Labour’s rent control plans may have unintended consequences

HousingEd Miliband has pledged that Labour would introduce three-year tenancy agreements for private renters under which their rent increases would be capped at the rate of inflation, writes Professor Michael White.

The Conservatives quickly rounded on the idea of re-introducing rent controls, with London mayor Boris Johnson writing in The Daily Telegraph that it was “an idiotic way to tackle the problem of high rents”.

The history of rent control in the UK has been problematic. Designed to maintain affordability, limits to rent rises introduced in the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act 1915. This was designed to be short term but was kept in force after World War I in some form until 1989. It reduced the investment attractiveness of the private rented sector leading not only to its decline but also creating a significant drop in the quality of private rented accommodation. Continue reading

And the winner is…election abstention once again?

Whether people will vote at all is a very open question

Whether people will vote at all is a very open question

With less than a month to go until polling day, the UK General Election promises to be the most unpredictable – and dare we whisper, exciting? – contest in the modern era. If the opinion polls are anything to go by, then it seems increasingly unlikely that any two parties will be able to muster sufficient votes and seats to form a majority two-party coalition government on May 7th. The prospect of a three- or four-party coalition government is therefore a very real one.

Let’s consider the evidence. Continue reading

Leaders’ debates should be enshrined in law

Christian Weaver

Christian Weaver

The absence of a head-to-head, proper interactive debate between David Cameron and Ed Miliband is an affront to the British electorate who, on the whole, would have wished to see both party leaders question and address each other on matters affecting our everyday lives.

Some people might feel that the interviews both leaders had with Jeremy Paxman separately on March 26 were sufficient. I don’t.

Cameron should have agreed to this debate, as well as the recent ‘Seven Leaders’ debate right from the beginning. He has been ‘playing politics’ with this issue at a time when the general public is frankly sick of politicians and increasingly cynical of the political process. Continue reading

Reform of zero hours contracts could be a defining point of election campaign

Peter McTigueSince writing my last piece for the NTU election blog, the issue of zero hours contracts has featured heavily in the media. In last week’s leader’s debate on Channel 4 David Cameron admitted that he could not work under a zero hours contract and it is clear that the Labour Party are keen to attack on this issue as they believe it exposes weaknesses in Conservative arguments about the strength of the current economic recovery.

At a campaign event in Yorkshire later today, Ed Miliband will say that a future Labour government would guarantee zero hours workers the right to a regular contract after 12 weeks. While further details are yet to be released, this is a key policy pledge by the Labour Party and one that has been welcomed by Trade Unions. Continue reading

Will Scotland ensure May 7 is Westminster’s day of reckoning?

Dr Medhat Khattar

Dr Medhat Khattar

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats joined forces in the final days of the Scottish independence campaign to win a decisive victory against the Scottish National Party (SNP). But you could be forgiven for feeling perplexed at how such a decisive win ended with the losing side collecting the spoils of battle. The SNP now boasts the third largest membership in the UK (replacing the Liberal Democrats) a party leader with high approval ratings and what appears to be an irreversible lead in the opinion polls north of the border. If the SNP holds on to its lead in the polls, Labour would do exceptionally well to hold on to a dozen of its 41 parliamentary seats in Scotland.

What the Scottish referendum exposed in the mainstream parties was not the legitimate democratic position of voting for the union to continue, but rather their inability to contemplate alternative political realities that focused on hope and vision. Only in the dying moments of the campaign, and rattled by one opinion poll which showed a lead for the independence movement, did leaders of the three Westminster parties appear to concede the possibility of a federal UK in all but name. The promise, referred to as ’The Vow‘ in one newspaper at the time, ran into difficulty the morning after the referendum when the Prime Minister appeared to link further devolution in Scotland to securing EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) at Westminster. Continue reading

Political Storytelling and the Land of Make-Believe

Political storytelling

Dr Kevin J. Hunt is a senior lecturer in Visual Culture

Politicians talk a lot. Communicating clear ideas and workable policies to voters is key to winning an election and an inevitable part of political rhetoric relies upon telling stories. Representing a policy through a narrative description is a way of personalising an issue and perhaps helping a potential voter relate to an idea that might otherwise appear abstract. This is why politicians often recount how they met someone ‘just the other day’ who is due to benefit from their party’s policies and why, in live events, the candidates try to remember the names of audience members to indicate they are listening and responding to a specific situation affecting a real person. The aim is to show that a vote for that particular party will deliver a happier ending than any of the alternatives on offer. In other words, politicians work hard to construct narratives that they hope the electorate will believe in, repeat to other people, and vote for. Continue reading

Labour pledges to cut university tuition fees to £6,000

Nottingham Trent University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edward Peck, issued this response last week following Ed Miliband’s pledge that tuition fees would be cut to £6,000 under a Labour government. His comments were used by BBC News Online (update 3.44pm).

“Whilst it would be difficult to argue that university tuition fees are the most pressing policy problem that would benefit from a £2.7bn public investment per annum, the continued commitment of the Labour Party to the proper funding of higher education is welcome.

“It is not immediately clear to me that reducing fees from £27k to £18k over three years will have the positive impact on widening participation that Mr Miliband and his colleagues have been arguing in the media in recent weeks. However, it does give an incoming Labour government more opportunity to tweak the system; for example, by enhancing the premium for universities recruiting to engineering.

“Implicit in Mr Miliband’s statement is that the standard income for universities will remain at £9k per undergraduate student per year until 2020, the same as it has been since 2012. This will represent a reduction of actual income of at least 25% over the eight year period; some smaller universities may struggle to maintain standards over the next five years.”