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    Let one thing be clear: what Greece has endured during the last seven years is not merely a recession, but a full-blown, Jarrow March, 1930s-style Great Depression.

    Since 2008, the unemployment rate in the birthplace of democracy has not slipped below 25% and around the same amount has been knocked off national income.

    The depression is literally squeezing the life out of the country – with 94% cuts to hospital budgets the starkest feature of its austerity - and has fostered extremist politics.

    Now Greece is heading for a state of emergency and exit from the euro after its democratic government refused to make additional cuts demanded by creditors.

    Like every Greek tragedy, the country’s ill fate and descent into the abyss seems to have long ago been fixed - and yet it was and is still entirely avoidable.

    Greece shoulders some blame for its parlous finances before the global banking crisis, but since then the chief architect of its misery has been the European Union.

    The ruling European

    Read More »from Greece’s tragic Great Depression is the ultimate symbol of the European Union’s failure
  • By Marissa Begonia

    For a month, I couldn’t make-up my mind if my charity would celebrate International Domestic Workers Day.  Justice 4 Domestic Workers was still reeling from our defeat over the modern slavery bill. Some felt we had nothing to celebrate. We  had campaigned and lobbied MPs and the Lords tirelessly, asking them to give foreign domestic workers in the UK the right to change their employer and thereby escape abuse. We dreamed up publicity stunts – cleaning the pavements of Whitehall, or delivering ‘No To Slavery’ postcards to No10. We are a small charity, run entirely by current foreign domestic workers living in the UK, and we use our only day off each week to organise, campaign, and protect each other.

    It was a 'ping pong’ bill, bouncing between the Lords and the Commons. At the last moment, we convinced members of the House of Lords to include a clause removing the disastrous “tied visa”, a regime introduced by the government in April 2012 which prevented domestic

    Read More »from Modern day slavery - how domestic workers are left at the mercy of their employer
  • There are some political speeches which are so brazenly hypocritical you have to presume they’re doing it on purpose. David Cameron’s Magna Carta speech today is firmly in that category. In a short statement, the prime minister will reel off accomplishments which he himself has done his best to destroy during his time in government. It is a quite staggering moment of insincerity.

    “Eight hundred years ago, on this day, King John put his seal to a document that would change the world,” the prime minister starts. “We talk about the ‘law of the land’ and this is the very land where that law – and the rights that flow from it – took root.”

    He then lists what the law of the land entails:

    “The limits of executive power, guaranteed access to justice, the belief that there should be something called the rule of law, that there shouldn’t be imprisonment without trial. Magna Carta introduced the idea that we should write these things down and live by them. That might sound like a small thing to us

    Read More »from Cameron has betrayed every principle he mentions in his Magna Carta speech
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    A despairing assessment has conquered Labour since the general election. Roughly speaking, it goes like this: a left wing proposition was put to the country and failed, revealing the fundamentally conservative mentality of the British electorate. But even if the party darts to the centre-right, which it must, it will still not be able to win in 2020. With Scotland lost (you’ll notice this assessment implicitly gives up on ever winning it back) and the Tories set to launch a self-serving boundary review, the party will need a 12.5% lead over the Tories to win. The new leader will only be able to lay the foundation of a win in 2025.

    It is a song of despair, based on nothing but pessimism and failure of imagination. The truth is that even with a systemic advantage, the Tories are beatable. They won just 36.9% of the vote. They are about to enter into a two-year civil war over Europe. They have a majority of 12, which will be chipped away at by by-elections and made torturous by a

    Read More »from Labour can win in 2020 – but it has to pause this leadership contest
  • George Osborne likes to talk tough on debt.

    And, despite almost doubling Britain’s burden in cold hard cash, we know this kind of rhetoric – however divorced it may be from reality - is relatively popular because he was re-elected on a platform of promising grinding austerity to get the debt down.

    To be fair, Osborne is not the only Chancellor who has compared his Government’s budget to a family purse and said Britain will not to spend beyond its means.

    Over the last five decades, this has been a commonly repeated assurance by both Tory and Labour residents of No 11 Downing Street.

    Yet in only seven of those years has the Chancellor actually managed to run a budget surplus, including three times during Brown’s tenure.

    This is because every one of these men – yes, the job remains the only Great Office of State never to be held by a woman – is a politician.

    Therefore, as elected officials and not paid accountants or economists, they are always more than happy to fund any project that will

    Read More »from Osborne gets Dickensian on debt - so why doesn't he also turn Victorian on the bankers?
  • For a long time the role of the independent reviewer of terror legislation was almost a contradiction in terms. Lord Carlile seemed to support everything the authoritarian New Labour government did without hesitation or criticism. He was virtually indistinguishable from a junior Home Office minister.

    That’s no longer the case. Today’s report on the state’s investigatory powers by David Anderson shows he is a very different beast. He ploughs a middle-of-the-road course, for which the title ‘independent reviewer’ seems an appropriate description.

    His new report published today will outrage Ed Snowden-types. There is no proposal there to roll back the inordinate and extensive powers of the state to intrude into our private lives. But it will upset the government even more, because Anderson basically states there is a weak case for the powers envisaged by the snoopers’ charter and proposes a test for them which the government will find difficulty to satisfy. So Snowden types will be

    Read More »from Tories face tough snoopers' charter battle as independent reviewer finally lives up to his name
  • One of the least edifying rhetorical tools used by politicians is the anonymous voter. These faceless puppets are used to deliver whatever message the politician really wants to put across, but daren’t say themselves. They are not really people, but caricatures. They are no more representative of the diversity of the British public than the cast of a BBC3 sitcom. Their only real purpose is to distance a politician from whatever unpalatable point they’re trying to make.

    There was a particularly unpleasant example of this during yesterday’s Labour leadership hustings in Dublin. Speaking about the need to win back voters from Ukip, Andy Burnhamtold a story about a man who claimed he felt isolated at work, because none of his colleagues spoke English.

    The man told Burnham (and we’ll have to take his word for this) that he sits on his own during his lunch breaks because not a single one of his colleagues is able to speak the language.

    The man allegedly told him: “When you’re at work and you

    Read More »from Labour can’t win by aping Ukip
  • By Catherine Bearder MEP

    This was the day the European parliament was supposed to give its position on negotiations over a controversial EU-US trade deal called TTIP. However, due todivisions between MEPs over the controversial investor dispute mechanism, the vote has now been delayed. As calls grow to scrap the trade deal entirely, I believe we need to look at how to iron out its flaws without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    A trade deal with the US has the potential to bring major benefits to the UK economy. Currently the US is the biggest export destination for UK small businesses, with over half of all small exporting firms doing business there. But barriers to trade between the EU and the US, such as tariffs or different standards and regulations, can make it difficult for small companies to expand their businesses across the Atlantic.

    Take Penny Seume, a textile designer based in Bristol. Due to slightly different flammability regulations in the EU and US, she currently

    Read More »from We can still save TTIP – but we have to get rid of these secret corporate courts
  • Old meets new. Click a photo for a slideshow.Old meets new. Click a photo for a slideshow.One look at Astley Castle and it looks almost like any other ruined ancient, English castle.


    It is part fort-castle, but it's also part modern luxury rental. Two contrasting brick exterior walls are distinctive for a reason: One wall is from hundreds of years ago, while the other, lighter brick wall was just installed in 2012. The wood-lined windows, too, hint at something more modern than ancient. A peek inside and the full, modern renovation is made clear. (Click here or on a photo for a slideshow.)

    Astley Castle in North Warwickshire was actual ruins just a few years ago. A fire in 1978 had all but destroyed it; only a few sections of the building were standing, hunks of brick covered in weeds and moss.

    But British building and cultural conservation charities the Landmark Trust and English Heritage, along with its owners, badly wanted to rescue it.

    The Landmark Trust first attempted to save the building in the late 1990s, but no conventional restoration solution could be

    Read More »from Incredibly, these castle ruins are livable – even luxurious
  • The news that Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has finally decided to stand for London mayor should put the fear into the hearts of all of Labour’s current mayoral candidates.

    Goldsmith is by far the Tories’ best chance of hanging onto City Hall. He is a proven election winner who recently increased his own majority from 4,000 to 23,000 in Richmond Park.

    Compare that to Labour candidate Sadiq Khan who saw a Conservative to Labour swing in his Tooting seat of just 0.3% in last month’s general election.

    Goldsmith also has a clear cross party appeal. A strong environmentalist and campaigner for democratic reform he can appeal not just to suburban Tories but to Green party, Liberal and many Labour voters too.

    He would also be a clear break from the current mayor Boris Johnson. Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on pollution this morning, Goldsmith signalled that he would concentrate on making London a greener and more sustainable city.

    In a clear departure from Johnson, who plans to build a

    Read More »from Zac Goldsmith's mayoral bid should strike fear into Labour


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