Sebastian Payne

Campaign kick-off: 29 days to go

Campaign kick-off: 29 days to go
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Finally, we have a policy to debate. Ed Miliband has set the agenda for the campaign today with a pledge that Labour would scrap the ‘non-dom’ tax status. After weeks of personal attacks, Miliband has shaken things up a little — but is the announcement already falling apart? To help guide you through the melée of stories and spin, here is a summary of today's main stories.

1. No more non-doms

In a speech at Warwick University today, Ed Miliband will say ‘there are now 116,000 non-doms, costing hundreds of millions of pounds to our country, it can no longer be justified.’ In short, having non-dom tax status is a way for very wealthy people to avoid paying tax. Clamping down on this sort of thing is red meat for Labour’s core base. It’s a punchy announcement, one that has impressed businessman Duncan Bannatyne, but Labour has yet to offer any details on the financials. What are the tax revenue implications for scrapping non-dom status? It’s easy to see why Labour has done it for political reasons but Miliband and Balls risk looking financially inept if they can’t offer any details on the numbers.

The Tories are already using this as an opening to attack. On Newsnight last night, Michael Gove questioned if the policy would being in any more money:

George Osborne has also hit back, saying in a statement that the small print shows ‘they are not actually abolishing non-dom status...either they are going to abolish non-dom status altogether which would cost our country hundreds of millions of pounds in lost tax revenues and lost investment – the reason they did nothing on this during thirteen years in office.’ Except to hear plenty more tit-for-tat between Labour and the Tories on this throughout the day.

2. Scotland debates

Last night, the four leaders of the Scottish parties went head to head on STV and it was a pretty good debate, with repercussions for the UK wide campaign. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was booed after she refused to rule out a second independence referendum. Labour’s Jim Murphy claimed that Labour wouldn’t need to make any more cuts after 2016, something Miliband has avoided discussing. The Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson ruled out any coalition or deal with Ukip, while the Liberal Democrats’ Willie Rennie painted himself as the sensible man in the middle of the road.

There was no knock out blow, but unlike the seven-way debate or the Paxo Q&A, the leaders appeared to be actually debating issues each other. Conservative HQ in particular are delighted at Sturgeon’s comments about putting Ed Miliband into No.10. There is a second Scottish leaders’ debate on BBC Scotland at 9pm tonight, this time including representatives from Ukip and the Greens.

"I'm offering to help make Ed Miliband Prime Minister" and the SNP are already writing their list of demands. #chaos

— Conservatives (@Conservatives) April 8, 2015

3. Back to school

The Tories hoped to grab the news agenda today with an announcement that pupils entering secondary school without adequate English and maths skills will have to take extra tests. According to the Times, this would affect 100,000 pupils — or one in five 11-year-olds. The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said in an interview that ‘education is a matter of social justice. If you are worried about inequality, getting a good education is the right way to tackle that.’

Instead of welcoming the plan or explaining what they would do differently, Labour has been oddly riffing on non-qualified teachers. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has pointed out that ‘more than 400,000 pupils are being taught by unqualified teachers’ and Labour would ‘ensure that every teacher is qualified or working towards qualified teacher status.’ That's all fine what does it have to do with improving English or maths? Standards of literacy and numeracy reached 89 per cent last year, a record high, so the government's plan appears to be working. This poses the question: what would Labour do differently?