Talking Politics
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    By Emily Thornberry and Debbie Abrahams

    It ought to be one of the most fundamental principles of our welfare system that nobody with a health condition or disability which makes it harder for them to work should be forced to take a job before they are ready.

    Judging who is ready for work and who isn’t has never been an easy distinction, but the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – the government’s means of making the decision – is fundamentally broken.

    A new report published this week, linking as many as 600 suicides to the assessment process, offered proof that the process is not just flawed, but fatally so. Even for those not affected in so extreme and tragic a way, problems with the WCA have had ripple effects which are being felt throughout the entire system of back-to-work support.

    As the DWP’s most recent figures show, more than half of the cases where someone appealed against a decision judging them “fit for work” have resulted in the original decision being overturned. If any other

    Read More »from Back to work support has failed the people who need it most
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    David Cameron announced today that he plans to spend £10 million on a new ‘Air Force One’ style jet to be used both by himself and other ministers.

    The government claims the retrofitted RAF plane will save them money in the long-term. That may well be true if you compare it to the cost of regularly chartering flights from commercial operators. The government currently spends large amounts on chartered flights, including ones they don’t even use. In 2012 they wasted over £300,000 in the cost of cancelled government flights alone. And it’s not just foreign trips that the government splashes out on. In the last year the government spent over £6 million on chauffeur-driven cars for government ministers.

    But is it really necessary for the government, and particularly its more junior members to be travelling around in such grand style, both at home and abroad? And what does it say about the state of the British governing class?

    The terrible events of recent weeks will inevitably make such

    Read More »from 'Dave Force One' is another step towards a governing class cut off from the people
  • Is it time to partition Syria and Iraq?


    By Ben Myring

    David Cameron’s dormant plans to expand British bombing to Syria have been jolted back into life by the Paris attacks, but he faces the same problems he had before – namely, a small group of rebellious Tories and the implacable resistance of Jeremy Corbyn.

    The Labour leader insists that “bombing solves nothing” and wants no further action without a wider peace plan. Morally, he’s wrong. Just ask the Kurds, whose secular and relatively democratic statelets would have been overrun if it wasn’t for Western airpower. Yet Corbyn is correct to say that a broader strategy is needed to end the conflict, and right to insist that all parties save Isis must be brought to the table. What he may not have realised is that this strategy quickly takes us to some very difficult moral areas, such as the partition - or at least segregation - of Syria and Iraq along ethno-religious lines.

    The most significant barrier to a long-term solution is the same in both Syria and Iraq: the collapse of

    Read More »from Is it time to partition Syria and Iraq?
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    By Zahida Manzoor

    When it comes to attacking the working poor, the cuts to tax credits are just the tip of the Conservative government iceberg. The welfare reform and work bill, which was discussed in the House of Lords yesterday, shows just how far they are prepared to go.

    When the Tories took power in May, they did so claiming that they wanted to halve the number of disabled people in employment. In the Budget, George Osborne proudly announced the government’s plans for full employment by 2020. Both of these are really good aims, and my party, the Liberal Democrats, have said we will do all we can to support them.

    But despite what they say publically, the Conservative party’s actions have been very different. Instead they are doing everything they can to push people further away from being able to get a job.

    Most concerning are the plans to impose a £30 a week cut on the amount of money given to people who have been assessed as temporarily unable to work. That means cutting the support

    Read More »from Tory cuts will make it harder for people to return to work
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    It’s quite rare that a leading politician issues a speech which is so magnificently factually wrong as the one Nigel Farage delivered last night.

    Hilariously, Ukip sources were spinning the event as “the most important intervention from a mainstream politician in the UK on the subject of Syria and the UK’s security situation”. In reality it was a pub rant of precisely the type you would expect.

    At its heart were three key falsehoods, on which the Ukip leader either knowingly misled his audience or was simply too ignorant to understand himself.

    Firstly, he laid the blame for the Paris attacks at the door of refugees despite there being no evidence for doing so; secondly he seems to have fundamentally misunderstood France’s entire approach to immigration, and finally he misrepresented the Muslim response to the attacks.

    I’m having to take all this from media reports in Buzzfeed and the Guardian by the way. I called and asked for a copy of the speech. None have been forthcoming.

    Refugees to

    Read More »from Farage's Paris speech shows he doesn't understand France or Islam or refugees
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    By Richard Excell

    In May, the Conservative manifesto boasted that “child poverty is down – with 300,000 fewer children living in poverty”. This was a claim for the party to be proud of and one they wanted to use as part of their case for forming the next Government.

    This is exactly how we at End Child Poverty, wanted politicians to treat the issue. We didn’t want child poverty to be the property of one side in politics, we wanted the parties to compete to show who had the best policies to deal with it.

    In the 2000s the parties moved closer. As the Labour government succeeded in bringing 900,000 children out of poverty the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats signed up to make child poverty a priority.

    In the anti-poverty movement we felt the high point was the passage of the 2010 Child Poverty Act, which set targets for the level of child poverty by 2020 and imposed an obligation on governments to report every year on progress towards those targets. All the main political parties voted for

    Read More »from The government is breaking its pledge to fight child poverty
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    In the wake of a terror attack, patience and calm are our virtue. They are the precise opposite of what terrorists want. They want panic, quick-decisions and change. That, after all, is the purpose of terrorism: propaganda through violence in the pursuit of policy change. We are very good at making it easy for them.

    The reaction to the Paris attacks has been grimly predictable. Many of us spent the weekend glued to Twitter, which was simultaneously the fastest source of news, a place to share in outrage and, unfortunately, the staging ground for the worst aspects of political debate. It seemed as if that latter category was very common but really it was over-represented. Decent people had been stunned into silence, so the voices of those trying to make political capital out of the events seemed disproportionately loud.

    And on a certain level it’s understandable. This type of bloody chaos is hard for the mind to process. We can’t imagine going a gig and suddenly being slaughtered. It is

    Read More »from Opportunism on left and right make us accomplices in Isis' terror
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    By Hannah Pearson

    This week marks 35 years since homosexuality was made legal in Scotland. While we should, of course, be celebrating this, alongside the introduction of same-sex marriage last year, it is important to remain vigilant concerning another human right which now risks being lost in Scotland – namely abortion rights.

    According to some commentators, while gay rights campaigners are consolidating their victories of the 1960s, abortion rights campaigners risk fighting a losing battle. But could a country which has progressed so far with LGBTI issues (even being named as the ‘best country in Europe for LGBTI legal equality’) really be in jeopardy of going backwards with abortion rights? There are already signs to suggest it could.

    Following the UK government’s decision last month to devolve abortion law to Holyrood, Scotland has been awash with speculation about how this will affect Scottish women’s reproductive rights. Although some pro-choice campaigners in the country are

    Read More »from Scottish women's reproductive rights are now at risk
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    By Chaminda Jayanetti

    “It’s a real kick in the teeth when my partner’s working 50 hours a week, you’re doing everything by the book, and you’re still sort of scraping your knuckles against the pavement just to survive.”

    Lucie Hill-Hempstead lives with her partner and two children (aged two and four years) in a one-bedroom flat in Tottenham, North London. Getting by on a low household income, she has had her tax credits cut three times this year - each time with no warning, no explanation, and no recompense.

    “I’ve got quite a tough exterior,” she says, “but this has brought me to tears so many times because every time you see a brown envelope on the door your think ‘oh god, what now?”

    Her tax credits were cut in April, were completely withdrawn for two weeks in July, and have now been cut again. Each time, it was because the tax credits office had calculated that her household income had gone up, meaning her tax credits had been overpaid. Each time, her tax credits were cut to repay the

    Read More »from The big tax credit cut almost nobody has heard of
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    A few weeks ago, we saw two very different faces of British Conservatism at the Tory party conference. Theresa May went on stage and spat poison about asylum seekers and immigrants. It was brutal, ugly stuff, which seemed to go too far even for many right-wing newspapers. A day later, David Cameron came on stage and was all sweetness and light. He name dropped more liberal Cabinet ministers, pointedly ignored May and set out a commendable vision of an open, compassionate, multiracial Britain.

    Speeches are not important in themselves. They only work as a signpost for future policy. So it’s worth looking at which of these two visions seems to be winning. And there are hints in the small print of recent changes to immigration rules that it’s May who is implementing her vision. As the immigration lawyer and analyst Colin Yeo has spotted, the rules imply that May is carrying out her threat to limit the amount of time refugees can stay in the UK. (Yeo will be writing on this shortly and it’s

    Read More »from May is starting to implement her poisonous immigration speech


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