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    ‘Glam new face of BBC politics,’ the Daily Mail’s headline purred, while The Telegraph splashed a leggy photo of Laura Kuenssberg beneath mostly benign words.

    If the warm, rather than usually withering, front-page reactions by two of the public broadcaster’s fiercest media critics are anything to go by, the Beeb’s appointment of its first female political editor has been a masterstroke in its fight for survival.

    Beyond the basic charms approved of by newspaper editors with 1950s mindsets, Italian-born and Glaswegian-raised Kuenssberg is also an excellent journalist with a deep intellect, powerful interviewing skills and a laudable ability to be impartial – something her predecessor Nick Robinson was sometimes accused of lacking.

    Bosses at the BBC, which faces its most strenuous government attacks ever, may have found a new secret weapon to win more of the public on side.

    And here it is worth pointing out that we – not Whitehall – pay for the most respected and best known broadcaster in the

    Read More »from Could ‘glam new face of BBC politics’ Laura Kuenssberg be secret weapon in Auntie’s fight for survival?
  • Yvette Cooper is a B candidate in a C candidate race. In a sane world, she wouldn’t get a look-in to a contest for the leadership of Britain’s main opposition party. But this is not a sane world, so she is probably, overall, the most intellectually impressive of the candidates.

    Andy Burnham has no intellect to speak of at all, Jeremy Corbyn is a warmed-up meal from the 1970s without any of the political ingenuity to make that a palatable dining option in 2015, and Liz Kendall is a tactic in search of a strategy.

    There is a sliver – one wouldn’t want to put it any higher than that - of intellectual substance to Cooper. Which is why it was a disappointment to listen to her Today programme interview this morning. Unfortunately, it typified her approach to the campaign.

    It’s not inadequacy which leads her to behave this way. It’s cynicism. There’s plenty of evidence that Cooper is a relatively interesting political figure. She just refuses to reveal it.

    Take her response to George Osborne’s

    Read More »from Yvette Cooper's campaign is just a string of platitudes
  • Tony Blair’s Labour followers have always claimed to be the wing of the party which cares most about winning.

    Certainly under Blair’s leadership that was always the case. Whatever you think of the man, he won three successive elections for the party - something no other Labour leader has ever managed.

    However, since Blair’s departure, this desire to win seems to have totally deserted his supporters and the man himself.

    David Miliband’s defeat to his brother in 2010 was a huge surprise for most commentators, yet it was wholly predictable. Miliband had the Labour leadership in his hands yet threw it away out of an arrogant refusal to move towards his party’s own supporters.

    His successor Liz Kendall has taken a similar and even more election-losing trajectory. She began her campaign by winning gushing plaudits from right-wing papers and is set to finish it with the support of little more than one in ten Labour supporters.

    A new YouGov poll out yesterday puts her in a distant fourth

    Read More »from Tony Blair is to blame for the rise of Jeremy Corbyn
  • By Ian Dunt

    We know it’s coming, because they keep telling us. They just won’t give us any details. The counter-extremism bill will clamp down on non-violent freedom of speech. But exactly what speech and by whom? That is unclear.

    David Cameron’s speech on extremism was hyped as the most important he has delivered on the subject. The extracts released in advance were extremely wishy-washy and confused. So was Theresa May’s subsequent appearance on the Today programme, in which she was again unable or unwilling to say exactly which kinds of free speech would be outlawed. Education secretary Nicky Morgan had a similar problem in relation to public bodies’ new legal responsible to prevent extremism a few weeks back.

    The problem is this: If you really ban groups and people ‘opposed to British values’ - defined apparently by those who want to overthrow democracy - you’ll need to ban the Socialist Workers party and Platonist philosophers alongside Islamic extremists.

    This difficulty is never

    Read More »from When will the government tell us what kind of free speech it's going to ban?
  • Future historians will look back on last week as the moment Boris Johnson’s prime ministerial ambitions finally washed away into the muddy waters of the Thames.

    His full-body soaking at the hands of the home secretary in the House of Commons was so brutal it was almost difficult to watch. Theresa May’s demolition of Johnson’s case for bringing water cannon to the streets of London was so comprehensive, so cutting and so utterly devastating for the London mayor, you half expected the Metropolitan police to apprehend her for common assault.

    With an increasingly meek looking Johnson sat behind her, May explained that the 25-year-old second hand German water cannon Johnson bought without her permission, would “pose a series of direct and indirect medical risks,” to protesters, including “musculoskeletal injuries such as spinal fracture, as well as other serious injuries such as concussion, eye injury and blunt trauma”. One 66-year old German protester had been completely blinded by similar

    Read More »from Boris Johnson's water cannon farce reveals why he will never be prime minister
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    The hacking of the Ashley Madison adultery website – with the threat of 37million married love rats being exposed – is a cautionary tale in so many respects.

    Firstly, its cheating subscribers - said to include an almost implausibly staggering 1.2million Britons – should have known better than to plan affairs, especially online.

    Secondly, the website – without wishing to sound too much like a Mary Whitehouse-style probity crusader – should have known that cashing in on sleaze and families’ misery could massively backfire in a world full of expert web vandals.

    But the really interesting part of this story is the suggestion that the hackers, who have demanded Ashley Madison is shut down or else they will release all the data, were also motivated by profit – rather than the moral highground.

    An insider told Sky News that The Impact Team, who claim to be behind the hack, has no intention of exposing users - but instead wants the publicity in order to sell their credit card details on to

    Read More »from Ashley Madison hacking: Cashing in on sleaze is not quite what Mrs T had in mind with her ‘entrepreneurial revolution’
  • It’s quite revealing to compare the rhetoric from the Ministry of Justice about the legal strike with the way it is discussed behind closed doors.

    Publicly, the department is keeping a brave face and insisting it’s business as usual. Here’s the statement they sent me yesterday for instance:

    “All our intelligence shows that courts continue to sit as usual and that the vast majority of cases requiring a solicitor at the police station have been picked up within an hour.”

    But behind the scenes, things are much more frantic. Take the police, for example.  For obvious reasons, they’re one of the first groups to come into contact with the chaos reaped by a legal strike, so they function as a reliable litmus test of state nervousness about the action. And they seem worried. The Police Federation are firing off frenzied emails to solicitors demanding to know if their members are going to be able to rely on them if they face legal problems.

    “We are aware that as of the 1st July 2015 direct action

    Read More »from MoJ tries to keep a brave face amid signs of legal strike panic
  • By Jonathan Bartley

    Not long ago I returned to my home late at night to find my pregnant wife distressed and frightened. It wasn’t because a crime had been committed but because our house had been raided by police. It was a mistake and as anyone would do I made a complaint.  But what the officer who dealt with it told me was alarming.  The police found that every time contact was made with ordinary Londoners, even to help victims, the public’s view of the police went down.

    This decline in trust has been one of the defining aspects of Boris Johnson’s time as mayor. This week’s decision by Theresa May to block his use of a water cannon – a decision I predicted on this website a few years back - typified his approach. As the home secretary said, the idea of the water cannon undermined the idea of policing by consent.

    Boris bought weapons to use against his fellow Londoners. And not just water cannons.  He was responsible for the huge expansion of Tasers too.

    He undermined confidence by

    Read More »from Boris has presided over a catastrophic loss of trust in the police
  • By Syed Kamall

    I was disappointed when Sir Howard Davies recommended in his much anticipated Davies report, that the solution to London’s increasing need for air transport is to build a third runway at Heathrow. This is, in my view, a sticking plaster solution for the short term.

    According to figures published last month in the Global Destination Cities Index, London is once again the number one city to visit in the world. The report claims something like 18.82 million international visitors will visit London during 2015, which puts us ahead of Paris, Singapore and even Dubai.

    The question is, do we have the aviation capacity to maintain this increase in tourism as well as cater for business travel as entrepreneurs increase their trade with existing and emerging global markets?

    Perhaps, we have lessons to learn from the rest of the world. China is leading the way in the construction of airports having spent $3.5 Billion, less than a decade ago on what was at the time the largest passenger

    Read More »from Heathrow expansion is just a sticking plaster solution
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    He was ruled out as a 66-year-old maverick, a political dinosaur who was expected to come a distant fourth.

    Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn began the Labour leadership contest with bookmakers giving him odds of 100/1 to be victorious.

    But just four weeks after his nomination – in which some MPs “lent” support only to spur debate – the veteran left-winger is now 5/1 to win and two shock polls yesterday indicated that he will come first.

    Will the Islington North MP, who is so committed to socialism that he reportedly attended a political meeting the day after his mother died, actually secure the leadership though?

    Probably not. Some of his opponents would surely prefer to drop out of the race than allow it - and Labour’s new one-member-one-vote system is likely to factor in members, affiliates and registered supporters’ second, third and even fourth preferences into the total figure if the winning candidate cannot pass a 50% threshold.

    Yet what Corbyn’s surge does demonstrate is that the party’s

    Read More »from Jez we can? Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership surge represents popular frustration with ‘no alternative’ politics


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