Ed Miliband speaks to supporters at Redbridge on May 1, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour nine points ahead in new poll of Tory marginals

The party would win all 10 of the target seats polled. 

One of the transparent calculations behind Boris Johnson's decision to return to parliament is the possibility (or even probability) that the Tories will be defeated in 2015. With nine months remaining until the general election, a new Survation poll of 13 Conservative marginals (10 Labour targets, three Lib Dem) confirms the party's unpromising position. It puts Labour on 41 per cent (up 10 points since 2010), the Tories on 31 per cent (down eight), Ukip on 17 per cent (up 14) and the Lib Dems on just 4 per cent (down 17), a swing of nine per cent to Labour since the last election. 

On a uniform swing, these figures would see Labour win all 10 of its target seats (Amber Valley, Warwickshire North, Broxtowe, Lancaster and Fleetwood, Brighton Kemptown, Lincoln, Morecambe and Lunesdale, Sherwood, Thurrock, Cannock Case) and more than 100 Tory-held marginals nationwide. By contrast, the Lib Dems would fail to win any of their target seats (Camborne and Redruth, Truro and Falmouth, West Dorset) after a swing of four points towards the Tories. 

It's important to remember, though, that this is a snapshot, not a prediction. In October 2009, a marginals poll suggested the Tories would win a majority of 70. Just seven months later, they didn't win one at all. But thanks to the defection of Lib Dem voters to Labour and the defection of Tory voters to Ukip, the opposition is in a strong position to be the largest party. The swing achieved by Labour in the marginals (9 per cent) is greater than the national average (5.5 per cent), supporting Labour's claim that it is "winning voters where it matters". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.