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  1. The Labour leadership contest, deflation, and Prince Charles meets Gerry Adams

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Spending cuts and election success

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Chart showing Change in Government spending over Parliaments
House of Commons Library

What is the correlation between how much a Government spends and whether it goes on to win the next election?

The chart above suggests, well, that there is no correlation. It shows the change in current government spending over Parliaments since 1951.

John Major's government between 1992 and 1997 increased spending more than the Thatcher/Major government between 1987 and 1992. The former got whacked, the latter got re-elected. Harold Wilson's government between 1966 and 1970 spent around the same as the Thatcher Government of 1979-83: the former got turfed out, the latter got re-elected in a landslide. And, as we have seen, David Cameron was unique in modern history for not just cutting current government spending but also getting rewarded with a majority.

The chart does also present a challenge to the candidates contesting the Labour leadership. Look at those two spikes in spending between 2001 and 2010. This is the period when Labour stand accused of over-spending. Both of them can be explained away: the first by the need to pump needed resources into public services like the NHS; the second by the need to respond to the economic crash. But, set against the historic trend of government spending, they do stand out as exceptional. 

A brief digression

A special adviser's trip down memory lane

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Giles Wilkes is now a leader writer at the FT. He was, though, once special adviser to Vince Cable, when he was business secretary. 

Today, Mr Cable's successor, Sajid Javid, has announced a blitz on red tape. 

This is not a novel idea. It may even be part of the business secretary's swearing-in process. So Mr Wilkes treated his twitter followers to a quick excursion through his experiences in the field.

In 4years as Special Advisor, @SteveHiltonGuru and his Red Tape Challenge provided more moments of exquisite satirical lunacy than any other

I will never forget listening with delight to Steve and A Certain Cabinet Minister debate whether to lift the ban on inflammable nighties.

(One of the LibDem Spads had herself suffered An Inflammable Nightie Incident many years before. Awkward)

None of the ideas stemmed from the Red Tape Challenge website. 90 off the public suggestions were about regulations they actually like

That should say 90%. The relatives of the people killed in industrial accidents were particularly eloquent

In the end Steve commissioned a special entry from Mr Beecroft, a donor whom they knew had a beef against employment rights. That went well

(That report was something that the Lib Demsspent some time killing off.)

Seriously, @Aiannucci never came close to what it was actually like when Steve was on form, @t0nyyates

In the end, much was achieved. For example, google "Vince Cable" and "Chocolate Liqueurs" to realise the deregulated heaven we now inhabit

And here is what the government lays claim to… Counting Cows. Squirrel Spotting. Jam.

And here is what the government lays claim…Counting Cows. Squirrel Spotting. Jam.

Bloom puts the boot in

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom
Stefan Rousseu/PA Wire
Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom has some words of advice for Nigel Farage

The debate inside UKIP about Nigel Farage's leadership took a slightly surreal turn today when  their former MEP Godfrey Bloom (a former Brussels flatmate of the UKIP leader) told the Telegraph that Mr Farage would have been a better leader if he had played rugby at school.

He said:

“I have never met anybody in my significant commercial career and military career where a man was not better having played a contact team sport.

“Rugby is better because you are relying on the other guy – it is hard and it is physical.”

It's quite common to see politicians kicking a football around to make themselves look like they're in touch with Joe Public. A rugby connection is not that usual. A few notable exceptions:

  • Gordon Brown, of course, lost the sight in one eye after a rugby collision when he was 16
  • This rather lovely footage from earlier this year shows Nick Clegg and Vince Cable playing rugby. It ends with Dr Cable taking a bit of a tumble.
  • Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland (rather impressively) has played for GB over-35s at Rugby League
  • Former Labour MP Tony Cunningham is a qualified Rugby Union referee
  • Former Labour MP Lord Hoyle is Chairman of Rugby League side Warrington Wolves
  • Tory MEP Daniel Hannan blogged in 2007 in terms that Mr Bloom would sympathise with: "[Football] is regulated by a series of laws covering everything from transfer payments to televisation deals. Indeed, football is increasingly becoming the prerogative, not just of our own politicians, but of the EU. Rugby,on the other hand, has tried to remain what all sports originally were: an association of self-sustaining clubs, which look to the state for nothing, and are concerned only with promoting their members' happiness."

I'm sure I've missed lots more....

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water (jaws theme tune)

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

A shark
Science Photo Library
The upcoming elections, pictured this afternoon

Today, the BBC election night team met for lunch. It’s amazing how many times you can relive the Nuneaton moment without getting bored.

And as we realised May 2015 was finally behind us, and mourned its passing like a parent waving their only child off to a new home, one voice behind me piped up

"Mind you, we’ll be busy next year, Emily. Six elections".

She watched my face as she ticked them off: "London Mayorals, London Assembly, Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament, Northern Irish Assembly, US Elections".

She paused: "And that’s if the EU referendum isn’t brought forward".

So there you have it. The chance of a full seven election programmes next year. We’re up for it. Are you?  

The MP who leafleted for his opponent

James Clayton, Newsnight producer

Scott Mann MP with his postal colleagues
Scott Mann MP with his postal colleagues

David Cameron has made a lot out of his new "blue collar" vision for British conservatism. Aides were keen to emphasise appointments like Robert Halfon, Sajid Javid, the son of a bus conductor and Greg Clark, the son of a milkman.

But there's one MP who trumps them all. Scott Mann is the new Conservative MP for North Cornwall. He's worked as a postman for 20 years - right up to the last week of his own election campaign.

"I had to deliver my own leaflets but I also had to deliver leaflets for my opponents too. They all went through the doors.

"It's a lot easier to deliver your own leaflets...I found myself delivering Liberal Democrat literature to people who I knew were going to vote Conservative. A lot of people wanted to engage in a political discussion when I was out on a round.

"I had a phone call from my boss asking me to come in the day after I'd won the election, which was funny."

Thinking about it, surely being a postman is the ideal job for a prospective parliamentary candidate? Makes canvassing a hell of a lot easier...

Getting LGBT issues back on the agenda won't be a piece of cake

Harry Pick, Newsnight producer

Will cakegate help put LGBT rights back on the political agenda?
Will cakegate help put LGBT rights back on the political agenda?

There’s been a lot of celebrating from the LGBT community today over the ruling in the Asher’s cake case. After a lengthy battle, a judge has ruled the Christian-run bakery discriminated against a gay customer by refusing to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

People of all sexualities have been claiming it as an important victory for sexual freedom on Twitter. But there isn't a huge amount of public support. A YouGov poll from last year suggested two thirds of the public disagreed with bringing legal proceedings against Ashers. And gay couples keen for seaside staycation this year won't find it comforting that a third of respondents said it was acceptable to turn away people from B&B’s based on their sexuality, in the news a lot recently.

It also comes at a time of concern for activists that LGBT issues might be considered a "settled" area by those in public life after the legalisation of same-sex marriage. This ruling shines a spotlight on the issues LGBT people still need to overcome – especially in Northern Ireland, the only country in the UK where same-sex marriage remains illegal.

Stonewall examined the party manifestos last month. They focused on what they believed were the big issues still facing gay and transgender people - inclusive social and health education; including LGBT people in overseas aid; action to tackle hate crime, and reviewing the laws affecting transgender people. The Conservatives, who in the last parliament ushered in the biggest pro-LGBT reform since the 1960s, were pretty silent on all but hate crime. They found only Labour had manifesto policies to cover all these areas.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean Labour will speak out more on LGBT issues in the next five years. Labour’s leadership frontrunner Andy Burnham, known for his strong Catholic faith, has come under some rather strong criticism from within his own party over his stance on gay adoption and his lack of support for lesbian IVF. Young Labour’s LGBT officer highlighted some of the concern in a recent Twitter post:

I've been contacted by a lot of young members if I knew something more around Burnham's LGBT record. I don't, and his record stays worrying.

Burnham has previously claimed he missed votes on these issues because his wife was heavily pregnant. But coupled with the Prime Minister’s second consecutive appointment of an equalities minister who voted against legalising same sex marriage and with champions of gay rights like Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone swept out of parliament, gay rights issues are in danger of falling off the political agenda. Many LGBT activists will be wondering who they can look to in frontline politics to help them out.

Labour leadership nominations: the maths

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

There has been speculation recently that Andy Burnham is attempting to hoover up Labour nominations to prevent other candidates from standing. Alan Milburn told Allegra Stratton last night that "one or two candidates being assumed to be the font of all wisdom is just not right".

The maths of this is fairly simple. Each candidate needs 35 nominations and there are 232 MPs. So the maximum number of candidates the party can support is 232 / 35 = 6 (you have to round down as you can't have fractions of a candidate).

But if, as is being speculated, Andy Burnham manages to soak up many more nominations than 35, that changes the maths. Now the maximum number of extra candidates (other than Burnham) is 232 - (Burnham nominators) / 35. 

I can tell you're now gasping for a graph. Here it is (cut out and keep!):

Burnham nominations

Read along the bottom for the number of nominations you think Burnham will get - and then the line tells you how many extra candidates can be supported.

But there has been further speculation that it's not just Burnham who is getting more than the minimum 35 nominations. Yvette Cooper, it is rumoured, is doing rather well as well - in fact, it's been said that they hold 100 between them.

That may or may not be the case. But let's assume for the purposes of this that each of them gets at least 35 nominations. 

On the next graph, read along the x axis for how many nominations you think Burnham will get - and read along the y axis for the number of nominations you think Cooper will get and then go to the coordinate on the graph they refer to. ie if you think Burnham will get 62 nominations and Cooper 60, go to (62,60).

The line directly above it tells you how many other candidates can possibly be supported by the remaining nominations.

Burnham / Cooper nominations

The Geopolitical Song Contest

Alex Campbell

Newsnight producer

Conchita Wurst on Newsnight
Last year's winner Conchita Wurst on Newsnight

It’s almost that time of year again: camp costumes, a sea of flags and, erm, geopolitics. A proud Eurovision tradition.

Cyprus and Greece have long exchanged high scores while snubbing Turkey, the Nordic and Portugal/Spain/Andorra blocs are both well-entrenched. 

The UK memorably plunged from second place in 2002 to last with nil point in 2003, post-Iraq invasion, and has arguably never recovered its popularity.

The voting system was even overhauled wholesale to incorporate a juror system after Russia began regularly hoovering up big points from post-Soviet states and the Balkans irrespective of its entry.

And in 2013, Russia’s foreign minister called an award of nil points from its ally Azerbaijan “outrageous” – prompting the Azerbaijani president to order an inquiry.

Last year, all eyes were on Russia vs Ukraine as the contest took place in the immediate aftermath of Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

In the end, Russia awarded Ukraine a weighty enough seven points. Ukraine responded surprisingly by awarding Russia four points, rather charitably in the circumstances, despite the Russian entry being roundly booed by the Copenhagen audience. 

Whether or not that was anything to do with public votes in Crimea still counting towards Ukraine’s vote is for others to judge.

Ukraine won’t be taking part this year, having stated that it would rather not do something at all than simply “do it badly” (take note, BBC?).

So perhaps this year’s one to watch is Germany and Greece, given the commentary surrounding Syriza’s anti-Germany soundings and the looming threat of a Grexit.

Any coded messages?

Well, Greece’s ominously titled “One Last Breath” includes the refrain: “Wherever you have gone, come back and save me, don’t want to be alone.”

And the German chorus?

“Too hard to make it work…When there's nothing left to talk about…cause you know the flame is running out.”

Naming and shaming on women in politics

Good news for Beatles fans. Bad news for female political representation

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

The Beatles
Press Association

It has been a constant battle for all parties over the past couple of decades to get more women into the House of Commons. The 2015 election was quite successful in that respect, with a record 191 women being elected. However, there remains a real struggle to get enough women to stand as candidates for election in the first place. 

By way of illustration, look at the table below, which shows the top 50 names for candidates at the election. A David may have won the overall election, but Davids were also in the ascendancy when it came to the most popular candidate name. You have to get to number 28, past the first names of all of the Beatles*, before you get a female name (Helen). There is only one other woman's name in the top 50 (Sarah). Apologies for the cliched colour coding. 

Top names for candidates in the General Election

* Ringo, as every Beatles fan knows, being short for Richard. 

Deflation - but maybe not for long

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

a graph

The moment economists have been expecting for months has finally arrived, for the first time since 1960 consumer price inflation has turned negative.

A long and entrenched period of falling prices can very damaging to growth. The fear is of a spiral effect - falling prices pushing down profits, falling profits pushing down wages and falling wages sucking demand out of the economy and pushing down prices by even more.  

But the UK remains a long way from that. Wage growth has been picking up rather than heading south and price falls are far from widespread. If the timing of Easter has been different this year, the UK may have just missed deflation altogether.

Most forecasters expect inflation to pick up in the months ahead so the best advice may be that of the Governor of the Bank of England - enjoy this whilst it lasts. 

Counting the cost of defeat

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Election night was replete with big names falling foul of the democratic process, from Ed Balls to Jim Murphy to Charles Kennedy. Such defeats inevitably grabbed the headlines, but nothing signifies defeat in an election more completely than the loss of a deposit, that £500 candidates have to pay just to enter the contest and which is forfeited if you fall below 5% of the vote.

On an individual level, this is the punitive cherry on top of a disappointing electoral cake. For a party, however, it is the clearest indicator of structural weakness. Following the election, much focus fell on the fact that the Lib Dems lost 341 deposits, costing the party a total of £170,500. 

However, this was eclipsed by the performance of the Green Party, which lost 442 deposits from their 573 candidates at a cost of £221,000. This is not an insignificant sum of money for the party. Indeed, looking at their last available accounts (for 2013), that would constitute a quarter of their annual income.

This stat is just one to jump out from the comprehensive research paper produced by the House of Commons Library which was released today. Another startling point, also on lost deposits, is that Labour lost more deposits in Scotland than the Conservatives (3 to 2). 

I'll leave you with their chart showing the share of the Lib Dem vote across the country which is more eloquent on the party's collapse across the country than a thousand words.

Map showing Lib Dem share of the vote
House of Commons Library