Talking Politics
  • Tony Blair’s Labour followers have always claimed to be the wing of the party which cares most about winning.

    Certainly under Blair’s leadership that was always the case. Whatever you think of the man, he won three successive elections for the party - something no other Labour leader has ever managed.

    However, since Blair’s departure, this desire to win seems to have totally deserted his supporters and the man himself.

    David Miliband’s defeat to his brother in 2010 was a huge surprise for most commentators, yet it was wholly predictable. Miliband had the Labour leadership in his hands yet threw it away out of an arrogant refusal to move towards his party’s own supporters.

    His successor Liz Kendall has taken a similar and even more election-losing trajectory. She began her campaign by winning gushing plaudits from right-wing papers and is set to finish it with the support of little more than one in ten Labour supporters.

    A new YouGov poll out yesterday puts her in a distant fourth

    Read More »from Tony Blair is to blame for the rise of Jeremy Corbyn
  • By Ian Dunt

    We know it’s coming, because they keep telling us. They just won’t give us any details. The counter-extremism bill will clamp down on non-violent freedom of speech. But exactly what speech and by whom? That is unclear.

    David Cameron’s speech on extremism was hyped as the most important he has delivered on the subject. The extracts released in advance were extremely wishy-washy and confused. So was Theresa May’s subsequent appearance on the Today programme, in which she was again unable or unwilling to say exactly which kinds of free speech would be outlawed. Education secretary Nicky Morgan had a similar problem in relation to public bodies’ new legal responsible to prevent extremism a few weeks back.

    The problem is this: If you really ban groups and people ‘opposed to British values’ - defined apparently by those who want to overthrow democracy - you’ll need to ban the Socialist Workers party and Platonist philosophers alongside Islamic extremists.

    This difficulty is never

    Read More »from When will the government tell us what kind of free speech it's going to ban?
  • Future historians will look back on last week as the moment Boris Johnson’s prime ministerial ambitions finally washed away into the muddy waters of the Thames.

    His full-body soaking at the hands of the home secretary in the House of Commons was so brutal it was almost difficult to watch. Theresa May’s demolition of Johnson’s case for bringing water cannon to the streets of London was so comprehensive, so cutting and so utterly devastating for the London mayor, you half expected the Metropolitan police to apprehend her for common assault.

    With an increasingly meek looking Johnson sat behind her, May explained that the 25-year-old second hand German water cannon Johnson bought without her permission, would “pose a series of direct and indirect medical risks,” to protesters, including “musculoskeletal injuries such as spinal fracture, as well as other serious injuries such as concussion, eye injury and blunt trauma”. One 66-year old German protester had been completely blinded by similar

    Read More »from Boris Johnson's water cannon farce reveals why he will never be prime minister
  • It’s quite revealing to compare the rhetoric from the Ministry of Justice about the legal strike with the way it is discussed behind closed doors.

    Publicly, the department is keeping a brave face and insisting it’s business as usual. Here’s the statement they sent me yesterday for instance:

    “All our intelligence shows that courts continue to sit as usual and that the vast majority of cases requiring a solicitor at the police station have been picked up within an hour.”

    But behind the scenes, things are much more frantic. Take the police, for example.  For obvious reasons, they’re one of the first groups to come into contact with the chaos reaped by a legal strike, so they function as a reliable litmus test of state nervousness about the action. And they seem worried. The Police Federation are firing off frenzied emails to solicitors demanding to know if their members are going to be able to rely on them if they face legal problems.

    “We are aware that as of the 1st July 2015 direct action

    Read More »from MoJ tries to keep a brave face amid signs of legal strike panic
  • By Jonathan Bartley

    Not long ago I returned to my home late at night to find my pregnant wife distressed and frightened. It wasn’t because a crime had been committed but because our house had been raided by police. It was a mistake and as anyone would do I made a complaint.  But what the officer who dealt with it told me was alarming.  The police found that every time contact was made with ordinary Londoners, even to help victims, the public’s view of the police went down.

    This decline in trust has been one of the defining aspects of Boris Johnson’s time as mayor. This week’s decision by Theresa May to block his use of a water cannon – a decision I predicted on this website a few years back - typified his approach. As the home secretary said, the idea of the water cannon undermined the idea of policing by consent.

    Boris bought weapons to use against his fellow Londoners. And not just water cannons.  He was responsible for the huge expansion of Tasers too.

    He undermined confidence by

    Read More »from Boris has presided over a catastrophic loss of trust in the police
  • By Syed Kamall

    I was disappointed when Sir Howard Davies recommended in his much anticipated Davies report, that the solution to London’s increasing need for air transport is to build a third runway at Heathrow. This is, in my view, a sticking plaster solution for the short term.

    According to figures published last month in the Global Destination Cities Index, London is once again the number one city to visit in the world. The report claims something like 18.82 million international visitors will visit London during 2015, which puts us ahead of Paris, Singapore and even Dubai.

    The question is, do we have the aviation capacity to maintain this increase in tourism as well as cater for business travel as entrepreneurs increase their trade with existing and emerging global markets?

    Perhaps, we have lessons to learn from the rest of the world. China is leading the way in the construction of airports having spent $3.5 Billion, less than a decade ago on what was at the time the largest passenger

    Read More »from Heathrow expansion is just a sticking plaster solution
  • Everyone enjoys a laugh at homeopathy supporters. It brings us all together. It’s a way for smug, intellectual people to be all smug and intellectual. So there was barely-concealed glee this morning when an old tweet revealed Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn believed in it, or rather that he did five years ago.

    Corbyn is considered a looney because he has actual political values which he refuses to compromise on, so this was opportunity to seal the deal. It’s dispiriting to watch a man who espouses genuine convictions using normal language treated as some sort of museum piece, but that’s where we are. One instinctively wants to jump to his aid, especially on something as minor and silly as homeopathy.

    But belief in homeopathy serves a higher function than just screening out the gullible or providing a group hug for intellectuals. No matter how trivial it might seem, homeopathy provides a moral test because it functions as a litmus test for belief in objective truth.

    There’s no

    Read More »from Belief in homeopathy is a moral test
  • By Caroline Lucas

    Later today I will be presenting a bill to the House of Commons which aims to give PSHE (personal, social and health education) statutory status. With the current guidelines now 15 years old it’s time for us to take a step forward and give every child access to a curriculum which promotes resilience, physical and mental health and life skills.  This is an important time to put pressure on ministers, as we await Nicky Morgan’s delayed response to the education select committee’s call for statutory PSHE.

    There’s no doubt that PSHE is needed. One in three girls say they experience ‘groping’ or unwanted sexual touching at school and a shocking 60% of 13-18 year olds have been asked to share a sexual image or video of themselves.  When children are constantly bombarded with confusing messages about sex and relationships, and with young people in this country among the least satisfied with their lives and their bodies, it’s clear that the time has come to end the postcode

    Read More »from Young people need sex education to protect them from abuse
  • Andrew Neil had a hard time yesterday persuading Harriet Harman to oppose any of the harsh austerity measures in George Osborne’s budget.

    The Labour leader insisted she would support almost all of the new welfare cuts proposed by the chancellor.

    “We won’t oppose the welfare bill, we won’t oppose the benefit cap, [we won’t oppose] restricting benefits and tax credits to people with three or more children,” she insisted.

    She added that “people don’t want us to do blanket opposition. They want us to be specific.”

    Pushed on what if any, specific measures Labour would oppose, Harman explained that they opposed some changes to tax credits as well as the “abolition of child poverty targets”.

    Now I’m sure that anti-poverty campaigners will welcome this. But the measures which Harman is supporting will actually increase child poverty.

    As the government’s own internal advice warned earlier this year, the benefit cap is set to force tens of thousands more children into poverty. Labour now support this

    Read More »from Labour opposes child poverty but supports measures which will increase it
  • As the dust settles this morning on the Greek bailout crisis, it is increasingly clear we are witnessing one of the most daring raids on national democracy in post-war political history. If this new plan passes the Greek parliament, Greece can no longer be said to be a genuinely sovereign state. Brussels and Berlin are taking over Athens. Even one of Alexis Tsipras’ minor victories – that a £50 billion privatisation fund would be based in Athens, not Luxembourg – was entirely superficial. As Angela Merkel insisted this morning, it would not be under Greek control.

    Defenders of the eurozone have an answer for this. If bailout conditions went to the polls across its member states the result would probably be even tougher than this morning’s deal, they say. This is not, under this reading, a crisis of democracy. It is an unfortunate compromise based on wildly divergent economic interests among one of its members and all the others.

    This all rests on some quite muddled lines of democratic

    Read More »from The truth revealed: There can be no freedom in the eurozone

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