Ed Miliband speaks in Redbridge earlier today at Labour's local and European election campaign launch. Photograph: Getty Images.
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How private renters could swing the election for Labour

There are 37 Labour target seats in which the number of privately-renting swing voters exceeds the ruling party's majority. 

In pledging to end excessive rent rises, make long-term tenancies the norm and ban letting agents' fees, Ed Miliband has made one of his astutest interventions to date. As he noted in his speech today, there are now nine million people renting privately, with almost 50 per cent of households over the age of 35. They are currently paying an average of £1,020 a year more than in 2010 and rent payments represent 41 per cent of their gross income, compared with 30 per cent for social renters and 19 per cent for owner-occupiers. There are a huge number of votes to be won from offering this group a better deal - not least in marginal seats. 

A recent poll by the campaign group Generation Rent found that 35 per cent of private renters are swing voters and that more than half (52 per cent) consider the cost of rent to be their biggest problem. It went on to show that there are 86 constituencies in which the ruling party's majority is less than 35 per cent of the private renter population - the proportion who change their party allegiance at general elections. Of this total, I've found that 37 feature on Labour's target list of 106 seats - Miliband's plan will help the party win votes where it matters most. 

The Tories are arguing that Labour's "rent controls" (and there is a significant difference between index-linked increases and an overall cap) would be ineffective, but the desperation with which they are seeking to kill the idea (witness Grant Shapps's hyperbolic reference to "Venezuelan-style rent controls") shows that they recognise its political potency. YouGov poll of Londoners earlier this month found that 55 per cent support rent controls with just 19 per cent opposed. 

In denouncing Miliband as "Old Labour" and comparing him to Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, David Cameron is harking back to the Tories' glory days. But when Margaret Thatcher assailed her left-wing opponents in the 1980s, she did so in the confidence that her free-market policies retained popular support. Cameron does not enjoy that luxury. Polls show that around two-thirds of voters support a 50p tax rate, a mansion tax, stronger workers’ rights, a living wage and the renationalisation of the railways and the privatised utilities. If Miliband is a "socialist", so is much of the public. The danger for the Tories is that they have positioned themselves as the defenders of the market at a time when it is not working for the majority. 

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.