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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

We tried to defy the laws of political gravity

Former Labour minister Alan Milburn dissects Labour's defeat

Just been talking to Alan Milburn - stern and probably sage words for Labour as this contest gets underway proper #newsnight

You can watch the full interview with former Labour MP and minister Alan Milburn here.


Katie Razzall

Newsnight Special Correspondent

Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader, election disappointment
Getty Images

People used to have to listen to them; now they’re just like the rest of us. But for a little longer, Newsnight is interested in the thoughts of ex-MPs (by my reckoning 91 lost their seats in 2015). I’ve met three former backbenchers to find out how they’re coming to terms with rejection by voters, live on national television.

Tomorrow night, a week on from the election that saw them ousted, Newsnight will broadcast my film.

One tells me how he cried in a supermarket this weekend when people commiserated with him. “I feel like a failure”, this Conservative said. He’s tried not to watch the TV; his party’s success makes him feel “even more humiliated”.

Another, who represented a Scottish labour seat, points out there are 200 Labour staffers now unemployed in Scotland. “If a single workforce lost 200 jobs, they might get a taskforce. We get no sympathy at all,” she says.

The most upbeat is the Lib Dem: “I’m used to losing, I've lost before,” he said as he packed up his Commons office, dumping long-expired chesty cough medicine and all his Leveson inquiry files into the bin, while deciding which MP will get his fridge and printer as a parting gift.

It’s a revealing insight into what it’s like to go from hero to zero in one long night.

Getting tough on extremism

Richard Watson, Newsnight Reporter

Counter terrorism police

Much of the groundwork for the proposed new anti-extremism legislation was done in the last coalition government, a well-placed source told me this afternoon.

I’m also told the Liberal Democrats refused to sign it off. This is why the new Conservative government can move so fast now.

Today’s announcement marks the public airing of a private debate that’s been going on in counter-terrorism circles in Whitehall for more than a decade.

“Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?”

That was the question I posed to the fundamentalist preacher Abdur Raheem Green a few years ago in an interview for a long film I made on radicalization.

And with more than 600 mainly young Muslim Brits signing up to the so-called Islamic State’s brutal ideology, who can say we don’t have a massive problem?

The question I asked encapsulates the current debate. Back then, he told me that he was against democracy because it was “incompatible with Islam” but he also told me that he had never supported violence.

There are thousands of radical Muslims living in Britain who would agree. They’d denounce homosexuality and equal rights in similar terms.

So, should we tolerate non-violent extremists in the hope they’ll be a positive influence? Or should we isolate them, or even prosecute them for their “un-British” views?

The government clearly believes that non-violent extremists are very much part of the problem.

Alienation from the principles of democracy and tolerance in Britain is a major concern.

Fifteen years ago, some individuals and groups with quite extreme views received public money because it was thought they had influence.

That changed after the London bombings in 2005 when public attitudes to extremism hardened. It was no longer considered acceptable to effectively offer state endorsement.

Critics will argue that new laws now will further alienate the Muslim population. It is certainly true that the police and MI5 depend on retaining the confidence of the Muslim community here to receive intelligence.

But like much of the population, most British Muslims are sick of extremists with free rein.

One British Muslim cleric I spoke to today said the government should be more radical, not less. After all, preaching intolerance, no matter how it is couched, hardly helps community cohesion.

So, for the government, the time has come to confront the radicals even if their 'justification’ is religious and within the current law.

Essentially, this is a battle of ideas between secular democracy and religious fundamentalism.

The government is saying a softer approach has failed and will cite Syria as evidence for that.

The dangers of pointless secrecy

The civil service keeps crying wolf

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden in a teleconference

I wrote earlier, before the publication of the "black spider memos", about howobsessedsome government departments are about secrecy. I had not anticipated my post would be proved correct so quickly and dramatically.

The government spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep the memos under wraps - a group of letters between Prince Charles and ministers. The only question I can think of is: why? Seriously, why did they bother?

Dominic Grieve, then attorney general,said in 2012 they had to be withheldbecause they were the prince's most deeply held views and their release might imperil the critical notion of royal political impartiality. Utter nonsense.

There is nothing controversial in the documents. Prince Charles had well-founded worrie about the Rural Payments Agency, the Office of Fair Trading and whether troops were ill-equipped in Iraq. These are careful, considered views.

He didn't hector, nor demand. There are one or two things in them - like his recommendation of specific developers and advocacy of badger culls - which aren't scandals, but are perhaps a bit ill-advised.

Mr Grieve's argument for secrecy has been shown up to be absurd.

Freedom of information tribunals see this all the time. Officials lose or find documents at opportune times. They lie about their importance. The mundane is routinely described as too sensitive for mere members of the public to grasp.

This secrecy comes at a cost. Suppose I were given a document by an official from a sensitive part of government. And suppose I were to receive an official request not to publish? What should I do? Certainly, I should listen to their case.

After all, a responsible journalist has to take the potential harm of some types of disclosures into account. But a responsible journalist also has to remember when their sources are unreliable. And the senior civil service cries wolf all the time.

When there is the next Snowden-style leak, say, do senior civil servants expect to be taken seriously when they tell reporters that it would be very damaging to publish? 

And then there were three

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Andy Burmham

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, hasjust confirmedhe will run to be the next Labour leader.

It's not a surprise - he has been working the party circuit for a long time and is well-liked by members.

But he has to show he can persuade on more than the NHS and safe Labour territory. But this bid has been on the cards for a long time, he may well have policies ready to go that could surprise.

We now know he and the other candidates will find out their fate on September 12.

I've also been talking to Alan Milburn today who has some stern, and quite possibly sage advice for the party.

He thinks the party should be looking for a leader who is willing to make the party feel uncomfortable.

The party has to build a coalition like Blair and Thatcher; looking beyond its core vote which the party so disastrously focused on this campaign.

Milburn also says the leader can't be "tainted by the past", which by implication excludes Cooper and Burnham.

He says this has to be an "inflexion point" - where the party's whole approach has to change, not just its leader.

The art of political persuasion

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

For those of you not who are not avid readers of theBristol Post, a man in Patchway in South Gloucestershire has been given formal notice of prosecution for painting a rather provocative mural of David Cameron strangling a nurse during the election campaign.

"I've had a notice of prosecution," pensioner Tony Davis told the Bristol Post. "If you are a commercial premises you can advertise anything, but if you are a private premises, you are restricted to a size of 2 feet by 3 feet. But this applies to hoardings — not something that is painted on the wall like mine is, and also my question is — what exactly am I meant to be advertising?"

Here is the offending mural (dimensions: 30ft x 10ft). You make your own mind up.

Mural of David Cameron strangling a nurse
Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Associated Press

For the record, Filton and Bradley Stoke, the constituency which contains Patchway, was an easy Conservative hold at the election. Indeed, there was a 3.1% swing from Labour to the Tories.

Single parents and the Tories

A worrying trend among the good employment data

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Mother with child

Today's employment data brought fresh good news for the Conservatives. Their record on reducing the Jobseekers' Allowance claimant count was one of the great achievements of the latter end of the Coalition Government and perhaps one of the central reasons why David Cameron is now presiding over a majority Conservative Government. That trend continued today.

But, looking at some of the granular detail of the employment data, there is a different, more worrying trend of which I had not been previously aware. It came in a release today from the DWP which showed the claimant count for single parent families since 2005.

Look at the chart below which shows the percentage of the overall claimant count (which has dropped like a stone in the past few years) which is made up of single parents.

Chart showing percentage of claimants that are single parents

Perhaps you might be thinking that there has been an increase in the overall number of single parent families to account for this. Not so. Here is the chart showing the trend in single parent households over the same time period.

Chart showing number of single parent families since 2005

It may be there is some kind of structural change at play here that I'm not aware of. But, on the face of it, it does look like that there has been a steep proportional rise in the number of single parents out of work since the Great Crash, even though the overall employment trend is going in the right direction.

Certainly single parents are a sensitive issue for the Conservatives. In his recent interview with David Cameron, Evan played him the clip of Peter Lilley at party conference in 1992 where single mothers were on his "little list" of problems in the benefits system. The party has, as the Prime Minister said then, moved on considerably in their rhetoric since then. In 2002, David Willetts, at that time the party's Work and Pensions spokesman, declared that their "war on single parents" was over.

But the chart above suggests that this is an area which seems to need quite serious action.

UPDATE: A helpful reader has solved the puzzle. The rise reflects a gradual shift of single parents from Income Support to JSA. Details here.

The £400,000 bill for failing to keep Charles memos secret

Chris Cook, Policy Editor, tweets

Prince Charles lobbied on behalf of the Patagonian toothfish and asked about Royal Navy involvement…

Charles lobbied govt over securing heritage linked to Scott and Shackleton expeditions…

Charles lobbied govt over securing heritage linked to Scott and Shackleton expeditions…

Slightly baffled that he thinks Caterham Barracks was a sensitive redevelopment…

Slightly baffled that he thinks Caterham Barracks was a sensitive redevelopment…

So the big story is that Charles likes the Patagonian toothfish. The government spent £400,000 to keep that secret. Bravo, @HeadUKCivServ.

Criticism over Iraq resources is serious, but not exactly out of consensus nor political. He's going to be commander in chief...

We spent public money to avoid the revelation that our future king worries about the army and Duke of Cornwall frets over the countryside.

Labour: fighting to remain relevant

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna
Labour leadership candidate Chuka Umunna

Waiting outside Labour's party headquarters with other hacks, I can't help wondering if the party's biggest problem of all is whether or not they can make themselves feel remotely relevant in this new political world.

Whatever the timing of the race, whoever stands, (in the next twenty four hours I expect the two best known candidates, Cooper and Burnham, to join the contest) making it feel like it matters is an enormous task.

They have fewer seats than in the last five years. The Conservatives have a majority few expected, so they will dominate Parliament for good or for ill in a way they have not for decades.

Labour needs to choose a leader to fight a rival as yet unknown because David Cameron is off before the next general election.

And Labour has an awful lot of talking to do before they figure out what they want to portray to the public; before they can set about the business of trying to get any new backers on board.

The danger is that the party spends so long talking to itself that the public, that wasn't interested in what the party had to say last week, turns off for years.

Trouble brewing over Human Rights Act?

James Clayton, Newsnight Producer

The European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights

I have been ringing round a lot of Tory eurosceptics over the last few days. What's surprising is that they're really not spoiling for a fight with Cameron. They're ecstatic to have a referendum and ecstatic to have a Tory government. There is a lot of bonhomie towards Cameron - particularly over Europe.

Contrary to media reports it’s the Conservative policy to introduce a British Bill of Rights, and in doing so scrapping the Human Rights Act, that has got some Conservatives going. The policy is designed to make the Supreme Court in the UK, well, Supreme. There is also talk of the UK pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights if the Council of Europe rails against the plans.

It's important to mention that no MPs - as yet - have said they are going to vote against the Government. But there are at least five MPs - Edward Garnier, Geoffrey Cox, David Davis, Dominic Grieve and Kenneth Clarke who have fairly major reservations. I also know of MPs, now ministers, who may struggle to vote with the government on this. Considering just seven MPs are needed to defeat the government this is worrying for No.10.

"The policy was buried on page sixty of our manifesto" says Grieve. "The Supreme Court is already supreme in the UK, so that part of the manifesto is just wrong". The former Attorney General says he'll wait to see the detail - perhaps revealed in the Queen's Speech - before deciding whether to support the Government's plans.

All eyes are now turn to the new set of MPs. The liberal strand of the party potentially need only a couple of MPs to have the government over a barrel on this issue. Tom Pursglove, the new MP for Corby, told me yesterday that 2015 intake are "much more independent" than the class of 2010. If that's true the Government could struggle to push this particular policy through - perhaps looking to the DUP for support.

How long should a leadership election be?

Lessons from history as Labour pick their new leader

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Much of the debate surrounding the Labour leadership election has been whether they should go for a short or a long campaign. The former has the advantage of not letting the new Tory government seize the political initiative over the summer, while the latter allows the party to have a full and proper diagnosis of why they lost the election before prescribing the solution.

It has been reported today that the new leader will be announced on 12th September.

How does this time frame compare with recent practice among the main parties?

Have a look at this table and chart.

Table of leadership elections since Margaret Thatcher
Leadership elections since Margaret Thatcher
Bar chart of leadership contests

I've included the 1995 Tory leadership contest when John Major resigned as leader to take on John Redwood, in case you were wondering why he is included twice.

What, if anything, does this tell us about "best practice" in leadership elections? In all honesty, you can take whatever lesson you want. The long Tory leadership election of 2005 is taken as a model of how a party should thrash out its future direction before choosing their man, while the long transition between Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy also served the party well. On the other hand, the quite short contest which ended with Tony Blair becoming Labour leader in 1994 didn't seem to do him or the Labour Party much harm.

In terms of omens for the Labour Party, the contest will be more or less the same as the one which Ed Miliband won and only slightly longer than the one in which Neil Kinnock was victorious.

Membership bounces

Do they pay?

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

Labour are heralding more than 20,000 new members since close of polls last thursday.

The Lib Dems more than 10,000.

Losing elections, perhaps surprisingly, seems to have the effect of spurring people into signing up to political parties. Just ask the SNP whose membership soared to over 100,000 after Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom.

But what does this actually achieve? Is there any relationship at all between party membership and winning elections? Here's a chart of membership of the (formerly) three largest parties from the House of Commons Library:

Membership of political parties since 1928
BBC/HOC library

Once you get past the incredible decline in membership overall, it's not obvious that members help is it? Note that the Conservatives appeared to be in decline in the run up to 2010 when they did rather well in the election.

But perhaps the effect is more indirect? Membership subscriptions help fund the parties right? The Lib Dems sometimes talk about how they can't rely on funding from big hedge fund donors (I would add that this isn't entirely true) or the unions. So lets have a look at their latest accounts (from 2013):

Lib Dem accounts

Just 12% of their income from membership and subscription fees.

Any increase in members is likely to be far outweighed in financial terms by the loss of the short money that comes with losing a lot of MPs.

So the financial impact is relatively small as well.

In fact, there is a fairly well worn argument amongst political scientists that as time goes on, winning elections has become a capital, rather than labour intensive process, what with polling, advertising and professional campaign consultants. If you don't believe it's possible, have a little read of how Silvio Berlusconi launched his party Forza Italia in the early 90s.

So, on the face of it, political party membership has never been less important.

But there's another, less measurable, more anecdotal argument here.

Members are the soul of political parties - they elect their leaders - they knock on doors - in corporate speak, they are the party's ultimate 'brand ambassadors'.

Don't write off the power of the doorstep canvasser. All the evidence suggests it's one of the most powerful ways for parties to communicate their messages to the electorate.

In other words, on the measurables (numbers, financial contribution etc), members are far less significant than they have been in the past. But sometimes it's the intangibles that can matter most.

It's not time to write off the activist yet.

The Curse of the Orange Book

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
Not a lost Sherlock Holmes story, but a three pipe problem for the Lib Dems

Amidst the carnage of the Lib Dem defeat last week, the extraordinary collapse of the group called the “Orange Bookers” has gone fairly unreported. These are the contributors to a famous (by political standards) book published in 2004 called “The Orange Book”.

In ten chapters it set out Liberal (as opposed to Social Democratic) solutions to a wide range of policy problems and, in many ways, became the blueprint for the less left-leaning party that found itself fairly comfortable bedfellows with the Conservatives in 2010.

To be fair, things started to go wrong for the “Bookers” quite a while before last week.

Mark Oaten, who wrote the chapter on "Tough Liberalism: a Liberal Approach to Cutting Crime", resigned from his role as Home Affairs spokesman in 2006 after he was revealed to have had an alleged relationship with a male prostitute. He was running for the leadership of the party at the time.

Susan Kramer, who wrote the chapter on "Harnessing the Market to Achieve Environmental Goals", lost her Richmond Park seat to Zac Goldsmith in 2010.

Chris Huhne, who wrote the chapter on "Global Governance, Legitimacy and Renewal", went to prison in 2013 for perverting the course of justice.

Fast forward to the election and things went from bad to worse and then straight on to worst.

  • David Laws, who wrote two chapters on "Reclaiming Liberalism: a Liberal Agenda for the Liberal Democrats" and "UK Health Services: a Liberal Agenda for Reform", lost his 13,000 majority in Yeovil. His Tory opponent ended up with a majority of over 5,000
  • Ed Davey, who wrote the chapter on "Liberalism and Localism", lost his Kingston & Surbiton seat
  • Vince Cable, who wrote the chapter on "Liberal Economics and Social Justice", lost his Twickenham seat
  • Steve Webb, who co-wrote the chapter on "Children, the Family and the State: a Liberal Agenda", lost in Thornbury & Yate
  • Nick Clegg, who wrote the chapter on "Europe: a Liberal Future", did manage to hold on to his Sheffield Hallam constituency, but was forced to resign as leader after presiding over the near annihilation of his party

To rub salt into the wound, even Charles Kennedy, who as leader wrote the Forward to the Orange Book but who could in no way be described as an “Orange Booker”, could not escape the Book’s miasmic influence, losing his 13,000 majority in Ross, Skye and Lochaber in the SNP rout.

The only people involved not to suffer any obvious adverse effect were the party’s donor and supporter Paul Marshall and also Jo Holland. Both have never held any elected office which they could lose, it must be said.

I suppose the scale of the Lib Dem defeat was so enormous that it’s a bit unfair to suggest that there was any causative link between Orange Bookerdom and defeat. However, it’s worth noting that membership of the Beveridge Group (a group set up in response to the perceived rightward drift of the party) was a slightly better guarantor of success: Alistair Carmichael, Tim Farron and John Pugh all managed to hold on to their seats, making the Beveridge group a powerful element in the new Parliamentary Party (Population: 8)

On a less serious note, the Lib Dem website is currently like a time capsule buried on last Thursday at 10pm. On their people page, Nick Clegg is still listed as leader and Deputy Prime Minister. They don’t have a list of MPs, but rather a list of their 631 candidates. It captures a time full of potential, when defeat was not yet certain and before the full horror started to unfold.

Gnome Secretary?

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

Gnomes figures of political leaders

The prize for the most random email of the day currently goes to a well known DIY store who messaged in to say they had gnomes of each party leader and needed to make sure they went to a good home.

Bank of England 'gloomy on productivity'

Duncan Weldon, Economics Correspondent, tweets

Bank of England sees inflation staying low for a few months and picking up notably around the turn of the year.

Bank of England argues a few months of commodity driven negative CPI should not be confused with a period of damaging deflation.

Carney: one key risk is subdued growth in wages continues for longer than expected.

Carney: productivity is key but not something controlled by central bank.

Bank is becoming gloomier on productivity, emphasising it's importance & saying it's outside of their control. Subtle hint to government?