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  1. Newsnight Live is your one stop shop for elections analysis from the Newsnight team, updated throughout the day
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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Mansion tax - the panacea?

An acclaimed cure for all - but does it have the bricks and mortar?

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter


This may sound like a cracked record, but for a key policy, we've had astonishingly little detail. The mansion tax has been laid out by Labour as this unicorn mythical panacea. More Scottish nurses? Mansion tax. More money sloshing round the economy? Mansion tax. How do we keep taxes x, y and z down? Mansion tax.

But the truth is, although figures of how much it could raise have been bandied around, no one is yet clear how that breaks down. And although the numbers of people actually paying it will be minuscule, there may be many floating voters in tightly fought marginals like Hampstead and Kilburn, Westminster North, Hammersmith, Battersea who simply have no idea of the figures involved.

When I asked for clear figures , Ed Balls' office told me that properties between 2-3 million pounds would pay 250 pounds a month. And what happens to properties North of that?

We simply have no idea. Ed Balls' office simply said "we've set out far more detail than most oppositions. Treasury and HMRC have modeled it but they've refused to share it with us".

Now, don't get me wrong. I know for the vast majority of the UK this sort of question is Angels on pin heads. Who cares, you might think, what the really wealthy have to pay. The answer is simply: they do. And they're voters. And many of them in the South East will be living in these key election battlegrounds that may decide the eventual seat numbers.

Any wonder we know so little?

Do you know this man ?

Neil Breakwell

Newsnight Deputy Editor

It's often hard to find good pictures on political stories. George Osborne tries his best to be seen by owning a wardrobe of high viz and Harriet Harman painted a bus pink. Generally speaking though, this campaign isn’t exactly picture rich.

Our political producer James Clayton has taken a Hitchcockian approach this week by filming HIMSELF. In every single film he’s made.


James Clayton
James Clayton


James Clayton
Sneaky James Clayton

And here:

James Clayton
Yet more James Clayton

Next week more James Clayton on your screens and hopefully a change of clothes.

Newsnight Index Latest Forecast

BBC Newsnight Index

Newsnight index

Good news for Conservatives in our latest Newsnight Index. They have gained three seats from Labour since yesterday's forecast.All the rest remain unchanged.

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 and his colleagues at For more information on how the Index is produced, seehere

European drama

The soap opera is getting better

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Yanis Varoufakis (left)

One thing that's worth keeping an eye on is the eurozone economy. It's not very likely to blow up before polling day, but some of the relationships might. The nerves of the finance ministers - who met today in Riga - are starting to fray.

A lot of the irritation circles around Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, who recently got in a bit of trouble for being the subject of a Paris Match photoshoot.

Some annoyance is to be expected, given the nature of the talks about Greece's obligations. But Bloomberg - that's sober, serious Bloomberg - carried a report today featuring this line:

Euro-area finance chiefs said Varoufakis’s handling of the talks was irresponsible and accused him of being a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur, a person familiar with the conversations said, asking not to be named because the discussions were private.


The report adds later:

National finance chiefs have since expressed frustration over what they see as his inflammatory public remarks, accusing him of sending mixed messages about his intentions, and providing insufficient detail on Greece’s deteriorating financial predicament. He annoyed Italian government officials when he said on Feb. 8 that even Italy was at risk of bankruptcy.



Leanne, Nicola and Natalie

James Clayton, Newsnight political producer

Leaders hugging

Politicians generally don’t, as a rule, hug each other. The handshake still stubbornly wins the greetings battle.

That’s why this picture is so unusual. It gives a rare public glimpse into a very private friendship.

In an interview with Newsnight's Political editor Allegra Stratton Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, gave further insight into the trio's relationship – and how closely the parties are aligned:

AS: “Would Nicola Sturgeon ever say to Ed Miliband you have to give Wales its 1.2 billion. Have you ever heard her say that?”

LW: “Yes”

The three leaders have a game plan. Leanne Wood told me after the interview that that they have had formal and “informal” meetings about negotiations after the election.

Wood also told Allegra that she had communicated subtly with Sturgeon during the debates:

“There was one point when I caught Nicola’s eye after Nigel Farage had said what he’d said about people with HIV and there was a kind of eye contact moment which was – yes, let’s go for this.”

But this friendship represents a constitutional problem. The three leaders will not be MPs, yet they will potentially hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament – negotiating in Westminster.

“It’s new territory I suppose, it’s not territory we’ve been in before, but it’s a constitutional problem they’ll have to get over isn’t it," Wood said.

Danny Alexander's Treasury letter

By Richard Crook, Newsnight producer

Danny Alexander
Liberal Democrats
Danny Alexander leaves his own note in the Treasury

Five years ago Labour's Liam Byrne left a now-infamous note in the Treasury that said there was "no money left".

How he must regret that letter, which continues to haunt him today. His successor Danny Alexander has today tweeted his own note, which reads:

"Dear Liam, sorry for the late reply - I've been busy fixing the economy. "The deficit halved. Jobs up. Growth up. "That's the Liberal Democrat record. "We won't let you - or the Tories - screw it up!"

Danny Alexander
Liberal Democrats

But it's fair to say the joke has received a mixed response on Twitter so far.

Drunk with Cameron, seduced by Clegg


Some frivolous polling from YouGov today on which of Clegg/Cam/Miliband/Farage you find attractive/trustworthy/someone you’d want to go for a drink with.

Turns out people think they're ugly, untrustworthy and rubbish down the pub (surprised?). But here it is anyway:

Political personal ratings

Does a weak government mean a weak economy?

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

Would a government with a weak Parliamentary mandate impact the economy? That's the question asked today by Capital Economics.

In theory, if firms believed that a government had a weak (or non-existent) majority then they might conclude that the government could soon change and so would things like taxes or competition law. That could increase uncertainty, deter investment and lead to slower growth. But does the theory work in practice?

To work out the answer, Capital have compared economic growth in each Parliament since the 1950s to the size of the government's majority after the election.

Source: Capital Economics

The chart does show a positive relationship between large majorities and faster growth. But that relationship is very weak. As Capital note growth was relatively rapid in the 1974-79 and 1992-97 Parliaments despite slim majorities.

They suspect that the relationship shown above is probably driven by the fact that whilst elections come around every four or five years, recessions have tended to come along about once a decade. So governments in the middle of a boom get re-elected with large majorities, rather than the fact that the government has a large majority causing the boom.

As they conclude, "we do not think that a minority or coalition government would be bad for the economy per se. The policies that those governments would pursue will have the bigger bearing on the growth outlook."

Wear, tear and the public finances

How to lose a billion pounds

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor


Last night, I pointed out that the SNP has done something odd with its budgeting, which relates to how it treats a big, dull budget line: depreciation. That's the day-to-day cost of wear and tear on the state's assets.

Michael O'Connor pointed out another jolly story in this terrain. The UK, with other EU states, has decided that it should assume the lifetime of a road is not 75 years, as had been assumed before, but 55 years.

That weird, arcane change means that £1bn of spending on roads is no longer investment in the road network. Now, it's repair. In the jargon, depreciation has risen so it shifts spending from capital spending into current spending.

This matters: the main Westminster parties have a target for balancing the current budget, not the capital budget. So this weird little change has removed headroom for spending on, say, the NHS. And not by a little. By £1bn a year. That's half a mansion tax gone, right off the bat.

Here's the ONS rubric:

The life length used for roads has been 75 years, but to harmonise with other European Member States the UK will be reducing this life length to 55 years. The result is to increase the estimated annual depreciation relating to the road network... The approximate impact on the financial year ending 2014 will be £1.1 billion, split roughly evenly between local and central government. This will have no impact on public sector net borrowing but will [in]crease the current budget deficit by around £1.1 billion and [de]crease the net investment by the same amount.


Row over Miliband's Libya comments


Mark Urban

Newsnight Defence and Diplomatic Editor

Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband delivers a speech at Chatham House

Ed Miliband planned this morning's speech to highlight foreign policy, and critically his desire to keep Britain at the centre of European decision making. But the overnight row over Libyan refugees and whether the Labour leader was blaming David Cameron for their tragedy overtook things.

There were loud groans from the audience (mainly Chatham House foreign policy types) when one reporter asked if he was saying Mr Cameron had "blood on his hands". Mr Miliband certainly wasn't going to use that kind of language - instead he repeatedly blamed Mr Cameron's coalition government for toppling Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi without having a proper post-conflict plan.

Mr Miliband noted that the people smugglers themselves were mainly responsible for migrants perishing at sea.

My own take: there was a Nato post-conflict plan for Libya, but the militias there would never allow the Western allies into the country to disarm them, and create a strong Libyan national army.

But Mr Cameron does not get off scot free. When the EU came to consider whether to extend its Mare Nostrum rescue mission in the Mediterranean last autumn, the UK was one of the countries that decided to go for a smaller, cheaper, option, an important cause of the current crisis. Oddly Mr Miliband did not criticise the government for that at all.

Tracking what voters really think

Alex Campbell

Newsnight producer

Election Late Show logo

Whether it’s TV talent shows, snap polls or even Gogglebox, we seem endlessly entertained by measuring what other people think – and, of course, arguing about it afterwards.

The centrepiece of the Election Late Show’s war on boring political coverage, the Voteworm, brings a touch of this populist glitz to politics by mapping the way viewers react to the big campaign moments.

And the results are actually quite interesting.

In week one, which you can watch here, we saw how Michael Fallon’s “backstabber” attack bombed with voters; how Ed Miliband’s speech eventually proved popular even with those whose gut reaction was to turn against him and how Blair’s intervention in the campaign was – at least according to our sample – bordering on useless.

Last week – manifesto week – showed our sample was a tough crowd for David Cameron, and yet they warmed significantly to the prime minister when he talked tough on welfare cuts.

Farage’s “control of our borders” bluster scored far better than Clegg’s “Tory brain, Labour heart” speech.

So how does it work? Each week, we put together a selection of the week’s clips and show it to a sample of 500 voters, weighted by pollsters ComRes. They hit a thumbs up or a thumbs down every second, allowing us to track their reactions to what they’re seeing.

The weighting of the sample also allows us to drill down into the data and produce some very interesting – and very specific – types of analysis. Such as the wildly varying regional popularity of Ed Miliband.

The results are delivered to us in en masse in decidedly raw form (see below), and after bit of TV magic they turn out looking quite nice just in time for them to go on TV.

That’s at 11pm by the way –right after Newsnight – live with James O’Brien.

The vote worm results
The voteworm before the "TV magic"

What would success mean for the union?

What would an SNP win mean

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

YouGov chart showing voters' attitudes to varying issues
The Times

This graph, above, was sent out by the Times this morning, in their excellent "Red Box" email. It says everyone is tired of talking about Scotland. As a writer who never compromises with readers by writing about things that they might be interested in, here are some more Scottish thoughts.

Kenny Farquharson, deputy editor of the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, wrote something really interesting today about whether a big SNP win at this election will mean the end of the Union - or if it will tame nationalism.

I suspect a centre-left Westminster administration will govern in a way that will find warm favour with mainstream Scottish opinion... How credible will it then be for Nicola Sturgeon to turn to voters and say: “Come on, let’s get out of here. Let’s leave all this behind.” Not very credible at all, I suggest. This is an arrangement the Scottish voters will like. And 50 new SNP MPs, and their staff, may quite like it too.

Kenny FarquharsonDeputy Editor, The Scotsman & Scotland on Sunday

I've had a similar thought from a different direction.

I've written before about how I suspect that, in a future independence referendum, the Better Together campaign coalition's economic campaign messages get easier with every year that passes.

That's because Scotland's ageing society and the declining oil fields make the argument for independence (or even mere fiscal autonomy) harder to make. The Union is expected to put increasing sums into Scotland.

These forces are evident from the IFS's estimates of how much money Scotland would need to raise in tax or spending cuts to maintain the same deficit as the rest of the UK if its local taxes were required to cover local spending.

Fiscal gap estimates

If that gap gets bigger and bigger, as it will for a pretty long time, you can imagine a scenario where the SNP, in effect, might continue to aim for independence (or fiscal autonomy) at some point in future, but never want to take the leap in the short-term.

That might go on a while. Then you can foresee a situation where the SNP settles into becoming Labour's usual junior coalition partner - potentially semi-permanently (such tie-ups are not unusual in other European countries).

You can foresee how they could evolve into another sort of party. Party members might still believe in independence, but - as with Plaid Cymru's agenda for Wales - it might become a long-term goal rather an immediate political target.

You can imagine them turning into something like Fianna Fail, who were the default political party in Ireland. They parlayed a hard view on the Irish state and its borders into being the largest party in the Dail from 1932 until 2011.

As Padraig Reidy. editor of Little Atoms, put it: "You become the party with the sole claim on nationalism. After that, you just ride the ideological tide but [Fianna Fail] was/is always the party of the true Irish man and woman."

Unionists will, of course, always be aghast at SNP success. But, as the economics slowly drift against them, the nationalists of 2020 might look very different to those of 2015.

An odd priority


Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

The Conservatives released their English manifesto today to moderate fanfare.

Most of its slightly short of riveting 37 pages consists of fairly bland regional breakdowns of national figures on jobs, pensions and so on.

But, beyond the regions, the Conservatives chose to single out a particular smaller area for its own heading.

Was it one of the Northern Powerhouses? Manchester? Or perhaps the hub of the electorally key Midlands, Birmingham?

The answer is, bizarrely, the Isle of Wight, which contains a single, safe Conservative seat. Why I cannot fathom. What did the Isle of Wight do to deserve this treatment? Is there a particular Vectensian that somehow holds the key to the election? Are they trying to head off a dramatic resurgence of the Vectis National Party that has gone as yet unnoticed by the media?

Either way, the “working people on the Isle of Wight” can now rest easy in the knowledge that the Conservatives appear to be particularly committed to them:

Tory english manifesto
Conservative Party

The bookies back Ed

But will they be right?

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

In the past few weeks high-street bookies and online betting exchanges have been re-pricing the expected outcome of the election. Whilst the odds still suggest that the Conservatives will the most seats, they also point to Ed Miliband being Prime Minister.

It may seem strange that the odds have changed given so little movement in the poll, but it is precisely that lack of poll movement that has driven the move in the odds. Political punters had been expecting a move to the Conservatives as the campaign worn on.

But will the bookies be right?

Not necessarily. As the website Political Betting pointed out this week, the betting markets were wide of the mark last time around.

A table showing the bookies odds on the 2010 result and the actual result.

As can be seen above, the markets overestimated the performance of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and severely underestimated the performance of Labour.

As historian Dr Laura Beers has noted - this is nothing new.

Before the December 1923 election, for example, the betting markets were trading Conservative majorities at around 30 seats. The actual result was a hung parliament with an effective Conservative minority of 99. During the October 1924 campaign, Labour seats traded at around 185, even after the publication of the “Zinoviev letter”. Labour ultimately returned 151 MPs. And in 1929, the election which most closely resembles today’s uncertain contest, Labour seats closed at 245 on the eve of the election, with Conservatives trading around 270. However, it was the Labour party that came away with a plurality of seats, and the mandate to form the next parliament. Most spectacularly, in 1931, the punters failed to foresee the anti-Labour landslide, and government majorities traded below 200 for most of the campaign. In the end, the various pro-government parties returned a majority of nearly 500 seats.

Dr Laura BeersUniversity of Birmingham

In recent years,the betting markets have acted as better predictors than they did in the 1920s and 1930s. But they still are far from perfect.

Ed Miliband at Chatham House

Mark Urban, Newsnight's Diplomatic Editor, is reporting on Ed Miliband's speech at Chatham House

Ed M: when it comes to military intervention I have learned that 'something must be done' isn't enough #CHEvents

Ed M: when it comes to military intervention I have learned that 'something must be done' isn't enough #CHEvents

An unpalatable tie-up?

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Nicola Sturgeon told Newsnight last night that she would support a government with Labour in charge even if Ed Miliband was as many as 40 seats behind the Conservatives in the final tally. Under the principles of a hung parliament that is permissible. But if the gap between the two main UK parties was that wide, would such a government be seen as legitimate? A senior Labour MP tells me his party would be very aware of the sense of natural justice in forming a government. If Labour were perceived to have lost, they would be cautious about going ahead with something that looked like a government of the losing side. The straightforward arithmetic will be vital of course in terms of who can govern. And yet if there is a gap between Labour and the Tories that is tangible, not just a matter of a handful of seats, public opinion across the UK may find an SNP Labour tie up unpalatable. Labour has memories of the impossibility of forming a government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010. This time, legitimacy as well as numbers may matter too.

You can watch my interview with Nicola Sturgeon here.