Talking Politics
  • I'm getting into a bit of trouble from some people who support the far-right party Ukip. They object to the following sentence in an article I wrote earlier this week when I referred to "the purple and yellow colour scheme of far-right party Ukip".

    You can guess which bit the Kippers objected to. Here's one email from a Mr Allan Tallett:

    "I must protest at this baseless description. It is typical of people like you with far left views to denigrate the loyal Britons who believe in sound common-sense policies and I would point out that our members, increasingly from ex-Labour supporters, understand that freedom, independence and self-government are ideals that are wanted by all. We espouse liberty and prosperity as well as social mobility and there is no way we could, honestly, be considered right wing.", which avoids getting bogged down in partisan divides where possible, is definitely not 'far-left'.

    That aside, the writer's suggestion that Ukip transcends the left-right

    Read More »from Is it fair to call Ukip a far-right party?
  • The Greens’ revolution in open democracy

    By Jean Lambert

    The Green party has always been at the vanguard of experiments in 'doing democracy' better: giving more people a say in how we choose our politicians, making the results of elections more reflective of public opinion and ensuring our representatives are, well, more representative.

    The Greens are firmly behind extending the vote to 16-year-olds, for example, and for switching to a more proportional voting system for Westminster – and local council – elections. The right to vote should, say the Greens, be based on residency, not nationality.

    Obviously, any changes to the UK voting system would require a change in the law, and that isn't in the Green party's gift to give. But internal elections are already conducted according to these principles, and now, with elections to the European parliament just a few months away, we’re seeing an experiment in a new form of real democracy: a EU-wide, on-line ‘primary’ election for the Greens' faces of the pan-European campaign.


    Read More »from The Greens’ revolution in open democracy
  • They sneaked it out in December.

    The Home Office report is called 'Drug Strategy 2010 Evaluation Framework – evaluating costs and benefits'. It is not the sort of title which seduces the attention, but inside you can find a fascinating, topsy-turvy, down-the-looking-glass world of hopeless causes.

    The purpose of the document is to set out the kind of evidence you'd need if you wanted to work out whether the government was getting value for money with its anti-drugs programme.

    On its own, that's a creditable aim. The more we look into the spending on anti-drug programmes the more we highlight the chasm of financial and human waste which constitutes prohibition.

    What we get, of course, is nothing of the sort. Instead, lodged innocuously in the middle of the report and couched in impenetrable language, there is a startling admission.

    It reads:

    There are challenges in other areas, however, particularly around developing a suitable counterfactual, or measuring impact on actual behaviour.

    Read More »from The Home Office admits it has no idea if the war on drugs is working
  • Ed Balls has made a friend - or, at least, turned an implacable enemy into a potential ally.

    The new year saw the shadow chancellor give an interview to the New Statesman in which he made clear he wanted to palsy it up with Clegg. They had even had a friendly conversation in the Commons, Balls was able to reveal.

    With the general election - and another possible hung parliament - now due next year, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are thinking more seriously about the idea of working with each other.

    For much of this parliament Labour were firmly expecting to be able to get revenge for Clegg's 2010 'anyone but Brown' demand. Clegg would never survive the devastating cull of Lib Dem seats which everyone expected would arrive in 2015.

    That still seems very plausible. But the general sense of expectations in Westminster has shifted - and in the deputy prime minister's favour.

    Rather than preparing to collapse like pack of cards, the Lib Dems' electoral prospects have improved.

    Read More »from Kissing and making up: What we learn from Ed Balls’ latest charm offensive
  • Another day, another group trying to pass legislation on the basis of perception.

    The Electoral Commission is generous enough to preface its demand for voter identification at polling stations with the admission that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But, in a now traditional refrain, it adds that something must anyway be done because "the public remain concerned that it is taking place".

    That is not in itself problematic. Where confidence in the electoral system can be enhanced, one should be open to doing so. Unfortunately, the Commission's proposal would further disenfranchise young people, women, the poor and minorities.

    Sometime before the 2019 European and English local elections the Commission will publish details of a proof of identity scheme and enact it. Its report makes frequent reference to Northern Ireland, where such a scheme is already in place. Northern Ireland uses the following options, which will almost certainly be replicated here:

    • A UK, Irish or EEA
    Read More »from Beware the demand for voter ID cards
  • The announcement from former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger that he is gay brings forward the day when the dam breaks and the Premier League catches up with the rest of us.

    Hitzlsperger is not your typical footballer. The Stuttgart midfielder visited Bank of England governor Mervyn King, a lifelong Villa fan, to discuss finance and economics on a regular basis. He's also an anti-racism campaigner and this sense of social justice evidently drove his decision to come out.

    "It's been a long and difficult process," he told a German newspaper. "In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room. I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting."
    Former Aston Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger become the most high-profile footballer to announce that he is gay. (NTI)Thomas Hitzlsperger pictured with his former partner Inga Totzauer at home in Sutton Coldfield in March, 2002. (NTI)Hitzlsperger, at Premier League club Everton, where he played between 2012/2013 (PA)
    It's tempting to feel that events are picking up momentum and change is finally coming to English football.

    If so, it's Read More »from We’re one step closer to the end of homophobia in football
  • There is nothing worse, Wellington once advised, than reinforcing defeat. Yet the 2015 blueprint emerging this week suggests that is exactly what the Conservative leadership is doing.

    Instead of pursuing bold policies on education or law and order, the Tories are refusing to move anywhere like enough away from the approach which denied them victory in 2010.

    The economic debate has barely progressed since then. Throughout this long, long parliament the arguments have been repeated ad nauseam. Both sides have tried to force their own narrative in a dialogue like a conversation between a hectoring mother and a teenager ignoring her on the phone.

    The unsightly result has been a form of political gridlock. This has suited the Tories: they want voters to remember it was Labour's fault for as long as possible. Ed Miliband, having made clear he will make the next general election about how expensive it is to buy things these days, has played right into his hands. Osborne's response is to

    Read More »from Unimaginative and tired, the Tories’ leadership is just reinforcing defeat
  • By Godfrey Bloom MEP

    When first I heard Nigel Farage suggest we took Syrian refugees I was surprised. I do not believe that opening our doors to more refugees, no matter how heartbreaking the circumstance, is in the long term interests of either the UK or the Middle East. However he has made a very worthy and significant point notwithstanding that.

    The British, and others in the free world, do have a responsibility for the displaced and persecuted in the world and we do not need as a Christian country to be bound by 'inky parchment blots' to meet it. For better or worse - worse in my view - we live in a cradle to grave welfare state which is gradually bankrupting the free world. Money which cannot be raised through taxation or borrowing is simply printed. This is of course ridiculous and unsustainable. However the point of this epistle is not one of economics but an equally elusive concept: morality.

    I had a long chat with Nigel on the telephone about the problem and put him in touch

    Read More »from We have turned our back on the Christians of Syria
  • By Adam Bienkov

    The decision by George Osborne to keep this year's fare rises in line with inflation means that Labour have struggled to muster quite the same level of outrage they normally manage each January.

    It also means they've had to search a little bit further for an example of the government's "cost of living crisis".

    So what have they gone for? What cruel example of spiralling costs hurting the common man and woman have they selected?

    Utility prices perhaps? Rent maybe? Childcare? No, they've gone for the cost of gym memberships.

    "Millions of people across the country will want to kick-start 2014 by getting fitter and more active," Labour's Luciana Berger says, unarguably.

    "There is a real risk that many people will be put off from keeping to their New Year’s resolutions by soaring gym charges and David Cameron’s failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis."

    This is a crisis. A cost of gym membersip crisis.

    "A yearly pass now costs £368 on average, an
    Read More »from Labour’s ‘cost of gym crisis’ shows exactly where they’re going wrong
  • By Adam Bienkov

    There are many honourable people on this year's honours list. Few could begrudge people like the parents of Jimmy Mizen, the recognition they have received for their good work.

    Nor could anyone complain about the day out at Buckingham Palace given to the many less well known, but equally worthy people on the list.

    Much attention has also been given this year to the the larger than usual number of women on the list. But having 51% of honours going to women like prominent Conservative business woman Karren Brady means nothing when over 90% of FTSE directorships still go to men.

    But the honours system is not really about furthering the cause of women or volunteers. The honours system is a hundreds of years old device by which the British establishment continues to support and extend itself.

    This basic truth is something accepted by everybody from the Socialist Worker's Party to the Daily Mail, but the solution is usually misdiagnosed. Every year the list is
    Read More »from The honours system is broken: It’s time for it to retire


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