Talking Politics
  • Labour all but ruled out forming a coalition with the SNP today, in a dramatic move which suggests Britain could be heading for a minority government.

    Asked whether he would consider a coalition with Nicola Sturgeon’s party, shadow chancellor Ed Balls replied: “No”.

    "I don’t think anybody is suggesting a deal with the SNP at all. We’re fighting hard for a majority," he told Sky News.

    Asked whether he thinks a minority government would be more likely, he told LBC that the public would be unlikely to accept another coalition.

    "Back in 2010… the idea of a coalition was popular and the idea of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems was popular. Five years on, the idea of a coalition is very unpopular and the idea of Nick Clegg is even more unpopular," he added.

    Current opinion polls suggest that neither the Conservatives nor Labour are likely to be able to form an outright majority, with some polls suggesting a coalition of at least three parties would be necessary.

    Given the difficulties this would

    Read More »from Minority rule: Labour all but rules out coalition government
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    By Michael Pollitt

    This week, 200 years after Britain abolished slavery as a trade and institution, the UK’s domestic labour laws were compared to a country in the top ten for human rights abuse.

    "It’s worse than Saudi Arabia," an anonymous Filipino woman said of her life as an overseas domestic worker in Britain. “They treat me like a prisoner. They never even give me a single pound. I’m starting working around 4.30 in the morning, until 1 o’clock in the morning. I’m sleeping only in the kitchen. I’m crying the whole time that I’m lying on the floor.”

    The ITV documentary, Britain’s Secret Slaves, aired on Monday, spoke to several women in a similar position. They are the victims of a much-maligned 2012 anti-immigration initiative, which removed the right for migrants on the domestic worker’s visa to change their employer in the UK. This left foreign domestic workers highly vulnerable to exploitation. Since the regulations changed in 2012, Kalayaan, a UK charity working to support the

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    The success of the plain packs campaign marks an important stage in the eventual battle to criminalise tobacco. It is the moment the Conservative party finally capitulated to the joyless, unscientific nonsense of the public health lobby. There is now no resistance to this movement at the top of British politics, apart from among a few stubborn Tory backbenchers and the minority of Lib Dems who still remember what the word liberal actual means.

    The Conservatives decided to force through this bill before the election to neutralise a potential Labour attack. After kicking the issue into the long grass in a variety of ways, the party has now cravenly and frantically capitulated, with a minimum of composure or good grace.

    So let’s be clear: there is no evidence plain packs work. Yes, there is a decline in smoking trends in Australia, the only country which has implemented the measure. But it is part of a long-term decline amid various other anti-smoking initiatives, including a massive hike

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    The establishment wants to celebrate British democracy this week - but PMQs served to remind us exactly what’s wrong with the current system.

    It was a question from Mark Reckless, the Ukip defector, which stuck out from all the others. What he said doesn’t matter much; it was the prime minister’s reply that was important. “Mr Farage said ‘we’re going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare’,” David Cameron said. “That is the Ukip policy - privatise the NHS. I say never!” Here was the PM, directly attacking Nigel Farage on the floor of the Commons. It reminded us all just how little Ukip’s policies attract criticism in parliament: their lack of representation makes them virtually immune. So the sight of Cameron taking on Farage directly was an unusual one.

    Contrast this with the main exchanges, when Miliband and Cameron did what they’ve been doing for years yet again. Their argument over the economy boils down to a question of whether you think living standards are

    Read More »from If this is how our MPs behave, this is no time for celebrating democracy
  • Here’s a quandary. As things stand, Labour are increasingly likely to need SNP support in order to form a government in May.

    A hung parliament is by far the most likely outcome according to the betting markets, with some polls suggesting the SNP could overtake the Lib Dems as the third largest party at Westminster.

    However, while a Labour/SNP coalition would be highly popular in Scotland, it would be deeply unpopular outside.

    According to two new polls released this week, the possibility of a coalition between the two parties sharply divides opinion north and south of the border. On the one hand one new poll out today finds that such a coalition would be the first choice among a clear plurality of Scots, including almost one in five Labour supporters.

    However, a separate poll released over the weekend suggests that such a coalition would cause deep resentment in the rest of the UK. According to Yougov, almost six out of ten people in the South of England and around half of those in the

    Read More »from A Labour/SNP coalition would damage both parties
  • It’s now been over three months since the launch of Labour’s anti-Green party strategy.

    The unit, set up by shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan was designed to reverse the leakage of Labour supporters to the Greens and win back more votes from Labour’s left. So how is it going?

    Well since the unit launched, support for the Greens has actually gone up.

    Nationally the party is now regularly polling ahead of the Lib Dems, with support among younger generations especially high.

    The party is also building support locally. In the Green’s only parliamentary seat in Brighton, they have gone from being one point behind Labour to ten points ahead. While much of that support has come from former Lib Dem and non-voters, the number of former Labour voters planning to vote Green in the constituency has almost doubled since June.

    The party’s ability to translate this support into votes is also improving. Last week they revealed that they have more members than either the Lib Dems or Ukip. It is this

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    There’s a gigantic hole in Ed Miliband’s speech on voter registration - and much of the media coverage surrounding the “scandal” of the coalition’s reforms.

    Let’s be clear - this really is a scandal. has already reported on the problems caused by the transition to individual electoral registration, which is threatening to benefit the Conservatives’ hopes of winning the general election.

    The problem is, it’s not the 2015 election which is at stake. As next to no-one has mentioned in the reporting on Miliband’s speech, it’s the 2020 election which is actually going to be affected.

    That’s because the government saw this attack coming and has already acted to try and negate it as much as possible.

    It’s doing so via a very simple step. Anyone who disappears from the register since the last canvass under the old system will be automatically carried over to the new register for 2015. Those million voters who have vanished, many of which are students, will all still be

    Read More »from There's a gaping hole in Ed Miliband's voter registration speech
  • By Jane Fae

    How we laughed, this weekend when Fox News security ‘expert’ Steve Emerson made his ludicrous claim that Birmingham was a “Muslim-only city”. But strip away the laughter and what remains is a deeply dangerous thesis, rapidly gaining purchase in the US as established fact, that Europe is being progressively colonised by Muslims following some Islamic master plan.

    With the repetition of this absurd canard by Nigel Farage yesterday, again on Fox News, it is now clear that this myth is spreading. It has jumped the Atlantic pond and, unless we are very careful, is about to infect our own politics with the same toxic mix of half-truth and downright ignorance.

    Emerson’s central claim, made in a slightly less-publicised interview on Fox on January 7th alongside host and conservative commentator Sean Hannity, is breath-taking in its scope. He told Hannity:

    "Throughout Europe, Sean, you have ‘no-go zones’. When I was in Brussels a year ago when I asked the police to take me to the

    Read More »from The myth of Muslim no-go areas is being used to turn us against one another
  • At some point David Cameron acquired a reputation for being a skilled frontman for the Conservative party.

    Quite how he acquired this reputation has long been a mystery to me. Rather than being a slick operator, Cameron often comes across as evasive, prickly and borderline robotic in his public performances. Despite his reputation for confidence he is apparently terrified of debate and scrutiny. One of Cameron’s first acts as prime minister was to cancel regular Downing Street press conferences, while one of his last acts has been to effectively kill off the general election debates altogether.

    Quick to anger, with a tendency to bark at people rather than talk to them, Cameron is in reality a decidedly weak public face for his party. If he has acquired a different reputation it is because of the even greater paucity of his opponents rather than any actual skill of his own.

    If Cameron was genuinely the political asset he is made out to be, he would have little to fear from debating

    Read More »from PMQs Verdict: Cameron runs scared of the debates
  • No matter what, David Cameron is intent on getting the snoopers’ charter onto the statute book. The prime minister seemingly has only one stock response to any terror attack and that is to demand the government be given access to our online communications.

    Usually, it is unhelpful. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, it is despairingly stupid and counter-productive. 

    The same thing happened following the Woolwich murder. The security industry sparked into life with its usual message. Lord West, former first sea lord and security minister, demanded the return of the snoopers charter. Former reviewer of terror laws Lord Carlile joined him. John Reid, former home secretary and G4S ‘group consultant’, followed them into the TV studios. The same sad game was played over again.

    As security sources made clear, it would not actually have made any difference to the Woolwich killing. That didn’t matter. It was the only response the authorities seemed interested in. It’s quite clear that this is the

    Read More »from Does Cameron have any response to terror which doesn't involve the snoopers' charter?


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