With just under two weeks to go until polling day, the promises, threats and reassurances will kick up a notch as we enter the final stretch of the campaign. The Tories have another 5,000 businesses to back up their case for reelection, while Labour is turning to its favourite weapon of market intervention towards housing. To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today’s main election stories.
1. Building for Britain
The Tories have tried to paint themselves as the party of home ownership throughout this campaign. But Labour is attempting to seize that mantle with several new policies on housing today. First up, a pledge to scrap stamp duty for first time buyers on properties up to £300k. Under a Labour government, first time buyers would also have the choice pick of half the new built in their area. In a speech in Stockton today, Ed Miliband will say:
‘There’s nothing more British than the dream of home ownership. But for so many young people today, that dream is fading, with more people than ever renting when they want to buy, new properties being snapped up before local people get a look-in, young families wondering if this country will ever work for them.’
And where will the £225 million come from to pay for the stamp duty cut? Quelle surprise, tax rises! Labour will clamp down on landlords who avoid tax, cut tax relief for those who don’t maintain their properties and jack up taxes for foreign property owners. As with the Conservatives’ pledge to extend right to buy to housing association properties, critics will point out that these policies will put more strain on Britain’s already limited housing stock and not address the real problem. Labour is attempting to fend this off with another pledge that the government will build 200k more homes every year by 2020.
These pledges are capped off by Miliband’s other pledge to cap rent rises at the rate of inflation. So, we now know that Miliband's housing policy would be highly interventionist and we’ll undoubtedly hear from the Tories today about the issues this might cause. Iain Martin explains in the Times this morning (£) why capping rents is an ‘atrocious idea’.
2. Holding Britain together
Rhetoric on the future of the union and the threat of the SNP is ramping up. Theresa May told the Mail on Sunday yesterday ‘if we saw a Labour Government propped up by SNP it could be the biggest constitutional crisis since the abdication’. Nicola Sturgeon has hit back, saying that May has ‘made herself look totally and utterly ridiculous’. After Ed Miliband said on the Marr show there are 'no deals' to be done with the SNP, Sturgeon predicted Miliband ‘will have to change his tune’ — just what the Tories want to hear.
On the Today programme this morning, Sturgeon remained confident about her party's chances next Thursday. The SNP will ‘wield enormous clout’ after the election and she vowed again to ‘lock the Tories out of Downing Street’. But after that, Sturgeon said the SNP would use their influence on a case by case basis. But is the general election just a re-run last year’s independence referendum? ‘No, I don’t want that’, she said with regards to another referendum. But this poses a question of what the SNP will do in next year's Scottish Parliament elections. The party fundamentally exists to breakup the Union, now it is pledging not to do that straight away.
3. Businesses for Britain
Today’s Telegraph’s splashes with another letter from businesses backing the Tories. This time, it’s 5,000 small businesses who would ‘like to see David Cameron and George Osborne given the chance to finish what they have started’. The move is reportedly to show that the Tories are the friends of businesses all shapes and sizes — not just the fat cats in the City.
Karren Brady has been drumming up support for the letter for quite a while and The Apprentice star explains in an op-ed the successes of this government 'despite the tough economic times' But has there been a blooper in the author field of who put the letter together? One Twitter user has spotted the author is 'CCHQ-Admin':
.@Telegraph letter pdf properties. (Article http://t.co/rBbi4ZIsfy) pic.twitter.com/X28pgDIr3E
— Andy Hicks (@andyjameshicks) April 26, 2015