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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

Media, politicians, and Russell Brand

Esra Dogramaci


Earlier today Newsnight hosted a Google Hangout which featured on the YouTube’s own UK election spotlight page

The conversation focused on youth apathy and disengagement in the voting process. Why vote, and does voting matter? In the group was Gary Turk, a 28 year old filmmaker who rose to fame last year with the viral video "Look Up" with over 50 million views, encouraging people to move beyond the insular world of life on their mobile phones. He recently also produced another video encouraging people to vote in this election.

So what were the main factors disengaging the youth vote? All participants cited non representation in the political process – from media covering topics pandering to politicians and politicians in turn pandering to an older electorate more likely to vote. Without appropriate youth representation, young people were less likely to feel engaged and thus likely to vote. Similarly, Turk suggested that voting also needed to evolve to meet today’s digital reality, namely online voting.

Whilst politicians may be perceived as “just posh people in suits,” celebrities like Russell Brand appealed to the youth vote because as Turk suggests, even though people are more educated, “they’re also more distracted, that’s why they’re more interested in hearing from celebrities..they’ll listen to people because they have a reason to believe in it (the issues) themselves.”

As for predictions, there was a slight consensus towards Ed Miliband, but more importantly, that if all youth did vote, it would be enough to cause a swing vote.

Watch the highlights here or the full hangout here


SNP hits 50

Chris Hanretty

Graphic of Newsnight Index
BBC Newsnight
Tonight's Newsnight Index

The changes in the Newsnight Index are gradual. They're designed to be. A forecast that reacts dramatically to each day's polls is a bad forecast.

But that doesn't mean that we can't mark significant milestones. In tonight's Index, the SNP is forecast to win 50 seats for the first time.

Incredibly, that number - a gain of forty-four seats - might seem like small potatoes compared to some projections which have the SNP winning all but one or two Scottish seats.

But the Newsnight Index is small "c" conservative: it assumes (on the basis of the analysis of past elections) that parties partly revert to their result in the last election. Scottish Labour might have been banking on something like this. Yet even with this assumption, the SNP are close to sweeping the board.

The new hope for Labour in Scotland must now be that tactical voting saves one or two high profile MPs. Today's Ashcroft poll of East Renfrewshire showed that Jim Murphy was "only" three percentage points behind the SNP's candidate, rather than the nine point deficit found in April. This now counts as good news for the party, since there was some evidence that Conservative voters were "loaning" their votes to Murphy to prevent an SNP victory.

The election in Scotland has already produced some incredible scenes. If the leader of Scottish Labour is re-elected thanks only to the votes of those who identify as Conservatives, it would just be one more to add to an already-long list.

Miliband will struggle to form a government if Labour is not biggest party, warns McConnell

Former First Minister says public perception will be that party with most seats has won

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Lord McConnell
Lord McConnell says a leader of second party who tried to be PM would be "in trouble"

The former Labour First Minister, Jack McConnell, has warned that public opinion might not accept the next government unless it is led by the party with the biggest number of seats.

Lord McConnell told BBC Newsnight that if David Cameron wins more seats, even without a majority, "the public perception will be that he has won" and "anyone who tries to get around that, to get a deal to get a different PM, will be in trouble."

While much of the election campaign has focused on potential deals that Labour or the Conservatives might do in the event that no one wins an overall majority, Lord McConnell says, "general opinion affects what happens in ways that ride over the mechanics.'

Lord McConnell had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in Scotland in 2003, but in 2007 chose not to try and form a coalition even though he had the right to do so as the incumbent, with the SNP winning only one seat more than Labour.

"I was under massive pressure on the Friday night to talk to the Lib Dems and the Tories and try to put together an anti-SNP coalition," he told me. "My view was, even people who hadn't voted for the SNP felt they had won. If we had tried to do anything that went against the grain we would have been in massive trouble."

Lord McConnell warns any party against trying to form a government unless they have the biggest number of seats. He said: "even if Cameron was to lose a few seats, if he still has a few seats more than Labour then public perception will be that he has won. Therefore the SNP argument that everybody else could gang up on him will not work."

He said: "if we get to Friday morning and the sitting Prime Minister who is in Number 10 has won more seats than anyone else he will automatically get the first go and the public will expect him to do that."

In remarks that may prove controversial, given the polls suggest Labour's best chance of governing may well be as the second biggest party with backing from other parties, Lord McConnell said "anyone who tries to get around that, to get a deal to get a different PM will be in trouble."

"If Cameron loses, even by only one or two seats, then all the momentum and pressure shifts to Ed Miliband to try and form a government - and so will public opinion."

He said: "It's less about the constitution, less about the mechanics, it's about how does it feel the next morning?"

Although there have been predictions that coalition negotiations will drag on for several weeks, he suggests the result will be much clearer more quickly, as the public will expect the leader of the party with the biggest number of seats to become Prime Minister. "My view is, we will know by nine o'clock Friday morning - my two personal experiences absolutely back that up."

The Scottish university conundrum

Higher education finance does not work how you'd think

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

I wrote last week about a little-discussed side-effect of the decision to forgo tuition fees at Scottish universities: they're not well off. John McDermott has written up some important and fascinating insights about the effect of the 2008 vote to scrap fees (with John's usual extra insights).

He is drawing on research by an ex-civil servant called Lucy Hunter Blackburn, who makes points that are largely absent from discussion of the Scottish system. Yes, Scotland has no fees. But at what cost?

Ms Hunter Blackburn estimates that spending on income-related grants has halved since 2007 and Scotland now has Europe's meanest student grants. The money has been used, in effect, to help cover the lost fees.

So the cut in fees - usually seen as a progressive policy - has a counterintuitive effect. This graph shows the net effect of the policies, taken together, for people who would have paid the old fee.

You can see that not having to pay the fee is a decent old gain for students from high income families. They never got grants. But for poorer students, the cut in fees is not as big a gain as the cut in their grants.

Effect of abolishing fees
Lucy Hunter Blackburn

John has done a wonderful job explaining his thoughts - I strongly recommend him. I can only add two:

First, students are very concerned across the UK about the cost of living. It comes up all the time. And when you talk to VCs with a good record on widening access, they often point to the importance of making sure students from poorer backgrounds know how they'll pay the bills.

Low grants may be part of the reason why the Scottish system, which charges no fees, is still so awful at getting poor children into university when compared to the £9,000-a-year English one.

For example, the latest official statistics releases from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that only 26.8% of Scottish students have parents from less skilled occupations. The equivalent figure for England is 33.1%.

There must, of course, be other reasons. The Scottish school system must bear some of the blame. It has not gone through the radical transformation that England's went through, kicked off by Kenneth Baker's reforms. These helped the poorest the most.

Second, low grants mean poorer Scottish students can rack up a lot of student debt for maintenance. Over four years, young students can end up with £23,000 - less than an English graduate would expect to owe. But Scotland has a less generous loan repayment terms than England.

Scots have to repay that debt by paying 9% of whatever they earn over £17,335. In England, the equivalent figure is £21,000. And the English system writes off debt after 30 years, not 35 as in Scotland.

So, even if they have less to repay than the English, Scottish graduates face higher monthly bills while they repay in their 20s and may repay for longer. Again, these less generous terms are to save money to avoid the need for fees.

This is yet another example of how student finance is much more complicated than the political rhetoric usually suggests.

The Tory BME Problem (It's bad, but not as bad as it was)

James Clayton, Political Producer

Press Association

One thing you probably haven't heard much of is the importance of the ethnic minority vote (if you can call it such a thing) to the outcome of this election. British Future and Conservative Home found that the Conservatives would have won an outright majority in 2010 if BME (black and minority ethnic) voters had voted in line with the national trend. They emphatically didn't. Only 16% of BME voters voted Conservative.

Compare that to 69% of ethnic minority voters who voted Labour in 2010. Labour's national tally was 29%. To put it another way, the biggest contributory factor in not voting Labour, by a country mile, was being white.

And if you drill into the figures they are even more stark. For example, 86% of people who described themselves as 'Black African' voted Labour in 2010.

Since 2010 the number of ethnic minority voters has increased significantly - one estimate by Migrants Rights Network predicts there will be 500,000 more foreign born voters in this election than five years ago.

These statistics are an electoral horror story for the Tories. As the country becomes more ethnically diverse they simply cannot afford to poll so badly amongst these groups. Hence the electoral overtures from Cameron: "[I believe in a Britain where] you can be Welsh and Hindu and British, Northern Irish and Jewish and British, where you can wear a kilt and a turban, where you can wear a hijab covered in poppies."

So how are they doing? Well the answer is, better.

Newsnight has looked at the raw polling data published by the British Election Study (data from March) which shows that Labour have slowly hemorrhaged votes from BME communities. They are now predicted to get 47% of the BME vote. Conversely the Conservatives are predicted to take 23% of the vote.

The swing also appears to be uniform - "Asian", "Black" and "Mixed" voters are all less likely to vote Labour this time around - albeit from a high base.

But this still isn't good enough for the Conservatives - particularly in London.

Newsnight's pollster Chris Hanretty predicts that six Conservative seats in London could go red due to a, still relatively strong, performance from Labour amongst BME voters:

* Harrow East (55% chance of Lab win; 60% "non-white")

* Ilford North (28% chance of Lab win; 48% "non-white")

* Hendon (95% chance of Lab win; 45% "non-white")

* Brentford and Isleworth (83% chance of Lab win; 42% "non-white")

* Croydon Central (49% chance of Lab win; 39% "non-white")

* Ealing Central and Acton (53% chance of Lab win; 37% "non-white")

Where else are BME voters looking to place their votes? Well 6% for Lib Dems and Greens, but (perhaps surprisingly) 5% of ethnic minority voters are predicted to vote UKIP next week.

3 reasons to be suspicious of economic forecasts

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

a graph

The various political parties have spent weeks telling us how their policies would affect the economy and what they mean for public borrowing and living standards.

City analysts, think tanks and academics have written dozens of reports explaining how those policies would play out in practice.

But for all the confident talk, predicting the future path of the economy is very, very, very difficult.

Here are three things happening right now, which very few economists saw happening in December.

1. In the first quarter of this year the Eurozone looks to have grown more than the UK or USA. That really should be filed under "seriously unexpected".

2. Russia last night cut interest rates in order to weaken the rouble. Yes, the same Russia that last year was desperately hiking rates to support a currency that many thought was destined to continue plummeting.

3. The price of oil has rallied by almost 20% since January the 1st. It's up almost 30% from its late January lows.

When anyone confidently tells you what will happen in the next few months or explains what policy xyz would do to growth or the deficit, try to remember those three points above.

Sunflowers, slogans and selfies: campaigning with Boris Johnson

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Boris Johnson with Laura Kuenssberg

It’s a tiring old business, political campaigning. After Newsnight’s trip on Harriet Harman’s pink bus around London marginals at the start of the week, we close the week with a tour of other tight seats with the London Mayor, wannabe MP, and let’s face it, wannabe Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And his appearance brings out strange reactions. One woman, in the west London suburb Acton rushed up to give him a sunflower. An elderly man in Hampstead launched at him about waiting times in the NHS. A young worker on the tube very politely challenged him over zero hours contracts. Countless drivers just shouted, “Boris, Boris, Boris” out of their car windows as they sped past. And you couldn’t make it up - in Hampstead, one of London’s wealthiest areas, one jogger ran past shouting, “Buller, buller, buller” – the chant of the Bullingdon club, the Oxford society that he, David Cameron, and George Osborne were members of. Although Johnson later said he was sure the man was shouting, ‘Bollards, bollards, bollards’ as he posed beside yes, a set of bollards, the local Conservative candidate had campaigned for. Almost everyone wanted a selfie, and he dutifully posed for each and every one. The actual candidates in the seats we visited looked both delighted, but also realistically a bit overshadowed by their, at least political, celebrity guest.

His political friends and rivals, including the Prime Minister, must be beyond envy at the way he attracts people to him, and how they feel they can approach him. Two things stood out though. It is a not a universal love. Members of the public appear just as ready to challenge him as celebrate him – even though they’ll ask for a picture afterwards. He was asked tough questions by some members of the public, and berated by others - ‘this is the most rubbish government ever’ shouted one woman in a very swish Twickenham deli. He was confronted by another demanding he take the Conservative party back to being ‘proper, not these Cameroons’.

And while yes, he would say this wouldn’t he? Johnson claims that at last the Conservatives are seeing the late swing to them that will see them returned to government. That is of course what suits his own ambition. This close to next week’s vote, Johnson wasn’t in the mood to discuss his own leadership ambitions, claiming he didn’t want to waste his breath on anything other than a Conservative majority. However, in this campaign he has finally been open about his own ambition to lead the Conservative party, but he doesn’t want to start that in opposition. The ideal for him? He won’t say it, but a couple of years as a minister for something or other, in a Cameron government, to show more of the country outside London he can be a serious politician. Then as and when David Cameron exits, his moment magically comes. But with even the next seven days so unpredictable, that’s a plan few would take a bet on now.

Ed's appeal to Scottish voters

Negative reaction on Voteworm

Every week for the Election Late Show, we've had Comres poll a random weighted sample of 500 British adults usingVotewormtechnology, to show a second by second response to the clips of the week. On Question Time last night, Ed Miliband promised no deals with the SNP and appealed to Scots to vote Labour. The response nationally was net neutral. The response in Scotland...well see for yourself. The graph plunges into the red and stays there. Cameron and Clegg fared little better if that's any consolation to Ed Miliband.

You can see all our Voteworm results on the final Election Late Show with James O'Brien, tonight at 11pm

The red line tracking Ed Miliband plunges into the negative
Voteworm response to Ed Miliband from Scottish voters.

Why the audience won the debate

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

David Cameron faces the audience

Let me be honest for a brief moment: secretly, there is nothing a political interviewer fears more than a genuinely good audience question. The reason we exist, you see, is because generally – broadly – we aim to be the genuinely good audience question. We want to ask exactly the thing that people are shouting at home. Just before they throw a shoe at the TV. If the people in the audience are too shy, or too long winded or too polite or too boring then we step in. And that works just fine. That’s what we’re for.

But when the audience are as good as they were last night in Leeds then – well, we get a bit nervy . So I thought I would look at why it worked so well:

1) They genuinely knew their stuff. When an audience member starts telling you eight countries are about the leave the EU, it’s genuinely hard for a politician not to sound arrogant and patronising if they disagree. But for the most part, the Leeds lot knew their policies, their numbers and their politicians. It showed.

2) They weren’t afraid. They were bouncing off the walls with confidence and things to say. There was no deference. There was a lot of “Alright David, y’alright?”. There were direct accusations of lying (I was shocked). There were contradictions, they called them out on fatuous comments (“We’re nothing like Greece, don’t be stupid”). They spoke their mind. Which brings me to…

3) They were Yorkshire. I know Yorkshire. I’m a Sheffield girl. They hate faff up there. And indecision. And anything that sounds oblique. The Sheffield reply to “Do you want a sweet?” is not “Yes please I would rather like one”. It’s “Go on then”. That sums it up a bit for me. No please, no thank you. You just get on with it.

As a result of a great audience – smartly handled – the whole show worked a treat. David Dimbleby, now right beside me on the election set rehearsal - just told me they were picked in exactly the same way as every Question Time audience. They were pre-interviewed to assess their areas of interest and political background to ensure balance – but there were more of them last night. Two thousand people applied to be in the audience. One hundred and fifty got lucky. That lot were one in a million. I salute whoever brought them together. And I admire the questioners for their brevity (never to be underestimated), their engagement and for bringing the whole show to life.

But last night also worked for another reason. It worked because the politicians engaged back. I looked at Nick Clegg taking on accusations of lying and hypocrisy and I thought he sounded a bit shirty at first. Don’t you realise – I felt like saying - these are real people. They must be treated with kid gloves. Then I realised what he was doing. He was actually talking to them. Properly arguing with them. Not placating. And I felt this huge surge of relief. I suddenly realised how sick I am of the blinking televangelist style politician. The over familiarity, the kind who soothes and reassures because they’re all so scared of telling a voter they might be wrong. I want to shove poor Joe the plumber and his army of first name offspring down the nearest loo.

So maybe there has to be a new deal. If Real People want Real Politicians, there has to be give and take. This audience weren’t afraid to ask straight questions. And finally we saw politicians who weren’t scared to argue back.

Another blow for Labour in Scotland

This time from Lord Ashcroft

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

Lord Ashcroft has launched what he seems to be indicating as his last set of constituency polls.

They're an interesting bunch. But the most striking numbers - as ever - are in Scotland.

In 2010 Jim Murphy got 25,987 votes - over half of the votes cast in his constituency of East Renfrewshire. The Conservatives were in second place - and the SNP were in fourth place with 4,535.

Ashcroft's poll shows the SNP ahead - 39% to Labour's 36%.

This is remarkable stuff. There were only four constituencies in Scotland where Labour picked up more votes last time.

But there's more.

Firstly, the sheer ferocity of the campaign being fought there. 86% of voters say they've heard from Labour and 81% from the SNP. Comparisons for this sort of data are hard to come by, but this is a high contact number by any measure.

Secondly, the evidence of tactical voting. Only 56% of Conservative voters there say they would be unwilling to vote Labour there (as opposed to near 80% in English constituencies). And 1 in 5 of the people that told the pollsters they would vote Labour said they voted Conservative in 2010.

I've spoken to SNP insiders about this over the last couple of weeks and their instinct was that whilst Douglas Alexander was probably toast, Jim Murphy might just hang on.

They'll be delighted with these numbers. There has been an uptick in Labour's vote since the last poll here, but they're going to need a big last week surge, or last minute bump in Jim Murphy's personal vote. All that's left now for the SNP is to turn out their supporters on the day. And with 100,000 members in Scotland, it would be brave to bet against them.

Do you know your party logos?

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

One of the delights of British democracy is the splendid array of parties standing, sometimes in just a handful of seats.

Below is a collage of some of their party logos. I have eschewed the too obvious ones and also ones that have the party name prominently featured.

How many can you guess? If the answer is more than three, then hats off to you. Answers are below (no peeking).

Party logos

From left to right:

1st row: Class War, Communist Party of Britain, Mebyon Kernow, Pirate Party, Communities United Party

2nd row: Lincolnshire Independents, The Workers Party, Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol, Whig Party, Patriotic Socialists

3rd row: Vapers in Power Party, Al-Zebabist Nation of Ooog, Children of the Atom, Christian Movement for Great Britain, Keep it Real Party

4th row: Land Party, Movement for Active Democracy (MAD), Restore the Family for Children's Sake, Birthday Party, Magna Carta Party,

5th row: Roman Party. Ave, UK Progressive Democracy Party, War Veteran's Pro-Traditional Family Party, Wessex Regionalists, Democratic Unionist Party

The coming squeeze on schools

Teachers' pay cuts or redundancies

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

A very unkind and wholly true observation made about me by colleagues past and present is that, as a former education correspondent, more conversations with me pass through "but what does this mean for schools, colleges and universities" than is strictly helpful.

John Tomsett, a York head teacher, has written about why education funding is not on the agenda. He makes a good point. In the rush to find out what's new, we have overlooked the parties commitments for meagre school spending.

The place to start is with a note by Luke Sibieta of the IFS, who is basically the oracle on school finance. The table below shows how different bits of the budget got squeezed and shielded (full report here) in the past parliament.

IFS spending table

If you look at that table, you can see why I used to get annoyed when people said school spending was "protected". It wasn't: only something called the "schools budget" was. But this excluded sixth form spending, which got cut by 10%. It excluded capital - which covers the cost of actual, physical schools.

So I don't think that's school spending as most voters would understand it. This partial coverage also means that different parts of our system end the parliament with varying degrees of slack. Sixth forms, of course, are already struggling. There is, furthermore, a major backlog of repair and rebuilding work.

So what's coming down the track?

First, a Grande Armée of children. A vast horde of them. We are going to be knee-high in knee-high people for a bit. And they're not evenly distributed. London is expected to see "a 14% increase in primary school pupils and a 3% increase in the secondary school population between 2012 and 2017".

Pupil numbers

They're going to need classrooms. Or at least a warehouse. Or a net. The capital budget is going to need to cover a lot of new capacity.

Second, schools have been spared some cost pressures in their current (day-to-day) budgets because teachers have taken the strain personally in their pay packets. So, as Luke says: "the school workforce has not fallen since 2010. Indeed, the number of teachers has held steady at 450,000 and the number of teaching assistants has actually increased".

But you can't keep squeezing pay. And, Luke estimates that if you freeze pay in real terms and take pension changes into account, costs would rise by 11.7% in nominal terms between 2014-15 and 2019-20. This increases to 16.0% if schools follow the OBR’s assumptions for likely growth in public sector earnings.

So how much money are the parties pledging? Well, the Tories propose a 7% nominal increase from 2016-20 - a cash-terms freeze per pupil. Labour, meanwhile, proposes a 7.7% nominal increase by keeping the budget rising in line with inflation.

The big differences between the two main parties are about which budgets they mean: the Tories are talking about the 4-16 budget. Labour is talking about the 3-19 budget. So while schools may not see much between them, people running early years and sixth form should see much bigger differences.

It is worth noting that the Liberal Democrats are a bit different: a rise in line with prices and pupils. That equates to a roughly 15% rise - so they can almost cover the OBR's assumptions about rising school costs. They have also gone for a full age range.

As John Tomsett notes, the effect will vary a lot by your geography, too - different parts of the country have different amounts of financial slack. Still, we can say this: a squeeze is inked in, whoever wins. And the next parliament could be tougher on day-to-day school spending than the last.

Leadership challenges

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

Labour leadership contenders await result at Labour Party Conference in 2010
The Labour leadership contenders in 2010

One of the toughest moments in last night's debate was the one Ed Miliband faced when asked about the deficit and Labour's spending last time round.

I was talking to people close to the Labour leadership contest of 2010 - who revealed something that makes a lot of sense in the context of last night.

When Gordon Brown lost the general election in May 2010, the Labour Party, as I understand, were determined not to rush into the choosing of a new leader. They didn't want to be bounced. They had, don't forget, that rather complicated electoral procedure involving party members, PPCs and the unions. And so it was they allowed for a lengthy contest that took them around the country and pretty much stretched from May until the end of September.

What they fear however is that during those crucial few months, when the Conservatives were bedding in with Lib Dems at their side, the "over spending" narrative started to emerge - and there was no one really there to rebut it. They were too busy touring the country, debating each other for the top job.

It's only with hindsight they're starting to wonder if those first few months post-Brown and post-Liam Byrne's note wouldn't have been better spent fighting the "loose economy" charges and making sure that history as they would see it - wasn't being rewritten whilst they had their eye off the bigger game.

On the road with Boris

Newsnight's Chief Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg and producer Jess Brammar are on the campaign trail today with Boris Johnson.

Man jogs past shouting what sounds like "Buller Buller Buller!". @bbclaurak asks Boris if Bullingdon reference, he insists it was "bollard!"

This is what local campaigns sometimes come down to - bollards the local candidate campaigned for 2 years for

This is what local campaigns sometimes come down to - bollards the local candidate campaigned for 2 years for

Boris campaigning on the mean streets of Hampstead this morning