Talking Politics
  • By Nick Lowles


    In a few hours time, Lord Tyler will take the floor in the House of Lords to propose the annulment of the government’s plans to bring forward the full implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

    At stake is the robustness and credibility of our democracy. Well over one million people could drop off the electoral register as a result of the government’s decision to bring forward changes to how we register to vote.

    They will be added to the millions of others who aren’t even currently on the register or are on it incorrectly. That near-10 million people equates to 19% of all eligible adults, almost one in five of the population.

    So, you can see why we say our democracy is in crisis.

    The new drop-off from the electoral register is happening because the government has changed the way we register to vote.

    Designed to reduce fraud and make the electoral register more accurate, councils now compare the names on their existing voter lists with HMRC and DWP records.

    Read More »from The government's changes to voter registration undermine our democracy
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    By Jane Fae

    Britain’s energy deal with China is remarkable. It will see us stump up some £18 billion on a “flagship project of cooperation”, commit to a new generation of nuclear power plants and make us dependant on a major power whose politics and strategic interests are a world away from our own.

    We are investing in the potentially ruinous white elephant of Hinkley Point and simultaneously slashing support for solar at precisely the point when the latter looks set to start paying its way. Whatever became of austerity? Or even plain old-fashioned common sense?

    The government argues harsh necessity - a need to keep the lights on, no matter what the woolly-hat brigade might prefer. Behind the practicalities, though, sit some rather less palatable political choices: a preference for central control and big business over anything which smacks of democracy.

    The conventional headline case goes something like this. An energy gap is looming - not years ahead, but now.  Many older plants have

    Read More »from The Tories are paying the Chinese billions to avoid democratising the energy industry
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    By James O'Malley

    Xi Jinping is in Britain this week for a state visit. So don’t be surprised if you see a smitten George Osborne parked outside of Buckingham Palace, where he is staying, holding a boombox aloft and declaring his undying love for the Chinese president.

    The reason for this outburst, of course, would be because he thinks China can stump up the cash to pay for all of the infrastructure Britain will ever need.

    On a recent trip by the chancellor to Beijing, he made a number of major announcements about how Britain was scooping up Chinese cash. For example, he announced Britain would be guaranteeing Chinese investments in a new nuclear power station. Another biggie was that he is encouraging Chinese firms to bid for the lucrative contracts to build the High Speed 2 railway.

    What could go wrong? Perhaps I’m paranoid, but I can’t help but wonder if George Osborne should really be betting so much of Britain’s economy on red.

    What China has achieved over the last few decades is

    Read More »from Should Britain jump into bed with China quite so enthusiastically?
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    By Roy Rickhuss

    The cruel irony of the prime minister welcoming the president of China just as steel jobs are cut - partly due to Chinese steel dumping - will not be lost on the UK’s steelworkers and their families.

    Tata Steel’s announcement yesterday that 1,170 jobs are now at risk at its sites in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire is yet another blow to the UK’s steel communities. It came just a day after Caparo went into administration putting 1,700 steel jobs on the line and only weeks after SSI closed making 2,200 people redundant.

    These figures are only the direct jobs that are affected. There will be knock-on effects to thousands of other people who are contractors in the industry or whose businesses rely on the steelworkers’ pound being spent in their communities. The UK steel industry crisis will have far-reaching consequences beyond those whose jobs are in the headlines.

    Faced with this stark crisis it would be reasonable to expect the UK government to step-up and take action. There have

    Read More »from Words are not enough: Cameron must act to save the UK's steel industry
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    There is a unfortunate irony to Theresa May’s call today for the police to increase the diversity of their officers.

    May’s basic point is obviously right. The latest Home Office statistics show that ethnic minority officers make up just 5.5% of the police force in England and Wales. The situation is even worse in London, where ethnic minorities make up just 11% of police officers, compared to 40% of all Londoners. BME women are especially underrepresented in the capital, making up just three per cent of all officers.

    It is also a long-term problem. The last home secretary to make an issue of the lack of ethnic minority officers was Jack Straw back in 1999. The then Labour government set a target to increase the proportion of ethnic officers to seven per cent. However, despite the ethnic minority population significantly increasing in the intervening sixteen year, the police are still well off hitting that target.

    But the home secretary’s point is seriously undermined by the lack of

    Read More »from Stop and search: Will the real Theresa May please stand up?
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    The really impressive thing about Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs is his confidence. It’s not easy to control the Commons chamber. You don’t pick it up on TV because only the mic closest to the person speaking is switched on, but the place is a pit of noise, with barracking and mockery coming from all directions. Most people hoping to quieten down the Chamber fail to do so. They wait for a silence which never comes.

    Not Corbyn. The Labour leader is earning a reputation as the master of side-eye. At one point he simply stood silently, looking around with disapproval at the Tory benches in front of him until they shut up. And shut up they did. It was remarkable. “Thank you,” he said, like a teacher presiding over unruly pupils. He did it by being solid. Any trace of nervousness or weakness and it wouldn’t have worked.

    For a while today it seemed like Corbyn might be able to use that confidence to get Cameron exactly where he wanted him. He once again led on tax credits, making the Tory benches

    Read More »from PMQs verdict: Corbyn's lack of focus lets Cameron off the hook
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    Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to hire Guardian columnist Seumas Milne as his executive director of strategy and communications reflects two of his weaknesses. The first is a dismissal of communications. The second is a lack of interest in reaching past his core support.

    Why is the strategy and communications position being rolled into one? It’s not as if handling communications for Corbyn is a minor job. It would not be too unkind to suggest that it’s a daunting and monumental task. The firefighting alone would be enough to occupy a team of media advisors, and that’s not including the fires Milne himself is likely to start with his unreconstructed hard left views. But for some reason the role has been mixed up with that of overall strategy, which is itself hardly a part time occupation.

    It will be defended by Corbyn supporters as a commitment to the principles he ran for leader on and a refreshing lack of interest in spin. It’s not really. It’s just failing to reach out, past those who

    Read More »from Milne appointment shows Corbyn has no interest reaching past his core support
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    By Andrew RT Davies

    In the Cardiff Bay bubble, chatter about the Wales bill – and associated constitutional issues - is exciting Wales’ politicos at the moment.

    It’s an all too familiar pattern for followers of Welsh politics. Just as we put one constitutional issue to bed, another crops up and grabs column inches. But who exactly is taking it all in?

    Don’t get me wrong, these issues are vital, and the UK government has a proud record on Welsh devolution. I’m proud of its determination to find a lasting settlement that works and to confront challenging issues head-on.

    Yet – and I know my colleagues would agree - in all my years of knocking on doors in South Wales Central, I’ve never once been collared about the intricacies of a reserved powers model, or given an ear-bashing on legislative consent memoranda. Put simply – people don’t wake up in the morning worrying about niche constitutional topics.

    We do need a fully accountable political legislature and executive in Wales with the tools to

    Read More »from While Wales obsesses over constitutional issues, the health service is being run into the ground
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    Even by the Mickey Mouse standards of the psychoactive substances bill, yesterday’s Commons debate was remarkable. It is a sign of how meaningless and irrational this legislation is that the minister in charge of it seems to have no idea what he is making illegal or who would be vulnerable to prosecution.

    Mike Penning’s performance was the most incompetent in recent Commons memory, perhaps even trumping the moment last year when Chris Grayling seemed to misunderstand the function of his own judicial review reforms and talked himself into watering it down in front of the entire chamber. Last night, the policing minister seemed to contradict a fundamental promise of the bill: that it would only criminalise the import, production and sale of legal highs, but not the possession of them.

    “My understanding was that those who would be criminalised by the bill were those who were supplying, marketing, producing and selling,” SNP MP Anne McLaughlin observed, “but twice now the minister has made a

    Read More »from The minister in charge of the legal highs bill doesn’t understand his own legislation
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    Nicola Sturgeon is by any measure the most successful politician in British politics. The SNP’s landslide victory in this year’s general election turned Scotland into a one-party state. When it comes to Westminster elections, the SNP now face less political opposition than some African dictatorships. At next year’s Holyrood elections, Sturgeon looks set not only to win a third term for her party but to actually increase her majority.

    Yet anyone watching events in Aberdeen last week might think they were watching the conference of an embattled opposition party.

    At conference fringe events, delegates rail against the Tories, Labour, the BBC, andeven the Met Office. The constant refrain among Sturgeon’s followers is that there is a ‘bias’ against them. In this world view, everyone from the media, to the civil service, to Westminster think tanks are, in the words of one delegate: “agents of the [UK] government” in some imagined conspiracy against the SNP and Scotland.

    This outsider

    Read More »from The rise of the SNP is based on emotion, not reason


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