Closed Election: IFS hits out at lack of credibility in major parties’ manifesto pledges — as it happened

ELEX_LIVEBLOG_corbyn_johnson

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have offered a “credible prospectus” for government in the election, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this morning, in a damning assessment that highlighted the gulf between different political visions for Britain.


And we’re back

Good morning and welcome back to another day of rolling campaign coverage here at Election Central.

The big news overnight was the release of a key poll which showed Boris Johnson is on course to win a substantial majority of 68 seats next month, with Labour posting its second-worst result since the Second World War.

More analysis on that to come.


Tories on track for a healthy majority

Dominating the campaign news agenda this morning is the result of a new in-depth poll, which puts Boris Johnson on course to win a substantial parliamentary majority come December 12. 

Sebastian Payne, John Burn-Murdoch and George Parker have the details:

If an election were held today, pollster YouGov predicts that the Conservative party would win 359 seats, up from 317 seats at the previous election. This would deliver the prime minister a healthy working majority of 68 — the Tories’ largest in more than three decades.

The opposition Labour party would lose 51 seats, returning 211 MPs — its second worst defeat since the second world war. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats would gain just one MP, bringing its total to 13. The Scottish National party would sweep up 43 seats out of the 59 in Scotland. 

Such an outcome in the poll on December 12 would be a clear victory for the Tories’ pro-Brexit platform and Mr Johnson personally. The prime minister has maintained a consistent polling lead since the campaign began in October. His opponent Jeremy Corbyn has made steady gains in recent days and the polling will spur on leftwing activists for the final two weeks of the campaign. 

The SNP would welcome such a gain in seats, as it would further its message for another referendum on secession from the UK. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party would win no seats, although it would split the vote in several Labour pro-Leave areas and deprive the Tories of winning in constituencies such as Hartlepool.


FT analysis: What is the significance of the new poll?

Last night’s poll had been hotly-anticipated, as the technique used by YouGov in its modelling – known as multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) – successfully predicted the outcome of the 2017 election whereas regular opinion surveys had suggested the Tories were on course for a majority.

The model uses polling data from the preceding seven days from 100,000 panellists across the country, write Sebastian Payne, John Burn-Murdoch and George Parker. The results are adapted for each candidate in each constituency, taking into account local political factors such as whether the seat is marginal and the status of the outgoing MP. 

While the model could offer the best indication of the election outcome, the electorate is highly volatile. Academics have warned that Britons are swapping party affiliations at an unprecedented rate as the country reorientates itself down pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit lines. 

YouGov’s prediction for the election result speaks to the scale of change. The Tories are predicted to hold the majority of their seats from the 2017 election, including nearly all of its London MPs, but could make significant gains in Leave-supporting areas traditionally represented by the Labour party. 

The results of the MRP model will be cautiously welcomed by the Conservative campaign, who are wary of voters and activists believing that the party is on course to win comfortably. “We have to keep everyone focused on the prize, we can’t afford to give up now,” said one cabinet minister. 

The survey, however, will prompt concern for the Labour and the Liberal Democrat campaigns, who are both struggling to make headway — raising questions about why both parties backed Mr Johnson’s call for a snap general election. 


Sterling hits one-week high after key poll

The pound rose overnight to the highest level in a week following the results of the YouGov MRP poll, encouraged by the prospect of a Conservative majority that would end the Brexit deadlock.

Sterling is up 0.2 per cent this morning against the dollar, at $1.2942, after the new survey showed Boris Johnson gaining a healthy Commons majority on December 12.

Against the euro it has added 0.1 per cent to €1.1757 and analysts are anticipating further gains as the day progresses.

Sterling’s reaction tracks a pattern that has become familiar in recent weeks, with good polling number for the Tories giving it a boost and signs of Labour doing well sending it lower.

The logic is that a healthy Tory majority would allow Boris Johnson to push through his withdrawal bill and provide markets with much needed clarity over the UK’s future.

“Even if this would cast the exit of the UK out of the EU in stone it would at least end the uncertainty about it that dominated the past months and years,” said Antje Praefcke, an analyst at Commerzbank.

“I therefore think that sterling will see another upside push today having already appreciated overnight.”


NHS ‘sale’ row rumbles on

The NHS remains in the spotlight this morning after Jeremy Corbyn yesterday unveiled documents that he said prove the National Health Service will be “on the table” if Boris Johnson concludes a post-Brexit trade deal with the US

The Conservatives have continued to dismiss the claims, which they say are a diversionary tactic on the part of the Labour party intended to shift the focus away from Brexit.

The health secretary Matt Hancock has been on the airwaves insisting “the NHS will never be for sale and not on my watch”.

Speaking on BBC television this morning he said:

It shows how desperate Labour are frankly to change the subject from the tax rises they want to put on people and their position on Brexit.

But Barry Gardiner, Labour shadow secretary for international trade, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Show that the documents showed the US wanted to “sweep away” measures that protect the price of drugs, by extending the patent life of treatments and giving big US pharma companies full access into the UK.

He said this would push up NHS costs in a way that would “pull the guts out of the services we were able to provide people”.

“What you have to understand is that the NHS is not like a building that you can sell. It’s a series of services that you can put out to tender,” he said. “Over an extended period the government have had six meetings with their counterparts in the US discussing precisely that.”


What the papers are saying

The MRP poll and the NHS are the go-to stories on this morning’s front pages.

The Times leads on the survey, carried out by YouGov for the paper, which shows the prime minister on track for a significant electoral win.

The paper notes the poll, which correctly predicted a hung parliament in the last election, would give Boris Johnson a “comfortable” 68 seat majority and leave Labour with a result almost as bad as the one the party achieved under Michael Foot in 1983.

Other papers, including the i and the Metro, also lead on the polling numbers, while the Guardian and the Mirror have opted for the NHS “sale” story.

The Guardian says experts have warned the documents unveiled yesterday by Jeremy Corbyn show the US wants to “rip up the way [the NHS] sets drug prices” driving up its costs by billions of pounds.


Emoticon

Labour to shake up strategy after poll foreshadows heavy defeat

FT political editor George Parker reports:

Labour is to change its election strategy to strengthen its appeal to Leave voters, after an in depth opinion poll found the party could be on course to lose dozens of seats to the Conservatives.

Barry Gardiner, shadow trade secretary, did not deny a BBC report that Labour had been shaken by the number of Leave voters willing to switch to the Tories and that the party would change tack to address the problem.

The party is planning to give a higher profile to Leave-inclined Labour MPs, including party chair Ian Lavery, while more activists would be moved to areas that voted heavily for Brexit in 2016.

The party’s promise to negotiate a better Brexit deal and then put it to a referendum would also be highlighted to reassure Leave supporters that Labour wanted to make any exit deal more “jobs friendly”.

Labour has struggled badly on Brexit in this election: its promise to negotiate a new Brexit deal and then put in to a referendum with Remain on the ballot paper is seen by many voters as fence-sitting.

Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to remain neutral in any future referendum has suggested that Labour has no clear policy on Brexit, while Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” has worked well on the doorstep.

Mr Gardiner, speaking on Radio 4′s Today programme, said he was unaware of the change of strategy but Labour officials would only say that not all aspects of the BBC report were correct.

“We want to keep on – as we have been doing – narrowing the margin in the polls,” Mr Gardiner said. “I obviously want to make sure we appeal to all sections of the population on Brexit. We are the only party trying to unite the party, not go off to one extreme or the other.”

But the YouGov poll in the Times suggested that Labour would lose 51 seats at the election and return only 211 MPs, its second worst defeat since the Second World War.


Hancock: ‘No idea’ whether Johnson will submit to Andrew Neil grilling

The health secretary Matt Hancock this morning stoked concerns that the prime minister will avoid being questioned by the BBC’s Andrew Neil ahead of next month’s election, saying he had “no idea” whether the interview would go ahead.

There is a growing belief that Boris Johnson may try to dodge a forensic cross examination by the seasoned BBC presenter, despite Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being subjected to one earlier this week that led to significant negative press coverage.

The BBC tweeted yesterday that it was in “ongoing discussions” with Mr Johnson’s team, “but we haven’t yet been able to fix a date”.

Speaking on BBC’s Today show this morning, Mr Hancock declined to say whether he thought the interview would go ahead, insisting he was “not actually in charge of the prime minister’s media schedule” and looking to move the conversation to the party’s electoral message.

Mr Corbyn was interviewed by Mr Neil on Tuesday and came under heavy criticism for refusing to apologise to the Jewish community over his party’s handling of anti-Semitism.

If Mr Johnson does not appear on the show, he will be the only leader of a major party not to face a one-on-one grilling by Mr Neil. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was interviewed this week, while the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson and the Brexit party’s Nigel Farage will appear next week.

The controversy has led to accusations by opposition politicians that Mr Johnson is ducking scrutiny. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused him of “running scared” and criticised the BBC for not fixing all interview dates in advance.

Ms Sturgeon, meanwhile, tweeted this:


How might the MRP poll shape the election?

This morning’s in-depth YouGov survey is seen by many as the most prescient indicator of how things might pan out on December 12 — ie: a solid Tory majority.

The model — which uses a technique known as multilevel regression and post-stratification — is seen as significant given that it successfully predicted the outcome of the 2017 election, something regular opinion surveys failed to do.

But how might it shape the course of events in the lead up to election day?

Labour will be hoping the poll will spur on party activists over the coming two weeks and are already tweaking their campaign strategy as a result.

The Conservative party, meanwhile, will be anxious to ensure it does not lead to complacency in its ranks. Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s most influential adviser, last night warned pro-Brexit voters not to trust the polls.

But Professor Costas Milas of Liverpool University’s school of management says the poll may ultimately turn out to be a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, with voters piling in behind the Tories to avoid backing a losing horse.

He told the FT:

Undecided voters will take the results of the poll as evidence of a Tory majority and since they hate, in general, backing a loser, they will vote for Boris Johnson. In other words, undecided voters will confirm the predictions of the MRP model whether these are right or wrong.



IFS hits out at lack of credibility in major parties’ manifesto pledges

Chris Giles, the FT’s economics editor, reports:

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have offered a “credible prospectus” for government in the election, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this morning, in a damning assessment that highlighted the gulf between different political visions for Britain.

Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said: “Rarely can a starker choice have been placed before the UK electorate”.

The respected and independent institute, which has become notable for its careful analysis of the parties’ tax and spending plans, said the choice was between a do-nothing Conservative party that was likely to break its manifesto promises and radical Labour and Liberal Democrat policies that would not be achievable in one parliament.

On the Conservatives, Mr Johnson said that the party would be unlikely to achieve its promise to live within current public spending plans, just as it failed to stick to the spending cuts it promised at the 2017 election. Breaking spending pledges was especially likely when the party had ambitions for “uncosted” cuts in national insurance and improvements in social care.

He said:

It is highly likely that the Conservatives would end up spending more than their manifesto implies and thus taxing or borrowing more.

By contrast, he said that Labour’s plans for doubling investment spending and £83bn of tax and current spending increases lacked credibility, noting “the public sector doesn’t have the capacity to ramp up that much, that fast”.

He added:

It is highly likely that Labour, at least over the longer-term, would need to implement other tax raising measures in order to raise the £80bn of tax revenue that they want and even just sticking to those proposals they would clearly increase taxes for many millions outside the top 5 per cent.

He said the choice was between a Conservative party that thought things in Britain were “just fine as they are”, a Labour Party that “want to change everything” and “radical” Liberal Democrats who also proposed to make “a decisive move away from the policies of the past decade”.


Environmental proposals in the spotlight

Tonight will see Channel 4 host the UK’s first ever TV election debate on climate change, underlining how prominent the subject has become in British — and indeed global — politics.

The FT’s environment team of Leslie Hook and Camilla Hodgson have taken a look at how green each of the parties’ manifesto pledges actually are:

Conservatives

The big concern among environmental campaigners is that after Brexit a government led by Boris Johnson – who has declined to take part in tonight’s debate – would fail to uphold environmental standards and protections currently enshrined in EU law.

However, the party’s manifesto outlines a much more ambitious set of climate policies than ever before, part of its green shift over the past several years, as it courts younger voters who are not traditionally a key part of its voter base.

In a Greenpeace ranking of manifestos based on environmental commitments, the Tories came fifth out of six parties, above only the Brexit party, which is also boycotting the C4 debate.

Labour

The numbers in Labour’s climate manifesto are eye-catching, including £250bn earmarked for a Green Transformation Fund. A windfall tax on oil companies would also help pay for the transition to a greener economy.

Taken together with the party’s “Plan for Nature”, which was published on Wednesday and sets out targets for restoring natural habitats, Labour has risen to second place in the Greenpeace rankings, behind only the Greens, the minority party that has campaigned for decades to put climate change at the centre of British politics.

But lobby groups question whether Labour’s highly centralised vision — which includes nationalising the electricity supply arms of the Big Six energy companies — is really the most effective way to reach the net zero emissions target.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems’ manifesto was welcomed by several campaign groups, which claimed it was the most credible plan, although the anti-Brexit, centrist party ranked only third in the Greenpeace rankings.

The Lib Dems’ election pledges had put them second in Greenpeace’s ranking until the eleventh hour, when Labour expanded on its plans to restore nature and bumped them into third.

The manifesto has pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, provide £5bn of initial capital for a new Green Investment Bank and make £2bn available for ultra-low or zero emissions buses.

Check out Leslie and Camilla’s full piece here.


How do pollsters predict UK general election results?

Boris Johnson is on course to win a substantial parliamentary majority in the general election, according to a new in-depth survey and model of the British electorate.

The YouGov poll has rippled through the campaign and moved markets, but how does it work?

FT data journalist John Burn-Murdoch explains how researchers such as YouGov use MRP, or multi-level regression post-stratification polling, as the best way of showing how big national polls translate at the local level – and to predict who will win the most seats

if (typeof ftvideo_initialize != “undefined”) ftvideo_initialize();


Yes, Cummings has quit. No, it has nothing to do with his blog post

There has been a flurry of excitement on social media this morning over whether a blog post yesterday by Boris Johnson’s erstwhile special adviser Dominic Cummings broke electoral purdah rules.

This is not the case.

As Sebastian Payne notes, Mr Cummings resigned from his role — as did all other government special advisers — when the election was called. So there is nothing exceptional about him quitting.

As for the accusations of breaking purdah, Mr Cummings is now a private citizen and free to post as he pleases.

The bigger question is whether he goes back to Downing Street if Mr Johnson wins.


Labour ‘proud’ of ambitious spending plans

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour is proud to have offered the public ambitious spending plans, after the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that the party’s commitments were undeliverable in a single parliament.

“The IFS assessment of Labour’s plans is that we are too ambitious – we take that with pride,” Mr McDonnell said.

“We are ambitious for our country and will be investing on the scale needed to end austerity, tackle climate change and build our county’s future.”

The respected think-tank said this morning that neither of the major parties have offered a “credible prospectus” for government, and that Labour’s plans for a doubling of investment spending and £83bn of tax and current spending increases lacked credibility.


John Curtice: Election is not ‘in the bag’ for Tories

Polling guru Professor John Curtice has warned that people shouldn’t read the recent high profile YouGov poll as an indication the election is “in the bag” for the Conservatives and said a lot could change over the next two weeks.

Speaking on the BBC after the MRP survey showed the Tories winning a comfortable majority, Sir John noted there were a significant number of seats that could remain in Labour hands if the Tories’ national polling lead slipped.

“The battle for this election, although it looks comfortable for the Conservatives … isn’t necessarily in the bag,” he said.

At an 11-point lead the Conservatives look like they should win the election relatively comfortably. But if in the next two weeks the Conservative lead in the polls should fall back to around 7 points, then the election could suddenly look a lot closer and the possibility of a hung parliament could come back into view.

A majority of polls over the past week have suggested Labour is making inroads into the Tory majority.


Corbyn outlines ‘green industrial revolution’

Climate change and the environment are on the agenda ahead of a leader’s debate on green issues on Channel 4 this evening.

Jeremy Corbyn launched his party’s environmental plans in Southampton by promising a Labour government would deliver a “green industrial revolution” including a million skilled jobs in industries ranging from reforestation to the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

Labour has also promised to create 10 new national parks and plant 2bn new trees in England by 2040.

On climate change, Mr Corbyn said: “If we flinch then we will be handing down a broken planet to our children and their children.”

The Conservatives will not attend this evening’s debate.


Swinson targets Johnson in bid to revive flagging campaign

George Parker, the FT’s political editor, reports:

Jo Swinson has launched a strong personal attack on Boris Johnson, claiming that he is “unfit” to be prime minister and that only the Liberal Democrats could stop him forming a majority government.

The Lib Dem leader, speaking in central London, used the speech to mark a clear pivot in her party’s strategy as she tries to re-energise a campaign which has misfired badly.

A YouGov poll released last night suggested she was on course to win just 13 seats — a gain of just one seat from 2017 — and Ms Swinson dropped any pretence she might be the next prime minister: “Clearly when you look at the polls at this stage of the campaign, that’s pretty unlikely,” she said.

Ms Swinson has also dialled back the party’s main policy — that it would revoke the Article 50 Brexit process without recourse to a referendum — and she is now pointing to the Lib Dems’ support for the so-called ‘People’s Vote’.

The Lib Dem strategy between now and polling day on December 12 is to convince Remain voters that they have to prevent Mr Johnson winning a big majority and pushing through what she claims would be a “hard Brexit”.

In her speech, she claimed that Mr Johnson was racist, sexist and had “lied to the Queen” over his decision to suspend parliament — a move later ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court — in an attempt to keep open the option of a no deal Brexit.

“You cannot trust a word Boris Johnson says,” she said. Ms Swinson said she would carry on speaking her mind, even though her own approval ratings have slumped during the course of the election campaign.


Sterling rise underscores optimism over Tory win

Sterling edged up to its highest level in a week after a key poll showed Boris Johnson’s Tory party could storm to its strongest election victory since Margaret Thatcher more than three decades ago.

The modest rally marks a shift in tone for the currency markets; In recent months, the pound has at times reacted positively to gains by Jeremy Corbyn, with investors betting that despite his market-unfriendly policies, the opposition leader at one point seemed to offer the clearest path away from leaving the EU without a deal.

Now, Conservative gains are linked more closely to strength in the pound. The currency hit a peak of $1.2950 in late New York trading on Wednesday as investors reacted to the YouGov poll. It gave up those gains in London, but analysts say the initial jolt higher highlights how market sentiment has switched.

“A result like [the one forecast by the poll] in two weeks’ time would mean that Boris Johnson would be able to get his Brexit agreement through Parliament at the end of January and would be able to start the negotiations on future EU relations following the exit,” said Antje Praefcke, analyst at Commerzbank.

“Even if this would cast the exit of the UK out of the EU in stone it would at least end the uncertainty about it that dominated the past months and years.”

A Conservative majority is seen by many analysts as a bullish outcome for the pound since it would herald more certainty — at least in the short term — over the path for Brexit. Traders worry that an indecisive result or Labour win would present fresh hurdles to the passage of legislation to allow the UK to exit the EU with a transition agreement in place.

“Corbyn has had a bad campaign and while there is still scope for the gap to narrow, it is now looking increasingly likely that time is running out or has run out for Labour to make a surge,” said Derek Halpenny, head of research for global markets at MUFG in London.


Constituency in focus: Finchley and Golders Green

As its handling of anti-Semitism continues to weigh on the Labour party, the constituency purported to be the most Jewish in the country is shaping up to be a key electoral battleground.

Luciana Berger is running as a the Liberal Democrat candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, having been hounded out of Labour by local activists after repeatedly denouncing the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for his failure to get to grips with a surge in anti-Semitism.

But the odds are set against her, Ben Hall writes.

The Lib Dems won only 3,463 votes in the 2017 election, far behind Mike Freer of the Conservatives, who won with 24,599, and his Labour runner-up, Jeremy Newmark, with 22,942. But in a seat that has traditionally been a Labour-Tory marginal, a combination of Brexit and anti-Semitism have reshaped the contest.

In the 2016 referendum Finchley and Golders Green voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU and a backlash against Brexit should in theory tip this marginal Conservative seat to Labour.

But Mr Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism issue, coupled with his ambivalence over Brexit, gives Ms Berger a fighting chance.

For more on the battle for Finchley and Golders Green, check out Ben’s analysis here.


Ice, ice Boris

George Parker, FT political editor, writes:

Boris Johnson could be replaced by an ice sculpture if he fails to take part in a Channel 4 debate on climate change on Thursday night, prompting claims from the prime minister’s team that the broadcaster is organising a politically-motivated stunt.

Mr Johnson is already under fire for failing to agree a time for an interview with the BBC’s forensic interviewer Andrew Neil and he is now locked in a dispute with C4 for refusing to join other party leaders in an environmental debate.

The broadcaster’s “wet chair” threat came after it refused to accept the Conservative offer that Michael Gove, former environment secretary, should stand-in for the prime minister.

Mr Johnson’s team said that the prime minister could not take part in every debate organised during the campaign and that Mr Gove was “a big beast” and that “any other network would have taken him”.

A C4 News spokeswoman did not deny that the ice sculpture plan was under consideration. The spokeswoman said: “The clock is ticking. The ice caps are melting. Our invitation to the prime minister remains open until 7pm tonight.”

Relations between Downing St and Channel 4 are already in the deep freeze, with senior Tories claiming that the broadcaster’s senior team is pursuing a political agenda.


DUP says ‘no’ to Johnson’s Brexit deal and Corbyn-led government

Arthur Beesley, the FT’s Ireland correspondent, reports:

The Democratic Unionists said they will refuse to vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit treaty if the deal is not overhauled and they have ruled out supporting any Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

In its election manifesto, published in Belfast today, the DUP said Mr Johnson’s Brexit proposals were “not in Northern Ireland’s longer-term interests” and “clearly without support within unionism”.

The largest Northern Ireland party, which is defending 10 of the region’s 18 Westminster seats, propped up Theresa May’s Conservative minority government after the 2017 election. The DUP’s refusal to accept Mrs May’s original EU withdrawal treaty spurred dissent among hardline Tory Brexiteers, ultimately leading to her demise.

The DUP went on to back Mr Johnson when he succeeded Mrs May, but rejected his Brexit deal on similar grounds that it would create an Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and Britain by keeping the region under EU customs rules while the rest of the UK left.

The party is also unhappy with the prime minister’s proposals to provide a consent mechanism to the Brexit arrangements to Northern Irish power-sharing institutions at Stormont outside Belfast, which have not sat for almost three years.

The manifesto said:

In the last parliament, it was the votes of the DUP that altered the course of events. When tested the DUP stood strong. In our view without change in key areas it would be bad for Northern Ireland economically.

Mr Corbyn’s historic links with militant Irish republicans at the height of Northern Ireland’s sectarian conflict have long been a source of friction with unionists. But Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, also cited the anti-Semitism row in Labour when saying she could “very easily” not support a Corbyn-led administration.

“It is not just about the company he kept in the past, it is what he believes now,” she told reporters, according to the Press Association, adding:

It is not just about the person, it is about his policies, from how he is going to wreck the economy and take us back to a time when we did not have productivity, where people were leaving the UK.


Martin Wolf: Why I cannot vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party

The FT’s chief economics commentator Martin Wolf has shared his thoughts on the general election, and the Labour party’s shift to the left.

He believes Jeremy Corbyn’s hugely expansionary programme is likely to trigger capital flight and currency collapse.

At the age of 16, I joined the young socialists, the youth branch of the Labour party. I was a supporter of the leader, Hugh Gaitskell, who opposed the party’s “Clause IV” commitment to nationalisation. I then encountered the hard left or, as we called them, “Trots”, after Leon Trotsky, an architect of the Soviet revolution, assassinated by Joseph Stalin. I disliked them then. I dislike them now. I doubt their commitment to freedom and democracy.

With Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the hard left took over the Labour party. It was a change of enormous, and probably enduring, importance. Labour remains the UK’s main opposition party. At some point, it is likely to gain power. I wish I could want it to do so. I do not.

The Tories have provided dreadful government, from post-crisis fiscal austerity at the expense of the vulnerable, to the idiocy of Brexit. The economy’s performance has been dire, above all, on productivity. The country needs a plausible Labour opposition. But I am deeply suspicious of the people who run it. They are real socialists and, like most socialists, instinctive authoritarians. It is significant that Mr Corbyn admired Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

You can read Martin’s full piece here.


Labour have failed to capitalise on Tory chaos

The Conservatives have been in power for nine years. Since 2016, they have ruled over a chaotic Brexit process. Their leader Boris Johnson is a polarising figure who lacks the widespread appeal of previous prime ministers.

It is therefore little short of remarkable — writes James Blitz, the FT’s Whitehall editor — that with two weeks to polling day the biggest poll of this campaign so far is showing the Conservatives with an 11 point lead over Labour.

Last night’s MRP poll by YouGov for the Times says the Tories are on course to win 359 seats, Labour would get 211, the SNP 43 and the Lib Dems just 13, an increase of one. This would mean a comfortable majority of 68 for Mr Johnson, validating his entire personal and political strategy since 2016.

This election ought to have been Labour’s for the taking. But Mr Corbyn is pushing a policy prospectus that is too leftwing; he has never tackled the scourge of anti-Semitism in his party; and his Brexit message is too muddled.

As a result, Mr Johnson has been given an opportunity he scarcely deserves and he is taking it. He is running a more disciplined campaign than expected. His relentless message that he will “get Brexit done” convinces voters, wrongly, that he is a force for renewal. Anything that might foul up his current lead, such as a possible interview with Andrew Neil, is potentially eliminated.

It is impossible to predict confidently what the outcome will be on December 12. But it is hard to believe that Labour can engineer a real tactical shift that narrows Thursday’s Tory poll lead. 

For more on this, read James’s full piece here


Political parties rake in more than £9m of donations in latest week

The parties vying for votes in the election drew in donations exceeding £9m in the second week of campaigning, a sharp rise over the same period two years ago, according to data released on Thursday.

Parties received £9.07m from November 13 to 19, the non-partisan Electoral Commission has reported. The tally represents an increase of more than threefold compared with the 2017 election. The figure was also above the £6.5m recorded during the first week of the 2019 contest.

Labour led the way with £3.5m in donations, followed by the Tories with just below £3m and the Brexit party at £2.3m. Parties are required to report donations above £7,500.


Rise in young voter registration may widen Newcastle East age gap

Chris Tighe, north east England correspondent, reports:

The surge just before this week’s deadline in people registering to vote, the majority of them under 35, means the average age of voters may well fall in urban areas with a high concentration of young professionals and students.

This demographic phenomenon could mean an even greater age gap in the Newcastle East constituency between many of its potential voters and one of the UK’s longest serving MPs, who is standing again for election.

Labour’s candidate Nick Brown, its chief whip in the last parliament, has been the MP for this seat for more than 36 years – longer than more than a third of his potential voter base has been alive.

Thirty five percent of the population in this seat, according to House of Commons constituency data, are in the 20 to 29 age group; that compares with 13.1 per cent overall average in UK’s 650 constituencies. Newcastle East is home to many students at Newcastle’s two city centre universities.

Since becoming an MP in 1983 Mr Brown, 69, has outlasted a succession of high profile politicians and Labour leaders including Gordon Brown, of whom he was a close ally, and Tony Blair. This is his ninth election and given his 19,261 majority in 2017, an 18.1per cent rise on 2015, there is a strong likelihood he will be continuing as an MP into his seventies.

If so, stamina will be needed. His election leaflet says he has responded to 10,000 emails since 2017 and dealt with more than 30,000 cases since becoming an MP.


Tally of full time GPs slips in sign of high bar for improving NHS

Sarah Neville, the FT’s global pharmaceuticals editor, writes:

The number of full time permanent GPs has fallen by 2 per cent in the past year, and about one in eight nursing posts are now vacant, according to official data that highlight the difficulties all parties will face in fulfilling campaign pledges to improve NHS performance.

Boris Johnson, prime minister, vowed on taking office to ensure that no-one would have to wait three weeks for an appointment with a family doctor and has since promised 50m more GP appointments and an extra 50,000 nurses by 2024-5.

Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund said, while more GPs than ever were being trained, the volume and intensity of GP workloads was driving many either to reduce their hours or leave the profession altogether. The data showed that, excluding registrars and locums, over the last four years the number of permanent, full time equivalent GPs had fallen by 6.2 per cent, with a 2 per cent fall in the year to September.

She added that the figures, published by NHS Digital, showed more than 105,000 vacancies, covering all roles, in NHS trusts. Separately there were an estimated 122,000 vacancies in social care at any one time, Ms Warren added.

All the major political parties had made “eye-catching pledges” to improve access to GP appointments by increasing the number of GPs but the solution was not straightforward, she warned. “Success will hinge not just on the ability to recruit and – more importantly – retain enough GPs, but also to bring in professionals such as physiotherapists and pharmacists,” she added. Equally important was investment in technology to develop digitally-based models of care, she suggested.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, a charity, said the level of nursing vacancies was “a further reminder of the growing workforce crisis that threatens patient care”. Without concerted action the number of unfilled nursing posts could double over the next five years, she suggested.

But the time it took to train more nurses meant the NHS would need at least 5,000 nurses from other countries each year for the next five years. She added: “The incoming government must ensure that migration policy is not a barrier to achieving this.”


Corbyn criticises Johnson over climate no-show

Here is Jeremy Corbyn’s take on Boris Johnson’s refusal to take part in Channel 4′s climate change debate this evening.

The broadcaster has refused to accept the Conservative offer that Michael Gove, former environment secretary, should stand-in for the prime minister.


Johnson refuses to confirm BBC Andrew Neil interview

Will Boris Johnson submit to a forensic interview by the BBC’s Andrew Neil?

The prime minister is under fire for failing to so far agree a time for an interview with Mr Neil, and has been accused of running scared of scrutiny. On Tuesday Mr Neil conducted a bruising interview with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In a short clip just aired by the BBC, Mr Johnson refused to answer at least five times whether he would sit down with Mr Neil.

“I will have all sorts of interviews with all sorts of people,” he said.

“I am sure that active discussions are taking place about future interviews with any number of people.”

Mr Johnson is also not expected to show up to a Channel 4 debate on climate change this evening. He is expected to be replaced by an ice sculpture.


Scottish candidates dropped

Three Scottish candidates have been dropped by their parties within the last 24 hours.

• The Scottish National party has dropped its candidate in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath over alleged anti-Semitism, the BBC has reported.

• The seat, which was former prime minister Gordon Brown’s, is one of Scotland’s most marginal and has a Labour majority of less than 300.

• Labour has removed its candidate for Falkirk, also over alleged anti-Semitism, the Falkirk Herald reported.

• And the Conservatives suspended their candidate in Glasgow Central over alleged Islamophobia, the Scotsman newspaper reported.


Corbyn under pressure on strategy

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is coming under growing pressure from his party’s own candidates to rethink his “ludicrous” election strategy and focus efforts on staving off an anticipated Tory onslaught, rather than trying to gain seats across the country, our Westminster team reports.

That story has just been published, and you can read it here.

We are going to wrap up this evening’s live coverage, and will be back first thing tomorrow.

Have a good evening.