A new message from Miliband on welfare

Labour leader suggests he would consider freezing the winter fuel allowance.

Amid Ed Miliband's fraught exchanges with John Humphrys on the Today programme this morning there was a flash of new policy. For the first time, Miliband suggested that Labour would consider freezing (or means-testing?) the winter fuel allowance in order to reduce the £79bn deficit George Osborne will leave. He told Humphrys:

What does that mean in concrete terms? Let me give you an example. We took great pride in increasing the winter fuel allowance when we were in government: it's going to be much harder to do that should we come back to power. Of course, I hope to do it, it's going to be much harder to do it.

Miliband's leadership has been characterised by a strong defence of universal benefits (he believes, as Richard Titmuss put it, that "services for the poor will always be poor services") but there is a growing view in Labour that the winter fuel allowance, in its present form, is indefensible. A campaign urging the wealthy to donate their fuel payments to those in greatest need has raised £500,000, a reminder of how poorly targeted the payment is. Last year 65,000 expats living in Spain, Portugal, Greece and elsewhere received the benefit (set at £200 for the over-60s and £300 for the over-80s) despite their warmer climes.

It will be worth watching to see whether Miliband expands on this point in his speech to London Citizens at 11am. As last week's New Statesman leader argued, a commitment to universalism need not imply unconditional support for all universal benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.