Talking Politics
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    By Tim Farron

    The island of Lesvos, tucked away in a corner of the Aegean Sea, has become the epicentre of the European refugee crisis.

    You don’t even need to land on the island to see the evidence of the 300,000 refugees who have come to shore since January. Looking down as you land at the airport, the entire coastline is fringed with an orange and black lip of deflated dinghies and low quality life jackets.

    When I arrived I met with Alessandra Morelli, UNHCR Senior Operations Coordinator for Greece. She spoke frankly about the challenges the refugees are facing, and we discussed what the UK could do to help. Because, let’s face it, we aren’t doing enough.

    It was the first conversation of many with NGOs and volunteers in which I felt ashamed over our government’s deliberate inaction.


    I headed straight for the north coast of Lesvos, the closest point of the island to Turkey, where the majority of boats land. During the drive we passed hundreds of families making the 70km walk from the

    Read More »from Ignore the right-wing press - refugees are fleeing for their lives
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    By Deej Sullivan

    As the case for drug prohibition has fallen apart, its defenders have had to come up with ever more imaginative ways to justify it. When it comes to cannabis, that now includes bending the laws of science to their will.

    The government created a bit of a problem for itself when it allowed GW Pharmaceuticals to grow cannabis under license in order to produce Sativex - a cannabis tincture used to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. This was odd, because under the scheduling system for drugs enshrined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 cannabis is classified as schedule one, meaning it has no therapeutic value.

    Before Sativex came along it was easy enough, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, for the government to defend cannabis’ scheduling. There was no legal cannabis medicine in the UK, so therefore cannabis wasn’t a medicine. But as soon as this new drug was licensed, they had a problem.

    Sativex is simply cannabis extract suspended in alcohol with a

    Read More »from Quantum cannabis - How drug policy turned sci-fi
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    By Chris Jackson

    We’ve heard a lot recently about ‘lurches’ to the left or right, and about ‘cleaving to the centre ground’ – or 'common ground’ as David Cameron now insists.

    But to place too much emphasis on policy might be to overlook another factor which will decide the outcome: language. As much as Jeremy Corbyn certainly stands for radical shifts in policy his 'kinder politics’ also appears to represent an attempt to alter the very nature of our political discourse. In this he is arguably more revolutionary than in his views on Trident or railway nationalisation.

    Take his appearance on The Andrew Marr Show in July. At the time Corbyn was beginning to move ahead in the Labour leadership contest, and Marr asked him, with the air of a leopard pouncing on its prey, if he was a Marxist.

    Corbyn’s reply is worth quoting in full: “That is a very interesting question actually. I haven’t thought about that for a long time. I haven’t really read as much of Marx as I should have done. I have read

    Read More »from Jeremy Corbyn's appeal is more to do with language than ideology
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    Both the national press and large sections of his own parliamentary party have so far been heavily critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

    As a result he has not received the kind of honeymoon bounce in the polls that almost every new political leader would normally expect.

    However, despite this, the new Labour leader has already chalked-up a number of major political victories, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

    1. The Saudi prison contract

    There was some muttering when Jeremy Corbyn used his first conference speech to call for the Ministry of Justice to withdraw their bid to provide a prison training programme to the brutal Saudi Arabian regime. The contract if passed, would have risked implicating the UK in the crucifixion of the pro-democracy campaigner Ali Mohammed al-Nimr.

    Corbyn’s comments seemed like a niche issue to include in a conference speech to some at the time. However, in hindsight it was a turning point in Britain’s worrying relationship with the Saudi regime. Within days of

    Read More »from The big political victories already chalked-up by Jeremy Corbyn
  • By Debbie Abrahams MP


    The welfare reform and work bill, which completed its Commons stages this week, seeks to impose a one per cent rent reduction on social housing providers for four years.

    The rent cut will have severe impacts on housing associations that provide supported housing for groups such as domestic abuse refuges, homelessness hostels and homes for people with disabilities or other acute care needs, including frail older people. Indeed, recent cuts to the government’s affordable housing subsidy means that housing associations are having to rely more and more on rental income to be able to build any new homes at all.

    The government has already acknowledged that “the rent reduction measures may disproportionately impact on supported housing and may cause a reduction in service provision”. The bill was amended in committee to allow the possibility for case-by-case waivers.  However the cost-structures used by health, care and support providers in specified accommodation schemes

    Read More »from The government's cut in social housing rents will force women's refuges to close
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    By Alastair Sloan

    A week before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party, the Daily Telegraph published an editorial warning the party was set become “a Trojan Horse for the naïve and reckless”. Ironically, that is exactly what the Telegraph has become – a Trojan Horse for the propaganda of autocratic foreign powers. The once newspaper-of-repute has quietly offered its services to various human rights abusing regimes including the Chinese Communist party, Vladimir Putin, and the brutal autocracies of the Sunni Gulf states.

    Last month, Private Eye reported that the proprietors of The Telegraph, the so-called Barclay brothers, had renewed their contract to publish a supplement from China Daily – the propaganda mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. China Watch brings Telegraph readers “informative and diverse stories about contemporary China’s dynamic development.” There is certainly a great deal of positive news to report from China, but as has been widely discussed of

    Read More »from When did the Telegraph turn into a mouthpiece for autocrats?
  • This was the PMQs defeat Jeremy Corbyn had been threatening to deliver to the prime minister since he became Labour leader. He found the right question to ask David Cameron, ignored his evasive tactics and hammered him with it, Paxman-style, over and over again. He took a subject which damaged his opponent and used the opportunities offered by PMQs to make it much worse for him. It was sturdy, convincing stuff.

    The prime minister is not, at bottom, a very good debater. This is partly why he was so desperate to escape leaders’ debates at the election. He really only has three tactics in response to difficult requests.

    Usually, he answers a question on process with a statement on goals. If you ask how he is going to protect those who are having their tax credits cut, he answers by saying we need a high-pay, low-welfare economy. It is irrelevant, but it sounds like the kind of thing almost everyone would agree with.

    Alternately, he lists related government policies. You ask how he is going

    Read More »from PMQs verdict: Corbyn just hammered Cameron
  • By Sally Hamwee


    We should be proud that we have legislation to support asylum-seekers who are likely otherwise to be destitute. So shouldn’t we be ashamed if the reality of that support fails to achieve this? Actions speak louder than words, and kind platitudes have no place in this sphere.

    In 2000, rates for “essential living needs” were set at 70% of Income Support (plus accommodation and utility bills). Hardly a fortune for people who are prevented from working and are therefore dependent on handouts through what is often a lengthy asylum process.

    Last year the high court found that the government’s assessment of the amount needed to avoid destitution was flawed and ordered a review.  That review concluded that the rate for a single person without dependants was too low, so it was increased - by 33p. Crucially a flat rate (£36.95 a week) was introduced for each asylum seeker, adult or child.

    This change, the government professed, was to “simplify” the arrangements – a weasel word.  They

    Read More »from Labour is sitting on its hands as the govt slashes asylum seeker support
  • By Caroline Lucas


    Next week, junior doctors will begin voting on whether they feel they must go on strike for the first time in decades. Their decision could lead to industrial action in December – and it’s one I know they won’t be taking lightly.

    This unprecedented action is being reluctantly considered because of the government’s proposed changes to junior doctors’ contracts.

    The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, wants to extend the definition of ‘ordinary working hours’ to include Saturdays and late working up until 10pm.

    The changes could, according to the British Medical Association, mean pay cuts of up to 30% for our junior doctors. And women are likely to be hit hardest as annual pay progression will be scrapped, meaning they will lose out if they take time out to have children - as will any doctor who takes time out to do research.

    The changes aren’t just unfair – they could also be unsafe. The British Medical Association notes that the proposed amendments might lead to medics working

    Read More »from If Jeremy Hunt wants to improve the NHS, he should start listening to junior doctors
  • No sooner had the Lords voted down the government’s cuts to tax credits than Downing Street was promising a ‘rapid review’ of the chamber’s powers. There are no details yet, but we can be fairly confident that it will entail removing the Lords’ right to veto statutory instruments.

    But the Lords did not break any rules. Constitutionally, they cannot rebel against policies in the governing party’s manifesto and they cannot rebel against financial bills. But the tax credits cut was not in the manifesto and in fact was the subject of highly misleading comments by the prime minister during the election campaign. And it did not appear in a bill but in a statutory instrument, a mechanism designed to speed minor changes in law through parliament with a minimum of debate, and now regularly misused by successive governments.

    This morning, Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling either lied about what had happened or demonstrated that they were profoundly ignorant of the political stand-off they were

    Read More »from The Tories' Lords review will make parliament even less accountable


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