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Summary

  1. Newsnight Live is your one stop shop for elections analysis from the Newsnight team, updated throughout the day
  2. We'll be reporting live from Scotland tonight where Laura Kuenssberg has an interview with SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon
  3. We'll also be giving you our take on today's IFS analysis of all the main parties' manifestos

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

The IFS and the SNP

The nationalists don't make it easy

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Nicola Sturgeon
PA

It’s a bad idea to pick fights with the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It’s an impartial institution which is extremely careful to be fair. And they know what they’re doing. Indeed, the SNP itself likes to highlight IFS work when it is kind about them. But the SNP is having a go at the think-tank for its unhelpful arithmetic.

A standard question I put to the IFS earlier was about whether they had put the figures to the parties. The SNP had seen the IFS figures. They raised no complaints. It's also worth noting that the SNP is hard to follow on fiscal policy.

For example, the party talks about “spending” or "public expenditure" rising by 0.5% a year. That usually implies a figure known as TME, or Total Managed Expenditure. But, actually, that's not what the SNP means.

They mean a much narrower budget - the so-called TDEL, or "total departmental expenditure limits". That budget includes, for example, the cost of DWP officials in their offices but not the cost of pensions paid out to claimants.

It gets odder.

The SNP works out what goes into this budget line by adding three things together: resource departmental expenditure limits (RDEL), capital departmental expenditure limits (CDEL) and depreciation (wear and tear).

But this is problematic. Here's a line from a Treasury document explaining what goes in two of those categories:

Explainer from HM Treasury
HM Treasury

Can you see the problem? Resource DEL includes depreciation. But then they add depreciation in on top again. Their sums double count this budget line.

This isn't a fiddle or dodge, it's a straight error. It means the SNP's own maths implies several billion pounds more additional spending than their statements imply. Is this why the IFS and the SNP have different outcomes?

Well, no.

The IFS actually replicate this error so they get to the same figures as the SNP. If they didn't replicate the mistake, it would imply lower SNP spending. They then distribute the extra spending as they think the SNP means it.

Their purpose is to, fair-mindedly, work out what their plans mean. It is not to trip people up on technicalities. That's why the IFS also don't tell anyone. Journalists with spreadsheets have to work out why nothing anyone says adds up.

I've noted some of the SNP's odd accountancy before. It remains slightly baffling: instead of scoring additional debt in the year when it accrues, the SNP has made the baffling decision to score it in the year after. So if they borrowed and spent an extra £1bn today, the spending would be scored in 2015-16 and the debt would appear in 2016-17.

Where are we now with Labour and the SNP? Labour is roughly in line with the SNP if it goes for budget balance in 2018-19. Both are planning historically slow spending increases (see Duncan at 12:35) which will require some budget trimming somewhere. No-one is proposing no cuts.

My estimates, which implicitly accept one point of SNP criticism about the IFS's treatment of tax avoidance, finds Labour has headroom to outspend the SNP in 2019-20 in all scenarios. But it's angels on pinheads.

Sturgeon: I'll prop up Labour if they're 40 seats behind Tories

Nicola Sturgeon
BBC

Laura Kuenssberg spoke to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon this afternoon. In the interview she hit out at the IFS' analysis of the SNP's economic plans, and condemned some of the language used by one of her candidates in Edinburgh. But the most interesting exchange was this one:

LK: Can you foresee a situation where you would prop up a Labour government if Labour did not have the largest number of seats?

NS: Yes. Even if the Tories are the largest party, if there is an anti Tory majority, my offer to Labour is to work together to keep the Tories out

LK: Even if the Conservatives have 10, 20, 30 more seats?

NS: Governments in the House of Commons are about who can command a majority. If there is an anti Tory majority, yes that's what I've been saying all along, I'm not sure why there's any confusion about it, that we would work with Labour to stop the Tories getting into downing street

LK: Even if the Conservatives are the biggest party in terms of seats by 10, 20, 30, 40 seats but can't command a majority?

NS: If they can't command a majority they can't be a government, that's the basic rule of how governments are formed I'd have thought

So, to be clear, Nicola Sturgeon would prop up a Labour Government EVEN if they got forty fewer seats than the Conservatives.

Watch the full interview on Newsnight tonight at 10:30 on BBC2.

Latest seat forecast

BBC Newsnight Index

Newsnight Index forecast
BBC

Tonight's Newsnight Index shows a one seat gain for the SNP, and a loss for Labour. The Conservatives may still be the largest party, but with the SNP now on course for double the seats of the Liberal Democrats, it's a timely reminder of why we're in Scotland tonight. Undeterred by defeat in last year's referendum, Nicola Sturgeon's party shows no sign of slowing in its rout of Scottish Labour, with significant consequences for the makeup of the House of Commons.

For the course of the general election campaign, Newsnight each evening will be publishing an exclusive Newsnight Index on the likely outcome, based on a sophisticated forecast model. It is produced by Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia and his colleagues at electionforecast.co.uk.

For more information on how the Index is produced, see the 'explainer' on our YouTube page here .

What's happening to UKIP in the Shires?

'Nicola Sturgeon - a bigger Tory draw than Disraeli?'

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

Shire horses
bbc

Anecdotal evidence should always come with a warning, But news from the Shropshire shires - where UKIP looked at one point to be taking votes from the Tories - suggests it may not go there after all, two weeks today.

One voter put it like this:

'Nicola Sturgeon is turning out to be a bigger Tory draw than Disraeli, Hague and Boris'.

In other words, it's fine to vote UKIP when the Conservatives seem on top of their game. But the moment they look to be in peril, the loyal vote returns.

If this happens across the shires in traditional Tory heartlands, the picture for UKIP - and indeed the Conservatives' eventual number - could start to look very different.

The unresolved Grant Shapps saga

What does professional sockpuppetry look like?

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Grant Shapps canvassing
Getty

Before it disappears from view, I thought it was worth noting a few odds and ends on the Grant Shapps/Wikipedia story from earlier this week. (We are, by the way, still waiting to see a copy of the letter that the Conservative chairman has promised he will send to the online encyclopedia about it.)

To recap: a Wikipedia community editor suspended an account on the encyclopedia – “Contribsx” - because they believe it was being used to jazz up entries about Mr Shapps and insert digs into entries about people he had fallen out with. Mr Shapps denied any such link unequivocally.

.@JBeattieMirror it's categorically untrue, as we told The Guardian. Looks like another desperate smear from @labourpress

.@jimwaterson it is, for the record, another false smear from the Guardian. Without any truth whatsoever.

So what do we now know? Everyone concedes the edits were made and that something a bit odd was going on. The Tories' first reply was to suggest this was a Labour conspiracy of some sort. Whoever is running the account does have a bit of a thing about Mr Shapps. It does not look like simple coincidence.

So I spoke today to a few PR execs today who know this world and have run “online presence management”. Did it look like a professional job? They said no. The fact that it was noticed tells you something. What one of them called “FTSE 100 sockpuppeting” is done much more with a great deal more subtlety.

Changes, they said, are done gradually by a group of identities, each of which does lots of other innocuous edits. The tame user IDs they use will also argue among themselves and agree on compromises that leave the arguments in the right place. They reckoned this all looks deeply amateur.

So what do we know? Nothing, really. I just thought that was a useful insight into a fundamental problem with Wikipedia. It is easy to edit and hide your tracks.

The problem that creates for Mr Shapps is that he can't prove he wasn't behind the changes. And, since this sort of thing has happened to him before, I think he has been getting less of the benefit of the doubt than you or I might expect.

Deathwatch

Back to normal

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Public Health England's weekly surveillance reports are out today. I noted that the ONS's crude registrations data came on Tuesday, and it was good news. It's even better today.

Their more sophisticated analysis implies that deaths are at normal levels again for this time of year...

Death rates
PHE

...including for older people...

Death rates for 65+
PHE

...and respiratory disease is driving fewer emergency attendances...

Proportion of attendances driven by respiratory disease
PHE

...and flu hospitalisations have drifted down.

Flu hospitalisations
PHE

Summer is coming.

Pro-union literature

Literature from one of the pro-union groups that have sprung up in Scotland trying to encourage tactical voting

Literature from one of the pro-union groups that have sprung up in Scotland trying to encourage tactical voting

How confident are UK consumers?

Or what do fridge sales tell us about the election?

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

A picture of a fridge freezer
BBC

According to one widely followed survey, UK consumer confidence hit a 13 year high in March. I'm always slightly suspicious of these kinds of survey which can swing around quite bit.

To get a better indicator of how bullish consumers are, I prefer to look at the monthly retail sales figures (the latest were released this morning). In particular, the question I like to ask is: are people buying fridges?

The chart below shows the year on year growth of sales (by volume rather than value) at household goods stores (a category that includes electrical appliances, furniture and audio equipment).

A chart showing UK sales of househopld goods stores since 1987.
BBC
Source: ONS

Like consumer confidence, sales growth at household goods stores is running at rates last seen in the early 2000s.

People do not rush out to buy things like fridges, furniture or a new stereo if they aren't feeling pretty confident.

But does high consumer confidence (and it really does look to be rather high) help or hurt the governing parties? Will voters want to reward the government or are they now so confident that they think they can ran risk a change of government?

Sturgeon: IFS is wrong

@bbclaurak

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Nicola Sturgeon
Reuters
Nicola Sturgeon greets supporters on a visit to Ayr

The star of the campaign, the most dangerous woman in Britain, the most effective politician around or someone hell bent on tearing apart the country. Whichever moniker you choose it is always interesting listening to what Nicola Sturgeon has to say and with only two weeks until polling day, what she says matters.

We've been talking to her for tonight's Newsnight when we are broadcasting live from a beautiful backdrop in Scotland's capital city. Sturgeon, as you would expect, had a pretty robust defence of today's verdict from the IFS that the real numbers behind the SNP manifesto belie their rhetoric of being 'anti-austerity'.

Basically, she says the IFS is wrong. What's new in an election campaign when every party is reluctant to be explicit about how they'd spend our cash?

But she was also intriguing on in what precise circumstances she would support a Labour government to, as she says at every available opportunity, 'lock out the Tories'.

What would really be legitimate? Is she planning another referendum? How would she use more SNP bums on seats at Westminster to further her ultimate burning goal of getting Scotland to be independent? And a lot else besides. More later.

Stick to the selfie

By Richard Crook, Newsnight producer

It seems to have become the selfie election, but David Cameron has revealed his frustration with the modern phenomenon. He told this week's Spectator:

"It sometimes makes part of the process of politics quite difficult. Everyone wants a selfie rather than to have a conversation, and sometimes that’s a bit frustrating, particularly with your party activists.

"I want to know what they are finding on the doorsteps, but actually you are too busy having your picture taken.

"The selfie will come, the selfie will go."

His irritation with the selfie hasn't stopped him taking it one step further than his political rivals though, and today he can be seen trying out the selfie stick with Pirate FM.

David Cameron with Pirate FM
PirateFM
David Cameron getting in on the selfie stick trend
David Cameron with a selfie stick
PirateFM

NOT all to play for

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Tumbleweed blowing down the road
Jez Arnold
A typical election day in a non-marginal constituency

How many seats are actually up for grabs in this election? If, like me, you live in a hotly-contested constituency (Watford, not that you asked) then you will be cramming leaflets into the recycling bin on an almost daily basis.

But, as my colleagues David Grossman and James Bray found a couple of weeks ago, go to a place like Runnymede and Weybridge and you fight find any trace of an election hard to find.

Our experts who put together the Newsnight Index calculate probability of success for each party in each seat.

I've had a quick count for each party of how many seats they have a 100% chance of winning. In total, there are 384 seats which, by their calculations, are dead certs. By party, this breaks down as:

  • Conservatives (including John Bercow's seat): 187
  • Labour: 186
  • Liberal Democrats: 4
  • SNP: 7

So, that's around 60% of seats straightaway which are not in contention.

But, if you include seats that are, in practical terms, all-but-certain (95% probability or higher) then you get a total of 488 seats. By party, this breaks down as:

  • Conservatives (including John Bercow's seat): 229
  • Labour: 222
  • Liberal Democrats: 10
  • SNP: 25
  • Plaid Cymru: 1

It is interesting to note that the heartlands for both the Tories and Labour seem to be more or less the same size.

Overall, these data suggest that 75% of seats are, to all intents and purposes, uncontested, leaving the lucky residents of the remaining 112 seats to feel the full brunt of the parties' campaigning machines.

Labour's favourite line from the IFS

Expect to see this a lot

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

One point from the IFS report is already being keenly highlighted by Scottish Labour.

The SNP plans imply lower growth in total departmental spending between 2015–16 and 2019–20 than the plans of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. This, combined with the fact they have not pledged to protect education spending (which is ‘comparable English spending’), actually results, in this illustrative scenario, in a small cut in the block grant for Scotland under their plans.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies

Receding majorities

By Dr Chris Hanretty

With just two weeks to go until the election, the opportunities for either party to make a decisive breakthrough become steadily fewer. That means that majority government - which George Osborne insisted was possible when speaking on Today earlier - becomes ever less likely.

This graph shows the probability of majorities for Labour and the Conservatives, taken from each day's Newsnight Index, and starting in January. I've fitted a trend line so you can see how the parties' chances have evolved over the course of the campaign.

Graph showing probability of Labour and Conservative Majorities
Chris Hanretty

Labour's chances of a majority have been higher for most of the period. That's not always because they were forecast to be the largest party, but rather because when (in our simulated elections) Labour did win, they won big. But as it has become ever clearer that Scottish Labour is facing a point of no return, those chances have declined steadily.

For the Conservatives, the early part of the campaign was positive - they reduced the Labour lead in the polls. But just as they hoped to achieve escape velocity, something went wrong, and the chances of a Conservative majority have fallen away.

The probability that either party will win a majority is now very low, at around 3% for both parties. Not impossible, but extremely unlikely.

To put that into comparison, you are slightly more likely to have your car stolen or broken into than you are to wake up to a Conservative majority government on 8 May.

The fiscal rollercoaster

A big unspoken assumption

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

A rollercoaster
Reuters

One of the most important tables in the IFS report today is this one, which shows useful estimates for how the parties would cut and spend between now and 2019-20. Expect to hear this quoted by everyone:

IFS statistics
IFS

But it's important to remember that the final year of the parliament is not the culmination of consistent policy. Note that the Tory plans imply real terms cuts then a real terms splurge. Labour and the Lib Dems both see sudden acceleration. Only the SNP's plans imply steady funding increases.

Total spending
IFS

This is the result of assuming that the parties will seek to balance the current budget at various moments in the parliament - 2017-18 for the Tories and Lib Dems and 2018-19 for Labour.

It is a bigger issue for the Conservatives than the other parties, since they plan the most extreme fiscal rollercoaster. But I'm actually pretty sceptical about whether anyone would actually plan to cut spending quite hard then immediately reverse the cuts.

Similarly, Labour might seek to balance the current budget in 2019-20, rather than 2018-19, so they can smoothly increase spending - and get the room required to comfortably outspend the SNP.

Nicola Sturgeon - the early years

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Nicola Sturgeon
VT Freeze Frame
Nicola Sturgeon, in 1999, before her rise to prominence

I'm currently doing research for the final of our leader interviews, with Nicola Sturgeon on Monday. I've been reading a really interesting profile of her that appeared in the Herald in July 1996. At that time, she was standing for the SNP in Glasgow Govan at the (to use the cliche) tender age of 26.

The profile is crammed with noteworthy nuggets. For instance, it talks about why, when she first became interested in politics, she rejected the Labour Party:

"She had been interested in politics from the age of about 14, but it was not until she was 16 that she joined the SNP youth wing - much to the disappointment of her English teacher, a Labour councillor who had assumed that their long discussions about how to right the wrongs of the world would automatically lead her up the path to Keir Hardie House. Even then, she perceived Labour to be moving too much to the right."

It was, however, a section about how the SNP had been previously accused of being racist by its opponents that caught my eye:

"She admits that in past campaigns, the SNP has failed to get its message over to some minority groupings, leaving its enemies the opportunity to misrepresent the party. She has heard, but has no proof, that some members of the Asian community have been told in Urdu or Punjabi that the SNP is the Scottish branch of the BNP."

It speaks volumes about the seismic emergence of the SNP over the past 20 years that the polls for the successor seats to Glasgow Govan show that the SNP are set to take all of them.

The forecast for the BNP? That symbol of irrelevance that all political parties dread: the asterisk.

Are we being too pessimistic on the deficit?

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

Today's figures from the IFS were like a bucket of cold water being poured over all the main parties. They brought home just how tight public spending would be under all their plans. But those figures all take as their starting point the current forecasts from the OBR.

As one financial tweeter noted this morning, that the latest official data on the public finances contained some good news:

on cash basis UK income tax receipts up 5.1% in FY 14/15

Tax receipts have been much weaker than expected throughout much of this recovery. But with wages picking up, that might be beginning to change.

If - and it's a big "if" - wage growth continues to improve then so will income tax receipts. That would make the job of balancing the government's books look less daunting than it currently appears.

On the other hand, the Social Market Foundation's Nida Broughton has pointed out in the New Statesman that the risk might be to the downside.

"The tax revenue figures in the OBR report rely on GDP growing by 2.3% to 2.6% a year. The IMF is less sanguine, expecting UK growth to plateau at around 2.1% a year by the end of the decade."

In other words - whichever party is in power, the performance of the wider economy will matter just as much as their fiscal targets.

Is Lord Oakeshott showing his true colours?

How many lib dems will this pic upset? Lord Oakeshott giving time and money to @wdjstraw in Darwen #newsnight

How many lib dems will this pic upset? Lord Oakeshott giving time and money to @wdjstraw in Darwen #newsnight

You can watch David Grossman's pursuit of Lord Oakeshott on tomorrow's Newsnight

Projections, assumptions and targets

Making sense of who will spend more

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Earlier this week, I wrote about the SNP's plans. Some people were a bit alarmed that I found - if Labour delayed balancing the current budget until 2019-20 - they would outspend the SNP. But I noted that the SNP could outspend Labour a little if they went for balance for 2018-19.

Today, the IFS said the SNP could outspend Labour even if they balance the current budget in 2018-19. There are two substantial reasons for the difference between us.

First, I don't let either party spend unspecified money from tax avoidance, which helps the SNP relative to Labour. Second, we make different assumptions about what happens to spending in 2019-20, after Labour has hit the target.

Certainly, Labour has headroom in 2019-20 to outspend the SNP under any fiscal plans. I assumed Labour would keep a steady-as-she-goes policy. The IFS assumed Labour will pencil in "a sharp increase in departmental spending".

And the plans are close enough together (if Labour goes for a 2018-19 target) that slightly different assumptions in costing out the plans lead to slightly different conclusions. The two parties, on any figures, are not far apart.

We can say, however, that if Labour were to aim to balance the current budget in 2019-20, not 2018-19, their plans would clearly imply much more spending than the SNP throughout the parliament - and by some margin.

Is that plausible? Well, yes. Labour's manifesto does not commit to a 2018-19 target (even if they have implied they would have such a target before). And some of the problems of minority government might become easier if they spend more.

So the big picture is pretty simple: the Conservatives are planning a much more restrained spending path than the SNP, and Labour has an option to spend a bit more than them, too.

The Lib Dems are a bit different from the other three, since they plan squeezes in the first half of the parliament, followed by increases that means their spending would be higher than the SNP's by the end of the parliament.

IFS spending projection
IFS

Damning IFS report

IFS say public have a clear choice: reduce debt to GDP ratio faster with more austerity or allow higher debt level but less austerity.

The wisdom of crowds v The wisdom of data

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Nigel Farage with a pint of beer
Christopher Furlong/Getty
Can Nigel Farage take Thanet South?

Yesterday Evan asked Nigel Farage whether he regrets saying that he would step down as Ukip leader if he didn't win Thanet South.

When I was searching for a nice fact for Evan to throw at Mr Farage, I looked, of course, at all the latest polling data which paints a rather bleak picture for the Ukip leader. Indeed, our latest Newsnight Index shows an almost vanishingly small probability of a Ukip gain.

However, this being a prime time BBC One interview, I thought that quoting the latest bookies' odds would be more appropriate than some dry psephological data. Imagine my surprise when I found that every single bookie offering odds had Mr Farage as odds-on favourite to win.

How to explain this? Perhaps it is a reflection of the volume of bets on Mr Farage from eager 'Kippers wanting to put their money where their mouths are, forcing down the odds.

But it could possibly be one of those cases where the odds reflect some kind of intangible je ne sais quoi that defies all rational explanation.

Indeed, even the incredibly talented team behind the Newsnight Index acknowledge that if their forecasts end up being badly wrong, it will be because of the unprecedented nature of the UKIP rise.

"UKIP's performance in the last general election may not be a good predictor given the recent increases in the party's popularity.

"Where possible, we've used information from the 2014 European Parliament elections - but because EP election results are only available at the local authority level rather than at the level of the Westminster constituency, this may be a poor guide.

"If UKIP had competed in elections from 1979 onwards, and had performed near their current polling level, we would have good historical evidence on the link between current polling and eventual electoral performance. As we get closer to the election, this should become less of a problem.

"However, if our forecast is badly off, it will probably be related to either the Liberal Democrats or UKIP's performance in the election, and the knock-on consequences for Labour and the Conservatives."

Mr Farage maintains that he is well set to take the seat. If he does defy the pollsters to win, then his prediction that they could take "double digit" numbers of seats may not be too far off the mark.

A blast from the future past

Zach Brown, Newsnight producer

Blower cartoon
Blower

Back in January I produced a series of films with political columnists gaming out possible scenarios in the event of a hung parliament. Looking at the latest Newsnight Index, one of those scenarios is feeling more and more plausible.

The results are not exactly the same: totals for the two main parties are almost reversed, but the outcome could still be familiar.

The scenario we gave Guardian columnist Rafael Behr foresaw Labour taking 290 seats and the Tories on 270. The latest Newsnight Index on the other hand has the Conservatives ahead on 283 and Labour 12 seats behind on 271.

However even with the small lead predicted it is hard to see how David Cameron could form a coalition even with the help of the Lib Dems (24) and the DUP (8).

Rafael's scenario imagined Cameron failing to form a coalition before a minority Labour government came to power. This was propped up by a so-called ‘Alliance for Change’ consisting of Lib Dems, Greens and the SNP; something the newspapers rather cruelly termed the ‘Suck it and See Coalition.’ But the alliance was not to last and after the SNP voted against the budget, 30 Labour rebels brought down their own government with a vote of no confidence. When we left the piece newly-elected Conservative leader Boris Johnson was leading the party into a second general election and we were about to go through the whole ordeal all over again.

With today’s ‘weaponisation’ of Boris Johnson, might the London mayor be leading the Tories into another election before the year is out?

You can watch the whole video here.

SNP - an 'end to austerity'?

@edsbrown

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

The IFS has been less than glowing in its praise for all of the parties’ spending plans this morning (their full assessment of the party plans are here). Laura Kuenssberg is interviewing Nicola Sturgeon today, so I thought I’d keep a particular eye open for their thoughts on the SNP. I’m first going to give you a couple of quotes from Sturgeon over the last few months:

“It is a manifesto, above all else, to end austerity. That will be our number one priority.” - From the manifesto launch

“I would certainly hope if there was a Labour government and it was dependent on SNP support – which is the most popular preferred outcome of people in Scotland – then I would hope we could persuade and influence a Labour government to take a more moderate approach to deficit reduction.” - Today Programme, February

Problem is, it’s far from clear that the SNP’s plans for overall spending are all that different from Labour’s – in fact, on the IFS’ analysis, they’ll have to make 4% cuts in unprotected departments. Take a look at this chart (the grey line is the SNP):

IFS chart on spending
IFS

It’s not clear to me from this that the SNP will be any more of an end to austerity than Labour will be – or even that they will be influencing them into a fiscally looser position.

PS – Incidentally, this isn’t just bad news for the SNP – it takes a bit of the sting out of the tail of the Conservatives’ claims that the SNP would drag a Labour government further into ‘economic chaos’.

How tight are the spending plans?

This morning the IFS emphasied that voters face a big choice at this election. the gap between the spending plans is the widest it has been since at least 1992.

Labour, by pledging to balance only the current rather than the overall budget, have much more room for spending than the Conservatives. The price of that extra spending is higher borrowing and debt.

But even though the gap is wide, none of the major parties are offering a plan that should be seen as generous in historical terms.

The chart below which I've just made from IFS data compares the plans of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats for total public spending (in real terms) to the experience of each Parliament since 1951

A graph showing the change in total public spending at each Parliament since 2951
BBC
Source: IFS data

As can be seen, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats plans are very different from those of the Conservatives. But compared to previous Parliaments, neither can be described as generous.

On Tories and Conservatives

@evanhd

Evan Davis

Newsnight Presenter

Nicola Sturgeon with manifesto
AFP
The SNP launched their manifesto on Monday

I'm just looking at the SNP manifesto and manifesto insert and notice that the word "Conservative" appears once, while the words "Tory/Tories" appear 33 times.

Labour are more even-handed. In their manifesto, the word "Conservative" is slightly ahead of "Tory" (16 mentions to 13). As for the Conservatives, the word "Conservative" appears more often in their manifesto (obviously) with 113 mentions, but they do use "Tory/Tories" a total of 16 times.

I don't think the SNP are trying to be nice to the Conservative Party; they clearly believe the word "Tory" sounds more deprecating than "Conservative". They are not alone in this belief, but if the word is deprecating, why are the Conservatives willing to use it to refer to themselves?

Why is Tory considered more of an insult anyway? Somehow the phrase "Tory cuts" does slip more easily off the tongue than "Conservative spending plans" and protesters have passed the phrase down from generation to generation since the 1980s. But I doubt many of the people who spit out the word "Tory" with venom, have bothered to read up on the term, its Irish origins or its Cavalier / Royalist connotations.

Journalists including myself often use the word "Tory" as it is shorter than "Conservative" and provides an alternative to repetition of the party name. But if it is seen as deprecating should we try to avoid it?