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

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Newsnight tonight

An exclusive interview with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus

Amanda Barry and Gina DeJesus, along with another woman, Michelle Knight, were kept hidden, imprisoned, chained, raped repeatedly and half starved in a house in Cleveland, Ohio. Tonight Newsnight has Kirsty Wark's interview with them, a very powerful watch.

We also have the last in Evan Davis' series of leaders interviews - this evening it's the turn of Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland. With the SNP's talk of creating a "progressive coalition", Newsnight has commissioned ComRes to find out what the public thinks is a "legitimate" government; Allegra will be presenting those results.

Around 4,000 people have been killed in an earthquake in Nepal: we'll be talking to a mountaineer and a representative of the Nepalese community in London.

And David Grossman goes off the grid... in search of that physically and politically elusive peer, Lord Oakeshott.

Latest seat forecast

BBC Newsnight Index

Newsnight index

Tonight's Newsnight Index shows the Conservatives falling back slightly, losing five seats - though any gains from this for other parties are fairly evenly spread. Perhaps the most notable change is UKIP finally looking like they may win two seats in the Commons on May 7th. The Index's polling suggests Thurrock is the latest UKIP gain.

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 Professor Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia and his colleagues at For more information on how the Index is produced, see here

Labour's help for renters

Will it work?

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

So, reading about Labour's renting policy over the weekend, I started off as a sceptic about how much impact it could have (for good or ill). Labour's proposal to tinker about with rent rise rules is a bit flimsy.

This is not a plan for rent caps or controls, as has been claimed. They plan to make three-year rentals the norm, over which landlords could not raise rents faster than inflation. The problem with this plan is:

  • Landlords can still terminate lettings early and then raise rents
  • Landlords will price up at the start knowing they won't be able to later
  • This is not helpful to short-term renters, like students.

But my old friend Martin Sandbu, who writes the FT's lunchtime email, is gently optimistic that it could help shuffle the rental market on to a happier place:

"Labour's policy is not actually designed to lower rents for tenants. Landlords will respond by upping the rent at the outset of the lease, as Ed Miliband made clear on Sunday. ...The policy will simply smooth rents over three years.

That is actually hugely significant. The disruption of unexpected rent increases, the sunk investments lost in a house move, and the distress of eviction are all huge costs borne by tenants on top of the admittedly high level of market rents...

The party would, no doubt, like swing voters to think the policy will make rents fall as well. But for renting to become more affordable, you need the same thing that makes it more affordable to buy them. ...More housebuilding."

Who will have legitimacy to govern?

Allegra Stratton

Newsnight Political Editor

Over the last few days the watch word in this election has been "legitimacy". The polls are pointing towards a minority government of some form, but that neither side will have a clearly better numbers. And so the question then becomes which side has more permission to govern.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was at it himself on Friday, suggesting that it wouldn't be "legitimate" for him to prop up a Labour-SNP government. It wouldn't be legitimate, he suggested, because Labour may well have got fewer seats than the Conservatives (he has said it before but he did it particularly forcefully on Friday - my view is that this was mostly about him trying to stop Lib Dem voters, fearful of the role the SNP could have in a Labour government, from going Tory. Something that could tip the balance in a lot of their seats).

Well, now we at Newsnight have tested this with public opinion, using the polling firm ComRes and a polling size of 1,003.

Q. Thinking about the upcoming general election, it is possible that no single party will win a majority of MPs. In this situation, who should become Prime Minister?

They found that 55% of those polled think that, in the event of a hung parliament, the leader with the most MPs should become PM. At the moment, this is looking like it could be the Conservatives, just.

A third (34%) think it should be the leader who can form a partnership of the largest number of MPs, including those from the smaller parties. This finding could benefit whatever alliance Labour could assemble with the Lib Dems, perhaps with the SNP on some kind of long string.

There were other findings.

Seven in ten (69%) Conservative supporters polled were in favour of the PM being the leader of the party with most MPs, compared to 55% of Labour voters. This is perhaps not very surprising, given it is more likely the Tories are in this position.

In terms of the key concern about legitimacy - whether a government supported by the parties from the regions (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland). 53% of those asked think it would be legitimate, while a third (34%) think it is not.

Poll results
Q. Do you think that a government is legitimate or not if it is only able to govern based on the support of a party or parties representing specific nations (for example, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)?

Within this, and perhaps obviously, the poll suggests that Labour supporters are significantly more likely than Conservatives to think a government supported by parties from the nations is more legitimate. Two thirds of the Labour voters (66%) said it would be legitimate compared to 47% of Conservatives.

What does appear to concern Britons, the poll suggests, is the idea of UKIP or the SNP, more than any of the other smaller parties, supporting a government. More than half (56%) say they are concerned about UKIP lending their support to one of the two main parties in order to govern, for the SNP it is 52%.

Poll results
Q. In order to govern how concerned or otherwise would you be about each of the following smaller parties lending their support to one of the two main parties?

Strategists from both the Labour and Lib Dem parties don't seem to share concerns about legitimacy. One former Labour cabinet minister, who has been critical of Ed Miliband, told me that a debate about "legitimacy" has been built up by the Conservative press. Lib Dems actually need to maximise their negotiating hand, so they can't rule out one type of political arrangement.

Remember, in 2010 the Lib Dems went into negotiations with both the Conservative party but also with the Labour party and that is even though the Labour party had won 258 seats, nearly 50 seats fewer than the Tories on 307.

Few talked loudly then of legitimacy. I spoke to lots of Lib Dems on Friday. Indeed I spoke to senior Labour folk too. Few believe that the issue of legitimacy will be a serious force after 8 May. “We had a vote on the voting system back in 2011. The British public voted to back the current voting system. They can’t then complain when it throws up the results it might”.

The importance of Aston Villa

Why the PM's slip matters

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Danny Ings of Burnley and Rob Huth of Leicester City

Following David's note on the pretend public meeting, I thought it was worth noting why one other story got so much coverage.

On Saturday, David Cameron, ostensibly an Aston Villa fan, suddenly seemed to say that he backed West Ham. Both play in claret and blue, but they are definitely different teams. I thought it was worth explaining why journalists care.

First, because misremembering which team you support is so inexplicable to any football fan. Does Mr Cameron really support Villa? And that would matter because it speaks to his authenticity. Was he being honest?

Years on, Tory staff members still recount one newspaper story with horror: the Mirror account of how David Cameron cycled to work, but had a car follow him to work with all of his gear. It's an event that, to use the jargon, "cut through".

Second, when it comes to the major parties this election has been stage-managed to death. No morning press conferences where journalists can ask tough questions. Parties are refusing to answer questions. All is sterile.

So when a politician makes such a big mistake, there is nothing else happening. I would love to be going through Tory plans on benefit reform or Labour's spending proposals. Honestly. But they won't tell us any more. We know it all.

And while that means there are fewer gaffes or arguments, it means that all we have to talk about is whether the prime minister remembers Peter Withe's goal in the 1982 European cup final (he seemed not to).

When the parties made the campaign into a snooze-fest, they probably cut the number of gaffes. But they also cleared the decks so that each and every one of them got a lot more attention.

No Voters required

Campaigning inside the bubble

David Grossman


At David Cameron’s speech in the City this morning attendees identities were carefully checked against the pre-invited list. Having been identified they were tagged with a wristband. This is about as far as its possible to come from a genuine public election meeting that it’s possible to come without using a CGI audience or investing in some authentic looking androids.

Modern election politics is all about giving the impression of meeting and engaging with real people without actually taking the risk.

The media are to blame for this. There I’ve said it. We are to blame. Three reasons:

  1. There are too many outlets looking for news now. The scrum would be so huge that like a black hole it would collapse in on itself and no decent pictures would ever emerge.
  2. If the politician gets heckled, confronted or egged in a public encounter it would be all over the news for days, and that’s pretty much all we would show.
  3. Its far safer to use the media to convey a carefully stage managed event. We in the media are only too happy to work with the parties to achieve this.

David Grossman has been covering British general elections for the BBC since 1992.

Searching for the air pockets

Allegra Stratton

Newsnight Political Editor

Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy
Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy might be celebrating if Labour win just 10 seats in Scotland

Eleven days to go and Labour is working very hard to hold back the Sturge surge. One Shadow Cabinet member put their strategy for the next ten days to me like this: "We have to get 10 more seats in England than we look like we are getting, and lose 10 fewer seats in Scotland. In Scotland, it would be a really good night if we get to fifteen. It's like we're in a tsunami and we're searching for the air pockets".

Some discussion in our office about whether they meant they were in an avalanche and were searching for air pockets, but this is what they said. Another senior Labour source said: "We will be cracking out the champagne if we keep 10 Labour seats. Realistically we are looking at three to six".

Into this mix comes reports from another Scotland source. They say that Labour have pulled their canvassing effort back into 10 seats in an effort to at least hold on to them. These will be the air pockets.

The beginning of this week is an important moment to these Labour sources. They think right now they are in a decent place. They think they need to stay up neck and neck with the Tories until the Question Time appearances on Thursday; they think that Ed can do well in these. Then next weekend is time to get out the vote which then gets you to polling day. But it’s a reminder of quite how immense the Labour situation in Scotland is, if you need it.

What does "technical analysis" tell us about the election?

Maybe not very much...

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

One notable feature of this election has been the rise attempts to forecast the result. Dr Chris Hanretty and his colleagues have developed a sophisticated forecasting model which we use each night as the Newsnight Index. have their own model, as does Professor Stephen Fisher.

Anyone who has ever followed financial markets will know that there are two ways that analysts go about attempting to forecast the future. The first is “fundamental research”, looking at economic and financial data, company dividends and accounts and consumer trends. The second is what is usually termed “technical analysis”. Defined by Wikipedia as “a security analysis methodology for forecasting the direction of prices through the study of past market data, primarily price and volume”. To the untrained eye it can look suspiciously like “drawing lines on charts”.

With so much fundamental forecasting of this election already available – based on current polls, past trends and constituency profiles – I thought there might be a gap in the market for some technical analysis.

Before proceeding though, it’s worth noting that I am not a trained technical analyst…

It may also be worth quoting Wikipedia: "Whether technical analysis actually works is a matter of controversy". And once you've read this post, it might be worth checking if the person managing your pension believes in this stuff...

Taking the polls from and entering the data into some not-so-sophisticated-software yields the following result:

a graph

From the late 1990s until late 2010 the Conservatives were on a clear upward trend (blue line A). However they broke through that support and from late 2010 until early 2015 were faced with clear downward resistance (blue line B). In the past few weeks though they gave broken through that resistance and are heading up.

Labour by contrast faced downward resistance (red line A) from the late 1990s until about five years ago. They staged a breakout in 2010 but since peaking in 2012 their polling has struggled to breakout of a downward resistance line (red line B).

More advanced technical analysts might be tempted to note that under Blair their polling may have displayed, what’s called in the jargon (I am not making this up), a “head and shoulders” pattern (in the red circle).

As for the Lib Dems, since the 1970s and 80s (not visible on this chart) their polling as had long term support line (the yellow line) just about 5%.

So what does this all say? What do long term Liberal Democrat support, shorter term Tory support and Labour resistance all add to up?

Well, technical analysis would appear to suggest that the Liberal Democrats will secure more than 5% of the vote and that the final result between the Tories and Labour will be very close with both in the early to mid-30s.

Who needs a sophisticated mathematical model when you have access to MS paint…

A terrible journey to Europe

Secunder Kermani, Newsnight correspondent

Three survivors of the perilous journey to Italy
Three survivors of the perilous journey to Italy

After a week of widespread media coverage and political discussion about how to tackle the issue of the thousands of desperate migrants crossing the Mediterranean and into Italy, the topic seems to be dropping off the news agenda. But don’t expect the problem to go away. Last week I made a film with three young migrants who described their horrific journey to Europe - you can watch it here.

The EU has decided to triple the current funding for search and rescue operations – bringing it back into line with the funding for the Mare Nostrum rescue scheme that ended last year. However, even when that scheme was in place over 3,000 migrants died.

Around 1,500 have died this year already, and given that the calmer weather is just starting (encouraging the people traffickers) more boats - and more deaths- are almost tragically inevitable.

One option mooted by Italy earlier this year was to outsource migrant reception centres to Tunisia and elsewhere in North Africa, thus removing the need for migrants to cross the Mediterranean. However, any agreement on that seems distant right now.

Many migrants I spoke to on the Italian islands of Lampedusa and Sicily also told me that large numbers of migrants were dying en route to Libya from southern parts of Africa – before they even get to the Mediterranean. And the conflict in Libya – as well as making it easier for traffickers to operate – has also claimed migrant’s lives. Many told me they were robbed, abused, forced into labour and housed in awful conditions there.

In Sicily we talked to three teenage migrants who had made the journey alone across the Mediterranean – they told us about their horrors they saw along the way. They include a Nigerian girl who traffickers tried to force into prostitution, a Somali woman who went into labour whilst at sea and a Bengali man who was convinced he would drown before reaching Italy. Watch them tell their stories, in their own words.

Just act normal

Stuart Denman, Election Late Show producer

“This looks like a pretty good door frame,” remarked David Cameron, when confronted by a door frame angling for some prime ministerial praise. Campaign small talk at its best.

I’ve been collating clips of each week’s lighter moments for our Election Late Show. Almost always these originate from highly stage-managed affairs when the candidates are seen to get out and meet with “real” people. They nod seriously. They listen thoughtfully. They laugh heartily. They attempt to high-five toddlers.

But for “real” people we are often talking about the party faithful, so it’s no wonder the media seize upon the heckler, the dissenter and the toddler who won’t high-five back. It’s all about control and we like nothing more than to see how our would-be leaders cope with the possibility of losing it.

These are events designed to appear relaxed, which is why there are directors of communications hovering nearby looking anything but. They know the gaggle of lenses is just as likely to witness the candidate slip on the proverbial banana skin.

And it’s not just the official hacks - mobile phones are in on the act too, ready to shed their playful roles as selfie facilitators and instead become blunder recorders. It’s only when you string some of the photo ops together that you get a real sense of how absurd it all is.

Nobody gives the press pack what they want quite like Nigel Farage, but I could create a very long montage indeed of his guffaws as the clatter of photographers’ flash bulbs goes wild. George Osborne seems to have taken the hard hat to his heart, as well as his head, as he’s grasped the levers at one factory after another. Nick Clegg, meanwhile, has taken to meeting hedgehogs and cod. And Ed Balls has revealed he can quack like a duck (how the hours on the battle buses must fly by).

As the campaign grinds on and the candidates get increasingly tired, the perils of the press event can become more acute. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Mrs Duffy encounter of 2010, memorable enough in itself, but elevated to infamy because Gordon Brown forgot his radio mic was still on, occurred relatively late in the campaign.

This election may not have produced a Mrs Duffy moment so far but there’s still plenty of time for the odd stumble as the candidates don their hard hats and aprons and try not to gaffe in front of the cameras during the last days of the campaign.

Election Late Show logo
The Election Late Show is broadcast every Friday after Newsnight at 11pm

Phoney football fans in politics

Alex Campbell

Newsnight producer

Tony Blair playing football
Tony Blair showing off his ball skills in 2005

However inconsequential, the Prime Minister’s failure to remember which football team he supposedly supports must rank among the most embarrassing blunders of his career.

Team Cameron rightly pushes his usually unflappable ability to perform as the statesman. But this was a blunder that made him appear cynical and, most damagingly, quite silly.

Small wonder he was visibly embarrassed when quizzed on his apparent reversal of loyalties.

As a genuine football fan – and they are at a premium in the Newsnight office – I can attest to the titanic implausibility of forgetting which football team you support. If indeed you really support one.

In most cases, to follow a football club is to make a life commitment. It’s part of the family, a source of ecstasy and ire, pride and passion.

It commands a near-tribal loyalty and an irrational, infallible affinity with which, uniquely, millions can relate.

If politicians want to tap into that, and many have tried, they have to tread a lot more carefully than this..

It isn’t the first time phoney football support has led to a politician’s attempts at playing the everyman being called into focus.

Tony Blair for years rebutted claims that he’d told a regional newspaper about fond memories of watching Jackie Milburn play from the terraces of Newcastle United (Blair was aged four and living in Australia when Milburn retired).

He also fluffed a question over his hopes for a Premiership title-deciding match between his beloved Newcastle and Manchester United in 1996 – no doubt with more than one eye on the swathes of Manchester United supporters in just about every seat New Labour was targeting.

David Cameron himself has had the strength of his affections for Aston Villa probed in the past. Political anoraks will already have recalled that in 2001 he told the Commons he was not a football fan at all.

And Margaret Thatcher, when leader of the opposition, reportedly nominated Ipswich Town’s Trevor Whymark as the star man of the 1978 FA Cup final –unfortunately he didn’t actually play.

Happily, not everybody in the political classes can be accused of being a phoney fan.

Kenneth Clarke, Conservative MP for the Nottinghamshire borough of Rushcliffe since 1970, is a long-suffering Nottingham Forest supporter who is frequently spotted at the club’s games.

So demonstrable is his allegiance that the club even once tried to make him chairman.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson was a verified supporter of his hometown club of Huddersfield Town.

Nick Clegg has avoided splitting the electorate in his constituency city of Sheffield – where kinship with either Wednesday or United is a family rite of passage. He simply claims to support Arsenal instead.

And all football fans know that Russell Brand; that self-styled bastion of anti-politics, is a massive West Ham United supporter. (Or is that Villa?)

Would a Labour government be good or bad for the economy?

Depends on who you ask...

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

My running commentary of the City's running commentary on the election. Part 9,026.

Today has provided a nice reminder of the fact that forecasting the future is pretty difficult. Given that the one thing we can definitively say about the future is that is hasn't happened yet, this isn't really a surprise.

In today's Telegraph, Roger Bootle, the executive chairman of Capital Economics (one of the UK's leading independent economic consultancies) argues that a Labour government, supported by the SNP, could have very negative economic consequences.

If Labour/SNP formed the next government, the first years might continue to show the lagged good effects of the Coalition’s competent stewardship. But before very long things would deteriorate sharply. We would then see the full costs laid bare.

Roger BootleCapital Economics

Meanwhile, Oxford Economics (another leading economics consultancy) have taken a very different view.

...our modelling of the parties’ plans suggests that Labour’s less austere approach to fiscal policy could result in a better outcome in terms of growth, it could also mean that there is more aggressive monetary policy tightening over the course of the next parliament.

Oxford Economics

So - would a Labour government see stronger growth or an economic disaster?

It depends on who you ask.

Echoes of Poujadism in UKIP appeal?

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

Nigel Farage speech
Farage's rhetoric may appeal to the same demographic as French populist Poujadism

After World War II, a French politician called Pierre Poujade came to prominence. He was a populist, and started a tax protest movement - Poujadism - which articulated the defence of the common man against the elites.

It was against industrialisation, urbanisation and American style modernisation - anything perceived as a threat to rural France.

He came to mind this weekend as I was reading the latest set of polling on UKIP. Their party differences are perhaps greater than their similarities, but there is one thing that I found salient.

Poujade flirted initially with the left and ended up supporting the far right during the occupation. One of his MP’s in his 1950s heyday was Jean-Marie Le Pen.

No one is suggesting that’s the way Farage is heading. But an interesting overlap in terms of the demographic to which they may appeal is worth noting.

Poujadism was about helping small commerce - shopkeepers and proprietor managers of small businesses facing economic and social change. It didn’t necessarily talk to those at the very bottom who had nothing at all.

Which returns me to UKIP polls.

Newly-released data from the fourth wave of the British Election Study (sampled in March 2015) - and picked up by the BBC’s David Cowling - challenges the accepted wisdom that many UKIP voters are working class.

The bulk of UKIP’s support surprisingly comes from professional and managerial middle classes. British Election Study Co-Director Professor Geoffrey Evans and BES Research Fellow Dr Jonathan Mellon, from Nuffield College Oxford, say contrary to the popular view advocated by some academic researchers, working class voters are only slightly more likely to support UKIP.

UKIP voters are often the self-employed and employers – and not the disenfranchised, "left behind" voters, commonly described by the media.

Which means the idea UKIP pose a large threat to Labour - a thought that's gained considerable currency in recent years - may be wrong.

In other words, if UKIP’s working class roots and support have been overstated, then it is the Conservatives – not Labour – who are likely to feel the pain.

Arguably, the study continues, even the Liberal Democrats have more to fear from UKIP than Labour.

And even in Labour leaning seats, the rise of UKIP could come at the expense of the Tory votes there - not necessarily the working class vote, some of whom have abandoned Labour decades earlier already.

So here's a thought. Could UKIP in fact be Labour's secret weapon?

Why Cameron should not take Unionism for granted

Matthew Thompson, Newsnight producer

Nigel Dodds at DUP press conference
Nigel Dodds and the DUP's main aim is to maintain the Union

In the run up to this election, both the Conservative Party and David Cameron himself have faced criticism for a perceived lack of passion, a visceral message to drive their campaign across the finish line.

In recent days, it appears they have finally found one – there are encouraging signs for the Tories that their “Labour-SNP pact” scare tactic may be cutting through. Unionists on both sides of the Scottish border have raised some concerns that this strategy is ill-conceived, and whilst it may bring rewards in the short term, raising the antagonism of the English against the Scots can only harm the Union in the long run.

Now, if you’re a Tory election strategist, with all of your energies concentrated on 7 May, you might be forgiven for thinking this a price worth paying. The ramifications can be dealt with later.

But what if I pointed out that such a strategy may have a greater short-term risk profile than Mr Crosby realises? Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s leader at Westminster, has penned an excoriating article for the Guardian in which he attacks precisely this Conservative approach.

It must be remembered that before they are anything, the DUP are a Unionist Party. Maintaining the Union is of a much greater magnitude of importance to them than whoever is in Number 10. Much has been written about the importance of their eight or nine seats to any future Cameron government. Mr Cameron must therefore be extremely careful that in his desire to crush Labour by talking up the SNP, he does not in the same breath destroy his only chance of keeping the keys to Number 10.

Undecided tweeters

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Lots of voters haven’t made their minds up yet. After a campaign that has been running in reality since the start of the year, what would shift their votes with just 10 days to go? From a discussion of the EU referendum, tax breaks for small business, or even just a wannabe MP turning up to knock on the door, there are still votes to play for. Although I’m not sure that ‏@mrstewaters request for a free unicorn for every "hard working family" is something we’ll see in any manifesto any time soon.

Here’s a flavour a what voters want:

@bbclaurak Credible, accountable commitments on the building of housing and steps taken to prevent young people becoming 'Generation Rent'.

@bbclaurak Accurate opinion poll in my own constituency. Would tell me if I could vote with heart or head.

@bbclaurak In Aylesbury:CON for ~90 yrs. Wld like 2 spoil ballot 2 protest @ poor system, but UKIP threaten 2nd place. Voting LAB 2 stop em.

@bbclaurak >Any candidate who actually answers a question would be high on my list. Few do. NS seems to more than most.

@bbclaurak tactical votes. Scot living in South Thanet, don't want Nigel, Tory anti Scots rhetoric shameful, labour not interested in seat.

@bbclaurak what's happened to the European in out debate it's going to be a massive decision how every wins

@bbclaurak @maitlis solid and credible economic plans for small businesses !, I.e tax break for the first two yrs - depending on the revenue

@bbclaurak The candidate who relies more on positive action than scoring points against the others.

@bbclaurak Employers to pay NI on all earnings to stop tax-payer subsidy of part time work.

@bbclaurak if a party was honest enough to say, more state services requires higher taxes, equal service-same tax, less services-lower taxes

@bbclaurak 1. Local candidate presence & info. Nothing so far in Leics South. 2. Clear answers on cost & implementation of national policies

@bbclaurak I want to weaken the incumbent's grip on a safe seat so that it isn't quite so safe next time.

@bbclaurak someone could knock my door not one politician has knocked no one they want my vote fist one to knock my door gets my vote.

@c_r_5 @bbclaurak Because the alternative could see parties, SNP particularly, holding seats in constituencies they weren't standing in.

Labour's housing policy

The big change is building

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

There have been three housing pledges from Labour over the past 24 hours. Yesterday saw an announcement on "capping rents" and Ed Miliband has already covered today's proposed reforms to stamp duty. But the third is probably the biggest and most ambitious.

In their manifesto Labour said: "We will make sure that at least 200,000 homes a year get built by 2020". Today that pledge has been upgraded to: "Labour’s plan will start construction on 1 million new homes by 2020 to deliver our promise of getting 200,000 homes built a year".

In other words rather than building 200,000 homes a year "by" 2020, they now intend to start work on one million new homes over the next five years. A fairly minor change in wording, could have big implications.

a graph
Source: DCLG data

To give some sense of scale, the graph above shows housing starts in rolling 5 year periods (so for example 2013-14, is the five years to 2013-14) back to the 1970s and Labour's proposed building up to 2020.

One million housing starts would be a big pickup compared to the past few years - although still well below the historical peaks.

The view from Berlin

Election pledge leaves the Germans mystified

Lewis Goodall

Newsnight producer


This campaign has been noted for its insularity; save for the odd mention of the Mediterannean crisis politics has largely stopped at the waters' edge.

Yet that doesn't mean that the election is being ignored by everyone else.

The front pages of Die Welt this morning (and if you don't peruse it daily, shame on you) contained a leading article on the election and the prospect of Britain leaving the EU.

My German is pretty rusty but suffice to say they are pretty damning about the prospect of 'Brexit'.

They cite a study published today by the German Ifo Institute which estimates that withdrawal could cost the British economy 330 billion (£236bn).

Or to put it another way- some 14% of UK GDP.

By contrast, they reassure their own readers that it would be of relatively little importance to them, costing the German economy only around €58bn over the same period at worst.

It's a detailed study, going into the affects Brexit might have on specific industries. Die Welt quotes them as suggesting that "the chemical industry could decrease by nearly eleven percent of its value, the financial services nearly five percent."

It's often said that given the EU sells us much more than we sell them that EU leaders would be willing to grant the UK favourable terms in any renegotaition.

If the view of this study prevails in the Reichstag- that Britain has far more to lose than Europe- political leaders might not be willing to give the UK much at all to keep us in and David Cameron might find a potential second term even more tortuous than he may have feared.

Milk and honey

What will the parties promise voters next?

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Land of milk and honey
Parties promise more to win over undecided voters

There are just ten days to go. Voters with postal ballots have started to send them off. The remaining undecided are starting to make their minds up (estimates vary a lot on how many people still have not formed a view but some pollsters reckon it's well over ten percent).

And for some it seems like the two big parties are, in desperate attempts to break the stalemate, becoming more and more shrill, promising more and more to pick off some extra votes here and there as the polls refuse to budge.

This morning the Conservatives produced a letter signed by 5,000 small businesses who pledge allegiance to their economic plan. Labour is going further than ever before with its plan for massive intervention in the housing market.

John Longworth, the boss of the British Chambers of Commerce and an eminently sensible chap, suggests that as polling day approaches both the main parties are starting to throw promises and pledges around with little consideration for their consequences. I’m not suggesting he is right on the specifics of the policies he is talking about, but the sense he identifies of the parties’ becoming more and more frantic rings true.

“Labour’s proposals for swinging rent controls, regulation of landlords and elimination of stamp duty for first-time buyers simply don’t make sense. These policies will undermine house-building in the private rental market, while stoking demand in the sales market without doing anything to improve supply. “As with the Conservatives’ proposal for Right to Buy for Housing Association tenants, we see a political party proposing to intervene directly in a market in order to win votes, with little thought to the future consequences for individuals, investors, or businesses."

John LongworthDirector-General, British Chambers of Commerce

What next - promises of milk and honey flowing through the land by the end of the week?

A decade in captivity

Newsnight speaks to Ariel Castro's victims

Kirsty Wark

Newsnight Presenter

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus being interviewed

Glasgow airport lounge empty of the usual gaggle of MPs on a Monday morning. They are probably all rehearsing the latest party line on deals, (Newsnight will have exclusive polling on this tonight) before they press more flesh.

Today though it not just about politics. In the only British television interview I have been to Cleveland Ohio to speak to two remarkable young women who survived a decade of incarceration, rape, mental abuse and half starvation in a house in the city where they were taken by their kidnapper Ariel Castro.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus tell me what happened to them, about the birth of Amanda’s daughter Jocelyn in captivity and about their miraculous escape. This is a story of the strength of the human spirit, their resourcefulness and never giving up.

Three points on Labour's stamp duty policy

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

Ed Miliband today will say that Labour will make sure first time buyers don't have to pay any stamp duty on houses up to £300,000. Here are three things to remember about it:

1) This overwhelmingly helps people in the South of England. For most first time buyers, this saving will be a relative drop in the ocean of solicitor’s fees and other costs. This chart shows the average amount first time buyers paid in each region for their house [source: ONS] and how much stamp duty they would save under Labour's plans:

Average paid for property by first time buyers

2) It is slightly regressive within the group of first time buyers. In other words, richer first time buyers will make a greater proportionate saving than poorer ones. This chart shows by how much, by house price:

House price chart

3) It probably won't help that many more first time buyers buy a home that they otherwise wouldn't have done. The Conservatives are pointing towards a Government analysis of a similar scheme in 2010 that suggests that there were relatively few first time buyers that bought homes they wouldn't have bought otherwise.