Talking Politics
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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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    The gap between the people on the ground and the politicians in parliament couldn’t be starker. A report in yesterday’s Observer found offences relating to cannabis had fallen by a third since 2011 due to the police directing their limited resources on more important matters. But this afternoon in the Commons chamber, the psychoactive substances bill will be debated. MPs are bored of criminalising substances one at a time. Now they are going to criminalise all of them unless they can prove they do not have an effect on the brain.

    It really comes to something when the police show more sense of proportion in their handling of the drugs issue than MPs do. Back in the day, it was the other way round. When cannabis was reclassified to Class B under Gordon Brown, a ’cannabis warning’ option was left on the book, offering police the ability to give young people a no-record warning for a first offence. It was a form of under-the-table decriminalisation.

    The police did not use it responsibly. The

    Read More »from As police turn away from cannabis, MPs invent even more drug laws
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    By David Davis MP

    The Wilson doctrine has, for almost half a century, stood as a vital piece of Britain’s delicate constitutional jigsaw. The convention that MPs’ communications should not be intercepted by police or security services has allowed MPs to feel safe communicating with whistle-blowers, government sources, lawyers, policy advisers, and even each other, without fear that the government is listening in. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal yesterday revealed these protections for what they are: worthless.

    The government has, for several years now, proclaimed to all who asked that the Wilson Doctrine was still in force. Since Harold Wilson declared in 1966 that, “there should be no tapping of the telephones of Members of Parliament,” the scope of the doctrine was expanded by Tony Blair to include, “telephone interception and to the use of electronic surveillance by any of the three Security and Intelligence Agencies.” This extension was perfectly reasonable given the increasing

    Read More »from David Davis: The government has let the security services run roughshod over our democracy
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    By Jenny Jones

    Speaking to people - be they constituents, campaigners, experts, concerned members of the public, or whistleblowers – is central to any democratic system.

    So if people cannot – or are too scared to – speak to their representatives in Parliament, how can any politician, whether in the House of Commons or the Lords, possibly do what they are put there to do?

    How can we represent the wishes and desires of the people, if the people feel they cannot speak to us with the safeguard of privacy?

    Yesterday’s announcement by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, that Parliamentarians’ communications are not protected from interception by the ‘security services’, means in effect that we can all be spied on.

    It also means that people who want to report wrongdoing, corruption or illegality to their elected representatives, can’t be sure of any protection.

    The Tribunal made its announcement – declaring that politicians and the public can be and are routinely spied upon – only because Caroline

    Read More »from This shredding of the Wilson Doctrine will make whistleblowers think twice
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    By Sally Hunt

    In May last year, then culture secretary Sajid Javid made headlines when he announced anyone settling in Britain “should learn the language of the country and respect its law and culture”. Javid, the son of Pakistani immigrants and the first Asian secretary of state, said people were entitled to expect immigrants to make a contribution to society. “I know people myself, I have met people who have been in Britain for over 50 years and they still can’t speak English,” he said.

    But the disconnect between rhetoric and reality was starkly illustrated when just 14 months later the Conservative government announced that the £45 million programme which paid for English language classes for job-seekers was to be cut.

    That disconnect was emphasised even further the following month, when the government announced new legislation to make fluent English a requirement for all public sector staff working in customer-facing roles. Under its new immigration bill, public sector organisations

    Read More »from If the government cares about immigrants learning English, why is it cutting English classes?
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    By Andrew Neilson

    Forget restricting books for prisoners, designing giant prisons for children or selling ‘expertise’ to the beheaders and floggers of Saudi Arabia. This afternoon the House of Lords will debate Chris Grayling’s final, and arguably, most controversial legacy: the criminal courts charge – a fixed and mandatory fee which applies to every person who pleads guilty or is convicted of any offence. Since its introduction in April 2015, the charge has received widespread criticism for being unfair, unrealistic and unjust. The Howard League has been running a campaign calling for the immediate suspension of the charge, pending an imminent review.

    The criminal courts charge may be misguided and wrong but it has done at least one service, in raising fundamental and far-reaching questions about who is being brought before the courts and why.

    Everyone should spend a couple of hours in the public gallery of a magistrates’ court from time to time. If you do, you will learn a lot about

    Read More »from Grayling's court charge forces magistrates to punish the poor - it's time for reform
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    By Rachel Robinson

    A week after the home secretary told the Conservative party conference that the rate of UK immigration was damaging social cohesion, MPs will today consider a package of proposals so clumsy, counter-productive and divisive that they risk tearing it to shreds.

    The government has couched its noxious new immigration bill in terms of “tackling exploitation” and “protecting public services”. In fact, if implemented, its effect will be to facilitate discrimination, encourage aggressive enforcement and fundamentally damage race relations.

    The bill will certainly create the “hostile environment” the government craves – but this will extend well beyond its headline-friendly targets of migrants to infringe on everyone’s civil liberties, with ethnic minorities and those with foreign-sounding names or accents hardest hit.

    The bill escalates obligations on landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, amending the scheme to include criminal sanctions and summary eviction.

    Read More »from The government's immigration bill could destroy race relations in the UK
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    It’s important to say from the outset that George Osborne’s fiscal charter, which compels the government to keep a budget surplus, is an economic and political nonsense. When Alistair Darling proposed a similar idea under the “Fiscal Responsibility Act”, it was rightly laughed out of court by Osborne as “vacuous and irrelevant”. As many pointed out at the time, no government can bind it’s successor, so Darling was essentially legislating in order to compel himself to do what he would have done anyway.

    That Osborne is repeating this folly is bad enough, but his inclusion of the proviso that a budget surplus must be kept only in “normal times” makes the whole charter doubly irrelevant. It means in effect that Osborne will be legally compelled to keep a surplus, but only unless he decides otherwise. To say the charter isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on is to wrongly suggest that it has any value whatsoever. It is a joke without a punchline.

    As even the Taxpayers’ Alliance commented when

    Read More »from Labour can win as an anti-austerity party. They can't win as a shambles


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