Talking Politics
  • Britain's betrayal of Syrian refugees

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    By Sarah Teather MP

    There can be no doubt that 2014 took a terrible humanitarian toll on people around the world. The epicentre of this was the ongoing conflict in Syria. More than 70,000 people were killed, whilst Syrians became the largest refugee population in world for the first time.

    2015 is just a week old, but we have already seen two worrying trends for Syrians fleeing the violence of war: first, an increase in restrictions imposed on those seeking to settle in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon; and secondly, even more refugees boarding boats and taking risky journeys in the Mediterranean.

    The UK has a role to play in reversing these trends, but the government’s unwillingness to go beyond tokenistic offers of resettlement is having the opposite effect.

    Our approach to the conflict should be threefold: work with countries which can influence the situation on the ground to find lasting peace in the region; ease the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Syria’s borders through

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    Instead of protecting our young from the evils of sexual exploitation, we are blaming them for it. No wonder an MP’s campaign to remove the term ‘child prostitution’ from the statute book is struggling to gain traction.

    Ann Coffey is trying hard. She’s the Labour MP for Stockport whose report on child sexual exploitation, Real Voices, shone a light on the depths of the problem. Removing ‘child prostitution’ from legislation was just one of its many recommendations; she’ll be pushing for it in amendments to the serious crime bill going through parliament this winter.

    "There is no such thing as a child prostitute," she told MPs earlier this week. "Only a sexually abused or exploited child." The term ‘prostitute’ implies an element of complicity, a consensual contract between two equal parties. Coffey doesn’t like it one bit. Neither does the minister, Karen Bradley, who said in her response:

    "I want to be absolutely clear that children who are sexually exploited, whether for commercial

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  • There are plenty of people out there who will use today’s attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdoto to show Islam is incompatible with European values. The 18,000 people protesting against the supposed Islamisation of Europe in Dresden this week will undoubtably feel vindicated. The columnists on right and left who insist Islam is an innately authoritarian religion will cite the attack as further proof that it is a hostile force introduced to Europe by a laissez faire immigration system.

    Today’s attack has nothing to do with Islam. It’s to do with free speech. Everywhere there are lunatics and bastards. It’s said that you can criticise Catholicism without triggering a Catholic terror attack and that is generally true, although it’s worth remembering this remains a relatively recent development. However, we do suffer attacks by right-wing fascists with some regularity and most of these claim to defend the traditional religions and races of Europe.

    The last was by Anders

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  • Labour reacted furiously yesterday to documents produced by George Osborne and the Treasury outlining the supposed costs of Ed Miliband’s general election spending commitments.

    Labour spinners spent much of the day tweeting denials both about the costs of these policies and the suggestion that Miliband or his front bench had even promised these policies in the first place.

    "p.44 of Tory dossier says Labour will cancel cuts to the arts budget. We won’t," read one typical tweet.

    So had the Tory attack completely fallen apart? Well not quite. As it soon became clear, Osborne’s claims were based on a “reasonableness test”. According to the test:

    "Any statement by a Labour frontbencher that a voter would believe to be a promise to spend money or raise revenue if Labour are elected is counted as a commitment. So when a Labour frontbencher proposes spending, or opposes a government saving, the implication to a voter would be that Labour would spend the money or cancel the saving if elected

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    Labour’s masterplan to win the 2015 general election through chit-chat rather than cash is riddled with holes – and allows the Conservatives buy their way back into power.

    Ed Miliband’s campaign launch in Salford today contains a bold ambition: a call on his party’s supporters to double the number of conversations they hold with voters in the run-up to polling day on May 7th.

    Four million individual chinwags is a lot, but Labour thinks they can make a real difference. In 2010, constituencies where the party contacted 30% of voters saw an improvement in Labour’s share of the vote of over five per cent. That might not sound like much but it could be enough to take Labour over the line in the most critical marginals.

    Much of the work has already been done, too. Labour was averaging 21% of voters in the autumn and was pushing to reach an average of 25% by the new year. It has 17 weeks to get that proportion up to 30% and make the difference.

    As Douglas Alexander, Labour’s general election

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  • By Felicity Hannah

    It started with a single caravan parked on a verge near our house and was quickly followed by a Facebook message from the leader of our residents’ association.

    "Looks like a gypsy has moved in. Clear your cars tonight and lock all sheds/doors/garages," it read.

    I replied politely, explaining that I wasn’t happy with the stereotypes being used.

    "Well, what should we call them then?" came the reply. It was shocking to realise that this person didn’t understand I was objecting to the idea that all travellers and gypsies were thieves. They saw that as such a universal truth that they assumed I must have been merely objecting to the term ‘gypsy’.

    What followed was a typical outpouring of name-calling and nimbyism. It was even implied that I was an outsider myself, who had joined the residents’ Facebook group just to cause trouble. The language was strongly reminiscent of the terms used against black and Irish communities thirty years ago.

    Later that evening one of my

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  • Political parties normally benefit from a “honeymoon effect” after selecting a new leader.

    A fresh face and lots of free publicity usually boosts their standing, even if temporarily. However, a new poll out today suggests that Scottish Labour’s selection of Jim Murphy may actually have worsened the party’s chances north of the border.

    The Survation poll for the Daily Record found that the SNP have actually extended their lead over Labour, since Murphy’s selection. According to the poll, the SNP’s lead at the next general election has risen from 22 points last month to 24 points now. Forty-eight per cent of Scots now plan to vote for the SNP in May and just 24% plan to vote for Labour.

    If reflected at the general election, this poll suggests Labour would face losing all but a handful of their seats in Scotland as well as their chances of winning an overall majority across the country.

    Labour had hoped that Murphy would dramatically turn around their chances in Scotland.

    However, today’s

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  • The Labour party are losing votes to the Greens and they don’t seem to know what to do about it.

    Until now, Ed Miliband’s hopes of winning the next election relied on holding onto a coalition of core Labour supporters, former Lib Dems and previously disaffected Labour sympathisers.

    However recent polls have shown this coalition is splintering, with left-wing voters increasingly switching their allegiance to the Greens instead. Realising the threat this poses, Miliband tasked shadow Justice secretary Sadiq Khan with the job of winning them back.

    Khan and his anti-Green strategy unit immediately set out their approach in a series of articles and blog posts earlier this year. Their approach was essentially a “good cop, bad cop” strategy. The good cop strategy was to convince Green voters that Labour had moved to the left since 2010. The bad cop strategy was to attack what they described as the Green’s “disastrous” record in Brighton.

    Neither strategy appears to be working.

    Since Khan

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  • Here's the secret to Nigel Farage's appeal

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    By Richard Newman

    Despite heavy criticism of Ukip and its leader, Nigel Farage seems to be gaining in both momentum and popularity. So what is it that makes him appealing? To many he may seem repellent in his beliefs and his manner, but others are drawn to him. If you put politics to one side and simply analyse his communication style, you can begin to understand why.

    We often tell clients that there are very few ‘rights and wrongs’ in the way you use your body language and voice. In one situation your style may be useful, in another it may work against you. If you want to be more effective as a communicator the main target you need to focus on is how you want people to feel. You can then aim all or your verbal, physical and vocal choices towards this achieving this goal. This will allow you to be appear more compelling.

    I am sure you will have heard of Albert Mehrabian’s study. It is one of the most misquoted and misunderstood studies of our time. In it, the evidence showed that 93%

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    Bitterly partisan and failing to display any signs of agreement, MPs’ failure to rise to the occasion on English votes for English laws shows they are beyond redemption.

    What made the response to William Hague’s statement on English devolution yesterday so depressing is that the Commons just carried on with business as usual.

    The frontbenchers exchanged barbs over the relative failures in government of the coalition and of New Labour. The backbenchers heckled about the irrelevant Barnett formula and a dozen of their own half-developed ideas. They cancelled each other out, leaving an absence of anything meaningful.

    They have also combined together to collectively break a big pledge from the prime minister.

    Speaking in the early morning of September 19th, soon after the ‘No’ result was confirmed, David Cameron promised to English voters that his government would pursue an answer to the West Lothian Question "in tandem" with the Scottish devolution timetable. It was a pledge every bit as

    Read More »from English votes for English laws? No chance

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