Nick Clegg prior to giving a television interview during a visit to Hughes Safety Showers on May 21, 2014 in Stockport. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why are the Lib Dems so quiet about their housebuilding target?

The party's pledge to build 300,000 homes a year is barely known. 

Labour's pledge to build at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020 might sound ambitious (given that the current rate of building is just 112,630), but it's still below the level regarded by housing experts as acceptable. A recent Policy Exchange report warned that the UK needs a minimum of 1.5 million new homes from 2015 to 2020 simply to meet need: 300,000 a year. With this in mind, the Lib Dems have formally adopted this target as party policy.

As Vince Cable told ITV News last night: "There is an enormous gap between what's needed, which is probably 300,000 houses a year as my party is advocating, and what we're currently getting, which is 125,000 to 130,000. We are way short on the housing supply which is needed."

But while Ed Miliband rarely misses a chance to mention his housebuilding ambitions, how often have you heard Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dems cite their party's target? There is a pattern here. As The Staggers' resident Lib Dem Richard Morris recently noted, the party is similarly quiet about its pledge to review tuition fees after the next general election (with a view to eventually abolishing them) and to reform the bedroom tax. 

It might be that the Lib Dems want to focus on their achievements in government (such as the increase in the tax threshold to £10,000, the pupil premium and ermm...) but to motivate activists and attract voters, the party also needs to talk more about what it wants to do after 2015. The Tories have used the European election campaign to highlight their EU referendum pledge and have previously signalled their intention to go further on immigration and welfare. But what would the Lib Dems do with another five years in power? They should tell us. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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My time as an old woman with a £4,000 prosthetic face, working for the Daily Mail

On the Tube, a man offered me his seat. “I’m not an old woman,” I told him. “I’m a Daily Mail features writer wearing a prosthetic face.” He moved away.

I was, for a time, a Daily Mail features writer. My job was to sanctify and incite the prejudices of its editorial staff and readers – ideally while wearing fancy dress, because that is more palatable and moronic.

I have been, at various times and for money, a Saxon peasant, a Restoration hussy, the back half of a cow, a devout Muslim, an ice dancer and a man. It quite often went wrong.

I was, for instance, asked to dress up as an old woman, in order to find out what it was like to be an old woman. Any newspaper that was not institutionally insane would have simply asked an old woman what it was like to be an old woman but, since the Mail thinks in fantastical stereotypes, that would never happen. The results would be too shocking.

I was given a £4,000 prosthetic face. I went to the East End because that, according to the Daily Mail, is where poor people live. I was supposed to get mugged, so I walked around with £50 notes falling out of my pockets. A boy came up to me, handed me the £50 note I had dropped and said: “You want to watch your money. You’ll get mugged.”

Editorial was disappointed. Perhaps I should try again in Kensington? This was considered unsuitable (nice people live in Kensington), so I went to Tramp nightclub.

“My grandson comes here,” I said to the woman on the door, in my old woman’s voice. “What tabloid newspaper or TV reality show are you from?” she asked. (She was obviously a Daily Mail reader.) On the Tube, a man offered me his seat. “I’m not an old woman,” I told him. “I’m a Daily Mail features writer wearing a prosthetic face.” He moved away.

I was asked to wear a burqa for a week. A black burqa was no good for the photographs – the Mail hates black clothing, even to illustrate a story about black clothing – so I hired a golden one from Angels, the costumiers. I later saw a photograph of myself in that burqa, illustrating an actual news story in the Evening Standard.

In the US, a woman passed herself off as a man, convincingly, for a year. I was asked to do the same, although the budget would not run to a year. Even so, the idea that the Daily Mail would pay a female journalist to pretend to be a man permanently is not, if you know the paper, that weird.

I went to the BBC costume department and was given a fat suit and a wig. I was a very ugly man. As I left the BBC – my instructions were, among other things, to chat up women – a woman said to me, “You’re not a man, you’re a lesbian.” I hid in a pub and engaged in a telephone stand-off with editorial. I explained that I did not want to leave the pub because I didn’t look like a man at all but a very creepy woman, which is exactly what I was.

Suzanne Moore is away

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State