Talking Politics
  • If more than 4,000 Londoners died every year as a result of dirty water it would be a national scandal.

    If toxic brown liquid poured out of our taps there would be protesters lining the streets and politicians clambering over each other to solve the problem.

    But at least then Londoners could opt to pay for bottled water instead. What option do those suffering from our lethal filthy air have?

    What option does a child going to school alongside one of London’s most polluted roads have when she steps out into the playground? What option does a pensioner suffering from chronic asthma have as diesel fumes blow into her face at the bus stop?

    One option might be to elect a politician willing to do something about it. Sadly in London, that is an option we increasingly do not have.

    Yesterday the current mayor of London Boris Johnson launched a consultation on proposals that appear to tackle the problem. His plans to implement a new “Ultra Low Emission Zone” seem to ban all but the least

    Read More »from The silent killer that politicians still refuse to tackle
  • Why the opponents of recall have got it wrong

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    By Caroline Lucas

    On Monday MPs will decide whether to give voters the power to sack MPs. I will be voting to back amendments which have been crowdsourced and fundedby thousands of 38 Degrees members alongside colleagues across the house from every political party.

    Over the last few days I’ve seen the arguments Frank Dobson MP has madeagainst voter-driven recall gathering steam. I think he’s got it wrong and here’s why:

    1. MPs are not the vanguards of social progress:

    “Much of the social and political progress we enjoy today sprang from the work of MPs…”

    To suggest that changes such as votes for women, the abolition of slavery and the minimum wage have sprung from the work of MPs alone is simply insulting and inaccurate. Insulting to the people who have tirelessly fought and continue to fight for change. It is incorrect to suggest that these hard fought victories originated in parliament.

    I believe real voter driven recall would strengthen the ability for MPs to speak up about these

    Read More »from Why the opponents of recall have got it wrong
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    For all the time dedicated to the immigration debate in the papers and on TV, there is one voice you rarely hear from: immigrants themselves. No-one asks what their opinion is. No-one asks how the coverage affects them.

    Migrant Voice has taken a step toward addressing this with research covering the impact of the immigration debate on those who have come to live here. It is startling. Those who once felt they belonged here are starting to feel as if they do not. They are exhausted. They feel as if they need to justify their existence every day.

    I’ve been given the preliminary finding of the report, which is due to come out in a few weeks. The research was conducted between June and August, with migrants from a wide range of backgrounds using an online survey, one-to-one interviews and focus group sessions in Birmingham, Glasgow and London. A total of 182 people took part. They’re mostly between 25 and 44 years old and have overwhelmingly been living in the UK over three years. The

    Read More »from How immigrants feel about the immigration debate
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    By Fiona Bawdon

    From December, private landlords in Birmingham and the Black Country could face a £3,000 fine if they fail to check the immigration status of new tenants, as changes introduced by the 2014 Immigration Act begin to be phased in.

    The reform is the latest in a series of changes by successive governments aimed at making life all but unlivable for anyone in the UK illegally. Speaking on Today last year, home secretary Theresa May said she wants to make Britain a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. The Act also introduces status checks by the DVLA, banks and the NHS.

    May’s comments, and pretty much the entire immigration debate, are based on the assumption that those “who have no right to be in the UK” are a distinct and dodgy group, most likely up to no good, going around accessing public services to which they’re not entitled, and – above all - different from the rest of us law-abiding folk. As the Economist wrote recently: “Though a few will have driving licenses

    Read More »from Living in the shadows: When Brits are made illegal
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    It was supposed to settle the question of Scottish independence for a generation. Instead, September’s referendum has set in train a series of events that could yet lead to the breakup of the UK.

    The numbers only tell part of the story. In a hard-fought campaign the nationalists succeeded in persuading 45% of voters that their vision was the right way to go. Independence is no longer a fringe interest; it is central to the debate about Scotland’s future. #The45, as they’ve taken to calling themselves, are no longer a political force to be dismissed lightly.

    Their claim that it’s a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ for Scottish independence has a lot of emotional power north of the border. In Westminster, relief at the result and a preoccupation with fixing the West Lothian Question mean Scotland is being forgotten about. Few seem to realise the real debate has only just started.

    Since September 18th an extraordinary process has begun. It is nothing short of revolutionary. Fuelled by the

    Read More »from How Salmond won the referendum
  • In the first thirteen years of this century something remarkable happened in London.

    Despite a huge increase in the number of people living in the capital, the number of people driving cars fell dramatically.

    In every other part of the UK, car use increased but in London people started using buses, trains and bicycles to get to work instead.

    In 28 out of 32 London boroughs, motor vehicle traffic fell significantly over the past 13 years, with the biggest falls in central London.

    This shift was not an accident. It was a deliberate result of public policy.

    Under Ken Livingstone billions were spent on public transport in an attempt to get people out of their cars. Livingstone’s combination of congestion charging and new transport connections was hugely successful. It was a remarkable achievement over a period when the number of people living in the capital boomed.

    The long consensus, pushed by road lobbyists and the government alike, that car use would continue to rise inexorably had

    Read More »from The pro-car lobby is trying to destroy London
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    Downing Street’s immigration crackdown, dismissed by critics as a blatant bid to out-Ukip Nigel Farage, is unlikely to become reality. That may not worry David Cameron very much.

    Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Commission, has been obliged to equivocate once or twice in his decade running the EU’s civil service. But his rejection of the prime minister’s looming U-turn on immigration yesterday could not have been more absolute.

    "Any kind of arbitrary cap seems to me to be not in conformity with European rules," he said. "The principle of freedom of movement is essential, we have to keep it."

    His comments on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show came after the Sunday Times revealed details of the ‘emergency brake’ Cameron is preparing to unveil in order to woo voters in the upcoming Rochester and Strood by-election.

    The big idea emerging from No 10 is a cap on the number of migrants from the EU. This wouldn’t stop people travelling to and from Britain. Instead it would

    Read More »from Implausible and vote-winning - is the PM's migrant cap plan designed to fail?
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    Until 1814, the punishment for treason was very severe. Those found guilty were dragged to the place of execution by a horse. They were hung, but without a drop to break the neck, so that they stayed alive for what followed. Executioners then brought them to the ground, stripped them, and cut off their genitals. The viscera was pulled out and burned before their eyes. Then the other organs were removed. The body was then decapitated and cut into quarters, all four of which were at the disposal of the sovereign. Usually they were publically displayed. Public relations, of the most deranged sort, is always at the heart of the debate over treason.

    In 1814, the law was softened so that offenders were merely hung to death, with the disembowelling, beheading and quartering taking place posthumously.

    Treason has always carried with it the most colourful and barbaric sentences. The last person to be executed in Britain for treason was William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw Haw, who was accused

    Read More »from Hammond's call for treason against Isis is an unhelpful temper tantrum
  • Revealing Iain Duncan Smith’s enthusiasm for putting obese benefit claimants on a liquid diet says a lot about the motivation of the man running the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

    To your average Tory, giving benefit scroungers a shove in the right direction is never the wrong thing to do. IDS thinks obese benefit claimants could do with a very big shove indeed.

    Suggesting they might want to consider a liquid diet is an idea which is as uncompromising as it is divisive. Some voters I’ve spoken to about it think it’s exactly what obese ‘scroungers’ need (none of them were obese themselves). Others have reacted with horror that Duncan Smith could even contemplate such a course of action. Either way, his motives are revealing.

    Read More »from Liquid diets: Iain Duncan Smith targets obese benefit claimants
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    The latest proposals for tackling smoking are out and, as always, they mimic the authoritarian response in the US.

    The London Health Commission, set up by Boris Johnson last year under ex-Labour health minister Lord Darzi, has called on the mayor to make bylaws banning smoking in Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square and exert influence over the royal parks, where he appoints the board, to also ban smoking in their spaces. The clear hope is that London’s 32 local councils would then follow his lead and ban smoking in their parks.

    Will the mayor play ball? Johnson always prides himself on his instinctive libertarianism, but it’s skin deep. His first act as mayor was to ban drinking on public transport. Only weeks ago he was calling for the presumption of innocence to be overturned in certain criminal trials. This week he U-turned on years of pro-immigration rhetoric to call for restrictions of European freedom of movement. He jumps whichever way the wind is already blowing. He said of

    Read More »from Park smoking ban shows how tragically anti-smoking movement lost its way

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