Talking Politics
  • By Frances Crook

    I’m very worried about what is happening to victims’ services. For the past century the probation service has worked with people in court for sentencing, people who are convicted and given community sentences and people coming out of long prison sentences. In addition, the service had a duty to liaise with victims, to consider them in every area of their work, and in recent years had developed real expertise in working with victims. The probation service had sophisticated restorative justice structures for engaging with victims. Now that the probation service has been broken up and sold off it seems that these services will be impossible to deliver to the same level and quality.

    As far as I can tell the rump of the National Probation Service (NPS) now has responsibility for around 30 per cent of offenders (those classed as high risk) but 100% of victims. I don’t see how this can work. If the NPS is not working with a perpetrator it will be extremely difficult to know who

    Read More »from Who will look after victims now Grayling has privatised probation?
  • The Tories will launch devastating cuts to public services but they are unprepared to tell the public what they are. Labour is incredibly vague about how much it will borrow. The Liberal Democrats are doing Mickey Mouse mathematics with their deficit reduction plans. And the SNP are as committed to austerity as any of the other parties, despite their rhetoric.

    That’s the unappealing truth of this election. The Institute of Fiscal Studies, which is becoming a supreme court of final judgement in British politics, lays it out in black and white in its report on the four parties’ spending plans today. It has been elevated to this role because the parties themselves are so untrustworthy and journalists have become largely redundant. During the election, print journalists have mostly become party political press officers for whichever side their newspaper supports, while broadcast journalists are so terrified of appearing anything other than impartial that they refrain from the sort of useful

    Read More »from Damning IFS judgement shows how much all parties have to hide
  • Shutting out the voters might seem like a sensible strategy, but it can only lead to one result: a slap in the face come polling day.

    Terrified by the fear of another Gillian Duffy moment, the parties have adopted a cautious approach to these precious few weeks that tries to avoid calamity at the expense of giving themselves a chance of actually changing the game. Elections should not be shutting-down operations, but that is the approach taken by the Conservatives and Labour.

    Lynton Crosby might be placing his faith in a late incumbency swing, but there are no signs of it materialising yet. Labour stands more to gain from seeking a sudden moment where longstanding perceptions shift. As #milifandom shows, any progress they have made in this campaign isn’t really of their making.

    It’s ironic, really. Gordon Brown’s ‘bigotgate’ disaster helped bring down the New Labour government because by writing off Duffy Brown was writing off millions of other voters, too. Yet in strenuously trying to

    Read More »from Insulting voters can only lead to defeat – for both the Tories and Labour
  • By Natalie Bloomer

    Last week, just one day before Nigel Farage repeated his controversial comments about immigrants and HIV, an inquest was held into the death of Dalton Messam.

    Dalton was a 44-year-old painter living in London. He was also an undocumented migrant. It was reported locally that he had been ill in the weeks leading up to his death but was so scared of being deported that he refused to seek medical assistance.

    This is not a lone case. The charity Doctors of the World has warned that the hostile environment created by politicians and the media around the issue of immigration and the NHS can lead to tragic consequences.

    The organisation runs a clinic in London to help undocumented migrants access healthcare. Phil Murwill, its manager, says the doctors and nurses who volunteer there often see people who are in desperate need of medical help but have been too afraid to access it.

    “One lady turned up to see a GP and was extremely nervous. She was complaining of a typical cough and

    Read More »from The death which shows the human cost of Farage's health tourism rhetoric
  • If Scots vote as the polls suggest, then Nicola Sturgeon will soon have some claim to being called the most successful British politician of her generation.

    In just a few short months, Sturgeon has taken her party from referendum defeat to the brink of the most remarkable election result in recent political history.

    She outshone her rivals in the two leaders’ debates, with English viewers judging her to have come first according to some polls. Her approval ratings are also now the highest of any party leader across the UK, with even many English voters saying they would back her party next month given the chance.

    Whatever you think of her politics, Sturgeon is a formidable politician at the height of her game. Yet to read the coverage Sturgeon has received in recent weeks is to read about somebody completely different.

    Descriptions of Sturgeon in the Westminster-based press have run from the hyperbolic to the offensive. In recent weeks she has been described variously as a hostage-taker to

    Read More »from Media sexism against Sturgeon shows how far our politics has to go
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    If the shameful inaction of the EU over refugee deaths in the Mediterranean weren’t enough, they’ve now worsened their moral standing with half-truths and misrepresentations.

    As news came in that Sunday’s death toll was likely to be around the 800 mark, the European Commission released its ten-point plan to deal with the crisis. There was a lot of talk of countries acting in unity and common purpose, but the language of the proposals was incredibly vague. If you dig into their proposals you see this isn’t about saving lives. It’s about controlling the border.

    Strap yourself in for the standard EU jargon: Operations Trident and Poseidon will be “reinforced”, with increased “financial resources” and “assets”. Their “operational area” will be extended, but they will remain within the mandate of “Frontex”.

    There’s a lot to unpack there, but the vital part of the puzzle is in the last suggestion. Frontex is a border control programme, not a search and rescue programme. Yes, it must save lives

    Read More »from This isn't a migrant rescue plan – it's an EU border-control plan
  • It all comes down to numbers. Try playing the BBC’s majority-builder game, which offers some likely scenarios and gives you the chance to work out plausible governments.

    More often than not you’re likely to find the Conservatives fall short, even with Lib Dem and DUP support. Labour is often relying on either the SNP and/or the Lib Dems to get into power.

    That reflects the balance of probabilities as assessed by the Political Studies Association, a group of unspeakably clever academics who suggest the most likely scenario is bad news for Cameron.  

    "The single most likely outcome is at the bottom of the pie chart,“ says Dr Stephen Fisher of the University of Oxford.

    [UK General Election 2015 Live]

    "That is a seriously hung parliament with the Conservatives as clearly the largest party but a majority on the left, including the SNP and Liberal Democrats.”

    His findings are supported by the academics at, which give the Conservatives a mean 284 seats, compared to 276

    Read More »from Miliband is now most likely to be next prime minister
  • Midway through the general election campaign, both Labour and the Conservatives are changing their tactics – and it’s a triumph for voters.

    “I’m not going to talk about anything other than winning an overall majority,” David Cameron rather steadfastly insisted on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show this morning. His actions - and those of Labour this week - suggest the alternative is exactly what both the Conservatives and Labour are focusing on.

    Back in 2010 the British electorate delivered an equivocal verdict on David Cameron and Gordon Brown’s parties. Neither were really trusted enough to rule by themselves. Voters set up a scenario where both would have to act more cautiously and carefully. Whichever ended up in power, the Tories or Labour would have to behave differently.

    In the event, not that much did change. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats’ staunch embrace of power the resulting coalition felt more like business as usual than anyone could have anticipated. That experience has defined

    Read More »from The 2015 campaign has reached its watershed moment
  • In ordinary circumstances votes, like wives, are not casually swapped around. But that appears to be changing in 2015, as a group of determinedly anti-Tory activists encourage left-leaning types to switch sides.

    The basic idea behind VoteSwap relies on the old principle of tactical voting: that voters could be persuaded to choose a party other than the one they support in order to stop their political enemy from winning.

    Normally this is a straightforward, somewhat grubby process. It is not especially healthy. It is a perversion of the democratic system. But it has the promise of being effective in preventing the hated alternative from triumphing. In Scotland, such is the enmity provoked by the SNP surge that unionists are fostering a frenzy of tactical voting ahead of May 7th.

    The prospects in England are more limited. But on the left of British politics the enemy is clear enough.

    Stopping David Cameron from spending the coming years in No 10 via tactical voting is a tough ask, though. As

    Read More »from Vote-swapping: A new way to kick the Tories out of power
  • By Professor John Street

    As with shopping malls, so it is with election campaigns. Somewhere in the background, there is a soundtrack, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle - but always designed to programme the listener’s responses or heighten the emotion.

    Nigel Farage strode on stage early in the campaign to the sound of the Monkees’ I’m A Believer (for some reason he eschewed the opportunity to reprise Mike Read’s Ukip calypso). An example of the not-so-subtle approach, there.

    Most of the other parties have been a bit more restrained. Perhaps they’re fearful of the time, back in 2010, when the pop group Keane took umbrage at their song Everybody’s Changing being used by the Conservative party. Ukip were unlikely to get grief from the Monkees, and indeed Keane had no grounds for complaint: the song had been legally licensed (unlike the British National Party’s use of a song by the Manic Street Preachers).

    But the Tories have not always been very wise in their choice of music. They

    Read More »from This year's election soundtracks won't win many votes


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