Regulation of candidates’ campaign expenditure: the long and the short of it…

There are two regulated periods for candidates contesting the UK Parliamentary general election, known as the long campaign and the short campaign. Separate spending limits apply in each of these periods.

The long campaign period (technically the period during which the pre-candidacy election expenses are regulated) began on 19 December 2014 and ends on the day before a person officially becomes a candidate.

The short campaign period (the period when the candidates’ election expenses are regulated during the election campaign) begins on the day a person officially becomes a candidate (generally this will be at the dissolution of Parliament on 30 March 2015) and ends on polling day, 7 May 2015.

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Voter Trends in 2014 and lessons for the 2015 General Election

Since 1964, the British Election Study (BES) has been surveying voters at each General Election in an attempt to establish who votes for who and why. The study has evolved over time, yet the central focus on political preferences and values, attitudes towards political engagement, and the socio-demographic characteristics of voters has remained.

The BES released the third wave of their 2014-17 internet panel study in late 2014, with Wave 1 taking place between February and March 2014, Wave 2 between May and June, and Wave 3 between September and October. A panel study is a type of survey that collects information on the same individuals at multiple points in time, which allows us to follow the same respondents from wave to wave, tracking the evolution of respondents’ attitudes towards election-related issues over time.

This post analyses three trends emerging from the latest data, each of which may play an important role in deciding the result of May’s General Election.

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Sex and relationships education in schools

What children should be taught about sex and relationships, by whom and when, is a matter of persistent political debate.  There are currently two Private Member’s Bills before Parliament on the subject, as well as an Education Committee inquiry in progress.  The matter was raised during the passage of the recent Children and Families Act and has been discussed by the Youth Parliament – and this is only the debate in Westminster.

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Resettling Syrian refugees in the UK

The United Nations estimates that more than 191,000 people have been killed in Syria. More than 12 million Syrians need help in the country, 7.6 million of whom are internally displaced. Well over 3 million Syrians have fled abroad. Millions of children cannot go to school.

In June the UNHCR estimated that there would be 3.59 million refugees from Syria by the end of 2014, the largest refugee population in the world, with 1.14 million known to be in Lebanon (the total Lebanese population is about 4.5 million) and Jordan, Turkey and Iraq hosting huge numbers. The UNHCR has requested $6 billion for its 2014 regional response plan, to help support Syria’s neighbours in handling the refugee crisis. So far, $3.2 billion has been received. The target figure for 2015 is $8.4 billion.

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How much is a pint of milk? Food and drink consumption, expenditure and costs in the UK

This afternoon’s Opposition Day debate on food banks and the cost of living promises to sustain focus upon the cost of food and drink in the UK. The debate follows publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry’s Feeding Britain report which, co-chaired by Rt Hon Frank Field MP and the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, examined hunger and food poverty in the UK.

Contending that “over the last four years prices have risen faster than wages” and that “low pay and failings in the operation of the social security system continue to be the main triggers for food bank use”, the Opposition’s motion brings to mind that question much loved by breakfast-show interrogators: how much is a pint of milk?

This blog piece provides an overview of data available from the ONS’s annual Living Costs and Food Survey and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ Family Food Datasets in order to inform readers of the breadth of statistical information available for analysis. Particular attention is paid to the cost of food and drink, rates of consumption and changes to weekly levels of expenditure over time. Where possible, information is analysed according to personal income.

For the record: according to the Office for National Statistics the retail price of a pint of pasteurised milk was, on average, 46p as of 11 November 2014. Of 233 quotations studied 80% ranged between 45p and 79p.

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Public forest estate sell-off – what next?

Following the Government’s aborted plans to sell parts of the Public Forest Estate in 2010, it signalled its intention to establish, via primary legislation, a new public body to manage the forestry estate. No legislation has yet been forthcoming and environmental groups are concerned that this has left the nation’s forests unprotected.

The introduction of the Infrastructure Bill in the 2014 Queen’s Speech compounded these fears as concerns were raised that specific provisions could be used to sell off the public forest estate.

Despite repeated government assurances that the Bill would have no impact on public forests, campaign groups have continued to lobby the government to explicitly protect the public forest estate from sale. The Government has now added an amendment to the Bill which protects the public forest estate from being sold.

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EU migrants and benefits: frequently (and some less frequently) asked questions

Last Friday the Prime Minister delivered his long-awaited speech on immigration. He set out ambitious plans to secure agreement on changes to European law on free movement in order to allow the UK to, among other things, deny EU migrants in-work benefits for four years and prevent Child Benefit being paid for children living abroad. Proposals to restrict EU migrants’ access to benefits have also been put forward by Labour and by the Liberal Democrats.

EU immigration has been at the top of the political agenda in the UK almost continuously for the past twelve months. There has been intense, and not always well-informed, debate about what EU law requires Member States to do as regards migrants’ access to welfare, about what might be done to limit who gets what, and how it might be achieved. In this blog, I look at some of the more frequently asked questions about EU migrants’ access to benefits. I also touch upon a couple of areas that have not, as yet, received much attention.

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Is pressure on English A&E departments increasing?

There is a perception that pressure on accident and emergency departments has grown to unprecedented levels. Recent events at Colchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where patients have been asked not to attend A&E except for serious and life-threatening conditions, have brought this issue into focus. Additionally, there are reports that all three major hospitals in Cambridgeshire were recently put on ‘black alert’, representing a hospital’s highest possible level of alert. Meanwhile, the government has released £700m in funds to alleviate a potential ‘winter crisis’ in the NHS. This post examines claims about increasing pressures on A&E in England as a whole in the light of published data.

Data for individual NHS providers going back to 2010 is available in our downloadable Excel tool.



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