Don't Panic
  • To many, London Mayor Boris Johnson typifies the Etonian elitism of David Cameron’s government.
     
    Despite this, he is the bookie’s favourite to win the London Mayoral election next month, leading his closest rival, Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, by six points in the latest polls.

    Boris Johnson talks the talk, but does he walk the walk?

    After four years as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is still known by many as a gaffe-prone former MP, journalist and TV show host. So does his popularity relate more to his charisma, or his policies?
     
    Born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in New York City, 1964, Johnson has a truly cosmopolitan heritage. He describes himself as a ‘one-man melting pot’, with Turkish, French and German stock.

    His great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, briefly served as an interior minister in the Ottoman Empire, while his father's maternal grandmother, Marie Louise de Pfeffel, was a descendant of Prince Paul of Württemberg. Johnson is, therefore, ancestrally related to King George II and subsequently to David Cameron, as an eighth Read More »from Boris Johnson: Serious politician or glorified after-dinner speaker?
  • David Miliband pictured at 10 Downing Street. Photo: PAThis week I’m going to make a few bold predictions about the emerging political landscape.

    First of all, Cameron will be Prime Minister after comfortably winning the next election.

    But then, I believe David - not Ed - Miliband will lead Labour to victory.

    We’re nearly halfway through the coalition’s term, and while there have clearly been fractious encounters within Parliament, the disagreements have, broadly speaking, come between the two members of the coalition as opposed to from within the Tory party.

    Because of this, Cameron remains relatively unopposed within his party and it would take a major disaster or scandal to upset that.

    Furthermore, the core tenet of Cameron's policy - reducing the deficit - now has a broad coalition of support among the electorate. And while the unions continue to rattle their sabres, he remains fairly insulated from the issues that have caused most public outcry.

    Just look at how Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appears to be taking all the flack for NHS

    Read More »from Why Miliband will be the next Prime Minister (not Ed)
  • Drugs gangs have created lawless 'no-go areas' in British cities similar to those in Mexico, a report from the International Narcotics Control Board suggests.

    The report’s author, Professor Hamid Ghodse, described how “drug traffickers, organised crime, drug users, they take over”. He also cited the celebrity use of drugs as helping to "normalise use" in society.

    Prof Ghodse’s claims were met with howls of protest from community leaders, as well as providing further support for those who claim radical reform of drugs law is the next, logical step.

    The statistics are revealing. An estimate by the UK Home Office placed the value of the illicit drug market at between £4billion and £6billion a year, while the cost to the taxpayer of dealing with drug use is substantially more.

    When taking into account crime, social security and bringing drugs offenders to justice, the figure rises to over £10billion.

    This is grist to the mill for those arguing the only answer is decriminalisation.

    Research by Read More »from Gangs, drugs and the law. Is legalisation the endgame?
  • When you are a child, complex issues are often greeted with the phrase: "Don't worry, you’ll understand when you’re older."

    But even when you become an adult matters remain confusing. Especially if you are young and trying to get a job.

    The Job Centre is an increasingly likely destination for young people coming out of education.

    There are now more than a million young people unemployed in Britain – with more than 20% of 16-24 year olds not in employment or education.

    That means when you leave school or university you’re not just fighting with people in your year for the few jobs available, you’re fighting with people in the year above you, and the year above them and the other 2.67million people looking for jobs in Britain at the moment.

    Which in desperate times leads to desperate measures.

    Student Hugh Chadwick resorted to clutching a cardboard sign at a busy road junction in Birmingham for days on end before finding out this week he had clinched a position with an engineering company.

    For the 20-year-old it was important to work. And for society to function it is important for theRead More »from Is work experience exploitation?
  • When you are a child, complex issues are often greeted with the phrase: "Don't worry, you’ll understand when you’re older."

    But even when you become an adult matters remain confusing. Especially if you are young and trying to get a job.

    There are now more than a million young people unemployed in Britain – with more than 20% of 16-24 year olds not in employment or education.

    The job centre is becoming an increasingly likely prospect for youths coming out of education.

    That means when you leave school or university you’re not just fighting with people in your year for the few jobs available, you’re fighting with people in the year above you, and the year above them and the other 2.67million people looking for jobs in Britain at the moment.

    Which in desperate times leads to desperate measures.

    Student Hugh Chadwick resorted to clutching a cardboard sign at a busy road junction in Birmingham for days on end before finding out this week he had clinched a position with an engineering company.

    For the 20-year-old it was important to work. And for society to function it is important for

    Read More »from Why work experience is a good investment for us all
  • It's a difficult subject, The Falklands. On the one hand, they are geographically closer to Argentina - a lot closer. The UK is situated 7,800 miles north of them and Argentina is just 500 miles to the west. On the other, the Islanders see themselves as British.

    Residents show their allegiance to Britain by driving their vehicles with the British and Falkland Island flags

    So when Sean Penn attacks the UK for the ‘ridiculous demonstrations of colonialism’ over the Falklands he is stumbling into an area many would say a pampered Hollywood actor has little understanding of.

    Former serviceman Simon Weston, who suffered 46 per cent burns as a result of an Argentine bomb during the conflict, simply dismissed Penn as an ‘idiot’.

    Putting the war aside for one moment, similar overseas territories like Gibraltar, Bermuda and Pitcairn Island exist across the globe. They are cultural oddities, often seeming more British than Britain. These are colonial remnants; anachronistic entities that no longer hold much strategic value, and which often require expensive policing at the behest of the citizens.


    [Related

    Read More »from The Falklands- Time to pour oil on troubled waters?
  • By Jacob Brookman

    The care of vulnerable children is an area most of us, thankfully, have little to do with in our everyday lives.

    But this week the issue was once more in the spotlight when figures emerged that show the number of children being taken referred into care is at an all-time high.

    In January, 903 court applications were made, a new peak in a number that has been steadily growing.

    So why are more and more local authorities taking this decision of last resort?

    The catalyst for the rise was the case of Baby P which first emerged in 2008. The tragic toddler suffered terrible abuse and revelations of his plight focused public attention on the role of social workers and the needs of vulnerable children.

    But it was principally social workers who bore the brunt of public rage. And yet among all the fire and the fury about why they hadn't intervened earlier there was also tacit recognition of the difficulties of dealing with such situations.

    Parenting is a touchy subject especially

    Read More »from Why local authorities are right to take children from their parents
  • Freedom of information data released this week revealed that the Met have spent £35,000 on calls to the speaking clock and £200,000 on calls to directory inquiries. This is a revelation as I had no idea the speaking clock was still going.

    Every computer clearly displays the time as do mobiles, which to my mind conjures the image of officers who know the time but are on the phone listening to the time sponsored by Accurist pretending to chase down leads while the Sarge watches. And who uses directory inquiries these days when the Internet supplies all the answers free of charge?

    All those 118 numbers are headed for the directory graveyard to be buried alongside Thompsons and the Yellow Pages. Plod didn’t get the memo though and keeps ringing them up and costing us cash. The money is less worrying than the implication that the police are more ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ than ‘CSI’. A Met spokesperson said not all of the police have Internet access, which is pretty bad in this day and age. What

    Read More »from Crime figures and the effectiveness of the police
  • Mitt Romney, the man likely to challenge Barack Obama to become the president of the country with the most nuclear weapons, believes that in 1827 an angel called Moroni gave a man called Joseph Smith some golden plates that had symbols on them. There must have been at least a full dinner service worth of mystical crockery because the translations filled up a whole new Bible called the Book of Mormon.  Half of Mormons surveyed believe that Romney's faith is likely to count against him a survey revealed this week, with a third also believing they are more discriminated against than African Americans. Mitt's beliefs would count against him even more this side of The Pond. Tony Blair had to wait until he resigned as Prime Minister before converting to Catholicism because his spin master Alastair Campbell had commanded: "We don't do religion." Asked about a dozen times by Jeremy Paxman if he'd prayed with Dubya Bush, Blair evaded because he'd have known how deeply unappealing the British

    Read More »from Why religion matters in US politics
  • How to fix Ed Miliband

    Ed Miliband photographs really oddly, from some angles show that he can look almost like Ross from 'Friends' but mostly he resembles the bastard child of Vulcan MP John Redwood and TV's 'Mr Bean'.  An odd appearance is part of Miliband's problem according to Conservative home editor Tim Montgomerie who feels that "Odd Ed" is a far worse label than "Red Ed" and is contributing to make the start of the year tough for the Labour leader, especially as he scored a -17 approval rating in a recent poll.

    Part of the problem may be opposition MPs didn't actually pick Ed, it was the union block vote that enabled him to beat his boring but symmetrically- faced brother David. Part of the problem for the adenoidal one is he has yet to prove the doubters on his own benches wrong, which is leading to increasing criticism and disunity from his own side. This week, Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy called on Labour to accept most of the spending cuts so they appear credible on the economy and

    Read More »from How to fix Ed Miliband

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