Talking Politics
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    By Natalie Bennett

    George Osborne has been chancellor for five and a half years now, so the pattern for spending reviews and budgets is becoming familiar. We get warnings of massive cuts, then on the day some of those don’t come and the news is about the services and spending saved.

    Let’s not fall into the trap of believing this old three card trick.

    This time we already knew one of the reversals was coming – the change in plans for tax credit cuts was forced on the chancellor by that unlikely champion of the poor the House of Lords. But he managed to produce surprise on Twitter by abandoning these altogether.

    This will only slow the cuts to family budgets which are coming anyway, under government plans to switch all households on benefits over to universal credits. That means government savings rising to £3 billion a year by the end of the parliament – or in other words cuts of £3 billion to household budgets. That’s of course if the government manages to make the universal credit

    Read More »from Osborne's spending review shows this is an extremist government
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    If by some freakish series of accidents you found yourself watching George Osborne deliver the spending review yesterday, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Britain has never had it so good. The chancellor seemed relaxed, even jubilant. Almost everything he said involved spending. The bad old days of austerity and Greek-style chaos were over. Once again, sunshine ruled the day.

    Which is odd, because he was actually unveiling a plan to slash public spending. The cuts are so severe, in fact, that by 2020 departmental budgets will be at 50% of where they were when the Tories entered power in 2010. The cuts will be worth £12.2 billion a year by 2019/20. Oh and there’ll be £28.5 billion in tax increases too.

    Partly, this is just how things are done. The chancellor gets up, announces all the good bits, then journalists go and read the small print of the document and see what’s really going on. But Osborne also has tricks which are uniquely his own.

    One: Ring-fence political risks


    Read More »from Spending review 2015: Osborne's tricks – and how to spot them
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    By Sisters Uncut

    There is little the chancellor could announce in his autumn statement which would make up for the devastating impact that Tory austerity measures have had on domestic violence services. Anything short of a complete reinstatement of all the funding that has been lost would a token gesture from a government whose cuts have put women’s lives at risk.

    Ironically, today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a UN initiative to emphasise how female-focused violence continues to be a global pandemic.

    The ways in which our current government is failing women who suffer from domestic violence is something we should outrage us all. Since the Conservatives came into power in 2010, 32 specialist refuges for survivors of domestic violence have closed. According to Women’s Aid, 31% of women referred to refuges were turned away due to lack of space. During one week alone in 2014, 369 women were turned away from outreach services because of a lack of

    Read More »from Behind the formalities of the spending review, Osborne is putting women's lives at risk
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    By Abi Wilkinson

    Denying fascists public speaking opportunities has been a strategy of the anti-fascist movement since the early 1930s. When the term ‘no-platforming’ was first used on university campuses in the early 1970s, it was almost exclusively in this context. But over the past few years, students’ union officers have begun using the tactic against a wider range of speakers as part of attempts to create a 'safe space’ on campus.

    It’s argued that offering a platform to certain people – often feminists believed to be 'trans-exclusionary’ or 'sex work exclusionary’ – would be neglecting their duty to protect the welfare of marginalised students. Critics contend that union officers are abusing their power to unacceptably stifle freedom of speech.

    Back in the 1970s, it made some sense to understand no-platforming on campus as a freedom of speech issue. True, it wasn’t legal censorship, but denying someone access to an audience could have almost the same effect if other means of

    Read More »from Safe spaces don't limit free speech – they give it to the marginalised
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    This is what improvement looks like in Britain’s crumbling young offenders’ estate: young boys not leaving their cells for 23 hours a day for fear of violence, widespread hunger and regular solitary confinement. Improvement is apparently a very low bar.

    “Violence appears to be a fact of daily life in Feltham prison, and putting children into solitary confinement appears to be the management tool deployed in an attempt to contain it,” Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, says.

    “We know about a 17-year-old who was segregated for eight days, being let out of his cell for only 30 minutes a day. He told our staff he didn’t know why he was being held in solitary and he was sinking into depression.

    "We know about another 17-year-old locked in his cell with no contact with any other children, and with no idea of what he had to do to get back to a normal regime.

    "Yet another 17-year-old [has been] locked in his cell for two weeks and only allowed out for 30 minutes

    Read More »from Even when Britain's youth prisons improve, they fail
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    By Niki Adams

    When sex workers from nine different countries get together, there’s always going to be a buzz. But invite them to the houses of parliament and ask them to tell politicians what needs to be done and it’ll turn into a roar. Nearly 200 people poured into a parliamentary committee room earlier this month for a sex work symposium, well exceeding its capacity and forcing a crowd to wait outside while a one-in-one-out door policy was put in operation.

    We’ve been given a significant boost by the elevation of John McDonnell to the Labour front bench. McDonnell, a dedicated and principled politician with a strong concern about sex workers safety, welcomed the event and expressed his hope that his parliamentary colleagues would listen to the evidence.

    Anyone who took his advice and heard the array of speakers and vast amount of evidence would have been struck by how compelling the case for decriminalisation is. Take Catherine Healy. She’s a founding member and coordinator of the New

    Read More »from Want to know how to make sex work safe? Ask sex workers
  • Building more houses won't bring down prices


    By Daniel Valentine

    Housing is of great significance. A safe, settled home is the cornerstone of personal autonomy and family life. It has unique economic and social consequences in a way most other products don’t because a) housing is in limited supply b) people cannot consume housing separately, but do it collectively in “communities” and c) family life, on which the future of the nation depends, requires a certain standard of housing to prosper.

    On Saturday the Bow Group published a report that proposes restrictions on the investment purchases of UK homes in order to restrain price inflation. The report demonstrates how reform of housing demand is both essential and possible. It rejects the conventional wisdom of the property lobby that low interest rates, government subsidies for lenders and buyers, and planning deregulation will solve the housing affordability crisis. In the face of almost unlimited demand from both domestic and overseas investors, who see housing as a safe haven

    Read More »from Building more houses won't bring down prices
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    There is no ban on Christian advertising, just like there is no ban on people wearing crucifixes at work or whatever other bizarre fantasy the Church of England has come up with.

    Here’s what happened: A commercial agency decided a Church of England ad might upset paying customers going to the cinema so it decided not to take it. They did so, rather predictably given they are a commercial agency, for commercial reasons. Then the Church of England played an absolute blinder of a press strategy and got themselves on the front of the Mail, the Times and all over the BBC. Fair do’s to them. If you’re in PR, watch what Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, is doing and learn it. It’s a great way of getting far more free advertising than you would ever have been able to pay for by putting your ad in a cinema.

    The ad shows a variety of people from different walks of life praying and encouraging the viewer to do the same. It would not, one imagines, have been very

    Read More »from No one 'banned' the Church of England ad – they're making it up
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    By Jenny Jones

    We can all understand the urge, in the wake of the IS attacks in Beirut and Paris last week, for the government to be seen to act swiftly. And we can also understand that public security should be a major part of any decisions.

    The problem is, in his rush to speak and act, the prime minister has forgotten the importance of first thinking and considering. The PM’s first reaction on Monday was to announce plans to spend an extra £2 billion on the SAS and other special units between now and 2020. He also called for the fast-tracking of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, which is designed to enshrine in law the UK security services’ unprecedented access to all our online activities.

    Unfortunately the rehashed Snoopers’ Charter is a bad Bill. It would legalise the surveillance that we now know has previously been carried out, against current UK law, by our security services. It is a classic example of defending our rights and freedoms against those who might wish to

    Read More »from David Cameron's police cuts are the biggest threat to our national security
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    By Andrew Copson

    Last week, three parents and their children took the government to court. They asked a judge to affirm that in refusing to allow for the detailed study of non-religious beliefs in the new Religious Studies GCSE, the government improperly marginalised those beliefs, discriminated against those who hold them, and, as a result, failed to treat them equal to their religious fellow-citizens.

    This challenge has been a long time coming, but it was inevitable. Last year, the Department for Education published its draft subject content for the reformed Religious Studies GCSE. The content, which is the foundation on which the exam boards must base their specifications and papers, dictates that students must study two religions in depth, providing an annex outlining what should be covered for each.

    What it did not do, in defiance of professional and public opinion, was allow for the similar in depth study of a non-religious worldview, such a Humanism, alongside a religion. Almost

    Read More »from The government's censorship of Humanism must be challenged in court


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