Talking Politics
  • Greed and envy are sins. So why is Boris Johnson trying to turn them into virtues?

    The religious overtones of his speech to the Centre for Policy Studies, that temple of Thatcherism, seem to fundamentally challenge the ethical basis Britain's morals are built on.

    "I don't believe that economic equality is possible. Indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity," he said.

    Perhaps the London mayor was trying to make up for his speech to this year's party conference, when he ruffled Tory feathers between the jokes by staunchly opposing anti-immigrant politics.

    In amongst the signature Johnson fluff, his address to the CPS certainly made up for it. This was unusually plain speaking for a Tory. There is something about right-wing politics which makes it reluctant to confront the truth: that the spirit of innovation and self-betterment has a fundamentally selfish motive. In its

    Read More »from No Boris, greed and charity don’t mix
  • Scottish celebrities are straightening their bow-ties and washing their hair. They're off to a glitzy Downing Street do this evening to talk about how marvellous it is to be Scottish.

    Michelin chef Tom Kitchin will prepare the food for guests at the bash, the Herald reports, as the St Andrew's Day event (nobody tell anyone it's not November 30th yet) celebrates the "sung and unsung heroes of Scotland".

    There is just one problem. The prime minister will not be there.

    David Cameron is off tonight to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to advance his controversial agenda about putting a damper on freedom of movement within the European Union.

    While Scottish celebs will be earnestly chewing the delicately-prepared fat over Alex Salmond's independence white paper, the prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be having dinner with EU leaders, "personally" setting out his concerns about the impact of free movement and his belief that there needs to be a debate on the issue.

    Read More »from Why David Cameron was right to snub the Scots
  • His name is Isa Muazu. He is wasting away.

    Locked in a cell just outside Heathrow, out of sight from the holidaymakers and business visitors, he can no longer get up off his mattress. He has not eaten in over 90 days. He can no longer stand or see. He struggles to talk.

    On Friday, at 8:00 am, he will be forcibly put on board a flight and sent to Lagos, where he says he will be targeted by Islamic terror group Boko Haram. He was due to be deported tonight, but the Home Office has ordered new removal directions. Needless to say, he will be even weaker on Friday.

    We weren't always like this. Last June, four men were released from Harmondsworth immigration removal centre after they went on hunger strike. The Home Office has a legal obligation to treat detainees with the same standards applied to NHS patients. But the compassion offered to these men clearly left a bad taste in Theresa May's mouth. She concluded it was the start of a trend.

    When Muazu's case came to light, she held her

    Read More »from The case that tells us what kind of country Britain is
  • What is it?

    It's Alex Salmond's big document outlining his plans for an independent Scotland.

    Why's everyone making such a big deal out of it?

    Well there is the small matter of how the economy, defence and politics of Scotland would be affected by it suddenly becoming independent, but the white paper will also form the basis of the debate up until the referendum next September . Salmond needs to prove he's got a mature, believable programme for making Scotland a successful country to counter the endless torrent of pointed questions directed his way by opponents.

    Has he?

    I've no idea. It's very long. The white paper clocks in at 670 pages, covering 650 questions. And to make things better, the website hosting it went into meltdown when everyone tried to log in at once. We've now had a listen to his press conference with deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon and a decent amount of time to skim over it. But the real nitty-gritty of the scrutiny will come in the next few days, as the

    Read More »from Everything you need to know about the Scottish independence white paper in five minutes
  • By Joseph Blake

    There have been some early signs that the media hype surrounding the next UK general election in 2015 is already starting. However, most young people in Britain have no interest in the huge volume of column inches which are about to come their way and they probably won't even vote.

    new poll by the Committee on Standards in Public Life has revealed that four in ten people are so disillusioned from politics that they might not vote at the next general election and that under 30's are particularly disenchanted.

    You don't have to search very far to understand why the youth of today have no faith in party politics, let alone general elections. University tuition fees have been trebled, the education maintenance allowance (EMA) scrapped, youth centres shut down and funding cut to all manner of different services for young people. Some of the poorer younger generation will have also started to see their families really struggling, with media reports showing that starving

    Read More »from Young people don’t vote because the system doesn’t work for us
  • By Adam Bienkov

    "Let us suppose you are losing an argument," Boris Johnson wrote earlier this year.

    "The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case.

    "Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as 'throwing a dead cat on the table, mate'."

    Going on to describe the manoeuvre he explains: "The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout 'Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!'; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief."

    Johnson's Australian friend is the Tories' campaign chief Lynton Crosby, and the "dead cat strategy" is exactly what we are beginning to see from the Conservative party in the run-up to 2015.

    After two months in which Ed Miliband's focus on cost-of-living issues has dominated the political

    Read More »from The dead cat strategy: How Tories hope to win the next election
  • By Adam Bienkov

    Proposals to keep the London underground open 24-hours a day have been kicking around for years.

    Various potential mayoral candidates and incumbents have raised the possibility, only for it to be quietly dropped later.

    The reason for this is simple. Everybody thinks a 24-hour Tube would be a good idea, but nobody has so far been willing to pay for them.

    Today's proposal is far more limited and as a result far more likely to happen. Under the plans, the Piccadilly, Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines and parts of the Northern line will stay open 24-hours at weekends from 2015.

    Of course that's still a large chunk of the tube network and it would still cost a lot of money. And here's where things become tricky.

    Fares on the underground have been rising above inflation for many years now.  Simply raising fares even further to pay for late-night drinkers would not be hugely popular.

    Instead TfL plan to finance it by closing every single Tube ticket office. This is a

    Read More »from Boris Johnson’s ticket office closures are his tuition fees moment
  • As I write this, Isa Muazu fades away

    By Jasmine Sallis

    Isa Muazu, a soft-spoken 45-year-old from Nigeria, has been on hunger strike for almost 90 days in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre.

    He is dangerously ill but this week an application to the high court for his release from custody was rejected.

    I have been supporting Isa for the last three months and have been talking to him every day since before he began his hunger strike.

    While writing this article I've just read that Isa has lost his vision. He is suffering from severe chest pains and cannot breathe properly. He has never complained once to me about any of these problems. He is always thankful, grateful and concerned about my well-being.

    I can't help but feel that because he has been so uncomplaining that I myself have not even understood the severity of his health deterioration until it is almost too late. It is clear Isa is strong and determined - but not in an aggressive way. He has never raised his voice in anger. He speaks in disbelieved tones. And

    Read More »from As I write this, Isa Muazu fades away
  • By Adam Bienkov

    The Conservative party are "baffled" by the public's stubborn refusal to vote for them, writes well-placed Telegraph journalist Benedict Brogan in an extremely revealing piece today.

    "Nothing is quite so head-scratching at the moment as the success of the Labour Party," writes Brogan, who claims that "The Tories are certainly puzzled – and terrified – by it."

    Yesterday afternoon, Tory planning minister Nick Boles added to the criticism, saying the party's toxic image meant large numbers of voters "will literally not even contemplate voting Conservative".

    As I've written before, the realisation that the Conservative party are on course to lose the next election is slowly but surely dawning on the Tory benches. Quite why it has taken so long says everything you need to know about the closeted environment that persists in Westminster.

    "That Labour should be in such a strong position is baffling, for reasons that scarcely need sketching out," writes Brogan.

    "Soundly

    Read More »from The real reasons why the Tories are doing so badly
  • People have used the word 'gay' disparagingly for decades. They were doing it when I was in school. They are evidently still doing it now, because Stonewall and Mumsnet have teamed up to try and discourage it.

    They launched a campaign against the use of the word yesterday with the unimpressive strapline:

    'That's so gay' Um, actually it probably isn't.

    Both organisations are promoting the campaign on social media this morning with the equally irritating hashtag #GetOverIt.

    Campaigners are by nature optimistic, empowered people who believe they can change the world. In this case they have overestimated their influence.

    Language is a complicated, fluid thing, dependent on the individual habits and circumstances of millions of people. The French have lost all their optimism and empowerment while watching the Académie Française try to control their language, with all the obvious disappointments such a process entails.

    Efforts to control language from above are like trying to hammer water.

    Read More »from The word ‘gay’ is sometimes used disparagingly. Get over it.

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