Talking Politics
  • Smoking in cars with children is a bad idea.

    While the dangers of passive smoking are typically overstated, the evidence of harm to children from smoking regularly in enclosed spaces is strong. Children are particularly vulnerable to smoke because their lungs and immune systems are less well developed. Smoking in a car with your kid in the back seat is bad parenting, plain and simple. If this is something you do, you should stop doing it.

    A ban would not be that difficult to enforce. Saying a new law is 'unworkable' is one of the great refrains of British politics. In fact, most laws are highly workable, not least because Brits tend to follow the rules. If we've banned smoking in public places we'll be able to ban it in cars too.

    The problem with the policy, which Labour is pushing through via an amendment to the children and families bill in the Lords today, is that it allows the state into your private property to demand that you make healthy life choices and threaten you with legal

    Read More »from Banning smoking in cars with kids is an abuse of state power
  • By Adam Bienkov

    There is a well-worn claim on Fleet Street that newspapers merely reflect the views and prejudices of their readers.

    If the British press is overwhelmingly right-wing then that is because the public are too, so the story goes. The apocalyptic reaction in the papers to Labour's pledge to reintroduce the 50p top rate of tax has finally exposed that for the lie it is.

    Ed Balls proposal has been submitted to several days of savaging by the press. Editorial after editorial has described the plans as "economic vandalism" and a reckless return to 1970's socialism.

    So why is this? Are the papers merely reflecting the views of their readers? Hardly.

    George Osborne's decision two years ago to cut taxes for Britain's highest earning people, while imposing austerity on everybody else, was catastrophically unpopular.

    Support for Osborne and the Conservative party crashed immediately and the party has not recorded a single lead in the opinion polls ever since.

    Ed Balls'
    Read More »from The press’s hysterical reaction to 50p tax shows how out of touch they have become
  • Attacking clergy should be made a hate crime

    By Clare George-Hilley

    The political playing field in the lead up to the 2015 general election is likely to be one beset with the biggest, trendiest policies and bright new ideas, but all three of the main parties are missing a trick. For too long now, political strategists have turned a blind eye to potentially the biggest vote winner there is – the people that make up the pillars of British communities: the clergy.

    In some cases this is due to complacency but more often than not there seems to be a wilful distain for wooing the very people that make the country tick.

    Whatever is said of these people and the values they represent, they are a constant, silent source of energy and in many cases they are the people that put the Great in Great Britain. These are the people that run the local church, the community groups and the volunteers that comfort the sick and go that extra mile to help out their neighbours. But these are also the people that can swing a general election, they are the

    Read More »from Attacking clergy should be made a hate crime
  • Let the army sort out jobless young people

    By Godfrey Bloom

    When a very old friend of mine refused a major army promotion I started to think about the Territorial Army, our volunteer reserve, and how it is being devalued by this Conservative-led coalition government.

    I will not embarrass the officer concerned, nor will I break the Chatham House rule by suggesting where he made his observations on the role and recruitment of the volunteer reserve. But his point on refusing a one star (brigadier) appointment to carry out the role of reserve 'tsar' was its perceived inevitable failure. To refuse such promotion is expensive, in terms of salary and pension. It was a three year posting. One star rank in the modern tiny army is now probably the ultimate dream of any young Sandhurst cadet (my personal ambition was to avoid actually being cashiered).

    Most of my undistinguished career was spent with the logistics wing of 4th Armoured Division BAOR, although many of my fun days were with a London Yeomanry Squadron. In one role or another

    Read More »from Let the army sort out jobless young people
  • Amid the usual tedium and noise of PMQs, Ed Miliband scored a significant moral and strategic victory.

    The Labour leader used three questions on Syrian refugees and three on unemployment and wages. The latter three were standard meat-and-potatoes PMQs, filled with phrases we get every week, but they commanded the attention of most commentators because they were confrontational.

    The former three led to Cameron relenting on one of the most important issues facing Great Britain, but because they were discussed in a consensual manner they were largely ignored. But make no mistake: this was a remarkable achievement and an important step towards ending a shameful and short-sighted foreign policy mistake.

    Miliband asked Cameron why he wouldn't take part in a UN refugee programme for Syria.

    Up until now the UK response has been two-fold: we pump aid into the neighbouring countries taking the lion's share of refugees and we accept most of the Syrian asylum seekers who somehow manage to make it

    Read More »from Miliband wins a major moral victory for Syrian refugees
  • By Matt Hawkins

    Many writers have drawn inspiration from the infamous 1692 Salem witch trials. In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, the character John Proctor is a lonely symbol of reason and rationality against the background of apparent madness. The majority of the Salem villagers were taken hold by what Marshall McLuhan has described as a 'moral panic' – a societal frenzy over some perceived threat which they believe endangered their community values and norms.

    Unable to understand why life seemed so brutish and short, lacking a reasoned explanation for why crops failed and people died of sudden unknown causes and guided by the words of their religious leaders, people across America and throughout Europe came to cling to the idea that magic was the cause of all their problems. Burning vulnerable and socially alienated women they didn't like became the logical solution.

    Following in the footsteps of Arthur Miller, our politicians and tabloid media are writing their own narrative for a

    Read More »from Benefits Street represents a modern day witch-hunt
  • By Peter Reynolds

    I had great hopes for Norman Baker and I still haven't given up - quite.  The trouble is every time he opens his mouth Theresa May's words come out.

    I am reminded of Paul Flynn's questionto him at his first appearance before the home affairs select committee:

    "To become drugs minister do you have to undergo a lobotomy to remove from your brain all your previous views about drugs?"

    To be fair, and it is my last vestige of hope, a lot of what he has said has been non-committal. His response to Sky's big cannabis story was simply to spell out the penalties and state: "We are determined to bring the criminal gangs who trade in cannabis to justice."  I agree. We want the cannabis trade out of the hands of criminal gangs.

    He has been very circumspect about the dreadful decision on khat but his apparent determination to prohibit legal highs is very worrying.  The evidence is conclusive.

    Prohibition always causes more harm than it prevents.  It is self-defeating and the more

    Read More »from The war on drugs shows how scientifically illiterate our MPs have become
  • How Twitter changed the word ‘rape’

    By Carl Miller

    "I will find you :-)"

    This tweet, amongst others, landed John Nimmo in court this month, pleading guilty to menacing the feminist and activist Caroline Criado-Perez. He was only part of a wider groundswell of abuse she received, for campaigning to get Jane Austen on the £10 note.

    Trolling and harassment on social media in general is on the rise. The Metropolitan Police received around 2,000 complaints last year about online harassment, and predict the problem will get worse. Criado-Perez is only one of a group high-profile women, including the Labour MP Stella Creasy, classicist Mary Beard, columnists Hadley Freeman and Grace Dent and Time Magazine's Catherine Mayer to receive abuse. This is worryingly lapsing into something of a predictable social rhythm – if a woman is willing to lift her head above the parapet and into public life, someone is willing to take a verbal pot-shot at her.

    And what many of these women have pointed to is that the abuse is not directed at

    Read More »from How Twitter changed the word ‘rape’
  • By Ian Dunt

    She had the letter to prove it.

    When the Home Office told Mariam Harley Miller, a London psychotherapist, that she had just 28 days to leave the country it felt like a bad dream. But it wasn't. The clock was ticking on the Australian citizen and it would not stop, no matter how strenuously she pointed out they had made a mistake.

    She had in her possession a letter, sent by the Home Office, in which they assured her that her visa status was valid. It didn't matter. They wouldn't listen. She was trapped in a system which made no sense, with a timer ticking down to her departure date.

    Miller came to Britain in 2005, eleven years after marrying an Italian man and settling down on the continent. She was the archetypal hard-working, pull-your-sleeves-up immigrant: applying for work from overseas, taking the first four days in the UK to sort out her house and a car, and then starting her job the following Monday. Within six months she'd bought a house, using money she brought from

    Read More »from Immigrant stories: The psychotherapist and the letter of proof
  • The truth behind the Golden temple massacre

    As reports emerge that the UK may have colluded in a merciless 1984 raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, we look back at one of the most painful and important moments in Sikh history.

    By Dabinderjit Singh

    Code-named Operation Bluestar began on June 1st 1984.  Up to 150,000 Indian army troops were sent to the northern Indian state of Punjab, the Sikh homeland, equipped with helicopter gunships and tanks.

    Over 125 other Sikh shrines were simultaneously attacked. On the false pretext of apprehending 'a handful of militants' lodged inside the Golden Temple, the Indian army unleashed a terror unprecedented in post-independence India. It took the use of Vijayanta tanks to win the fight for the army. These let loose a barrage of highly explosive shells, which destroyed the Akal Takht, the temporal seat of the Sikhs.

    The Shiromani (Temple) Committee secretary Bhan Singh was in the temple complex at the time of Operation Bluestar. He witnessed soldiers, commanded by a major, lining up young

    Read More »from The truth behind the Golden temple massacre


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