April 27: Miliband the control freak: Tory message needs to hit home

EVEN though Ed Miliband dodged questions about the influence that could be wielded in a Labour-led government by the likes of the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, his willingness to reintroduce 1970s-style rent controls provided a stark illustration about the future direction of travel if he becomes Prime Minister.

The policy shows that a Miliband government will be far more interventionist than those administrations presided over by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. And, just like Labour’s attempt to regulate the energy markets that has led to householders inadvertently paying higher prices, the same can be said of a policy intended to woo the 11 million living in rented accommodation.

Despite Mr Miliband’s protestations to the contrary, the likelihood is that many landlords will simply raise rent levels at the start of three-year tenancies in order to link future increases to inflation. It also threatens to deter landlords from maintaining properties to an acceptable standard.

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If Labour want to help people who live in squalor, perhaps the party should be far more ambitious when it comes to the need to build a new generation of low-cost properties available for rent. For, unless there is sufficient supply, prices will remain at an artificially high level and the dream of home ownership will become even more distant for many.

As for the wider economy, Mr Miliband’s control-freakery did little to assuage his critics when he asserted that it was global financial crash, rather than Labour profligacy, which caused the record deficit – and not vice-versa. It does not excuse the fact that Labour spent to excess and there is still every indication that borrowing will increase if Ed Balls becomes Chancellor.

With the Tories finally planning to shift the primary focus of their campaign to the economy, perhaps this will be the week when its aspiration agenda finally hits home when set against Labour’s politics of envy that has every likelihood of suffocating growth and prosperity.

Nepal’s nightmare: Britain’s moral duty to respond

NOW the catastrophic horror of the Nepal earthquake is clear for the world to see, the global response must be swift and effective – whether it be the deployment of international experts capable of rescuing victims buried beneath the rubble or the distribution of humanitarian aid to all those people who have been left destitute.

This is not a time for indecision on the part of the West – or Britain offering a half-hearted response because political leaders do not want to offend voters with misgivings about overseas aid. This debate is of secondary importance to the issue of deployment.

This country has a proud record when it comes to helping the stricken, and it would take the most heartless of individuals to begrudge the £5m of public money being used to assist the Nepalese in their hour of need. In many respects, this is the intended use of money set aside for overseas aid.

The issue, moving forward, is whether it is morally right for Britain to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas aid when this money is going to countries, like India, that are developing space programmes at the expense of teeming numbers of people living on the streets.

In this regard, the next government’s challenge is building on the welcome progress made by Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born International Development Secretary, so that more UK aid reaches intended recipients – like earthquake victims.

Marathon marvels: Sport’s spirit of comradeship

the POWER of sport to create a happier and healthier society was self-evident as tens of thousands of runners pushed their bodies to the limit in the 35th London Marathon.

It did not matter that the vast majority of competitors took many hours longer than the elite runners to complete the iconic 26-mile course; each and every one of them can consider themselves to be a winner.

Their endeavours represented the best of humanity. Not only were they raising extraordinary sums for charity while making lifelong friends, but they epitomised the best of sport when linking arms as they reached the finish.

This was in tribute to the historic hand-in-hand finish of the inaugural London Marathonin 1981 when Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen reached out to each other in a spontaneous gesture of goodwill and crossed the winning line together. It is this spirit of comradeship that makes the Marathon so special – long may this continue to be the case.