Talking Politics
  • 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.
  • By Bridget Robb

    When assessing Michael Gove's outer demeanour, few would liken him to Gordon Gekko, infamous villain of 1980s paean to greed Wall Street.

    Yet when it comes to systematically dismantling entire professions, he is a ruthless and slick as any City shark. He's successfully savaged teachers, and now he's circling around social workers.

    As any good corporate raider knows, a successful takeover requires manipulating the target’s worth. Trashing reputations drives down share prices and results in little resistance when you then mount your attack.

    When it comes to our public services, Gove's tactics are simple, yet done so skilfully that your average citizen is unaware that they are being bombarded with very sophisticated propaganda.

    Let’s look at Gove's spin operation last week alone.

    On Monday, children's minister Edward Timpson delivered a speech to the Association of Independent LSCB chairs in which he sympathised with their often controversial positions "it might feel like

    Read More »from Gove’s disgraceful attack on social workers is meant to soften us up for the private sector
  • By Lucy Wake

    As David Cameron arrives in Colombo today, fresh from a grilling in India about his choice to attend the Commonwealth head of government meeting (CHOGM) he seems to have found his voice at last on human rights concerns. But is his outcry about abuses in Sri Lanka too little too late?

    Amnesty has been pressing the UK government for months on their strategy, or lack of it, to achieve tangible improvements in the current human rights crackdown going on in Sri Lanka which has seen journalists silenced, the independence of the judiciary compromised and activists and campaigners intimidated. All this against the backdrop of a complete lack of accountability for past crimes. No such strategy has been forthcoming and indeed, until very recently the UK government’s condemnation of their host country has been timid to say the least – just a faintly whispered promise to speak up. Just as well, then, that the condemnation has crescendoed as we approach the summit.

    At the eleventh

    Read More »from Cameron finally discovers human rights – but it’s too little, too late
  • By Janice Atkinson

    As the left/right competition for immigration rhetoric on the airwaves heats up, you can't tell 'em apart. It's only Ukip that can be called racist.

    Labour is stepping up the immigration row. David Blunkett's warning that an influx of Roma migrants could lead to riots in Britain should be taken very seriously. Yet when Ukip talk about it, it's classed as racism.

    "Mr Blunkett should be admired for the courage he has shown by speaking so plainly on this issue. Of course the type of language he has used I would have been utterly condemned for using," said Nigel Farage. And he's right.

    The left are running hard to catch up and talk about immigration and openly admitting their spectacular failure to manage our borders since 2004.  They are afraid for their northern Labour strongholds. Ukip is the official opposition in the north.

    The Conservative party, whilst trying to detoxify itself with the green agenda, hugging hoodies and gay marriage, has also stepped up its nasty

    Read More »from Why are Ukip the only party branded racist, when Labour and the Tories sing from the same hymn sheet?
  • Breastfeeding is a good thing. Science says so. I know this because, as a parent-to-be, I had it drilled into me in an interminable three-hour session by the National Childcare Trust earlier this year.

    My wife has made it clear I am forbidden from writing about anything remotely connected to the reproductive process. So I shall not tell you whether or not she is among the one in three mothers who still bother to breastfeed at six months, even though both the World Health Organisation and NHS recommend it's a good idea.

    Part of the problem is the convenience of the alternative. Breastfeeding is tough. Not everyone is prepared to persevere through that tricky initial stage where the coming together of baby and breast seem more complicated than a mid-air refuelling operation. The temptation to switch to bottle-feeding, which is fairly cheap, is overwhelming.

    There are other reasons, too. Mothers lead busy lives and it can often be inconvenient for them to breastfeed. They're not even

    Read More »from My breastfeeding horror just goes to show why bribing mothers is the right way forward
  • By Matt Hawkins

    As a Green party supporter it can sometimes be frustrating to witness the way the press (often even the left-leaning section) write us out of political discussions. When lamenting the impasse from the major political parties on issues such the support for welfare or opposition to the rampant march of privatisation, the Green party rarely seems to warrant a mention – despite the fact that these policy areas are now deeply embedded in the party’s psyche.

    Even the debate, sparked by Russell Brand's rallying cry on Newsnight, as to where we can look for a political alternative to the three mainstream parties has rarely included a mention of what the Green party has to offer.

    Green coverage in mainstream media is often reliant on long exposés where the party takes on the form of an exotic animal. Brought out to be shown off to the curious crowds, the party is swiftly returned to its cage to await another outing, too ethereal and wild for day-to-day discussion

    This is

    Read More »from The Greens are Britain’s first female political party
  • When the nimbyism has been dismissed and the quarrels over compensation muted, the shale gas debate comes down to one, simple unanswered question: can the promises of the fracking lobby really be put into practice?

    Most of the horror stories seen in the US - flames coming out of taps, dead tree wastelands, contaminated water complaints - are easily written off in Britain. Those desperate to get fracking in the UK simply point to the watchdogs, an easy go-to bogeyman, as an easy group to blame.

    Contrast the patchy, disinterested attitude of the American regulators with the British equivalent. At a shale gas industry conference in Manchester earlier this year, the Environment Agency's representative arrived armed with a powerpoint presentation designed to show just how rigorous its supervision of fracking would be. David Forster's flashy presentation briskly worked through a long list of environmental perils posed by fracking. But he promised "detailed technical guidance for operators"

    Read More »from Who watches the frackers?
  • What are Iain Duncan Smith's redeeming qualities?

    Today's public accounts committee report shines a spotlight on a department which is out of control. Bad news is ignored. Vast sums of money are authorised by personal assistants for work which has not always been specified. Up to £425 million has been wasted and may need to be written-off, including £140 million on IT equipment which is no longer suitable for the project. The left hand does not know, or even seem to care, what the right hand is doing.

    Duncan Smith has undertaken the most ambitious restructuring of the welfare system in a generation and it is blowing up in his face. The report was one of the most damning to be published this year. Duncan Smith's response, according to the Times, was to demand MPs on the committee pin the blame on his permanent secretary, Robert Devereux.

    It's all a day in the life for the work and pensions secretary, whose relationship with the truth is as tenuous as George Best's relationship
    Read More »from Iain Duncan Smith is no longer fit-for-work
  • By Adam Bienkov

    Those fun-loving types at the Taxpayers' alliance have published a new list of 201 ways for local councils to save money.

    While there are many sensible suggestions on the list, there are also a fair few idiotic ones.

    Here's a look at five of them:

    1. "Where appropriate use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting."

    Fancy taking your kids to the local park? I'm afraid you'll have to navigate your way past a herd of Fresians first. There is a fantastically twisted logic to this suggestion. For some reason, councils spending money on gardeners is a bad idea, but spending money on an army of farmers, sheep dippers and veterinarians is a perfectly brilliant idea. Off the scale idiotic.

    2. "Charge for use of the staff car park."

    There are lots of good ways to motivate public sector workers. Charging them to turn up to work isn't one of them. If you really want to take some money back from council employees, you may as
    Read More »from ‘Replace gardeners with cows’ and four other stupid suggestions from the Taxpayers’ Alliance
  • By Godfrey Bloom

    There is much confusion in the minds of the media and electorate as to exactly which direction the UK economy is actually travelling. This is not easy to guess. GDP is frequently heralded as the most reliable compass. It is most certainly not, if indeed it ever was.

    Let us take a look at what GDP is. How is it defined? I am comfortable with the Penguin Dictionary of Economics: "Aa measure of the total flow of goods and services produced by the economy over a specific time period". There are a number of caveats attached but they are simple and non controversial and this is not an economics paper but an aide memoire for the interested layman.

    Let me give two examples of why it is such an unreliable measure of economic success. Using my Euro-constituency as my first, let us imagine I was a benevolent plenipotentiary in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire and my subjects judged me on GDP growth for the kingdom.

    At present this figure is close to zero, stifled by 20% VAT,

    Read More »from Don’t be fooled by GDP – this is a fake boom

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