Talking Politics
  • By Alex Feis-Bryce

    Yesterday’s landmark vote at Amnesty International’s forum in Dublin to advocate for full decriminalisation of consensual sex work marked the end of a heated and polarising campaign. On one side were sex workers, health and support professionals and academics and on the other side was a bizarre coalition of self-identifying radical feminists, religious fundamentalists, Jimmy Carter and some Hollywood actors like Lena Dunham and Anne Hathaway, who clearly brought a great deal of expertise to the debate. Although, in Anne Hathaway’s defence, she did play a sex worker in a Hollywood movie so maybe she felt that gave her a unique insight. As one sex worker asked on twitter, would then playing a nurse in a porn film make her an authority on medical matters? Even the Guardian newspaper made a brief and shameful intervention with an editorial which essentially argued that, while sex workers may have rights, for Amnesty to defend them was ‘distracting.’

    Amnesty’s position in

    Read More »from Amnesty sex worker vote 'a victory for evidence over ignorance'
  • By Kristyan Benedict

    Imagine for a moment being trapped under the rubble of your house after it’s just been bombed. Imagine the dust, the darkness, the claustrophobia and the pain.

    Imagine the relief of being rescued by one of Syria’s brave civil defence workers only to be taken to a dark, humid, underground hospital with no fresh air and relentless heat, because the doctors fear they too could be targeted in an airstrike.

    These scenarios are real and the fears of Syrian civilians are a daily reality. In the past three years Syrian government air strikes have destroyed or damaged at least ten hospitals or other medical facilities in Eastern Ghouta, an area in the Damascus suburbs with 160,000-plus residents. These air strikes have killed at least 20 doctors and other medical workers and destroyed vital medical equipment and supplies, according tolocal monitoring groups and Physicians for Human Rights

    This, then, is the daily reality for besieged civilians in Eastern Ghouta and many other

    Read More »from Syria's civilians have been left to die under siege
  • By Simon Danczuk

    Among the many criticisms levelled at me since I called for the Labour leadership contest to be halted yesterday is that I am against democracy.

    But it is not those calling for this contest to be paused who are anti-democratic, it is those who adopted an electoral process that is wide open to abuse, without considering the consequences. There’s nothing democratic about allowing people who oppose us to pack the electorate, which is exactly what the Labour Party has done.

    Perhaps the party has been naive in thinking only people who support Labour would sign up as registered supporters, because this is clearly not the case.

    We’ve left ourselves vulnerable to our political opponents and those on the extreme left by allowing them to register for as little as £3 and decide who the leader of the Labour Party should be.

    Through poor planning, Labour has handed its opponents the chance to undermine the party for the price of a Tesco meal deal. I’ve seen for myself that this is

    Read More »from Simon Danczuk: Why Labour should pause this 'disastrous' leadership race
  • Yesterday morning Tony Blair’s former press chief Alastair Campbell published a blog post urging Labour members to back “anyone but Corbyn,” for the leadership. The intervention, which was the latest in a long line of Labour establishment attacks on Corbyn, added that a victory for Jeremy would be a “car crash” for the party.

    Within twelve hours a new opinion poll of members was released suggesting Corbyn is set to win the Labour leadership by a landslide, with none of his rivals even coming close. “I would personally be astonished if Mr Corbyn does not end up as Labour’s leader,” commented YouGov chief Peter Kellner last night.

    So why are the attacks on Corbyn failing so miserably and can anyone stop him from becoming the next leader of the opposition?

    To answer that question we need to look back fifteen years to Labour’s botched attempt to prevent Ken Livingstone from becoming the first Mayor of London.

    Like now, the Labour establishment rallied around to warn that Ken would be a

    Read More »from Why the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are failing
  • By Sharon Hodgson MP

    Inspiration. It’s what everybody is looking for in our leadership contest. Somebody to inspire them or capture them and say the things they have just been dying to hear. Words and gestures are being poured over and analysed by everybody it seems, many of those being the same people who during the election maintained that it is actions and policies that matter, not warm rhetoric and vague promises. That was then I guess, this is now, and the rules have changed.

    I am also a firm believer in inspiration, but for me, and for millions of ordinary people around the country, this comes in ways you may never even realise. It can touch and inspire you without you ever having to have heard a speech or attended a rally.

    For the families all over the country who have used Sure Start children’s centres and have received help and support at a time when they desperately needed it, they have been inspired to develop and grow and reach their potential in ways that simply would not

    Read More »from Why our next leader should be a woman called Yvette
  • Lots of people are wrong about the Labour leadership contest. The only question is who?

    Nominations from constituency Labour parties, independent polling, new membership figures and commentary from senior figures in the party all suggest that Jeremy Corbyn is storming to victory.

    Yet the bookies and opinion polls of Labour supporters suggest Andy Burnham is still the likely winner on the day. Meanwhile others still predict Yvette Cooper will scrape through enough second preferences to squeeze through the middle.

    So which predictions are wrong, and why is there so much uncertainty? Could we be about to face an even bigger upset than Ed Miliband’s surprise win over his brother in 2010?

    To understand the confusion, we only need to look at the party’s London mayoral contest, where all the evidence suggests Tessa Jowell will emerge as the clear winner in the race to be the Labour candidate.

    Yet how can such a staunch Blairite like Jowell be so far ahead in London, whereas her ideological

    Read More »from If Labour are lurching left, how do we explain the rise of Tessa Jowell?
  • By Katie Schmuecker

    The latest statistics on the benefit cap were published yesterday. They show that 63,000 families have had their benefits capped to date, and the people most likely to be affected remain those with a large number of children and those with high housing costs.

    The rationale behind the £26,000 cap is usually presented as a means of incentivising people to start work and move if their housing costs are too high. Of the households capped to date, nearly a quarter (16,000) have since started a Working Tax Credit claim – indicating they have moved into work – which is good news. While the statistics indicate some success, the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) own evaluation of the impact of the benefit cap demonstrates that caution should be exercised before attributing large increases in employment to the cap. The policy was introduced in a context of a recovering jobs market with falling unemployment and rising employment. This means those who would have moved

    Read More »from People need affordable housing not a cap on benefits
  • Boris Johnson was elected as London mayor on a pledge to “deal once and for all with endless Tube strikes” in the capital.

    The then Conservative candidate promised to “negotiate, in good faith, no strike deals with the Tube unions to end the disruption caused by unnecessary strikes”.

    However, rather than ‘dealing once and for all’ with the issue, the number of Tube strikes in London has actually gone up since the apparently bad old days of Ken Livingstone.

    And rather than securing a 'no strike deal’ with Tube union leaders, Johnson has not even met once with them in order to do so. In fact in the past eight years he has had more meetings with Lily Allen and Sol Campbell than he’s had with tube union leaders.

    Whenever his failure has been put to Johnson, he has replied that he is investing heavily in so called “driverless trains” to ensure Tube strikes no longer cripple the capital. The London mayor was at it again this week, giving Londoners the impression that he is about to unleash an

    Read More »from No Boris, driverless trains are not about to save us from Tube strikes
  • By Lindsay Graham

    For some of the poorest families in the UK, the school summer holiday is not a time of sandcastles, ice-cream and fun. It’s a time of stress and angst.

     A recent study revealed 62% of families on an income of £25,000 per year or less were sometimes unable to afford food during the school holidays and almost 31% of parents on a low income said they sometimes skipped meals so their children could eat instead.

    During term time, around 1.7 million children are registered for free school meals. For some this will be the only hot meal they receive each day. For the 13 weeks of the year when schools are closed, this is not available to them.

    The term ‘holiday hunger’ is not new. We have been aware of the issue for over 100 years but there is still no central government support or policy on this social injustice and to date most help for families has come from the charitable sector.

    The last decade has seen the UK invest billions of pounds of public money in improving school food

    Read More »from Filling the holiday gap - Why kids go hungry over the summer
  • Here’s David Cameron in February, on the married couple’s tax allowance:

    “This policy is about far more than pounds and pence; it’s about valuing commitment. Families are the bedrock of our society. It’s families who raise our children, look after our old and keep our country going. And this tax change is about saying as a society, we recognise that.”

    And here’s Andy, a British man separated from his wife by income restrictions on foreign spousal visas, speaking to me about what it had done to his family:

    “What sort of a man am I, that I can’t keep my family together? She’s in limbo, my kids are in limbo, I’m in limbo. No-one can believe my wife is being prevented from being with her baby boys. China has got its faults, but in terms of family they would never come between a parent and her child.”

    The Tories’ commitment to families was never worth the paper it was written on. While they issue proud words about the vital importance of parents staying together, they tear them apart behind the

    Read More »from The truth behind the rhetoric: UK hits bottom of family-friendly league table


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