Talking Politics
  • 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
  • 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 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
  • 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
  • Theresa May is a complex voice in the Conservative party. Her demand for a positive election campaign last night is in the same vein as her application of the ‘nasty party’ moniker in 2002. She is not a wet – far from it – but she clearly sees the need for the party to offer a more nuanced and upbeat message than it is currently capable of.

    She told an event for prospective female Conservative candidates:

    "I’m a great believer, as a candidate, in running a positive campaign. I think what people want to know is, what would you do for them? So where you’ve been a member of parliament you can refer to what you’ve already done and what you will do in the future."

    May clearly wants the party to offer voters an aspirational vision of the world, one of the sort which worked so well for Margaret Thatcher among the upper working and lower middle classes. But that is very far away from where the Conservative party is today. Under the strategic leadership of Lynton Crosby the party has done what

    Read More »from Theresa May might want a positive Tory party - but Lynton Crosby is running the show
  • By Jenny Jones

    Do you remember the electric car revolution in London? Boris Johnson announced it in the national press in 2009 and then re-announced it a couple more times in the following years. There were going to be a hundred thousand electric vehicles on our roads ‘as soon as possible’ and that was certainly going to be around 2020, maybe. It is even in his transport strategy, under the section dealing with reducing climate change emissions.

    It is the classic example of a politician promoting a technical fix with enthusiasm and gusto. It has popular appeal because it requires no big change in the way we live our lives. It is all positive news, we can drive to the gym and save the planet at the same time. As with most political promises of cake and more cake, it is a big fat lie.

    Last year, I examined how fast this revolution was progressing and I realised that we had made such slow progress under this Mayor that it would take us several centuries to reach his hundred thousand electric

    Read More »from Only ending our reliance on cars will clean our air
  • Reefer madness is upon us again, with media reports on a new cannabis study suggesting that a couple of puffs on a joint will inevitably lead young people to psychosis.

    While it’s true that the study shows skunk to be dangerous, it also found milder forms of cannabis, like hash, to be completely harmless. These findings do not disprove the case for drug law reform: they make it.

    The study, by Robin Murray and Marta di Forti from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, and published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, took data from 410 patients who’d suffered a first episode of psychosis and 370 people in a control group, all in south London. The headline finding has been enthusiastically reported by the mainstream press. “Super strong cannabis responsible for quarter of new psychosis cases,” the Telegraph said. “Scientists show cannabis TRIPLES psychosis risk,” the Mail said, adding that “groundbreaking research blames ‘skunk’ for 1 in 4 of all new

    Read More »from What the media reports on the new cannabis study don't tell you
  • Another win for Farage

    A little trouble over Geneva bank accounts at HSBC made Nigel Farage the clear winner in this week’s prime minister’s questions.

    Labour supporters might complain at this, on the basis that even when Ed Miliband sweeps the floor he doesn’t get the credit. Miliband is certainly in need of a triumph after his recent dismal failures. And he looked unusually chipper after his six questions on political donors who held Swiss bank accounts with HSBC, fidgeting between heckles and giggles. If this is what he’s like when he does well at PMQs, he may need physically restraining if he wins the general election.

    The problem with Miliband’s line of attack was that, while the Conservatives come out worse, Labour is not squeaky clean. Cameron usually resorts to bullying his way out of trouble. Today he tried to drag Miliband down with him. It was like that scene in the Lord Of The Rings when Gandalf gets pulled down into the abyss by a large red beast. Only in this version Frodo Farage looks on,

    Read More »from Another win for Farage

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