General election 2015

The Independent on Sunday asked the bosses of the 10 top polling companies for their predictions.

We combined their estimates, where given, for the number of seats in the new House of Commons, excluding Northern Ireland.

Since last week, the Tory lead over Labour widened slightly in the average forecast: Conservative 278 seats (+2 on the week before); Labour 273 (-2); Scottish National Party 46 (+1); Liberal Democrat 26 (no change); Ukip 4 (-1); Plaid Cymru 3; Green 1; Respect 1 (all unchanged).

Run the numbers through the hung parliament decision tree, on page 16, and they point to a Labour minority government, ruling “vote by vote” with SNP support.

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The Guardian claims Conservative support is slipping.

The Conservatives head into the last 10 days of the election campaign with the narrowest of leads over Labour, according to the penultimate Opinium/Observer survey before polling day on 7 May.

The Tories are on 34% – down two percentage points since a week ago – while Labour is up one on 33%. Ukip, defying predictions that it would fade, is unchanged on 13% while the Liberal Democrats are up one point on 9%.

The Express claims northern constituencies could decide the outcome.

VOTERS in the North and the Midlands will decide the General Election, with more key battlegrounds there than in any other part of the country.

Of the 100 marginal seats that are likely to determine who wins the keys to Number 10, almost half (49) are in the North and Midlands, compared with 35 in the South.

The remaining pivotal seats are in Wales (seven), Northern Ireland (five) and Scotland (four).

With the polls still neck and neck the stakes could not be higher and just a few thousand votes are expected to decide the winner.

Labour needs an extra 68 MPs to be able to form a majority government.

Of its target seats, 34 are in the North and Midlands compared with 24 in the South of England.

Ten others are in Scotland and Wales.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, needs to win just 23 additional seats to form a majority government.

Of its target seats, 14 are in the North and Midlands, compared with nine in the South.

The Mail reports on the possibility that England will be controlled by the Scottish First Minister after the election.

Britain will face its biggest constitutional crisis since Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 if Ed Miliband runs Britain with Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May has warned.

In a dramatic intervention in the Election campaign, the Home Secretary questioned whether English voters would accept the ‘legitimacy’ of a Labour Government backed by Scottish Nationalists.

And she compared the effects of such a pact to the way Britain’s governing class was paralysed for months in the 1930s because of King Edward VIII’s affair with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

After being told the public would not accept Simpson as Queen, the crisis was only resolved when Edward abdicated.

Postal workers union

The Independent reports that the postal workers’ union will vote on cutting its ties to Labour

Angry postal and telecoms workers are trying to cut their union’s ties to Labour, which could blow a £500,000 hole in the cash-strapped party’s finances.

Several motions to the Communications Workers Union (CWU) conference in Bournemouth have called for a review of the 200,000-strong group’s links with Labour and a reduction in affiliation fees. These fees give trade unions certain rights within the party, such as selecting members of the powerful National Executive Committee.

Postal workers do not believe that Labour fought hard enough to prevent the privatisation of Royal Mail in late 2013, which some MPs have argued was sold for up to £1bn less than its correct value. Lord Mandelson, as Business Secretary under Gordon Brown, also annoyed them by proposing the part-privatisation of the five-century-old service before abandoning the idea in 2009.

Private rents

Sky News is one of several media reporting on private rents.

Labour plans to bar private landlords from raising rents faster than inflation over a three-year period if it wins power after the General Election.

Party leader Ed Miliband described Labour’s blueprint as “a plan for a stable, decent, prosperous private rental market where landlords and tenants can succeed together”.

The move forms part of a plan to help the growing number of people – known as Generation Rent – who are stuck in rented accommodation as home ownership falls to its lowest level for 30 years.

Labour has already announced plans for secure three-year tenancies for all those who want them, to protect tenants in a short-term private market where default agreements currently last just six-12 months.

Now Mr Miliband is promising that over the course of a three-year contract, rents would be capped so that they cannot rise by more than the CPI rate of inflation.

The Sunday Times has a similar story.

LABOUR will slap a cap on rents, banning private landlords from increasing their costs by more than the rate of inflation in Ed Miliband’s latest populist pledge of state intervention.

The Labour leader will announce today that rent rises will be pegged to rising consumer prices as he launches a new election offensive on the cost of living.

In the most far-reaching changes to the private rental sector in a generation, landlords and letting agencies would also have to disclose the rent paid by the previous occupants in a bid to deter new rent rises.

The move is likely to cause controversy, with critics comparing it to the rent controls of the 1960s and 1970s.

It comes after Miliband said he would also cap rises in household energy prices.

As does the Guardian.

Rent rises for 11 million people living in private accommodation will be capped at the rate of inflation if Labour wins the general election on 7 May, Ed Milibandwill announce on Sunday.

In a move designed to appeal to, among others, younger voters priced out of the housing market, Miliband will say that during new three-year secure tenancies, landlords will be barred from increasing rents in any one year above the level of price rises as recorded in the consumer price index.

In a first Labour Queen’s speech of a new parliament, Labour will also introduce legislation requiring landlords to disclose rents charged to their last tenants so that householders have proper information and can negotiate the best deal at the start of their contract. Rogue landlords who do not keep their housing stock up to basic standards will have their “buy to let” tax relief slashed.

Foreigners replace British workers

Nicola Sturgeon is facing a claim that she did nothing when hundreds of British workers were replaced by foreigners, says the Express.

POLICE have launched a major fraud investigation after claims that 200 British workers at Scotland’s environment agency were sacked and replaced by cheaper staff from India and South America.

Most of the replacements are alleged to have been allowed to enter the country on Tier 2 Visas – designed only for people coming to the UK to fill a position that cannot be filled by a settled workers.

The claims, made by two former employees, were also passed on to Scotland’s First Minster Nicola Sturgeon, who was last night challenged to explain on why she took no action.

Embarrassingly, they come just two weeks after the SNP leader declared: “We need strong controls on immigration and we need to make sure people do not get away with abusing the system the rest of us pay for.”

Armed forces

The Mirror reports that the numbers in our armed forces are falling.

Labour is accusing David Cameron of failing to keep the Armed Forces up to strength because recruitment is in chaos.

New MoD figures show the three services are short of nearly 6,400 trained personnel, more than 4,000 of them soldiers, the Sunday People can reveal.

This comes after 25,000 ­redundancies since 2012, reducing “requirements” to 151,000 men and women.

Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker said: “This Government is failing our Armed Forces, it’s not surprising morale is falling.

“These shocking figures ­reveal the chaos under the Tories that puts unnecessary strain on those serving and undermines their ability to do their job.”

The RAF is under-strength by 2,060 and the Royal Navy by 280 sailors.

Islamophobia

The Labour Leader has pledged to make Islamophobia a criminal offence in the UK if he becomes Prime Minister, claims Breitbart.

In an interview with the Muslim News website, Miliband said a Labour government would make Islamophobia an “aggravated crime”.

“We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime,” he said, adding: “We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country.”

The Labour leader also pledged that a future Labour government would recognise a Palestinian State, saying he would have supported recognition at last year’s UN vote.

“We would do everything we can to work for a two state solution which is a viable Palestinian state alongside security for Israel,” he said. He added, however, that he was “not in favour of sanctions” against Israel.

Miliband also went on to criticise the government’s anti-extremist Prevent strategy, accusing it of alienating Muslim communities.

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