• David Cameron will today announce plans to extend the government’s “starter home” policy to 200,000 new discounted homes.

    The policy appears superficially attractive. New homes will be offered at a 20% discount, saving the average first-time buyer £43,000. However, this significant saving comes at a much wider cost.

    In return for offering the discount, developers no longer have to pay for the new infrastructure to support this new housing, including schools, hospitals, roads and flood defences. This infrastructure still needs to be paid for of course, it’s just that developers are no longer the ones paying for it.

    Developers will also be stripped of the need to sign section 106 agreements. These agreements oblige developers to either provide new affordable homes, school places or other contributions to the local area.

    Again, these new services will still need to be paid for, it’s just that developers will no longer be the ones paying for them. So instead of landowners and developers paying

    Read More »from Help for Landowners: Tory housing policy is a handout to developers
  • Immigrants aren't taking your job

    One of the things about immigration which makes it so politically explosive is the way it plays on the fears of right and left. For the right, it signifies a dilution of indigenous British culture. For the left, it threatens to dampen worker’s wages and living standards by allowing foreigners to compete for jobs. Many in the Labour party and beyond look at youth unemployment levels and fear immigrants are at least partly responsible.

    Except it isn’t true. New research from the London School of Economics (LSE)found immigration does not keep down wages or lead to an increase in unemployment. They don’t even disproportionately take new jobs. In short, the economic effects we presumed of immigration appear to be false.

    Researchers collected data from British counties, comparing their unemployment rate for UK workers with changes in their immigration share. There was no correlation.

    Of course, the fact there was no average effect might just have been masking changes in the low wage market,

    Read More »from Immigrants aren't taking your job
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    Cantankerous old men in pubs often like to moan about officers of the law letting modern young miscreants off with a mere “slap on the wrist”.

    It was different in their day, they complain, when PC only meant “police constable” and not also the cursed concept of “political correctness”.

    So men like Pete, a disagreeable former landlord who liked to describe all minors as “toerags” who “need a good hiding” but was still happy to serve them beer, would no doubt be electrified to learn that children as young as 11 can now expect to have Tasers drawn on them by policemen.

    New figures show that more than 400 ten to 17-year-olds were threatened with a 50,000-volt electric stun gun in 2013.

    The statistics, released following a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 5 Live, reveal a 38% increase in threats on the previous year.

    Only 38 children – the youngest of whom was 14 – were actually fired on. But, in my view, that is 38 too many.

    Even David Blunkett, the tough former home secretary who

    Read More »from Tasering 400 children is a disgrace. Our trigger-happy police need to be curbed
  • Malcom Rifkind’s decision to step down as MP for Kensington and chair of the intelligence and security committee (ISC) allows two jobs to be filled by people who might actually do them.

    Since video emerged on Sunday night of Rifkind trying to secure employment with a made-up Chinese firm, it has been clear he is not committed to the people in his constituency.

    "You’d be surprised how much free time I have," he said. "I spend a lot of time reading, I spend a lot of time walking."

    Many political commentators – politicians and journalists – have since sought to justify these comments. It is indecent of them to do so. Kensington may have a reputation for wealth and luxury, but that is only half its story. In a way which is typical of London, nestled in around the enclaves of money there are significant and above-average levels of deprivation.

    The wards of Norland, Colville and Golbourne each include at least one ‘lower super output area’ in the 20% most deprived in the country. Golbourne is

    Read More »from Rifkind steps down: Now Kensington deserves an MP and Britain deserves a security watchdog
  • Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind both deny any wrongdoing after they were enmeshed in a “cash-for-access” scandal.

    And the two former foreign secretaries, who reportedly suggested a fee of at least £5,000 a day for services including political access for a fictitious Chinese company created by journalists in an undercover sting, may well end up being cleared.

    But this row shines the spotlight once again on the murky role of money in politics and many MPs’ seemingly unrelenting addiction to cash.

    In my opinion, nothing else erodes trust in politicians more than knowing they are earning money on the side or greasing their way into a corporate job when they retire.

    Sure, they might occasionally lie. They might be wrong about issues. But, as our elected representatives, they should be focusing on only one job.

    MPs could not be any more out of touch than when they suggest that their £67,060-a-year basic salaries, lavish expenses and handsome pensions are not enough – or when, like Sir

    Read More »from Jack Straw, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the ‘cash-for-access’ scandal and why modern politicians’ money addiction is so rotten
  • Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifikind must be feeling pretty sore this morning.

    The two former ministers’ faces have been splashed across the front page of theTelegraph, after they were caught on camera speaking to undercover reporters posing as lobbyists. Both men were keen to emphasise their ability to open doors at the top of government and both men were apparently willing to accept money to do so.

    Since the news broke, Straw has reportedly suspended himself from the Labour party while Rifkind is facing calls to stand down as the chair of the intelligence and security committee. But while it’s perfectly understandable that they should be stretched out on the rack for this, it’s far less clear that they have done anything other than the parliamentary norm.

    As Rifkind himself explained to the Today programme this morning, there are countless other MPs who have accepted similar paid advisory roles with foreign companies. In order to discover this, you don’t need to hire a crack team of

    Read More »from Cash for access: Rifkind and Straw's actions are the norm in parliament
  • The ten REAL rules on how to be a good commuter

    After Matt Buckland's run-in with a fellow commuter it's time to all climb aboard a foolproof guide for stress-free travel on public transport

    For years I – like millions of others - have suffered abuse from fellow commuters on the Tube.

    On a daily basis, Londoners can expect to sit (if we’re lucky) beside either a passenger with noise-leaking headphones (usually Apple ones), someone dining on a doner kebab, a man arrogantly spreading his legs, a yell-talking teenager, or – worse than any of these - an American tourist.

    Having to wait behind someone standing on the left-hand side of the escalator (and ignoring the “stand to the right” sign) also makes me want to pull my hair out.

    Beyond that, I have occasionally been shouted at or witnessed someone else being harassed or threatened with violence by someone who clearly hasn’t evolved much.

    At times, such experiences have made me yearn to own a death ray or provide some other form of comeuppance for these thoughtless passengers who make our lives hell.

    I was, therefore, heartened when I read about the HR executive who was told to “go f*** yourself” by a commuter - and then

    Read More »from The ten REAL rules on how to be a good commuter
  • Talk of a major Ukip “revolution” at the general election look to have been seriously overblown.

    New constituency polling released by Lord Ashcroft yesterday reveals that Ukip is running behind in four key target seats currently held by the Conservatives.

    Most worrying for the party, a poll of Boston and Skegness - where Ukip won their largest majority in last year’s council elections - suggests they have now been pushed back into second place. The seat has previously been described as Ukip’s best chance of gaining a seat at the next general election.

    Ukip are on course to pick up just 35% of the vote in the seat, behind the Tories on 38%. Three other polls in Castle Point, North East Cambridgeshire and South Basildon and East Thurrock, also find the party running behind.

    All is not lost for Nigel Farage. The margins in three of the four seats are small and Ashcroft has found that voters in the seats were up to twice as likely to have received campaign literature from the purples as they

    Read More »from Talk of a Ukip revolution now looks overblown
  • On the face of it the latest Scottish polling contains some good news for the Labour party. According to a Survation poll for the Daily Record out today, the SNP’s lead is gradually shrinking.

    Two months ago, the SNP had a whopping lead of 24% over Labour. Today’s poll cuts that lead down to just 17%.

    However, the fact that Labour are taking comfort from being ‘just’ 17 points behind the SNP says all you need to know about the deep trouble the party are in north of the border. In any other circumstance, a poll showing that Labour are due to lose more than half of their Scottish MPs would cause outright panic in the party. That it is now causing mild relief, shows the scale of the difficulties Labour face to avoid total wipeout in Scotland.

    While the changes in percentage terms may appear small, they can make a big difference in terms of seats. Analysis by polling expert John Curtice suggests that if Labour can get the SNP’s lead down to just 10%, then they would hold on to around 20 of

    Read More »from Labour are creeping slowly towards disaster in Scotland

  • Years ago – soon after I began my first job on a national newspaper – editors killed an investigation I had worked on that revealed a potential public health risk.

    The news editor, a cunning fellow who seemed such a natural fit in the world of tabloid journalism that I imagined he had been born swaddled in print, told me matter-of-factly: “Sorry, but one of our biggest advertisers wouldn’t like it and we’re not going to risk losing them.”

    I was appalled that a business could – albeit indirectly in the form of newspaper self-censorship - curtail freedom of speech, yet I voiced no protest since I wanted to keep my job.

    Even now, I am reluctant to burn bridges with those who might help me earn a living in the future, so I am protecting their identities and have chosen to write behind the shield of anonymity.

    So you can imagine then how impressed I am by the brave stance taken by respected political columnist Peter Oborne.

                                             [Swiss raid HSBC in money

    Read More »from Peter Oborne, the Telegraph and HSBC: When media and big business collide


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