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  1. Free childcare, Labour leadership

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

House Music: The Westminster Rockers

Zach Brown, Newsnight producer

Pictures of a young Tim Farron during his New Romantic period have been discovered in the recesses of the internet today. But the Lib Dem leadership hopeful is not the only Member of Parliament with a penchant for pop. 

MP4 played the first and only rock gig in Westminster Hall

The House band (pardon the pun) has to be MP4 -  that's Labour's Kevin Brennan, former MP Ian Cawsey, Tory Greg Knight and Pete Wishart of the SNP (Wishart in fact spent 15 years in the Scottish rock outfit Runrig before becoming joining parliament). They hold the honour of being the only rock band to have played Westminster Hall, a gig that reverberated so loudly that one of Henry VIII shuttlecocks was dislodged from the ceiling. You can hear a track from their album 'Cross Party' here. Then there is Norman Baker, who shares Tim Farron's liking for the wide brimmed rocker hat. 

Norman Baker
The Reform Club

Having lost his seat in Lewes earlier this month we’re hoping to see Norman Baker redouble his efforts with his band ‘The Reform Club’ - their 'hit' Piccadilly Circus exhibited a unique lyrical prowess, heavily influenced by the Kinks

“London Bridge is falling down / Zombie tourists flock into town / Buying plastic policeman / Japanese banker taking digital pix / A drunk’s mad laugh looking for a fix / Singing Rule Britannia.”

The Reform Club

And then there is David Morris, the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, Farron's neighboring constituency. Morris was a serious musical high-flyer, penning pop tunes for Stock, Aitken and Waterman before he was an MP and even appearing on Top of the Pops in Rick Astley's backing band, pretending to play the keyboards. 

David Morris MP
David Morris MP

Morris, however, has played down his experience on TOTP. “People ask me about it like it was some glamorous experience. It was no more sexy than doing Newsnight.” Newsnight un-sexy? Some very Ugly Rumours indeed.

Tim Farron's New Romantic past revealed

Zach Brown, Newsnight producer

Last week the talk of the political town was Tim Farron's musical roots. The prospective Lib Dem leader let slip in an interview with the Huffington Post that he used to front a pop group in the late 1980s. However, the Cumbrian MP refused to name the band in question worried, the three piece could still be found on YouTube. The hunt was on...An afternoon of web-based research has turned up this - the Farron pop photo album: 

Tim Farron leaning on a wall
Leaning on walls is important

The wide brimmed hat was clearly a hit with the young Prestonian, leading twitter users to point out the similarity to one Jason Donavan 

Tim Farron and bandmate
As is having a spare pair of shades

Under his stewardship the Liberal Democrats may revert to being called 'The Liberals' and Farron has form when it comes to changing names. He previously told “We had a variety of names. We were called Fred the Girl, for some reason. We were trying to be obscure. There were no girls in our band. We were also called The Voyeurs… We thought it sounded good until we worked out what it meant.”    

Tim Farron
An early selfie politician?

There has apparently been some discussion of the group working on new material. If the leadership bit doesn't work out might he consider getting the band back together? 

Tim Farron sitting outside HMV
Always carry a walking stick when sitting outside HMV in Preston

And here are the lads now...

Older Tim Farron
Reunion tour?

Confirmation that the band playing on this YouTube video is indeed the young Farron's outfit is keenly awaited. Now its over to the music-loving Norman Lamb to reveal photos of his pop heyday. 

The Second Coming of Boris

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

Boris Johnson's victory speech in 2001
PA/Tim Ockenden
Boris Johnson making his victory speech in Henley in 2001

Boris Johnson will deliver what we cannot call his "maiden speech" this afternoon. Parliament is sadly lacking in a term for the first speech of an MP who is returning to the Commons after a hiatus (usually one enforced by their electorate), even though it is fairly common. Winston Churchill was MP for five separate constituencies. 

In keeping with the Churchillian pose he likes to strike, today's speech will be about Britain's role in the world. His actual maiden speech, delivered in July 2001 when he was new MP for Henley, was a little more parochial. He used the traditional tour d'horizon of his constituency as a motif around which he built pressing issues of the day, from fuel costs to pub closures. It also included references to the Lion King, Jude the Obscure, Constable and Chaucer. 

He did end, however, in articulating the kind of political credo which, in retrospect, presaged his emergence as a possible leader of the future:

"I do not condemn those who have taken the socialist view—I do not know whether they are still socialists—and do not condemn those who have believed in socialism. I can see why they do, and why they are motivated to root out injustice and build a better a society. However, I think that Conservatism offers a better and broader understanding of human nature, which is why it has been so successful over the past 200 years and why it is now sedulously imitated.

"There is a hidden wisdom in old ways of doing things. If you get the state off people's backs and allow them to get on with their lives, not only will they be more contented, broadly speaking, but they will generate more of the wealth that society will always need to help the poorest and those who genuinely cannot help themselves. That is one-nation Toryism; it is a wholly reasonable creed."

It has to be said that Mr Johnson's first stint in Parliament was not a glorious one. After backing Ken Clarke for the leadership in 2001, he was not in favour during the ill-fated stint of Iain Duncan Smith as leader. Michael Howard appointed him to the relatively lowly position of Shadow Arts Minister but then sacked him in 2004. 

When his fellow Etonian David Cameron became Tory leader in 2005, he might have expected a promotion from a man whom he had supported for the leadership from an early stage. Instead, the highest post he achieved was Shadow Higher Education Minister. 

It should also be remembered that when it was first mooted that he could be the Tory candidate for London Mayor, it was treated almost as a joke candidature, particularly when contrasted with the aborted campaign of Nick Boles, who had been working up a comprehensive policy platform.

As Boris prepares for his second bow, he would be forgiven if he didn't give a thought as to how he might make his second coming a little more triumphant than the first time round. 

Boris revisited

Robert Morgan, Assistant Editor, Newsnight

Boris Johnson back speaking in the Commons

Boris Johnson is expected to make his first speech of this parliament this afternoon in a Queen's Speech debate. We thought it would be a good opportunity to let you see some classic Newsnight again with Boris and Paxo. 

You can view it here.

Government on the defence about 2% target

Marc Williams

Newsnight Election Producer

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has warned about UK defence spending

The US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter poked the Government in a sensitive spot today, speaking of the risks he saw for the UK by not meeting the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. He told BBC World News: 

"I'd hate to see that go away because I think it's a great loss to the world when a country of that much history, and standing for so much to so many people around the world, takes actions which seem to indicate disengagement."

But, in a bit of the interview which got less airtime, he also said:

"My message to my colleagues in London - like to all the other capitals of the Nato countries[MY BOLD]- is to stick to the pledge they all made."

He is right to point out that this is far from being a British failing, even if David Cameron made a rod for his own back by championing the 2% target at the NATO summit in Wales in September last year.

Take a look at this table, drawn up by the European Leadership Network in February, which shows the spending position of a selection of NATO members. 

Table showing military expenditure of NATO countries
European Leadership Network

The table shows that, if Mr Carter is troubled by the UK position, he must also look across the NATO family and echo Shakespeare in saying that when sorrows come they come not single spies but as battalions, except that in this case it is battalions that NATO is sorely lacking.

French defence spending is flat. German defence spending is falling. Canadian spending is only at 1%. Hungarian and Bulgarian spending is falling at a time of tension between NATO and Russia. One small level of reassurance might be that the three Baltic states are moving in the right direction.

It was for this reason that Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was at pains to dispel this idea of British exceptionalism on defence austerity when he spoke to World at One this lunchtime, saying: 

"The Americans have always wanted the European members of NATO to take a greater share of the burden and there are a large number - seven of the 28 members of NATO - who don't even spend 1%. Twenty of the 28 members of NATO don't even spend 1.5%...We are one of only four countries that does spend 2%." 

Emily Maitlis

Newsnight Presenter

Urgent question on #FIFA expected now in commons @RhonddaBryant

The benefits of being the party's second choice

Zach Brown, Newsnight producer

Yvette Cooper

Over the weekend Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper attempted to broaden her appeal to the left wing of the party. She warned of the dangers of "swallowing the Tory manifesto", a coded shot at rival Liz Kendall who is seen as the centrist Blairite choice. Certainly there is relatively little in terms of economic policy to distinguish Kendall from what the Conservatives laid out in their Queen's Speech last week. 

Cooper also took aim at frontrunner Andy Burnham for aping Tory language when he claimed that Labour appeared "soft" on people "who want something for nothing." 

So far, so left. 

However, when she spoke to Laura Kuenssberg on Friday she made a clear attempt to distance herself from the image of hardcore Brownite. 

Cooper acknowledged that Labour was wrong to be running a deficit before the crash. She was careful to say Labour spending was not the source of the country's financial problems, staying away from what she describes as the 'Tory trap' - but the admission is significant nonetheless, especially given how difficult it has been for Labour to escape its economic record. 

And there is no question that Cooper was frustrated by Ed Miliband's reluctance to focus on immigration, she told Laura she'd been arguing behind the scenes for more emphasis on immigration and she's clear she might support David Cameron's efforts to limit benefits for EU immigrants to those who have only been in the UK for at least four years. 

She also admitted that there is more to be saved from the welfare budget and gave short shrift to union bosses who are trying to influence the race, saying "let's be clear, the unions can never tell Labour what to do". 

This could be seen as astute tactics from the leadership hopeful. Remember, when Labour members vote in early September they place the candidates on the ballot paper in order of preference. In what is realistically a three-horse race Cooper could well be positioning herself between Burnham and Kendall in order to maximise the number of second-choice votes. As long as she manages to get enough first-choice votes to make it through the initial round, ploughing that middle way could pay dividends.

You can watch some of Laura’s interview with Yvette Cooper here.

Which side are the parties on for the EU referendum?

James Clayton, Newsnight producer

Nicola Sturgeon
Press Association
Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader

Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that she won't be standing on the same platform as David Cameron during the EU referendum - despite the chances of them both supporting the in vote.

That's very different to what Alex Salmond told Newsnight's Political Editor, Allegra Stratton two weeks ago. Asked if he'd campaign on the same platform as George Osborne he replied "I will share platforms with anyone apart from fascists and non-democrats".

Presuming he doesn't think that the Conservatives are defined by either of these characteristics, and that is a presumption, we are left with the prospect of the former SNP leader campaigning with the Tories, while his leader looks on despairingly. It's these kinds of factions that could harm the in vote. Privately yes campaigners are worried that Labour may well oppose Cameron's renegotiation (particularly as a settlement could adversely affect workers’ rights). The Tories are famously split and these divisions will open up in the campaign. We have Labour figures like Chuka Umunna worried about campaigning too hard against pulling out, concerned about SNP style damage in the north from UKIP. The Liberal Democrats don't want a referendum, the Tories do. The SNP don't want a referendum, Labour now do. It could get messy - and the foundations of any good campaign are based above all on unity.

What’s more, the "out" campaign could be led by Kate Hoey, a Labour MP. That could help to open up rifts within the Labour party. The no campaign is keen to make sure that its own divisions – particularly intra Tory/UKIP tensions are neutralised by a spearhead who is attached to neither party. Hoey, or a popular business candidate could unite the sceptics. A cohesive no team against a warring yes campaign has a real shot at winning.

Mark Urban tweets:

How French get much more capability with similar def budget to UK is good topic, but it's not by buying foreign! @edin_thinker @Justin_Br0nk

Sounds popular? Yes. Straightforward? No.

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Mothers pushing prams
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The government's bringing forward its plans to offer free childcare to families where either both parents work or a single parent does. The offer is 30 hours a week for free, well courtesy of the taxpayer. There's not much doubt it will help out many families where childcare is a big cost.

But there are some questions about the policy the government hasn't really answered.

Why should families with incomes of up to £150,000 a year get this kind of financial help? Is the government really arguing they need the cash? The policy will be paid for by squeezing down on tax relief for the pensions of the wealthiest. But given the squeezing of benefits in many other areas there will be some who wonder why some of the best off should be entitled to the same help as the worst off.

And although it says it will review the costs, the nursery industry is adamant they are already struggling to make the sums add up on the existing "free" scheme. In short, the money the government gives them per child doesn't cover their true costs when they are giving 15 hours. And the doubling to 30 will make this problem more acute - their only option to put the prices up for younger children to cover their costs.

So while wealthy families with toddlers will benefit, it's possible that for less well off working families with younger kids, the costs of childcare will bite even harder. Is that really what the government intended?