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Summary

  1. Newsnight Live is your one stop shop for elections analysis and observations from the Newsnight team every day of the election campaign.
  2. Find out what our experts made of the Conservative and Green manifesto launches and the rest of the day's political events below
  3. Tonight's programme will be presented by Emily Maitlis - you can watch at 10.30pm on BBC Two or by clicking the live coverage tab below

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

Natalie Bennett interview

Laura Kuenssberg interviewing Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader
BBC
Outside the Green Party manifesto launch

You can now watch Chief Correspondent Laura Kuenssberg's full interview with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett - part of which features in tonight's programme - by visiting the Newsnight YouTube page here.

Emily Maitlis

@maitlis

tweets:

Tonight, Will Right to Buy have lift off? We talk to Michael Gove - is this a fresh start for the Tory Campaign?

Chris Cook, Policy Editor

@xtophercook

tweets:

I think proponents and opponents on R2B2 (Right to Buy 2) should remember, it's 27k a year. It's won't take us back to 1982 (167k) but 2005 (60k)

Latest seat forecast

BBC Newsnight Index

The latest Newsnight index seat forecast
BBC
The latest Newsnight index seat forecast

Tonight's Newsnight Index shows the Tories expanding their lead - albeit still well short of a majority - with Labour slipping by five seats.

For the course of the general election campaign, Newsnight each evening will be publishing an exclusive Newsnight Index on the likely outcome, based on a sophisticated forecast model. It is produced by Dr Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia and his colleagues at electionforecast.co.uk.

For more information on how the Index is produced, seehere

On tonight's show

Max Deveson, Newsnight Programme Producer

Emily Maitlis in the Newsnight studio
BBC

An early preview of what's in tonight's running order - as it currently stands.

Coming up at 10.30pm on BBC2 and live on the web:

- Allegra's take on the Conservative manifesto launch;

- Chris Cook drills down into the detail of the Tories' right-to-buy announcement;

- Emily Maitls will interview Michael Gove live;

- Laura Kuenssberg assesses the Greens Party's manifesto and talks to their leader, Natalie Bennett;

- Katie Razzall reports on the alarming trend for British Muslim women to be targeted by blackmailers who trick them into posing for photographs that could lead to them being shunned by their community;

- Stephen Smith on the dubious glamour of the heist in popular imagination;

And, last but certainly worth waiting up for, Jake Yapp will sing us out with another musical manifesto - the Tory manifesto in a 60-second song.

Political plans provide little comfort for military top brass

Nick Hopkins, Newsnight Investigations Correspondent

British army soldiers
PA

The Ministry of Defence wasn't holding out great hopes for the manifestos of the two main parties - and military planners won't take much comfort from being proved right.

Strip away the rhetoric and the Tories fudge the Nato demand that countries should spend 2 percent of national income on defence. This manifesto calls it a “target.”

There is a pledge not to reduce the army to below 82,000; that will be welcomed by the Generals, but will leave the Admirals and Air Vice Marshals wondering - so what gives?

That should become clearer in the Strategic Defence and Security Review that will come after the election; the last one, in 2010, still brings tears to the eyes of the most hardened top brass. The cuts were deep. It was not pretty.

The BBC World Service and the British Council get curious name checks too - in a passage that includes Britain's intelligence agencies.

They are all cited as instruments to "help achieve the best for Britain."

Hmm. Discuss...

Tories meet manifesto promise instantly

Lewis Goodall

Newsnight producer

Politicians often get it in the neck for not meeting their election promises but full marks to the Conservatives for meeting one on the day theirs manifesto was published.

Page 13 of the Tories' manifesto includes a pledge to upgrade the key A11 road in East Anglia.

Fortunately for them, the upgrade was completed in December last year.

Well it's one way to try and restore trust, I suppose.

Has the art of the TV political interview been lost?

Kirsty Wark
BBC

Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark has been analysing what makes a successful TV political interview - and how soundbites and spindoctors have forced presenters to evolve.

Would your interviewing style be "robustness and aggression" or "flirtation, seduction, betrayal"?

You can check out the interactive page here.

And, topically, don't forget that the first of the BBC Leader interviews - Evan Davis with Nick Clegg - aired last night and is now on the iPlayer.

Jess Brammar, Newsnight Producer

@jessbrammar

tweets:

Caught by our camera at Green Party launch - on Caroline Lucas' briefing notes: "do you hate wealth creators?"

A Green Party briefing note
BBC

When 15, 25 or 30 hours isn't 15, 25 or 30 hours

Or why we should be careful with childcare pledges

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

A nursery group
BBC

Today the Conservatives promised the parents of three and four year olds in England 30 hours a week of free childcare. That trumps Labour's offer yesterday of 25 hours. Both are big moves from the current regime of 15 hours of free childcare for three and four year olds.

Except we need to be careful with all of these numbers. To declare my interest here, I have two children under the age of three and so I'm especially interested in the small print. Current policy is not actually 15 hours a week for three and four year olds, it's for 570 hours a year - which works out as 15 hours a week over the course of a 38 week school year. That's just under 11 hours a week under a more conventional 52 week year. Applying the same formula takes the Labour offer down to just over 18 hours a week and the Tory one down to just under 22.

And that's not the only oddity in the current system. Children do not become eligible for the free childcare until the school term after they turn three. In the process of writing this post I've just discovered that my second child being a week overdue has pushed her into the next time-band and delayed her free hours by four months. Depending on whether the offer is "15", "25" or "30" hours by the time she turns three, then that one week will end up costing me something like £800 to £2,000. Great.

Is the party over for Britain’s mainstream politicians?

Click here for Newsnight Political Editor Allegra Stratton's BBC iWonder page exploring whether the biggest parties can continue to dominate UK politics.

Graphic explaining how membership of the main parties has fallen since the 1980s
BBC

How big is Right to Buy 2?

Not as big as Right to Buy Classic

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

So here's some simple finger maths on how much the Tory's new proposal works. This is my arithmetic, so deeply unofficial:

  • Selling 15,000 council homes at an average cost of £300,000 a throw to get to £4.5bn per annum.
  • Spending, say, £140,000 each on 15,000 replacement homes, leaving roughly £2.4bn each year.
  • Spending a further £200m a year on a brownfield clean-up fund, which will leave roughly £2.2bn per year
  • If you assume an average discount of, say, £80,000, that leaves enough cash to pay for 27,000 purchases per annum

Will there be enough money? Maybe. Perhaps the average discount will be much lower? I don't know (and nor do the Tories). There is certainly risk to the Treasury if Right to Buy sales are bigger than expected from year to year.

But, over the medium term, there are more than enough pricey council houses to cover any shortfalls. And the Housing Federation estimates there is a stock of around 200,000 potential buyers, so there is a natural cap on the cost.

Still, it's worth remembering the sheer scale of the original Right to Buy. On my maths, it's not so much a return to the 1980s as the early 2000s.

Right to Buy sales
BBC
Source: DCLG

Conservative manifesto: Defence budget unprotected

Mark Urban

Newsnight Defence and Diplomatic Editor

Picture of Type 45 destroyer warship
BBC News
Type 45 Destroyer

The chapter “A Britain Standing Tall in the World” is parked down at p75 of the Conservative manifesto, near the rear of their political order of battle like some Challenger tank in need of spares. Labour did the same of course, for defence and foreign policy are not seen as key fighting grounds in this election.

For those from the tops of the armed forces to the US embassy or Nato HQ who had hoped that the Conservatives might commit to spending 2% of GDP of defence, and lobbied hard in that cause, today marked the final, dreaded disappointment. No such pledge was made – it has been forthcoming only from UKIP and the Democratic Unionist Party – despite David Cameron having tried to strong arm the rest of the western alliance into such a commitment at last September's Wales summit.

The Conservatives can reply (a little feebly) that the target agreed that summit had to be met by 2024 not necessarily straight away, and (with more justice) that their party has at least said it will increase the armed forces equipment budget at 1% above inflation each year of the next Parliament. The manifesto details the promised £160bn weapon spending spree: including buying six Type 45 destroyers, completing the Astute nuclear submarine class to seven boats, and replacing the current generation of Apache attack helicopters. In stating that “both of our new aircraft carriers” will come into service so that “we have one available for use at all times”, today’s document lends weight to a widespread Whitehall suspicion that one of the huge new ships could effectively be mothballed at any given time.

The manifesto also inks in a Tory pledge not to let the regular army fall below 82,000. And of course it repeats Michael Fallon’s commitment to four replacement vessels for the Trident ballistic missile submarine programme.

Although much of what was confirmed today was expected, that will not lessen the disappointment in certain quarters. The overseas aid budget remains protected under the Conservatives (at 0.7% of GDP) whereas the defence budget does not. This causes inchoate fury among many senior military men and in the Tory shires.

It also runs counter to Mr Cameron’s political messaging, for example, in stating repeatedly over the past year the seriousness of the change to Europe’s security environment caused by Russian actions in Ukraine or the ‘generational’ nature of the struggle against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. That contradiction has been noticed, among other places in Washington.

So whereas the manifesto says the party “will uphold our Special Relationship with the USA”, some of us well recall the US ambassador to Nato saying at his country’s London embassy recently that the US would be “watching very closely” to see whether Mr Cameron kept his promise to maintain defence spending at 2%. Today we know that promise will not be kept.

Five key points from the Conservative manifesto launch

James Clayton, Newsnight Producer

A view of the audience at the Conservative manifesto launch
Getty
The Conservatives have launched their manifesto

My five takes on the Conservative manifesto launch:

1. This was a major offer. Labour's big pre-manifesto pledge was to end non-dom status, but it was announced the week before. Conservative policies on Right to Buy and childcare are chunky, high-value giveaways.

2. Cameron is continuing the 'safe and steady' strategy. His delivery was assured but it wasn't as lively as Miliband's speech yesterday - and the audience was more subdued. It's a quiet confidence in Tory ranks vs Labour's belief that the tide is turning.

3. Foreign policy: Ed Miliband barely touched on it yesterday. Cameron went for it today - on Trident, IS, even deporting hate preachers. It's all part of a strategy to appear as the statesman vs pretender to the job.

4. Cuts. We still don't have all the details. We know that £12bn of welfare savings still need to be found and this manifesto won't help you if you're looking for where they'll fall.

5. Should this all have been announced sooner? Loading these policy announcements into an election campaign may give the Conservatives momentum, but it only allows three weeks to embed them into the public's consciousness.

Tory manifesto: Did David Cameron rise to the occasion?

Allegra Stratton

Newsnight Political Editor

David Cameron giving his speech
Getty
David Cameron launching the Conservative manifesto

My view on the manifestos, now we have heard the two big ones: David Cameron didn't meet the moment quite like Ed Miliband did - but his manifesto was meatier.

I think the childcare offer is very generous. I have covered childcare quite a bit and not heard people considering this kind of roll-out.

The Prime Minister's speech was fluent and there was more foreign policy - Tories love suggesting Miliband vs Putin is risible.

But as one Tory source said to me at the launch afterwards: "Dave is very good at the bullet points, the shopping list, but less good at the grand sweep."

They do think Ed Miliband has upped his game - they detect new suits and new hair. I'm not sure about that but I do see Axelrod's TV debate training having wider payback.

A last thought: is a new press conference policy afoot? Journalist colleagues were allowed to ask questions but Tory aides kept hold of the microphone.

It was a faintly ridiculous spectacle. Colleagues like Sky's brilliant Faisal Islam having to lean back to speak into the mic held by an aide behind him!

Yesterday I kept hold of my mic when Ed Miliband wanted me not to have a second question - because all my male colleagues had two questions before me.

And on that note, a final thought: I was the only woman asking questions. The Prime Minister took a total of 15; not a good look for a manifesto launch.

What lies behind the polls

BBC Newsnight Index

Dr Chris Hanretty

The Newsnight Index polling forecast
BBC
Last night's Newsnight Index seat forecast

Today's Guardian seat projection puts Labour plus the SNP on 326 seats - enough for a majority in the Commons.

That's more than the Newsnight Index, which puts Labour (276) plus the SNP (41) on 317 seats.

A difference of nine seats might not sound a lot, but politically it's huge.

So why the discrepancy between the two sets of numbers?

Much hinges on the difference between a ‘nowcast’ (which tries to use today's polling to find out what would happen if the election were held today) and a forecast. The Newsnight Index is a forecast, and as such it has to make assumptions about the future.

We assume - on the basis of polling evidence from 1979 onwards - that parties which are polling ahead of their 2010 performance will fall back a little. Either that will be during the campaign, or quite possibly on the day of the election itself.

And in case you hadn't noticed, the SNP is polling quite considerably ahead of its 2010 performance.

That assumption - which seems to make sense of UKIP's recent polling fade -makes a big difference to the SNP's seat forecast.

If the election was held today, we'd put the SNP on 51 seats - not far from the Guardian's projection of 54.

Since at least some of those seats would come from the Liberal Democrats, the seat tally of Labour and the SNP combined would tick up a notch or two.

We might be wrong when we assume that the SNP will fall away. Perhaps the SNP will continue to poll the same remarkable figures it is doing today.

Perhaps the remarkable enthusiasm shown by SNP campaigners will translate polling figures to votes on the day.

But when we're debating whether the SNP is going to win nine times the number of seats in 2010, or merely win seven times that number, then it's clear that this is a party which will have a lot to say in the post-election horse-trading period.

'Not old, not new, but Newest Labour' - musical manifestos

Jake Yapp performing on Newsnight
BBC

Jake Yapp and Harry the Piano performed the Labour manifesto live on Newsnight yesterday - in 60 seconds.

If you missed it, you can watch it on our YouTube page here.

And in further good news, they'll be back to give the musical treatment to the Conservative pledges at the end of tonight's show.

Taking the mic

Alex Campbell, Newsnight Producer

James Landale asking a question at the Conservative manifesto launch
Faisal Islam

Reporters attending the Conservative manifesto launch were somewhat perturbed to discover they couldn’t be trusted to hold the microphone themselves while quizzing David Cameron.

Sky’s Faisal Islam tweeted this picture of James Landale being ably assisted by party apparatchiks, having himself been obliged to deliver his questions 'hands-free'.

Could it be that they were alerted by Allegra Stratton’s second question masterclass at the Labour launch yesterday?

Pushing the boundaries

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Nick Clegg and David Cameron
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)
The Tory manifesto poses some possible problems for a second Coalition

Page 49 of the Tory Manifesto is certainly not going to be on the lips of every journalist as they plan their coverage for the rest of the day. But if the electoral arithmetic on May 8th looks like it's going to be forcing the Tories and Lib Dems back together, then that page is going to lead to some awkward conversations across the negotiating table.

Awkward moment number one: the Tories are pledging that "In the next Parliament, we will address the unfairness of the current Parliamentary boundaries, reduce the number of MPs to 600 to cut the cost of politics and make votes of more equal value."

For those of you au fait with great Coalition bust ups, this will raise a wry smile. This proposal was in the Coalition Agreement in 2010 as part of a trade-off, whereby the Tories got boundary reform (that hugely increased their chances of an overall majority) and the Lib Dems got a referendum on the Alternative Vote system.

Nick Clegg, however, later scuppered the boundary reform in a tit-for-tat retaliation after Tory backbenchers helped defeat House of Lords reform. If for the electorate at large it was tuition fees that was the "great betrayal" by the Lib Dems, for the Tories it was this reneging on boundary changes. Any deal on that would be fraught, to say the least.

Speaking of Lords reform, we come to awkward moment number two: the Tories in their manifesto say "While we still see a strong case for introducing an elected element into our second chamber, this is not a priority in the next Parliament."

House of Lords reform is hard-wired into the Lib Dems' DNA. A fresh push on it would still be at the top of an average Lib Dem activist's wish list. Would David Cameron really want the first few years of a putative second term to be bogged down by more constitutional wrangling?

Regardless, if he wants to renew his vows with the Lib Dems, today's manifesto shows that there will be at least two marital spats that will have to be exorcised if both bride and groom are going to be happy.

Can't Buy, Won't Buy

Lewis Goodall, Newsnight producer

BBC
BBC

For some of the millions of people living in housing associations, today's Conservative party pledge to renew Right to Buy will be very welcome.

But there was once very little for so-called 'Generation Rent'.

Historically, those in the private rented sector weren't necessarily Tory allies. They were the young, the transient, people who might value the flexibility the sector offered.

Today's private renters look very different.

As I reported earlier in the year, over the past fifteen years the private rental market has transformed.

Since 2001, the proportion of homes rented privately has rocketed by 69%. Four million people (and rising) are in the sector, including more than 20% of all families with children, up from only 8% in 2000.

Figures from Shelter confirm that 50% cent of families say that their main reason for renting is because they cannot afford a home of their own, with only 4% citing the freedom and flexibility it allows. Some 53% of all tenants would like to own their own home but don't think they will ever be able to afford it.

And it's not as though renting is always the cheaper option. Late last year the cost of the average mortgage was over taken by the cost of the average rent for the first time.

Conditions in the rental sector are also an issue - a recent survey found that 61% of tenants have experienced at least one of the following problems in the last 12 months: mould or damp; leaking roofs or windows; electrical hazards; animal infestations or a gas leak.

So for four million people (and rising) in the private rented sector today's Help to Buy refresh can do nothing. There situation remains instead: can't buy, won't buy, will have to rent - for a very long time to come.

The shrinking British National Party

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

BNP logo
BNP

An interesting side note now that nominations to be a PPC have closed.

There are 8 BNP candidates this time round. In 2010, there were 338.

Bold pledges from the Greens - but will their numbers add up?

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

The Green Party manifesto launch
Getty
The Green Party manifesto launch

As if the parties didn't already suffer from assumptions about who they represent, the Greens held their manifesto launch in a hip East London theatre this morning - all bare wooden boards, charming staff and flat whites, locally-brewed beer and biodynamic wine in the cafe.

What they do not suffer from is a lack of boldness.

Their manifesto is full of big promises - a pension of more than £300 a week for a couple; renewable energy taking over from fossil fuels; a million new public sector jobs.

What they do suffer from is a difficulty to defend their numbers robustly. They claim they’ll raise a massive £30bn extra from clampdowns on tax avoidance for example – that’s very optimistic.

And the man who wrote the manifesto’s numbers, Brian Heatley, has told me they can't really be sure how much their new wealth tax would raise because it hasn't been tried before.

In a sense, that’s refreshingly candid. In another way, it’s extremely problematic for a party that wants to be taken seriously on a tax that they need to raise £20bn.

The Greens also say in their manifesto they would carry on spending more each year than the government gets from revenue. Does that mean deficits forever? The Greens won't say.

In other news, Natalie Bennett has also told Newsnight they don't want to ban the Grand National after all. More straightforward to decide that than work out government spending.

Tristram doesn't show his workings

Kirsty Wark

Newsnight Presenter

How would a National Primary Childcare Service work? Where would Labour find all the volunteers? Would they be qualified? How much would parents pay? Tristram couldn't tell me last night..

You can see that part of the interview on our YouTube page by clicking here.

The (income) tax-free minimum wage

The LPC might be about to get a surprising new power

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

Stack of pound coins
BBC

The Conservative manifesto today pledges a Tax Free Minimum Wage (TFMW) law. Conservative policy is already to raise the tax free allowance (the amount someone can earn before they start paying income tax, although they will still be paying national insurance) to £12,500 in the next Parliament.

The TFMW law takes that a step further and says that in future the personal allowance would rise automatically in line with the national minimum wage (NMW). The idea being that people on the NMW will pay no income tax.

It's worth noting though that this policy wouldn't only benefit NMW earners but all tax payers, a rising personal allowance means a lower tax bill for those higher up the spectrum too. That's why the policy could get quite expensive. HMRC estimates that putting up the allowance by £100 in 2017/18 would cost the government £600m. To put that in context, a 7p rise in the NMW per would mean someone working 30 hours a week would see their pay go up by around £109. So, in the future, a 7p rise in the NMW would mean an increase in the personal allowance that would cost around £600m annually.

All of which creates a bit of a budgetary oddity. Presently the NMW is set each year by the Low Pay Commission. In the future, when they meet to decide the level of the NMW they could also be effectively setting tax policy.

Welfare spending in the past parliament

Has the coalition cut benefit spending?

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

We have heard quite a lot about recent reductions in benefit spending in this parliament in answers to questions about how the Tories would cut the welfare bill by £12bn a year by 2017-18. (We only know about £3bn of the £12bn.)

David Cameron, answering a question from Allegra today, said that - inter alia -they would get people off incapacity benefit to help cut the bills. It's worth just unpacking how well they have done on this in the past few years.

Helpfully, Declan Gaffney has compiled some statistics on this very topic, published here. He does come from a rather different political perspective to the prime minister, but is an acknowledged fair-minded expert on the benefit system.

Excluding council tax benefit, he reckons that benefit spending was forecast by the coalition to rise from £188bn to £203bn in 2014-15, as opposed to £217bn under the plans they inherited. In the event, they actually came in at £215bn.

Incapacity benefit, he reckons, has been the worst performer. The coalition wanted to cut the bill for IB (and its successor/predecessor benefits) from £12.7bn in 2010 to £9.8bn in 2014-15. The actual figure came in at £13.5bn.

In a sense, it's simple to cut benefit spending - just make it less generous. But it's hard to reform your way to saving. Getting people off disability benefits and into work is already proving a hard sell.

The Green voter's dilemma and game theory

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

The Greens have launched their manifesto today. Why they chose to do it on the same day as the much larger Conservatives I do not know – I suspect it is going to be difficult for them not to get swallowed in a flurry of right to buy excitement.

But the Greens have another electoral problem. Whilst at least 5% of the country tell pollsters they want to vote for them (more than the SNP), their support is spread out over many seats. So whilst the SNP on some projections could get upwards of 40 seats, the Greens will be very pleased to get anywhere close to double figures. The SNP’s support is very heavily concentrated in those 30 or 40 seats – whereas for the Greens, getting 5% everywhere would mean no seats at all.

Some bright spark has come up with a rather interesting solution to this – vote swapping. The idea is that if you’re a Green supporter in, say, a constituency that is winnable for the Conservatives but hopeless for the Greens, you can agree to "swap" your vote with someone in a constituency that is winnable for the Greens. Here’s a website that tries to link up Green and Labour voters, for example.

Seems like a rather innovative way of people making their vote count a bit more. But let’s – and bear with me here – apply a little bit of game theory here. You may be familiar with the prisoners’ dilemma. In it, two prisoners are about to go to trial. They can each choose to cooperate, and stay silent about the full extent of their crimes, or ‘defect’ and fess up. If both cooperate, they get a shorter sentence – but if one of them defects but the other doesn’t, the one that didn’t defect gets a much longer sentence (for lying to the court). Game theory says that, so long as the prisoners can’t communicate, they will both defect – they won’t want to take the risk of serving the longer sentence. The irony is, if they could only be sure the other would cooperate, both would be better off. If you’re confused, sit and stare at this table a bit:

Prisoners' dilemma
BBC

To my mind, this is exactly the situation people on vote swapping websites find themselves in – only with voters instead of prisoners. If you agree to vote Labour in your constituency, despite really being a Green (in exchange for vice versa elsewhere), there is a strong incentive to ‘defect’. You have tricked your partner into voting Green AS WELL as you. Thus there is an incentive for both players to ‘defect’ - and we simply end up with the situation we started in – a Green voter voting Green in a hopeless constituency, and a Labour voter voting Labour in a hopeless constituency for them. The game would look like this:

Green voter's dilemma
BBC

Of course, you might believe that people put some intrinsic value in simply keeping their promises to strangers on the internet. And maybe the Greens will do rather well out of it. I’m rather cynical about that. But perhaps I’ve spent too much time around politicians.

Right-to-buy

It's deja-vu all over again

David Grossman

Newsnight

This is not the first time the Conservatives have announced extending the right to buy to housing association tennants. It's not even the second time. By my reckoning it is at least the fourth time (although I may have missed a few)

It was in the 2005 manifesto, written by one D. Cameron.

It was first announced at the 1999 Conservative conference.

Many Conservatives have had a big problem with it. They worry that it entrenches housing privilege with those who already have homes and closes down one of the avenues to getting a home for those who don't.

Conservative modernisers (remember them?) have always worried it sends the wrong message about the party. When David Davis announced it at the 2002 party conference I interviewed Andrew Lansley about it. This is what he told me then.

I will post the video when I can locate it.

At the Party Conference, David Davis announced a policy of extending the right to buy to Housing Association tenants. What I think most people didn't remember was that we announced that policy in 1999 and again in the year 2000, so the issue is not so much to have policy but that the polices that you announce - and they don't have to be a very large number - support a sense of what you're trying to chieve, a sense of direction.

Andrew LansleyNovember 2002

Why some Tories are grumpy about Right to Buy

A centre-right critique of the flagship policy

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

This morning, a Conservative cabinet minister rang me with some rather distinctly Tory grumpiness about the party’s new “Right to Buy” policy. The plan would allow the tenants of housing association to buy their homes for a significant discount, at a cost of some £4.5bn a year.

I’ve heard these lines of criticism from a number of people on the left of the Conservative party this morning (and in the past few weeks, since this policy re-emerged), so I thought it was worth explaining their critique.

First, they said, it crosses quite an important philosophical line. In general, Tories have been keen on the use of independent providers who can plan for themselves and invest for themselves.

Generally, the Tories have been more enthused about academy schools, operational independence for universities and foundation trust hospitals than other parties. Charities providing social housing should be up their street. This policy, they fear, undermines them.

Second, they said, I should look at a twitter account trading under the name of “General Boles” – an account that usually tweets satirical photoshops. Last night, he was incensed enough by the plan to start tweeting seriously.

He wrote: “Selling off expensive social housing when it becomes vacant to fund the building of multiple cheaper homes is a sound Policy Exchange idea. But using the proceeds to give 70% discount to a small number of very, very fortunate people is not.”

As one adviser texted me today: “If we have £4.5bn to spend on a housing policy, explain to me why aren’t we spending it on more housing?”.

Flash Gordon (permission granted by image owner)
@GeneralBoles
"Flash Gordon" - General Boles' normal production

Laura Kuenssberg, Chief Correspondent

@bbclaurak

tweets:

Greens haven't given full manifesto to hacks at presser, full details on website for environmental reasons.Also means hard to press details!

How big would a new Right to Buy be?

Maybe not as big as you think

Chris Cook

Newsnight Policy Editor

Further to Duncan’s post (see below), it is worth looking at who rents from housing associations. That will help us answer a big question: if HA tenants get offered big discounts to help them buy their homes, will lots take it up?

According to theEnglish Housing Survey:

  • Only 23% of HA households have anyone in full-time work. 11.2% have no full-time employees, but do have a part-time employed person. 30.6% are retired.
  • 43.5% are single-person households (15% of households are headed by widows and 28.9% by unmarried people).
  • 59.6% would meet the length of stay criteria, having lived in their homes for more than 3 years.
  • They have an average gross weekly household income of £306 per week - £15,900 per annum.
  • Furthermore, 66% of them are in receipt of housing benefit.

What to make of this? Well, as Duncan points out, the housing market has changed a lot. The council tenants of the 1980s are not the social housing tenants of today.

The pool of potential Right to Buy participants in housing association housing able to get a mortgage may be rather more limited than some of the headlines imply.

Housing - this is not 1980

Housing tenure has changed radically

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

Graph showing housing tenure in England by type
DCLG

Today’s big announcement is an extension of Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants. Since this emerged last night I’ve found myself staring at the chart above. It shows housing tenure in England since 1980.

The big trend over the 1980s and 1990s was the decline of social renting (whether from local authorities or housing associations) and the rise of ownership (whether outright or through a mortgage).

But over the last decade or so, new trends have begun to emerge. The size of the private rental sector has doubled since 2002, whilst the number of owner-occupiers has declined since 2006 and is now at its lowest level since the late 1980s. There have been two important “cross overs” in recent years – there are now more private than social renters and more people who own outright than own with a mortgage.

Leaving aside for a moment the merits of the new Right to Buy policy, it’s worth noting that, to state the obvious, this is not 1980. The original Right to Buy policy had a direct impact on almost one third of households, today’s announcement is far less wide ranging.

The 'flation numbers

Neither inflating nor deflating

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

A petrol station pump
BBC

For the second month in a row, the rate of change inconsumer prices was 0.0%. Whilst this has been celebrated by the government as evidence that their long term plan is working and is likely to be welcomed by consumers, it has been the cause of two debates amongst economists.

The first is – what on Earth should we call it? It’s not quite inflation and it’s not quite deflation. I’m sticking with “flation” for the moment.

The second – and more important - debate is as to whether this a good thing or something to worry about? There are circumstances in which deflation (falling prices) can cause real economic problems. Widespread falls in prices can lower profits and lead to wages being pushed down which sucks demand out of the economy. And as wages fall, the real burden of debt rises.

At the moment the consensus view is that the fall in UK inflation has been mostly benign. The biggest driver of the recent fall has been the oil price, the price of goods fell by 2.1% in the last year but the price of services rose by 2.4%. That suggests that we don’t have the kind of widespread price falls that cause problems. But today’s numbers do show that core inflation (excluding food and energy) rose by only 1.0%, its slowest pace in almost a decade. That suggests that there is more to this than just oil.

This is a debate which will preoccupy economists over the next few months. But for voters, I suspect zero inflation is not something they’ll worry about much.

Good morning

For those who missed the first day of our Newsnight Live page, here is a link to all of our analysis of yesterday's Labour manifesto launch .

And here is the note Newsnight editor Ian Katz wrote about what we're up to:

"If a week is a long time in politics, as Harold Wilson may or may not have said, 24 hours can feel like an age in an election campaign. That’s why for the next few weeks the Newsnight team will be bringing you their take on the campaign day, as it unfolds, here.

We won’t be telling you who said what and where – God knows there’s no shortage of news about what the politicians are up to – but our experts will try to shed a bit of light on what matters and what doesn’t, what stacks up and what crumbles under a gentle prod, and what is really going on behind the soundbites, spin and smears.

You’ll find contributions not just from familiar presenters and on-air correspondents but also from the team of producers and editors whose names whizz by in a thankless blurr at the end of each night’s show. I should warn that a number of them are the sort of people who read Bank of England minutes for fun. This may be a terrible idea.

As well as analysis and insights into the day’s campaign developments, we’ll give you an early taste of the show coming up each night, and the thinking behind our running order.

Later today Evan Davis will be talking to Nick Clegg in the first of a series of half hour interviews with the party leaders. You’ll be able to watch it in full on BBC One at 7.30pm but we’ll give you a preview here.

Before that our team will be delivering their verdict on the Labour manifesto being unveiled this morning.

If you’d like to make suggestions about what we cover on Newsnight Live, or on the show, please tweet us at @BBCNewsnight. Enjoy."

Right - now on to today...