the BBC, the UK’s public broadcaster.
Thursday, May 6 – election day
Polling stations will be open across the country from 7am to 10pm BST. First results are expected within the next few hours.
Friday, May 7 – results

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London