Talking Politics
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    By Richard Heller

    Some weeks ago I asked the leaders of all the political parties in Thursday’s debate to keep religion out of the general election.

    I invited them first to agree with the mild and uncontentious observation that religious politics are a scourge to any nation, and then to make three simple and minimal pledges for their parties, both at national and local level. The first was not to solicit financial or electoral support on religious grounds. The second was not to give any form of special access to policy-making or campaigning to any faith group. The third was to repudiate immediately and publicly any person or organisation who solicits support for it on any religious basis.

    None has sent any kind of reply. This may simply reflect the routine discourtesy of large organisations today in dealing with correspondence. Ironically, the only organisation I know with a high standard of replies is the Church of England.

    However, there may be a more sinister reason for the silence of

    Read More »from Party leaders must commit to keeping religion out of the election
  • Time to work together

    By Katie Ghose

    The result of the 2010 election was meant to be an anomaly. Britain, it was said, could not adapt to hung parliaments or coalition government and would soon revert to type. But as we near May, it looks like we’d better start getting used to a different way of doing politics.

    Our party system is fragmenting. Labour and the Conservatives look set to get less than 70% of the vote this May, a figure which has been declining at every election since 1992. It’s a story that mirrors Canada, where three of last four elections have produced minority governments under First Past the Post.

    So whoever leads the next government this May will almost certainly have to work with other parties – whether that’s the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, UKIP, the DUP or others. But the two big parties, clinging to the increasingly outdated notion of single-party government, seem reluctant to admit that fact.

    A new report from the Electoral Reform Society, Working Together, shows how that reluctance is

    Read More »from Time to work together
  • Before the guests have arrived or the lights switched on, David Cameron has already won tonight’s TV debate. Here’s why:

    It will have a minimal effect on the campaign

    Cameron got the debate he wanted, not just in terms of who was invited, but when it took place. The broadcasters blinked first. The debate takes place broadly when Downing Street wanted it: before Easter. The Tories don’t believe anyone is really paying attention to the election and won’t be until after the Easter break. The event has been tabled at a time when there is least public demand for it. It is unlikely to get the 10 million viewers won by the debates in 2010. Anything above the 3 million scored for last week’s Paxman grilling will be considered an achievement.

    The timing also gives the Tories plenty of time to subdue any unexpected effects from the debate. Say Nigel Farage turns in a barn-storming performance, or Miliband does a Cleggmania. Even in these worst-case scenarios Cameron still has five weeks to enjoy

    Read More »from Why David Cameron has already won the TV debate
  • Nigel Farage had a rough ride on the Today programme this morning. He was quoted comments he made recently about children no longer playing on the streets because of immigration.

    He told reporters: “I want to live in a community where our kids play football in the streets of an evening and live in a society that is at ease with itself. Because if you have immigration at these sort of levels integration doesn’t happen.”

    Farage tried to row back on his comments this morning, claiming that he was referring specifically to lack of integration by immigrant groups.

    "What happened with very large numbers of people coming here you get quarters and districts of towns which get taken over by one particular group…. where children don’t mix particularly," he told the BBC’s Mishal Husain.

    However, the implication of Farage’s original comments could not be clearer. The message Farage was trying to get across was that children are not playing on the streets because of immigration.

    Like his previous

    Read More »from Nigel Farage is stoking fears about immigration
  • It is now widely accepted that nothing has damaged the Labour party in Scotland more than their role in the independence referendum campaign.

    A new poll of Labour-held Scottish seats suggests that support for independence is now the overwhelming reason why former supporters now back the SNP.

    According to Comres, 56% of SNP voters in Labour-held seats say their desire for independence is one of two main reasons they are now backing the nationalists, with 35% saying that “Labour no longer represents people like me” and 30% saying “the other parties have broken promises on devolution.”

    Tellingly, almost a third (29%) say “the way Labour campaigned with the Conservatives during the referendum” has caused them to vote for the SNP. By contrast just four per cent say they are voting based on the quality of their local candidate.

    However, while the independence campaign has clearly caused a collapse in Labour’s support north of the border, the rot actually took much longer to set in.

    Long before

    Read More »from Labour are still acting like they own Scottish voters
  • Scene: A drawing room at Buckingham Palace. The Queen seated, quietly playing Angry Birds while Corgis gambol around her.


    ELIZABETH R: Stop talking in capital letters, Norris. You know that winds me up.

    UNDER-FOOTMAN OF THE SECOND EQUERRY HABERDASHIER: I Apologise, Ma’am. The Prime Minister Withal.

    [enter CAMERON D, a very naughty boy]

    CAMERON D: Your Majesty.

    ELIZABETH R: Come and sit down, Dave.

    CAMERON D [sitting down]: Your Majesty, pursuant to the Fixed Term Parliament Act which Your Majesty most solemnly enacted by virtue of royal assent in the year of our Thatcher 2011 – [ELIZABETH R twitches involuntarily] - Parliament is dissolved and a general election is very much on the way.

    ELIZABETH R: About bloody time.

    CAMERON D: The date of the election will be May the 7th, Your Majesty.

    ELIZABETH R: And what am I up to round about then, pray?

    CAMERON D: The election takes place on the Thursday between the

    Read More »from Here's what the Queen has to say about Cameron's hung parliament plans
  • For weeks now a row has been rumbling in Scotland about plans to introduce ID cards by the back door. Is it true? And if so, how is the SNP getting away with it?

    The SNP plan is not a direct example of ID cards, but it does appear to put in place all the infrastructure necessary to create them – from a unique number allocated to citizens at birth, to information sharing about people’s home address and use of public services or benefits, to the creation of a physical card itself. None of these things alone are necessarily problematic, but put them together and you have a plan which is almost identical to Labour’s ID cards scheme.

    The difference is that Labour’s plans were at least going to be subject to a vote in parliament. The SNP’s plans will not feature in primary legislation at all. There will be no debate on their implementation in Holyrood. Campaigners say even the consultation was deeply misleading.

    Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader. The party is pressing ahead with ID database plans.

    Read More »from How the SNP plans to secretly introduce ID cards
  • Today’s Times leads on a striking new poll showing Labour surging to a four-point lead following Ed Miliband’s appearance in his (non) debate with David Cameron this week.

    If borne out on May 7th, this poll would see Labour as the largest party in Parliament with Miliband as prime minister.

    The poll has led to panic among Tory MPs who for months have been confidently predicting they will soon “crossover” in the polls, leading to Cameron’s comfortable return to Downing Street.

    Today’s Times quotes two Tories in marginal seats, who criticise Cameron for a series of “unforced errors” during the campaign and a failure to “deliver the lift in the national polls that we need”.

    Labour meanwhile, are this morning elated that their leader appears to have given their campaign such a significant boost.

    Neither side should get too carried away however. This is just one poll and with a margin of error of +/- three per cent, the race could actually be much closer than YouGov suggest. Indeed one other

    Read More »from Tory panic as Miliband gets post-debate poll boost
  • Boarding school has scarred our leaders


    By Nick Duffell

    Everyone knows there’s something wrong with politics in Britain. And, at long last, the psychotherapy profession has started to take note.

    Two days after the general election, a conference will propose that a psychologically wounded elite runs our society and examine the implications for therapy. It’s a first, for psychotherapy and politics haven’t been easy bedfellows. Traditionally, journals and training programmes steer clear of this mundane subject in favour of the rarefied world of unconscious processes. But psychotherapy can get bogged down in the myth of individualism, running from the political to hide in the private, morbidly afraid of generalisations, systemic perspectives, national characteristics. So this new initiative represents a great leap forward.

    The consulting room cannot continue excluding the injustice that is the backdrop to many people’s lives. Moreover, as the politics of fear, blame and denial are on the rise, our profession has something important

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    According to our sophisticated scoring system, which involves adding two numbers together, the clear winner is… Ed Miliband, actually.

    Where David Cameron was slowly strangled by Jeremy Paxman’s questioning, Miliband turned the audience against the interviewer. Where the Conservative leader bored the studio audience into submission, the Labour leader at least made things interesting. By the end of the programme, he was actually getting impassioned. Like he actually cared. And that, when up against the hyper-tense Cameron, was more than enough to secure the win.

    David Cameron’s Paxman interview: 4/10


    Merely surviving the onslaught of incredulity from Jeremy Paxman was an achievement for the prime minister, who demonstrated that he can get through a high-pressure interview without getting flustered. Yet this was, in truth, a poor performance. “I want more people to have part-time - not to have part-time, to have full-time work” is not exactly a quote that will echo down the ages.

    He did that

    Read More »from #BattleforNumber10: The verdict


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