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    In 1994, Britons like me, who lived far from the conflict zone of Northern Ireland, heard Gerry Adams’s real voice for the first time after a six-year ban was repealed by the UK’s last majority Conservative government.

    As bizarre as it might seem now, it was a big deal – and lots of people were really curious about what the Sinn Fein leader and supposed devil-incarnate might sound like, rather than the actor paid to dub him during TV interviews.

    For me, an unusually politically interested 14-year-old who had also inherited freckles, Catholicism, sensitivity about the emerald isle and much else from Irish forebears, it was a particularly momentous occasion (or at least on a par with the six Spurs matches I attended that year where my lucky pants did the job).

    Yet it was more than a little anticlimactic when this man, who had twice been democratically elected to Westminster but refused to take his seat, was finally allowed to be fully heard.

    Far from the scary bogeyman the establishment

    Read More »from Gerry Adams or Prince Charles? Who is the establishment’s biggest bogeyman?
  • By Frances Brill

    The UK is gripped by a housing crisis. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government there was a 118,760 housing shortage in 2014. This, in part, has driven huge house price increases: 12% in London and 11% in Bristol last year.

    Homes are becoming less affordable. The most commonly proposed solution is an increase in housebuilding which will put downward pressure on prices.The new Conservative government promises more homes and more ways of buying these homes. They have proposed ‘Starter Homes’, expanded the 'Right to Buy’ and 'Help to Buy’ and promise to restrict regulation. These neglect some of the biggest problems within the market: the rising cost of private rental and a severe lack of social housing.

    'Starter Homes’ is a policy for first time buyers, under the age of 40. With a 5% deposit they will be able to buy a property with a minimum 20% discount up to a total market price of £250,000 (and £450,000 in London). These homes will all be built on

    Read More »from Tory housing plans will not tackle the housing crisis
  • By Thomas Byrne

    Among all the chatter about who should next leader of the Labour party, there’s been a notable absence of reality. In one corner you have ‘aspiration’ candidates like Tristram Hunt, who said the party needed to understand people to want to shop at Waitrose (did no-one tell him it’s Aldi which is middle class chic now?). Hunkered down with them are defeated gargoyles like Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. In the other corner, you have the usual suspects like Diane Abbott and the unions, claiming all the party needs to do is regain its soul and present a true left wing alternative. They are all wrong, in their own way. Stella Creasy would make a much more authentic choice for Labour leader.

    Creasy has already ruled herself out, although she’s thrown her hat in the ring for the deputy leadership. That move was probably sensible in terms of ambition, but it was disastrous for Labour. She should run the risk of self-sacrifice in order to save her party. No-one else is qualified.

    Read More »from Why is Stella Creasy running for deputy leader? She should have the top job
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    He loves cows, Patagonian Toothfish, “complementary” medicine and Arctic huts. He hates badgers and worried the army was “under funded” and that kids were being turned into “robots”.

    These are the hardly shocking revelations that emerged from the publication of Prince Charles’s “black spider” memos to Labour ministers that Whitehall spent ten years and £400,000 of taxpayers’ money fighting in vain to keep secret.

    I applaud the fact that the highest court in the land has partially broken the royal family’s right to sit at the summit of state secrecy as the only people in Britain who were exempted by the Freedom of Information Act.

    The Guardian’s success in this battle is undoubtedly a victory for those of us who would like to see greater transparency in government.

    But, given we could have predicted what the benign green-crusader Charles might have written – and that his requests would mostly be politely ignored – I can’t help feeling that a lot of time and money has been wasted while far

    Read More »from Prince Charles loves Patagonian Toothfish, but hates badgers. So what? His letters to ministers are nothing compared to the meddling by big business

  • This is how David Cameron will address the National Security Council today:

    “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

    This, incredibly enough, is how the prime minister is opening his argument for protecting British values. In fact, these words were released in advance to the media, suggesting he does not see the irony. What he has described above is as effective a definition of British values as exists. It is a free society: follow the law and the state will leave you alone. It is remarkable that a supposedly Conservative politician would not recognise that.

    He now he plans to dismantle this notion in the name of British values. The government plans to interfere with legal behaviour.

    The details are still not clear and won’t get much clearer until the Queen’s Speech – or probably afterwards. But we do know three things: 1) that the definition of an extremist is being expanded 2) that the process

    Read More »from Theresa May's plans are a threat to British values
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    The production company behind Benefits Street – owned by one R Murdoch, of 152 Tax Havens – have tried hard to make the new series more sympathetic than the last.

    They gave the greatest prominence to Julie Young, 53, pictured left, who was painted as the matriarch of Kingston Road, in Stockton-on-Tees’s deprived Tilery estate.

    Not only did she care for her severely mentally and physically disabled son Reagan for 15 years before his recent death, she continues to look after five other children and also manages to cook for neighbour Lee after his electricity supply was cut off.

    Yet, however many touching tales of hard-scrabble lives Love Productions shoehorn in to avoid criticism, their documentary remains sensationalist poverty porn, an old-fashioned freak show repackaged for the modern era.

    Last night social media brimmed with vitriol, with Katie Hopkins, Britain’s senior cheerleader of the foul-minded and empty-headed, gleefully describing a man with (likely self-imposed) memory loss as

    Read More »from Benefits Street is shameless poverty porn. The real villains live on Bankers Boulevard and Tax Dodgers Avenue
  • After elections, the losers get a surge in membership. It seems ironic, but emotionally it makes perfect sense. In despondency, people need hope. So the Lib Dems have enjoyed a spike in membership sign-ups and many are talking about joining Labour.

    But Labour is not ready for people’s support. It remains a profoundly undemocratic party which goes out of its way to prevent its members having a say on policy. Why join a party interested in your money but not your voice?

    Labour was never particularly democratic. It reflected the authoritarianism of its socialist roots, in the same way the Tory party reflected the authoritarianism of its paternalist roots. Union barons wielded disproportionate influence, deciding at the stroke of a pen what their thousands of members apparently believed. Tony Blair and his predecessors worked hard to get rid of that union influence, but they were not democratic crusaders. Blair’s only concern was centrism – the road which he (rightly) believed led to Downing

    Read More »from Until Labour becomes democratic, it doesn't deserve your membership
  • The first move announced in the Cabinet reshuffle was in the justice post. Chris Grayling is off to become leader of the Commons and Michael Gove is to become justice secretary and lord chancellor.

    Gove is one of those figures with an army of detractors marching in his wake. I can’t ever remember teachers particularly liking an education secretary, but I’ve never seen them hate one with such passion, apart from perhaps David Blunkett. There’s therefore been a bit of ‘here we go’ greeting the announcement. That’s premature. Gove’s appointment is cause for cautious optimism. He is a far more impressive and respectable choice for the post than his predecessor.

    The education secretary’s free schools project is not, as some of its critics suggest, some act of wanton vandalism in the name of improving standards only for those who least need them. It is a sensible project conducted with too much zeal to be successful. Gove got a bit lost in his ideological fever and couldn’t countenance the

    Read More »from How dangerous will Michael Gove be at the Ministry of Justice?
  • Blairism offers no hope for Labour

    The opening stages of the great Labour post-mortem were pretty predictable. All those tired old New Labour figures came out the woodwork saying they’d been right all along and Ed Miliband was punished for being too left wing. Their opponents replied that shifting to the right hardly seemed the right way to address the party’s total destruction in Scotland.

    Neither is right, but both sides have a point. Surely Scotland proves that Labour needs to reconnect to its left-wing roots. The confident, social democratic, anti-austerity message of Nicola Sturgeon was embraced with open arms by an electorate which felt Labour had become Tory-lite.

    On the other hand, perhaps figures like John Reid were not being so foolish when they suggested Labour needed a stronger message on immigration and ‘aspiration’ – that counter-intuitive code word getting the poor to vote against their economic interests. After all, the extent of the Ukip vote suggests that it came at the expense of Labour. Ukip came

    Read More »from Blairism offers no hope for Labour
  • Labour have suffered their worst defeat for over twenty years. Now they seem intent on learning all the wrong lessons from it.

    On the right, many believe the reason Labour lost is because it had an agenda that was far too left wing. This argument is summed up by Tony Blair who claimed last year that when “a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, [you get] the traditional result”.

    Yet to describe Ed Miliband’s Labour party as “traditionally left-wing” is a gross parody of the truth. After all, this was a party which claimed to be tougher than the Tories on welfare and which chiselled plans to restrict immigration into an eight foot obelisk.

    More importantly it was, as Miliband repeatedly boasted, the only Labour party to ever go into an election promising to slash spending. Unlike Blair himself, who devoted his three successful election campaigns to opposing Tory cuts, Miliband and Ed Balls largely accepted the need for cuts and only differed with the

    Read More »from The real reasons the Tories won and Labour lost


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