Talking Politics
  • 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
  • Those hoping for Labour to mount a fierce opposition to the austerity measures contained within George Osborne’s Budget this week are set to be disappointed.

    Speaking to journalists after Osborne sat down, Labour’s new shadow chancellor Chris Leslie repeatedly turned down opportunities to oppose, or even criticise, most of Osborne’s key decisions.

    Benefit cap

    The government’s new benefit cap is set to impoverish tens of thousands of people.  According to internal government advice, 40,000 children will be plunged into poverty under the plans. However, when asked about the policy yesterday, Leslie described it as “necessary,” adding that: “It’s difficult to say why those who should be in work, but are not, should get those benefits.”


    Osborne’s plans to legislate to run a budget surplus “in normal times,” require huge cuts to public services and in-work benefits. Even the Conservative mayor of London reportedly has reservations about the policy, with his chief economic advisor

    Read More »from Labour oppose almost nothing in George Osborne's budget
  • The income benchmark on spousal visas was always different to other anti-immigration rules. Whenever you mentioned it to someone – even if they were instinctively quite hostile to immigration – they always expressed outrage. Probably because it’s an anti-immigration rule which specifically targets Brits. Now even the Telegraphis turning against it, four years after it was introduced.

    Today’s copy rails against the 18,000 British families torn apart by the £18,600 annual income requirement for non-European spouses of British citizens. This is a policy which has forced married couples to live apart, prevented Brits from returning home once they’ve lived overseas and forced children to grow up without their mother or father.

    The paper quotes the brilliant immigration lawyer Colin Yeo and the equally brilliant pressure group Migrant Rights Network – not the kind of people they usually contact. It even helps promote tomorrow’s protest outside the Home Office, organised by campaign group

    Read More »from As even the Telegraph turns against immigration rules, has the Home Office finally gone too far?
  • By Frances Brill

    George Osborne’s emergency Budget delivered in many respects, but it failed young people. His plan to cut housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds has alarmed people across the housing sector.

    A Centrepoint study by the University of Cambridge this week showed the number of young homeless people is over 80,000 - three times the amount the Department for Communities and Local Government estimates. One quarter of young people have experienced unsafe homelessness.

    As Campbell Rob, head of Shelter, stated: “This research paints a grim picture.” Osborne’s Budget will exacerbate it.

    It runs against the thrust of the Tories’ election promises. The day after the election, David Cameron promised to “build homes that people are able to buy and own”. It was a repeat of a manifesto commitment which noted that developers are building “too few homes”, leaving young people “struggling to afford a deposit” and being left off the property ladder. The pre-election focus was on providing

    Read More »from Osborne's cut to housing benefit will drive young people into homelessness
  • At first look, George Osborne’s new ‘compulsory living wage’ is a welcome move.

    Any increase in the amount low paid workers receive can only be a good thing. However, Osborne is wrong to label this new measure a 'living wage’.  In reality it is anything but.

    Under Osborne’s plans, a new living wage premium (LWP) for the over-25s would be introduced on top of the current minimum wage.

    However, the size of this premium is far below what is required for people to live on, especially in London.

    The current living wage is set at £7.85 an hour while the London living wage is set at £9.15 an hour. Under Osborne’s proposals, the compulsory living wage would be initially set at just £7.20 in both London and elsewhere. This is not a living wage by any commonly understood definition.

    There is also great uncertainty about what level the new living wage would rise to. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast that it will rise to around £9.35 by 2020, just 15p an hour more than the current

    Read More »from George Osborne's 'living wage' is not enough to live on
  • One of the cruelest ironies of the general election is that Ed Miliband’s tepid political offering has been interpreted as a parable about the dangers of being too left wing.

    Case in point: the living wage. It took the Labour leader years to say whether he even supported it and then, when he did, his big offering was to set it at £8 an hour by 2020.

    That failure of nerve has now allowed George Osborne to leap-frog the Labour offer and present himself as a social justice chancellor while he savages the working poor.

    Osborne used his so-called emergency Budget today to offer a mandatory living wage of £9 an hour by 2020. There are plenty of problems with the offer, given he is cutting benefits for those same low-income workers elsewhere. It’s basically a minimum wage with a striking new name. The mechanics of working impoverishment stay the same, but the chancellor can shift the politics to his advantage. The left’s criticism of his plan will fall on deaf ears, because it is superior to

    Read More »from Labour's meekness has given Osborne the cover to savage the working poor
  • I was in Serbia when the London bombings happened. I’d been travelling with a couple of guys I’d met on the road. We booked into a hotel and I switched on the TV. I remember being kind of excited about it. I hadn’t watched any TV in weeks.

    The first image when the screen came on was of a red double-decker bus with its top blown off. I couldn’t understand anything that was being said, but the pictures told me everything.

    Afterwards there was that flurry, familiar to many of us, of desperate attempts to get hold of friends and family on the phone and make sure they were OK – no easy task without a mobile phone in a dingy hotel lobby in Belgrade. But once the personal terror of having lost someone close to you has faded – if you are lucky enough to be one of the ones for whom it does fade – the broader, indirect sense of personal loss takes over.

    I was desperate to be back in London. Every proper Londoner has a deep, unyielding loyalty to the city, but it is not something we talk about very

    Read More »from Ken Livingstone was the mayor London needed on 7/7
  • In 1874, Karl Marx had an imaginary conversation with Mikhail Bakunin. Nowadays, they would just have had a Twitter spat, but back then the father of Communism was forced to spend an afternoon copying out bits of the anarchist philosopher’s book into a notepad and then writing out his counter-arguments.

    Bakunin’s book was itself asking questions about exactly what this ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ Marx had proposed entailed. “Will the entire proletariat perhaps stand at the head of the government?” he asked rhetorically. “The Germans number around forty million. Will for example all forty million be member of the government?”

    Marx replied, again rhetorically:

    “In a trade union, for example, does the whole union form its executive committee?”

    It was a telling response. For Marx, the fact a trade union executive committee was composed of members of the same class meant it would always represent their interests. The only power for Marx was economic. Once you made everyone economically

    Read More »from The British left is finally turning against the EU
  • By Omaira Gill

    On Sunday night, Syntagma square erupted into a party as Greeks celebrated the country’s historic No vote in the referendum. Revellers stayed out until the small hours waving Greek and Syriza flags, hugging each other and cheering. In a race that official polls thought was too close to call, the No camp stormed ahead with 61% of the vote.

    In light of the results, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, former prime minister of Greece until he was ousted in this January’s elections and the man who presided over some of Greece’s harshest austerity cuts, tendered his resignation.

    The lead up to the result was typified by calm, despite media scaremongering. In the cafes and the streets of Athens on Sunday afternoon, Yes and No camps sat side by side and debated without friction.

    In Pireaus, Athens’ twin city, the owner of a kafeneio, the traditional coffee and mezze houses where the older generation prefers to gather, said:

    “During the week, I thought it was going to go in favour

    Read More »from Despite media fear-mongering, Greeks stay calm and carry on


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