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Summary

  1. Newsnight Live…analysis of the day’s political events
  2. EU Referendum, Cameron's European tour, plus FIFA

Live reporting

Career defining politics

Harry Pick, Newsnight producer

Would more focus on character virtues help politicians appeal to disconnected voters?
BBC
Would more focus on character virtues help politicians appeal to disconnected voters?

Kirsty Wark will be interviewing the New York Times columnist David Brooks tonight about his new book, “The Road to Character”. Brooks, one of America's most popular conservative political commentators, believes there are two different kinds of virtues in people. One is a set of short term, glittering résumé virtues. The second are more moral virtues that cultivate "strong character", the kind of traits we'd expect others to reflect on in our eulogies. Since World War II, he argues, people have become obsessed with their résumé virtues - not their moral well-being. We live in a less self-effacing, morally conscious society, weakened by the post Oprah self-help, self-love confessional culture. To him most greatness has been built on a sense of humility. In short, stop thinking you're special.   

However where Brooks is most interesting to us political boffins is through his ideas on leadership. For Brooks, President Eisenhower typified the greatest values in not just a human but a political leader – an embodiment of self-restraint and moral virtues, steering America through a period of no drastic change but ultimate improvement for the nation. But what about our current crop of leaders? Do they, as Brooks laments about general society, “have a clearer idea on how to achieve career success than how to develop a profound character”? The desire to win is clearly a burden that weighs heavy on politicians – more so than ever in an era where everyone is always watching. For me the most remarkable mistake, in a rather staid general election campaign, was Cameron claiming this election was a “career defining moment". A Freudian slip, but perhaps revealing too much thinking about résumé virtues from a man who has spent twenty years climbing the political ladder. 

In Brooks's native America, President Obama's public virtues are evident in his rhetoric, which has led many to endow him with praise for his character and connection with millions – but increasingly he has been criticised for appearing aloof or out of touch with the constituencies that voted for him. Hillary Clinton was said to have lost in 2008 because she didn’t cultivate many of the values Brooks talks about, focusing too much on the virtues of her résumé and place in the political establishment instead of returning to her roots and presenting a clear moral message. Her campaign strategy has changed this time round – she is meeting people in small venues, talking to them and trying to show that perhaps she would even stay home occasionally baking cookies after all. It is an oft discussed debate, but this evening Brooks's arguments might help illuminate why so many feel disconnected from our political class, seen by some as dominated more by careerists than characters.

Do developing countries benefit from Blatter?

Where does FIFA's money go?

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

There is a theory that one of the things that keeps Sepp Blatter in what, until very recently, seemed like such an unassailable position as FIFA president was the money that FIFA had given in support to developing countries - which have the same electoral clout in his election as advanced economies like Germany.

It is, as many have pointed out, perfectly possible for Blatter to win a presidential election without any European or North American votes - as you can see from this pie chart:

Fifa members
BBC

But it's not entirely clear to me that developing countries have actually done particularly disproportionately well out of these development programmes. Laura tweeted a link earlier to the FIFA development spending statistics. The website doesn't appear to state what period they cover, but I believe it's a fairly long one as, in total, they substantially outstrip FIFA's yearly revenues. I've asked FIFA to clarify, and so hopefully will be able to update this later. Either way, it gives us an idea of FIFA's financial commitments:

Fifa development spending
BBC

Note that Europe actually apparently does rather well out of FIFA. But a more meaningful statistic might be the spendingper country - Europe has many more members than Oceania, so it would get more money. Here are the figures adjusted for the number of members in each area:

Fifa per head statistics
BBC

As you can see, Europe gets rather fewer Goal programme projects - but then that doesn't feel obviously suspicious as you wouldn't have thought that a continent full of rich countries would need as much development. And they actually get a comparable amount of financial assistance. 

One last chart - this time from FIFA's 2014 annual financial report. It shows how much FIFA spends on everything, development, and Blatter's Goal programme (the period is 2011-14): 

Fifa spending
BBC

Doesn't seem like a lot does it?

And remember that Blatter is hardly unique in promising more development funding. Other candidates for the presidency promised it too. If this is a trump card, it's not unique to him.

Now, none of these charts prove anything either way. And, of course, an extra dollar of assistance means a lot more to Zambia than it does to Germany, so it might be that the development spending is a bigger factor for developing countries in their voting decisions than developed ones.

But on a casual look, it's not clear to me that the raw figures are as skewed as some have made them out to be.

Labour's donor problem

How Labour is losing the donation race

Ed Brown

Newsnight producer

Over the course of the election campaign, Labour made great play of how they didn't have the funding that the Conservatives do. And the headline figures on donations from the Electoral Commission this morning appear to back this up. Labour raised £9,334,757 in Q1 2015 to the Conservatives' £15,404,569.

The usual reason Labour give for this is that they don't have the support from the bankers and hedge fund types that the Conservatives do. Which has some truth in it.

But Labour haven't even won in terms of smaller donations. Take a look at this chart. It shows the number of donations received up to particular amounts - ie the £5,000 bar shows the number of donations received between £2,000 (the last category) and £5,000.

Donations to Labour and Conservatives in Q1 2015
BBC

Labour didn't only get beaten in the bigger donations - they got far fewer donations of under £5,000. In fact the only place where Labour did better is in donations of between £500 and £1000. And they only received 125 more of those - hardly enough to make up the deficit higher up the scale.

You have to be fairly well off to be able to cough up £1,000 to your party - but you certainly don't have to be a hedge fund manager.

And if you're going to rely on smaller donations, you need a lot more donors. Labour had 400 odd fewer in this period.

Now, Labour might argue that it receives more from the little guy in other ways - it has greater membership income (presumably partly because being a member of the Labour party can be quite expensive, depending on your income), and the sub £500 donations don't show up on this register.

But Labour actually do pretty well with the big guys.

In fact, as has been well covered, the only thing keeping Labour anywhere close to the Conservatives in the donor race is union money. Just three donations, from GMB, Unite and UNISON account for half of their donation income over this period.

Which explains why you get these weird statistics when you summarise the data for Labour (top) and the Conservatives (bottom):

summary donation statistics
BBC

Why are they weird? Because the mean average donation to Labour is almost four times what the bottom 75% of donors (3rd quartile) donate. Its donor base is skewed by a few outliers.

In other words Labour's donations problem isn't actually with the really big donors. It's got them in the form of the the unions. Its problems are with the (relatively) little ones. It needs more of them.

If they could match the Tories on those donations of £10,000 or less - and get just a few more donating somewhere closer to £50,000 - then they'd start being able to have the sort of buying power in direct mail, staff, facebook ads and so on that the Conservatives do.

Cameron's European tour begins

Matthew Thompson, Newsnight producer, The Hague

David Cameron
AFP/Getty Images
David Cameron is meeting leaders across the EU this week.

Today David Cameron begins a whirlwind tour of Europe to try and drum up support for his EU renegotiation. He doesn't have too many friends in Europe, but one of them should be Dutch PM Mark Rutte, with whom he's sitting down to lunch this afternoon here in The Hague. Rutte shares much of Cameron's reformist zeal on Europe, but crucially deserted him during the election of Jean Claude Juncker as Commission President. If Cameron is to have any chance of success, the bare minimum he will need is support from the likes of Mark Rutte. 

Next stop this afternoon will be Paris, an altogether different kettle of poissons. He can expect hard ball from the French, a fact summed up by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius when he said today that you couldn't "join a football club and decide in the middle of the match we are now going to play rugby."

We're hopping on another plane shortly to Paris, where we'll see Mr Cameron at a press conference at the Elysee Palace this evening. By then, we might have some indication of whether the Prime Minister is advancing towards the try line, or more likely to score an own goal. 

Labour leadership numbers game

James Clayton, Newsnight producer

Andy Burnham
Jeff Overs/BBC
Andy Burnham may help Mary Creagh get nominated

To enter the Labour leadership race proper an MP has to amass the support of 35 Labour MPs.

Andy Burnham is expected to waltz to 35, as are Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. But Mary Creagh may well struggle to get the backing she needs. Step in errr... Andy Burnham. Newsnight understands that if Mary Creagh is close to getting the numbers Andy himself will nominate her candidacy - to get her over the line.

And to explain such decency? Well his team would point to 2010 when the late Malcolm Wicks (a supporter of David Miliband) lent Andy his vote when he was struggling to get the MPs he needed to stand.

A cynic might say though that it would help Burnham in the final vote - with Mary's second preferences going to him in a symbiotic return of good faith...

GDP estimate not revised

Duncan Weldon

Economics correspondent

The second estimate of GDP in the first quarter of 2015 confirmed the headlines from the first estimate - 0.3% growth in Q1 and 2.4% growth over the last twelve months.

Some observers had been a expecting a small upward revision and have been left disappointed - although the Office for National Statistics may well revise the data later.

The "new" news today is a break down of GDP by types of expenditure. The picture provided is pretty mixed - business investment grew solidly but the UK's trading performance was again disappointing with imports outstripping exports. The long task of rebalancing the economy is far from complete.

Beginning of the end for Blatter and FIFA?

Laura Kuenssberg

Newsnight Chief Correspondent

Sepp Blatter holding a book
BBC

It doesn't seem possible. In any other organisations in the western world, how could the boss stay on when many of his team have been dragged for questioning by the FBI, when the top man himself could be questioned over the most serious allegations of corruption within weeks?

When an influential and wealthy part of the organisation is calling for the boss to go, and its funders' nerves are jangling?

Well, it might seem all the odds are stacked against Sepp Blatter and maybe FIFA's very survival. Except - this is not any other organisation, this is international football where in many parts of the world FIFA Is a big provider of cash. And it is Sepp Blatter who has for seventeen years built powerful networks of patronage whose tentacles reach far beyond the world of European football.

UEFA's decision today will be important, but could still not be the final blow to Blatter's leadership that many have sought, for years. But it does, as former FIFA delegate Mel Brennan told us last night, feel like the beginning of the endgame - whether they themselves know it or not.  

You can watch our report from last night and Kirsty's interview with Andrew Jennings here.