Talking Politics
  • The government today unveiled proposals which will make it all but impossible for many workers to ever again legally protect their pay and conditions by going on strike.

    Under these plans there will be a new minimum threshold of 50% on strike ballots, plus a new time limit on any action following a ballot. Taken individually, the measures may seem reasonable to some. But they come on top of huge amounts of existing regulation which already make the UK one of the least worker-friendly countries in Europe.

    As things stand, in order to launch a strike, trade unions must navigate multiple pieces of legislation minutely governing the balloting process.

    These heavy restrictions mean that previous widely supported strikes have already been banned by the courts, despite receiving majority support from union members on a high turnout.

    In 2010, a strike by British Airways cabin crew was backed by 92.5% of workers on an 80% turnout. Yet the courts ruled it illegal anyway because a number of workers

    Read More »from Tory anti-strike laws are just their first attack on workers' rights
  • By Stephen Barber

    The choice of Nuneaton to host the first of the Labour leadership hustings is quite deliberate. This quiet Midlands town unwittingly came to symbolise the strategic failure of Ed Miliband’s party when in the early hours of Friday 8th May it became clear that not only had Labour failed to win this marginal seat but the incumbent, Conservative Marcus Jones, actually increased his majority.  For the Labour hierarchy, winning ‘seats like this’ is clearly what they need to do if they are to once again hold national office.  But the real question is: why on earth didn’t Labour win Nuneaton?

    I have a particular view on this because it is a town I know well.  I was born and brought up there.

    Early media analysis has centred on this word 'aspiration’. It is the idea that Labour failed to appeal to the ambitions of 'ordinary voters’. The argument reflects on how successful Tony Blair had been in 1997 at attracting the sort of supporters who wanted to buy their own home, enjoy

    Read More »from If Labour wants to win again it must learn from what happened in Nuneaton
  • Liz Kendall’s endorsement by Chuka Umunna and his entire leadership team confirms her as a serious contender in the race to be next Labour leader.

    Umunna’s backing means that Kendall is now almost certain to make it to the final shortlist of candidates alongside Burnham and Cooper.

    It follows a Labourlist survey putting her in a strong second place in the race and suggests that momentum is building behind her as the preferred candidate of the right of the party.

    However, these endorsements also highlight her big weakness: the narrowness of her support. None of thebig names to back her so far have been in any way surprising. The vast majority are closely associated with the ‘Blairite’ or Progress wing of the party. By contrast Andy Burnham, who is currently being mischaracterised as a left-wing union placeman, has received several surprising endorsements, most notably from Lord Falconer and current rising star Dan Jarvis.

    Her campaign has also been entirely focused on issues that excite

    Read More »from Liz Kendall will lose unless she leaves her comfort zone
  • When did we stop worrying about crime?

    By Joe Hitchcock

    Campaigning around the general election was dominated by three topics; the NHS, the economy and immigration.  But where was crime? In April 2010 Crime was third in the list of the most important issues facing Britain. By April 2015, our data showed it had dropped to 11th and the number of us in Britain thinking it is an important issue had halved. Crime was mentioned by just ten per cent of people, the lowest percentage since October 1992.

    Ipsos MORI’s Winter 2014 MPs’ survey showed that just 14% of MPs said crime/law and order was the subject they receive the most letters about in their post bag.  This compares to 64% who identified the NHS - the same proportion as noted correspondence on housing or benefits.  In fact, crime-related issues came 24th in the list, continuing its diminishing share of MPs’ postbags since the coalition government came to power in May 2010.

    When MPs were asked which issues they think will be very important in helping people decide which party

    Read More »from When did we stop worrying about crime?
  • To read some newspapers you might assume that Labour are in the middle of a great ideological battle between a union-backed left-wing faction and a business-backed Blairite faction. According to this reading, Andy Burnham represents the retrograde forces of the left, while Liz Kendall represents the modernising forces of the right.

    This fight is already being played out on social media, with many Labour activists treating it like a defining battle for the very survival of the Labour party.

    But does this portrayal reflect reality? Yes it’s true that the Labour-affiliated unions are more likely to choose Andy Burnham, while more right-leaning members of the party are more likely to choose Kendall. But this is not a choice between two radically differing views within the party. This is a choice between slightly differing shades of Blairite.

    No objective observer could reasonably describe any of the candidates as being on the left of the party. Even Burnham, who has been portrayed in the

    Read More »from Labour's choice is only between differing shades of Blairite
  • Even by the usual standards of anti-immigration rhetoric, David Cameron’s announcement that he would make illegal immigration extra-illegal was remarkably idiotic.

    The press release to go with the announcement said there would be a new offence of ‘illegal working’. Asked how this made any sense on the Today programme this morning, home secretary Theresa May admitted it was predominantly to discourage undocumented immigrants trying to find work – implying it will rarely be actually used. But even on this level the law is bizarre. The discouragement - or the realisation that “illegal working doesn’t pay” - would only be pertinent when you were caught by police.

    But undocumented immigrants already do not want to be caught by police, because it would mean being deported. So what is the discouragement exactly? That people who do not want to get caught by police will now be even keener not to be caught by police?

    There certainly won’t be much financial discouragement. Most undocumented

    Read More »from Is this the most inane law of all time? Cameron promises to make illegal immigration illegal
  • By Frances Brill

    The UK is gripped by a housing crisis. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government there was a 118,760 housing shortage in 2014. This, in part, has driven huge house price increases: 12% in London and 11% in Bristol last year.

    Homes are becoming less affordable. The most commonly proposed solution is an increase in housebuilding which will put downward pressure on prices.The new Conservative government promises more homes and more ways of buying these homes. They have proposed ‘Starter Homes’, expanded the 'Right to Buy’ and 'Help to Buy’ and promise to restrict regulation. These neglect some of the biggest problems within the market: the rising cost of private rental and a severe lack of social housing.

    'Starter Homes’ is a policy for first time buyers, under the age of 40. With a 5% deposit they will be able to buy a property with a minimum 20% discount up to a total market price of £250,000 (and £450,000 in London). These homes will all be built on

    Read More »from Tory housing plans will not tackle the housing crisis
  • By Thomas Byrne

    Among all the chatter about who should next leader of the Labour party, there’s been a notable absence of reality. In one corner you have ‘aspiration’ candidates like Tristram Hunt, who said the party needed to understand people to want to shop at Waitrose (did no-one tell him it’s Aldi which is middle class chic now?). Hunkered down with them are defeated gargoyles like Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. In the other corner, you have the usual suspects like Diane Abbott and the unions, claiming all the party needs to do is regain its soul and present a true left wing alternative. They are all wrong, in their own way. Stella Creasy would make a much more authentic choice for Labour leader.

    Creasy has already ruled herself out, although she’s thrown her hat in the ring for the deputy leadership. That move was probably sensible in terms of ambition, but it was disastrous for Labour. She should run the risk of self-sacrifice in order to save her party. No-one else is qualified.

    Read More »from Why is Stella Creasy running for deputy leader? She should have the top job

  • This is how David Cameron will address the National Security Council today:

    “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

    This, incredibly enough, is how the prime minister is opening his argument for protecting British values. In fact, these words were released in advance to the media, suggesting he does not see the irony. What he has described above is as effective a definition of British values as exists. It is a free society: follow the law and the state will leave you alone. It is remarkable that a supposedly Conservative politician would not recognise that.

    He now he plans to dismantle this notion in the name of British values. The government plans to interfere with legal behaviour.

    The details are still not clear and won’t get much clearer until the Queen’s Speech – or probably afterwards. But we do know three things: 1) that the definition of an extremist is being expanded 2) that the process

    Read More »from Theresa May's plans are a threat to British values
  • After elections, the losers get a surge in membership. It seems ironic, but emotionally it makes perfect sense. In despondency, people need hope. So the Lib Dems have enjoyed a spike in membership sign-ups and many are talking about joining Labour.

    But Labour is not ready for people’s support. It remains a profoundly undemocratic party which goes out of its way to prevent its members having a say on policy. Why join a party interested in your money but not your voice?

    Labour was never particularly democratic. It reflected the authoritarianism of its socialist roots, in the same way the Tory party reflected the authoritarianism of its paternalist roots. Union barons wielded disproportionate influence, deciding at the stroke of a pen what their thousands of members apparently believed. Tony Blair and his predecessors worked hard to get rid of that union influence, but they were not democratic crusaders. Blair’s only concern was centrism – the road which he (rightly) believed led to Downing

    Read More »from Until Labour becomes democratic, it doesn't deserve your membership

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