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  1. Newsnight Live is your one stop shop for post election news and analysis from the Newsnight team, updated throughout the day

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Strike ballots and strike-busting

How much industrial action happens?

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

The Tories are proposing two changes to the law around industrial action. Ballots to strike would need 50% turnout among eligible voters. And a strike affecting key public services would need to be backed by 40% of eligible union members.

That is a serious but not insuperable barrier to striking. How easy it is for each union to get over the line will vary from sector to sector, union to union and strike to strike. It will also depend on whether text or online voting is allowed.

But, to be honest, striking is already pretty rare. Here is the historic tally of days lost to strikes. (Can you spot the General Strike?)

Days lost to striking

Here's a more recent timeline.

Days lost to striking

Drilling into the 2013 and 2014 figures, by the way, also illustrate something quite important. Under the Tory plans, health, transport and school workers would need to meet the higher bar - 40% of members voting for the strike plus a 50% turnout.

These sectors do tend to strike more than average. So the separate rules for crucial public sector workers, if it bites, could affect the sheer volume of striking much more than the proposed blanket rule on turnout.

Days lost to striking
Days lost to striking

A rose by any other name...

Can changing your name change the narrative?

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

TIm Farron
PA/David Jones

It's been reported today that Tim Farron is considering changing the Liberal Democrats' name to "The Liberal Party" if he becomes leader. This produced a good Telegraph article which listed some of the possible problems, including the rather thorny one that a Liberal Party already exists in this country.

The idea of renaming a party does seem to be a fairly common response when people are looking for some kind of adrenaline shot straight into a party's heart.

Some of these have been successful, some not so much. Last year, Tory MP Robert Halfon wrote in the Sun (£) that the Tories should rename themselves the "Workers' Party" with their tree logo being replaced by a ladder. Despite being very persuasive from the backbenches on matters such as fuel duty, this proposal was not taken up by the leadership. Mr Halfon has, however, now been promoted to the Cabinet to promote his Blue Collar Conservatism (see my post below at 1315)

One that sank without trace was that of Andrew Lansley in 2002 (repeated in 2005), who suggested that the answer to the Tories's problems at that stage was to change the party's name to "Reform Conservatives". He wrote:

"So in order better to represent the nature of the Conservative philosophy and the people we are, we should no longer describe ourselves as the Tory party. That may now be anachronistic. We should recognise that we are still Conservatives but changing, renewing, reforming - literally re-forming our party so that we can reform Britain.

"If we are still the Conservative party, we should be open about the fundamental nature of our reform of the party. We should describe ourselves as Reform Conservatives."

Rather more successful was Tony Blair's rebranding of Labour as "New Labour" in 1994. This was not an official renaming, but "New Labour, New Britain" was a ubiquitous slogan until the 1997 election and was probably the most powerful and simple indicator to the electorate at large that Labour had moved on from the travails and failures of the past.

Just to bring things around full circle, the Liberal Party itself arose from what, by the standards of time, amounted to a rebranding when the Whig Party banded together with some free trade Peelites and Radicals. The inaugural election fought by the Liberal Party in 1859 led to them winning with 359 seats. If Mr Farron does indeed manage to reforge the Liberal Party of old, its birth into the world is likely to be a little less successful.

Who will be Labour's next deputy leader?

Richard Crook, Newsnight Producer

Stella Creasy delceared her interest in becoming Labour's deputy leader on Newsnight last night. She certainly proved popular in her Walthamstow constituency, increasing her majority by over 7,000 votes. But she faces stiff competition for the deputy role.

Backbencher Tom Watson has wasted no time with his campaign,coming out all guns blazing with a crowdfunding page that’s already raised nearly £14,000. With strong links to the unions, he’ll be one of the favourites.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson

And in the last hour, the Guardian has reported that former Culture Secretary and Blairite Ben Bradshaw is considering a run. Like Stella Creasy, Mr Bradshaw managed to increase his majority in what was a torrid election night for Labour.

Ben Bradshaw
Ben Bradshaw

No one else has officially declared, but Angela Eagle and Caroline Flint are tipped to run. The former has Commons experience as Shadow Leader of the House in her regular battles with William Hague, while the latter was one of Labour’s chief media performers during the election.

Angela Eagle
Labour Party
Angela Eagle
Caroline Flint
Caroline Flint

Manchester Evening News are reporting that Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk is considering a bid, and Shadow Women and Equalities minister Gloria De Piero could also apparently be persuaded.

Gloria De Piero
Gloria De Piero
Simon Danczuk
Simon Danczuk

Labour's deputy leader serves primarily as a senior party official. Perhaps the most important function is to step in temporarily when the leader either dies or steps down.  Harriet Harman is currently acting leader of the Labour Party having been deputy leader to Ed Miliband.

The influence of deputy leaders can depend on their relationship with either the membership and/or leadership. It offers no guarantee for the position of deputy prime minister. Although John Prescott served as both, Ed Miliband refused to confirm that Harriet Harman would be appointed were he to form a government.

Nor does it offer a clear route to PM - only Clement Atlee has ever made that leap. But it does offer some legitimacy of status, and can’t be removed by the leader should they prove to be an irritation.

Labour elects its deputy leader in the same way as it does its leader. For a good guide on the new, somewhat simpler way that’s done, check out this handy step-by-step guide from the New Statesman.

Scotland and polling

Meanwhile, elsewhere

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

I've been a bit quiet on Newsnight Live lately - but have written elsewhere, if you're longing for my wisdom.

Sweden's ex-PM: Brexit would be a "catastrophe"

Mark Urban, Diplomatic Editor

Carl Bildt
Carl Bridt has warned Newsnight that the UK will 'run up against a wall' on freedom of movement

Now the referendum on EU membership is coming sooner rather than later, Sweden’s former prime minister has warned Newsnight, “Britain leaving would be a geopolitical catastrophe of the first order for the UK, and for the European Union”.

Carl Bildt, who also served as his country’s foreign minister between 2006-2014, has huge experience of the European machine in Brussels and the struggles to achieve consensus among its members.

He describes a vote in 2017 as “practically tomorrow” in terms of trying to get agreement on David Cameron’s agenda. Now there are suggestions that the British Prime Minister might hold the vote even sooner than that.

As for the best negotiating approach, Mr Bildt urges the UK government to build a coalition within the 28 member grouping for deepening the free market, an issue on which they will find plenty of support. “If you go to issues like infringing on the free movement of peoples”, he warns, “then you run up against a wall fairly fast”.

Sweden’s previous government (in which he served) lined up with the UK and some other EU members like Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands on many issues. All can be seen as possible targets for the British, as they try to build support for change.

However many would subscribe to recent advice Germany offered to No. 10: Britain should make its benefit system less attractive to migrants rather than attacking the principle of free movement, widely viewed among EU members as a non-negotiable principle of EU membership. Even in Whitehall few officials believe that the type of reform that would require changes to the EU’s key treaties (and therefore all 28 members to agree) can be achieved in time for the planned UK referendum. Instead Mr Cameron will have to negotiate tweaks to community rules or opt outs, and convince his critics at home that these constitute the better deal that he has sought.

The Conservatives and the BBC: A phoney war?

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

New Culture Secretary John Whittingdale
New Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has responsibility for the BBC

The appointment yesterday of John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary led to some excitable press reporting this morning about a coming Conservative "war" on the BBC: "Cameron's shot across the bows to the BBC" was the Times splash. "Tories go to war on the BBC" read the Telegraph. The Sun saw the move as "payback time" for "decades of BBC bias".

A unnamed Cabinet minister said today that such reports were a bit "over-excited", but there is no denying that there are quite a few previous examples of tension between the Corporation and Conservative governments past.

Having said that, although commercial radio was introduced by Ted Heath's government in 1972 as a way of reducing the influence of the BBC, it was only during Margaret Thatcher's premiership that relations between the Corporation and the government became strained.

Mrs Thatcher had a known antipathy to the BBC, seeing the licence fee as a tax on TV and the BBC itself as politically "suspect". The first skirmish came over a Panorama documentary in November 1979 which some perceived as being overly sympathetic to the IRA. She commented that "The Home Secretary (Willie Whitelaw) believes it is time the BBC put its house in order."

In 1980, she passed over the favourite Mark Bonham-Carter, a perceived liberal, as BBC Chairman and instead appointed Conservative Lord Howard, with fellow Tory William Rees Mogg as his vice-Chairman.

Despite these appointments, in 1981 Thatcher was unhappy with BBC coverage of the riots in Brixton, Moss Side and Toxteth, believing it encouraged copy cat riots in other cities.

During the Falklands Conflict, the Conservative government was angered by what it thought was insufficiently "patriotic" reporting by the BBC, which used neutral expressions such as "British" and "Argentinian" rather than "our" and "the enemy's". In his autobiography, Norman Tebbit said that the BBC should be known as the "Stateless Person's Broadcasting Corporation."

With particular regard to the sinking of the Belgrano, Thatcher herself said: "Only the BBC could ask a British Prime Minister why she took action to protect our ships against an enemy ship that was a danger to our boys."

Relations were not helped when Alisdair Milne, a BBC man determined to protect its independence and licence fee, replaced Ian Trethowan as Director General in 1982. Thatcher apointed Stuart Young, another Tory, to act as his counterweight, even though she later believed that he had been remiss in that role.

In 1985, Home Secretary Leon Brittan, against Thatcher's wishes, agreed to a rise in the licence fee. At the same time, the Peacock Committee, appointed by Brittan, advocated the retention of the licence fee, much to the anger of Mrs Thatcher who had wanted it to call for a commercial BBC.

In 1986, Tebbit again publicly criticised the BBC for what he believed was biased reporting on the bombing of Libya by the USA using British bases.

There was ongoing criticism of individual BBC programmes in the latter part of the 1980s. The 1988 Broadcasting Act, introduced by the government was intended to lead to the commercialisation of the BBC. Thatcher was also loath to renew the Charter in 1990, saying: "I have fought three elections against the BBC and don't want to fight another against it."

When Thatcher fell from power, the war between the government and the BBC became less fierce. Having said that, there were still accusations of bias towards the Labour Party. In 1995, Jonathan Aitken, who was at the time embroiled in sleaze allegations, called the BBC the "Blair Broadcasting Corporation." He was joined by a number of Tory ministers. The focus of many of the attacks was the interviewing style of John Humphreys on the Today Programme.

After losing the election in 1997, Tory-BBC relations became of less moment, although the appointment of Labour party member Greg Dyke as chairman in 1999 raised Tory hackles.

Under David Cameron, the rhetoric towards the BBC softened somewhat. In a speech on the Union in April 2007, he bestowed high praise:

"Another institution we can all be proud of is the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation was founded by a Scotsman and is the most prestigious broadcaster on Earth. People around the world tune into the BBC for news they can trust. The BBC also reminds us of our common culture. Programmes like Doctor Who and Mastermind aren't English or Scottish - they're British."

The biggest policy decision on the BBC taken by David Cameron as prime minister was to agree to a hastily-negotiated licence settlement in 2010. This was, in some ways, a big blow for the BBC, in that it froze the licence fee for six years. On the other hand, some opponents of the Corporation regarded it as a missed opportunity to conduct a proper scope and scale review of the BBC, which (they believed) would have resulted in the BBC's wings being clipped.

We won't have to wait long to see what the new government's intentions are. Negotiations will start shortly and need to be finished before the end of 2016 when the current Charter expires.

Mark Urban interviews Sweden's former PM

“Britain leaving would be a geopolitical catastrophe of the first order for the UK, and for the European Union” @carlbildt tells #Newsnight

A Question of Sport?

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Question of Sport logo

The first media performance of Tracey Crouch as new Minister for Sport will be worth watching. It's been a predictable rite of passage for every new holder of that office to be given a light grilling on their knowledge of their brief.

I've always thought that this was slightly unfair: we do not habitually ask the new Science minister to explain Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, nor do we ask the Armed Forces Minister to strip an SA80 rifle.

Regardless, although I say that the grilling is predictable, it clearly was not predicted by two recent holders of the post. In 2001, upon his appointment, Richard Caborn had this exchange with Clare Balding:

Five Live: Can you name the four players involved in today's semi-finals of the Stella Artois?

Caborn: Henman. I can't, no.

Answer: Henman, Ferreira, Sampras, Hewitt

Five Live: Can you name three jockeys who will be riding at Royal Ascot this week?

Caborn: No. I know nothing about horse racing at all.

Answer: Could have said a whole host of names including Frankie Dettori, Pat Eddery and twins Michael and Richard Hills.

Five Live: Who is the current England cricket coach?

Caborn: The Aussie?

Answer: Duncan Fletcher, from Zimbabwe.

Five Live: Can you name three European golfers playing in the US Open?

Caborn: Montgomerie ... Europeans? I haven't been watching the golf at all.

Answer: There are a lot of Europeans playing, including Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia, Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington etc.

Five Live: Who's captain of the Lions?

Caborn: Don't know that one either - I'm terrible this morning.

Answer: Martin Johnson

In attempt to save face the minister added: "I'm more bothered about getting young kids off the estates - kids who are kicking cans around at the moment - and actually into sport, that's what I'm about."

Then there was the perhaps even worse fate of Helen Grant in 2007. Watch here for the full cringe-inducing horror.

As it happens, Ms Crouch probably doesn't have too much to worry about. She is an FA-qualified football coach and a keen participant herself. I could not possibly comment on those wags on Twitter saying that her support for Spurs shows that she knows nothing about sport.

Hunger for the Labour Leadership

Neil Breakwell

Newsnight Deputy Editor

Harold Wilson

What is it about the Labour Party and food? They’re obsessed by it.

Their history form Old to New is a gastronomic journey, each stage marked by a different course of symbolic taste.

Beer and sandwiches in No 10 was what Harold Wilson used to soothe relations between the political class and his union paymasters. The "prawn cocktail offensive" was deployed by New Labour in the early 90s to win trust and backing from the financial sector. The leadership deal between Blair and Brown was famously done not in the corridors of power but over dinner at an Islington restaurant. And then there’s Ed Miliband's recent fortunes and a bacon sandwich.

The hummus test

Last night on Newsnight, Neal Lawson from the left wing group Compass and the (almost) declared deputy leadership candidate Stella Creasy discussed how to renew the heart and soul of the Labour Party. Neal suggested that it was not to be found outside Waitrose offering free hummus. Stella maintained that no one (yet) was talking about dips.

Champagne arrives at Downing Street

Tory history, by contrast, is a wetter affair - from Alan Clark’s love of claret (no bottle less than £100 was worth drinking) to what brand of champagne is waiting on the delivery man’s trolley at the gates of Downing Street (or banned from party conference). Yesterday it was two boxes of Bollinger.

So what of the new brooms? In Desert Island Discs style, I thought we might learn something from knowing what the potential Labour leadership candidates consider their favourite food. So I’ve asked them.

I’m not expecting quick responses. Heck, this will need some careful calibration by their as yet unnamed campaign teams. Do not, for example, expect Chuka Umunna to say he enjoys anything organic. Liz Kendall will equally be wanting to reach for something more Greggs than gourmet. Andy Burnham, on the other hand, might want to appeal to those aspirational voters critics say the party failed to reach last week. Expect him to go for something with a continental flavour. Yvette Cooper can probably suggest something homemade now that Ed Balls has got a bit of time on his hands.

If I receive responses, I'll get back to you with the results after lunch. I’m off for chateaubriand with John Whittingdale. And a nice chianti.

The Blue Collar Blues

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

There has been a lot of talk about how David Cameron's Cabinet Reshuffle was designed to promote advocates of "Blue Collar Conservatism" like Sajid Javid and Robert Halfon.

But getting the votes of who statisticians call DEs and who most people would call the "working classes" (although the E class includes some pensioners and unemployed) is a real problem for all of what, before the Lib Dem collapse, used to be called the three main parties.

Let's look at their performance in this area since October 1974:

Chart of how DE voters voted
Chart of how DE voters voted by percentage share of the vote

The 2015 figures are taken from Lord Ashcroft's post-election survey and so should be taken with a pinch of salt. Here's the chart of the same data:

Chart showing the vote share of the DE social class since 1974
Share of the DE social class since 1974

A few points:

  • If the Ashcroft poll is correct, the Tory High Command will be disappointed that their vote share among DEs has sunk towards the level of their 1997 landslide defeat.
  • The Labour Party is experiencing a long and seemingly systemic decline in their DE vote which began in 1997.
  • The total share of the DE vote seized by the three main parties has collapsed to a low of just 65%, again, assuming the Ashcroft poll is correct.
  • There are two big beneficiaries of this: first, UKIP, who got 20% of the DE vote (just below the Tories); second, the SNP, who hoovered up the traditional Labour vote to achieve those remarkable swings last Thursday.

A big challenge awaits the Tories and Labour on this front. The Tories need to push their DE support back up to the 30% level if they are to achieve the sustained electoral success of the party between 1979 and 1992. Labour urgently need to stem the flow of DE people away from them if they are to stand any chance of retaking their former Scottish heartlands AND head off a possible similar collapse to UKIP in 2020 in their Northern strongholds.

Chuka joins the race

And then there were two

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Chuka Umunna speaking at Labour conference
Will Chuka Umunna be leader by Labour's next conference?

This morning Chuka Umunna confirmed that he is running for the leadership of the Labour party. He posted a message to Facebook, recorded in a windy Swindon street, saying he wanted to lead a big team so that Labour could win North, South, East and West and in towns like Swindon. His announcement is here.

He joins Liz Kendall, the only other candidate who has so far gone public with her plans to run, but within days Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham are expected to join the race. Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, is highly likely to go for it too. But don't be surprised if other potential candidates emerge. Last night neither the party's energy spokesperson Caroline Flint or Mary Creagh would rule it out.

The two issues preoccupying lots of Labour MP's right now are how long the contest should be, and whether or not the party should skip a generation for its next leader and look to someone like Umunna or Kendall. One senior figure told me "Andy and Yvette have both got too much baggage".

A short race would benefit candidates like Burnham and Cooper no question - they already have huge name recognition among the party membership. Burnham in particular has spent a lot of time pressing the party flesh in the last couple of years. They might both struggle to shed their associations with the past, and past defeats, but their experience could help too.

A longer race would give lesser known candidates more of a chance to cut through. The model of David Cameron's rise from an unknown contender to the heir apparent of the Tory party in 2005 is being cited by some.

Labour will decide at least the timetable at a meeting of its ruling body tomorrow. Compared to the bigger job of finding a new leader and a new purpose, deciding the timetable of the contest is a doddle.

Bye bye licence fee?

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

There is a quote circulating from John Whittingdale, the new Culture Secretary, in which he describes the license fee as worse than the poll tax. Some people have suggested this could mean the end of the license fee.

It's worth looking up the second half of that quote - from comments he made to a Bafta event last year - which are a bit less strident:

“I don’t think there is any serious possibility of the licence fee going this charter renewal,” he said. “I think in the longer term we are potentially looking at reducing at least a proportion of the licence fee that is compulsory and introducing an element of choice.”

Whittingdale added: “In the long term it is unsustainable. When I say unsustainable in the long term, I’m talking about over 20, 50 years … I don’t like the idea of a licence fee, I would prefer to link it perhaps to some other tax, and I think decriminalisation is almost certain to happen."