Talking Politics
  • Those hoping that a Labour government would look very different from the current Conservative-led government are likely to be disappointed.

    Asked by the Today programme what he would reverse from Osborne’s Budget yesterday, Ed Balls replied that there was nothing.

    "From yesterday to be honest… there’s nothing I’m saying to you from yesterday I would reverse," he said.

    How can this be? Under Osborne’s plans, there will be an additional £20 billion of cuts to welfare, tax credits and public sector pensions, with overall cuts set to be far larger than anything we have seen over the past five years.

    Yesterday the Institute of Fiscal Studies described the scale of Osborne’s planned welfare cuts as “unprecedented”.  Under Osborne, parts of our social security system will be made almost non-existent.

    Just this month, Labour were warning that this would take Britain “back to the 1930s”. Now the shadow chancellor is saying it’s all fine with him.

    So why the change? Well the first reason is that

    Read More »from Ed Balls would not reverse anything in Osborne’s budget

    Read More »from Budget 2015 analysis: A more mature Osborne plays a more complex political game
  • Nicola Sturgeon’s focus on pacts and deals masks a broader agenda: flooding parliament with Scottish nationalists in a bid to accelerate the drift towards independence.

    The first minister’s speech today is entirely focused on the potential role the SNP could play in hung parliament negotiations today.

    That is what this election is all about, after all. With the Scottish independence issue sorted for a generation after last year’s No victory, we can all forget about nationalism and concentrate on what is at stake on May 7th - who governs the country for the next five years.

    When the stakes are the future of our country, that thinking is horribly short-sighted.

    A new poll out today points to a truth not many in Westminster are prepared to admit right now: this year’s election is only going to pave the way for another referendum in the future.

    The University of Edinburgh survey found 69% of people believe Scotland will eventually leave the UK. That’s only marginally higher than the 59% who

    Read More »from How a flood of SNP MPs could lead to independence
  • Farage’s call for anti-discrimination legislation to be axed is just the latest race row to engulf Ukip in recent months.

    Just last month, the BBC revealed footage of a Ukip councillor in Nigel Farage’s constituency, speaking about her dislike of people with “negroid features”.

    The Ukip leader himself has also been involved in a number of similar rows. Last year he caused a huge storm after admitting that hearing foreign voices on the train made him feel “awkward” and uncomfortable. He was also forced to backtrack after suggesting that he would not want to live next door to a group of Romanian men.

    These rows have damaged perceptions of the party. A poll last month found a big increase in the number of people who now perceive Ukip as racist.

    The Comres poll for ITV found that 44% of voters believe Ukip are a “racist party” with just 36% disagreeing. This is up twelve points from last year.

    This is a big problem for Ukip. While Ukip are the most trusted party on the subject of immigration,

    Read More »from 'BNP in blazers': Race rows risk Ukip's return to the fringes
  • Britain almost ceased to be six months ago. Both its main political parties are now proposing spending cuts so severe they threaten to fundamentally change what we think of as the state.

    These seem big, even existential issues for a country to face. And yet the election campaign is composed of tiny, soap opera-like tittle-tattle. Yesterday’s inane Tory poster, showing Ed Miliband in the pocket of Alex Salmond, typified it. Conservatives believe they’ve found a red line and are trying to push Miliband over it by making everything about a possible SNP pact.

    Labour believes it has found a red line over David Cameron’s refusal to do the TV debates and has spent the last week publicising it as much as possible. Where coverage is not about these twin issues, it is designed to seduce the core vote: on economic issues for the Tories, on the NHS for Labour.

    This is a big, historic moment in British history, but future students will not be much bothered by the reaction of MPs or political parties.

    Read More »from The British public deserves a better election than this
  • If current trends continue, the Conservative party are set to lose their last remaining Scottish MP.

    Lord Ashcroft’s latest polls suggests the party are within just one point of losing to the SNP in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

    It would be a sad demise for a party which was once the dominant electoral force in Scotland. Yet far from trying to rebuild the ruins of his party north of the border, David Cameron instead seems intent on torching the last few broken remains.

    Speaking to a group of activists over the weekend, the prime minister outlined what he believes is the greatest threat facing the country.

    "If you thought the worst outcome in this election is a Labour government led by Ed Miliband, think again," he told a group of Tory activists.

    "You could end up with a Labour government led by Ed Miliband, propped up by Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party.

    Pausing to allow his activists to boo, he went on.

    "You cannot let the people who want to break up our country into

    Read More »from David Cameron is now the greatest threat to the Union
  • Why would a leader regarded by both his supporters and his detractors as prime ministerial try to avoid TV debates?

    Political leaders usually spend election campaigns fighting on their strengths. For the Conservatives, they have very clear poll leads on the economy and their leader. So why would No.10 be so wary of an event which should play firmly into their hands?

    Actually, Cameron’s de-facto refusal to take part in the TV debates is part of a pattern of avoiding scrutiny. As prime minister he instantly scrapped the monthly Downing Street press conferences Gordon Brown used to hold – events at which, for all his faults, Brown did not leave until everyone in the room had a chance to ask a question.

    When Cameron is forced to take questions after a speech, he limits them to three or four at most - and those only from broadcasters and perhaps one print journalist. He almost never subjects himself to tough, searching media interviews. His preference is always for light-touch TV appearances.

    Read More »from Cameron won't debate because he has no record to defend
  • Gordon Brown’s call for a nationalisation of North Sea oil has left the industry cold - but then energy firms aren’t the former prime minister’s target audience, are they?

    "It’s all about the oil, isn’t it?" one committed nationalist told me on the shores of the Forth last September. "It’ll be around for years to come. Just think what we could do with the money."

    It was a surreal situation - the harbourmaster of a tiny port in north-east Scotland talking about the benefits North Sea oil could bring to his nation, if only they had control of it. Out in the estuary a distant oil rig could be seen on the horizon. Despite the fact that North Sea oil is set to fall to just 1.3 million barrels a day in 2018 from a peak of 4.3 million barrels in 1999, this harbourmaster was completely confident a Scottish government could turn it around.

    He would have been bitterly disappointed by the referendum result. The No campaign’s victory was achieved in part because of Brown’s last-gasp interventions.

    Read More »from Gordon Brown's North Sea oil promise offers Scottish Labour a flicker of hope
  • David Cameron will today announce plans to extend the government’s “starter home” policy to 200,000 new discounted homes.

    The policy appears superficially attractive. New homes will be offered at a 20% discount, saving the average first-time buyer £43,000. However, this significant saving comes at a much wider cost.

    In return for offering the discount, developers no longer have to pay for the new infrastructure to support this new housing, including schools, hospitals, roads and flood defences. This infrastructure still needs to be paid for of course, it’s just that developers are no longer the ones paying for it.

    Developers will also be stripped of the need to sign section 106 agreements. These agreements oblige developers to either provide new affordable homes, school places or other contributions to the local area.

    Again, these new services will still need to be paid for, it’s just that developers will no longer be the ones paying for them. So instead of landowners and developers paying

    Read More »from Help for Landowners: Tory housing policy is a handout to developers
  • Immigrants aren't taking your job

    One of the things about immigration which makes it so politically explosive is the way it plays on the fears of right and left. For the right, it signifies a dilution of indigenous British culture. For the left, it threatens to dampen worker’s wages and living standards by allowing foreigners to compete for jobs. Many in the Labour party and beyond look at youth unemployment levels and fear immigrants are at least partly responsible.

    Except it isn’t true. New research from the London School of Economics (LSE)found immigration does not keep down wages or lead to an increase in unemployment. They don’t even disproportionately take new jobs. In short, the economic effects we presumed of immigration appear to be false.

    Researchers collected data from British counties, comparing their unemployment rate for UK workers with changes in their immigration share. There was no correlation.

    Of course, the fact there was no average effect might just have been masking changes in the low wage market,

    Read More »from Immigrants aren't taking your job


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