George Osborne during a visit to officially re-open The Red Lion pub in Westminster, following a major refurbishment, on February 25, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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How a minimum wage rise will help the coalition

The first real-terms increase since 2008 will make it easier for the Tories and the Lib Dems to argue that the trend is moving in the right direction.

After months of speculation over a rise in the minimum wage, the Low Pay Commission has finally spoken: the main rate will rise by 3 per cent to £6.50 an hour from October this year. With inflation running at 1.9 per cent (and expected to remain on target), it will be the first real-terms increase since 2008. Labour is pointing out that the rate is below the £7 figure touted by George Osborne (with Chuka Umunna accusing him of "misleading and empty rhetoric"), but it's worth noting that the Chancellor suggested that the minimum wage could rise to this level "by 2015-16" (not 2014-15). Should the LPC recommend a larger increase next year (with the recovery continuing to accelerate), this target could be still be met.

For both the Tories and the Lib Dems, the announcement is unambiguously good news. While Labour can still point out that the average worker is £1,600 worse off than before David Cameron became prime minister, the coalition can at least argue that the trend is moving in the right direction. As the Lib Dems seek to earn some political credit from the recovery and the Tories (however unconvincingly) rebrand themselves as the "Workers' Party", a rise in the minimum wage (which will benefit at least 1.2 million workers) is among the most helpful measures.

Whether or not the voters regard this as a genuine "recovery" is one of the issues that will determine the outcome of the election. A recent YouGov poll for the Resolution Foundation found that 39 per cent of the public believe a "recovery in living standards" requires their incomes to start rising again after recent falls, while 46 per cent believe it requires incomes to be restored to their pre-crisis level (which is not forecast to happen until the end of the decade), showing how finely-balanced the debate is. A rise in the minimum wage will help the coalition to convince voters that its preferred definition of "recovery" is the right one.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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