Talking Politics
  • The knives are out for the Green party

    By Molly Scott Cato MEP

    In spite of Ofcom’s suggestion that the Green party is not a major party there have been many subtle indications that we are now to be treated as just that. The first big clue came when David Cameron managed to utter the words ‘Green party’ in the Commons after years of pretending we didn’t exist.

    Now we even have our own celebrity sponsor in the form of Vivienne Westwood. But perhaps the most obvious sign is that our policies are finally coming in for scrutiny. I say scrutiny, though that is perhaps too generous a word; attack is probably more apt, but that is what a grown-up party ought to expect.

    The policy that has come under the most pressure is that of the citizen’s income. First we had Andrew Neil on BBC Sunday Politics interviewing Green party leader, Natalie Bennett. Neil acknowledged on Twitter afterwards that he had interrupted Natalie rather a lot as she tried to explain this emancipatory policy. Behaving like a grown-up politician herself, she refused

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  • Ed Miliband’s hopes of becoming prime minister of a majority Labour government are dead.

    Their demise was confirmed this morning when Lord Ashcroft released details of hisfirst batch of Scottish constituency polls.

    They reveal a truly stunning SNP surge since the end of the referendum campaign. Seats which previously would have been seen as untouchable now look like easy gains for the SNP.

    Even in Labour’s stronghold seats like Glasgow North West the party is set for disaster, with the SNP set to go from just 15% of the vote to 44%. In Motherwell and Wishaw, the party’s 43% majority over the SNP is set to be turned into an 11% deficit.

    If repeated across Scotland, the SNP would take all but a handful of Labour seats, with several Labour heavyweights including Douglas Alexander out of a job. Labour’s half century dominance of Scottish politics is now over. Ed Miliband’s hopes of governing alone are shot.

    It will be tempting for Labour to blame the collapse on the Scottish referendum result

    Read More »from Labour's Scottish collapse reveals a wider rot in their support
  • By John Baron MP

    All options regarding ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (Evel) are sadly a step closer to weakening the Union. None address the financial complexities that bind the Union, and none will prove to be a lasting solution. But the marginal advantage of William Hague’s preferred approach is that, whilst allowing MPs from England, or England and Wales, a veto, it avoids creating two classes of MP by allowing all to vote in the first and final stages of a bill’s progress.

    This is important when considering options for the future. The present choices are fudges resulting from a poorly-fought ‘No’ campaign and a hasty reaction to the result. No one party owns the British constitution. So time is required to engineer a buy-in from across the political spectrum to any new settlement – otherwise, it will lack credibility and not prove lasting.

    We need time to recognise that the concept of Evel is in fact legislatively incoherent. It will be difficult to construct election manifestos or

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  • Terrorism is the hook which everyone can hang their coat on. Whenever there is a terror attack, the usual suspects come out the woodwork to suggest it confirms whatever they already held to be true – be it multiculturalism, or Islamic fascism, or the need for a snoopers’ charter.

    So it came as no surprise when Police Federation boss Steve White popped up on the airwaves over the weekend saying terrorism means all front-line police officers should get a Taser. He did not provide any evidence for how the electro-shock guns would help officers deal with specific terror threats. He did not need to. Terrorism, like paedophilia, is the ultimate bogey man. Merely mentioning its name is evidence enough.

    Except the evidence shows that the last thing we need is a nationwide roll-out of Tasers. The electric shock guns are already spreading across UK police forces at an extraordinary rate. Police in England and Wales used them on over 10,000 occasions in 2013, a 27% increase on the previous year. In

    Read More »from Police say they need tasers to combat terror – but where's the evidence?
  • The conventional wisdom is that the only electorally successful immigration policy is a hardline one. Ed Miliband has bent over backwards to find a position which reassures critical voters without compromising his progressive principles, but when it comes to Labour’s election leaflets they might as well have been written by Tory backbenchers.

    So party strategists might like to take a look at new research by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester and the Migrants’ Rights Network. It shows foreign-born voters could prove decisive in several seats at the election if they turn out in sufficient numbers.

    The migrant share of the electorate is twice as large as the majority of the incumbent in at least 70 seats, including several key outer London and Midlands marginal seats.

    As Ruth Grove-White, co-author of the report, said:

    "The electoral voice of migrants themselves has been largely overlooked. This new data shows just how important it is to speak to this

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  • 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

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