- Guest writer | Talking Politics – Fri, Jan 3, 2014By Adam BienkovThe 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, anRead More »from Labour’s ‘cost of gym crisis’ shows exactly where they’re going wrong
- Guest writer | Talking Politics – Tue, Dec 31, 2013By Adam BienkovThere 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 isRead More »from The honours system is broken: It’s time for it to retire
Here's five horribly cringeworthy political errors made in 2013...
5 - George 'Munchies' Osborne
The chancellor regards Twitter as a vehicle to demonstrate he is human rather than a cutting merciless cyborg Treasury monster. So a late-night picture of him chomping on a burger should have been just the trick. What could be more endearing than this?
The problem, it emerged, was that the burger in question was not a Maccie Ds, or even a Burger King. It was a Byron Burger which cost an eye-watering £9.75. Twitter judged this to be evidence that the chancellor is himself 'posh', and certainly not a man of the people.
"I was working late on a speech and I had a hamburger and the world is now talking about it," he moaned the following morning. When communities secretary Eric Pickles responded with a picture of himself eating a salad, Osborne would have surely realised the joke was on him.
4 - David 'Pass' Cameron
Like Cameron's 'mission accomplished' gaffe (which didn't make the top ten,Read More »from Top five political gaffes of 2013
This was, in truth, a poor year for political scandals. Perhaps we've been spoiled in previous years by the behemoths of phone-hacking and expenses - and these continued to rumble on into 2013. But there were no big scalps this year, no ministerial resignations and little by way of actual results. Instead the main theme is of unresolved, unknowable question-marks: in Labour's internal dynamics, in the structures which govern the shadowy digital world of spying online, in sub judice cases where we just don't know the answers yet. This was a year of previous scandals having a last hurrah and the arrival of fresh scandals not yet answered. It leaves a distinctly unpleasant taste in the mouth.
(Last year's position in brackets)
Andrew Mitchell's demise was a 2012 story, true - but the steady unravelling of the case against him has been a constant undercurrent of 2013. The scandal is not now about what a posh Tory Cabinet minister said, but the extent to which policeRead More »from Top ten political scandals of 2013
- Alex Stevenson | Talking Politics – Mon, Dec 23, 2013
Kneejerk anti-immigration rhetoric is ruling the day - and it's a very ugly kind of politics made even worse by the coalition's spending cuts agenda.
They sound like completely separate news stories. On the one hand, deficit reduction leads to spending cuts, leading to a new, more miserable kind of Britain. On the other, a right-wing government fighting a right-wing threat from Ukip on immigration.
The two stories have been carried on by their separate momentums this month. The autumn statement distracted us all from the fact the cuts are still, believe it or not, yet to bite, by focusing on GDP numbers that mean nothing to ordinary people.
Last week, David Cameron brought forward the date after which new immigrants would have to wait three months before claiming benefits to January 1st 2014.
That is a politically important date, because it's the first day on which restrictions on arrivals from Romania and Bulgaria are lifted. Expect the word 'floodgates' to be used in right-wingRead More »from Immigration battering won’t stop – even though it makes no sense
- Guest writer | Talking Politics – Fri, Dec 20, 2013By Jane FaeWhen it comes to blocking and filtering, the government and David Cameron in particular have demonstrated both ignorance of the internet, and a truly irresponsible attitude to policing it. The time has surely come to re-inject some balance into the debate.Blocking and filtering has finally arrived and while the sky may not exactly have fallen in, many of the drawbacks warned of by those of us who actually know a thing or two about the internet, are also now all too apparent. As the BBC reported recently, there is over-blocking and there is under-blocking.Both of which surely will be dismissed by various government spokespeople such as Clare Perry MP as "teething problems". This would be fair enough, were it not for three quite embarrassing truths.First as mentioned above nothing in what is now happening is unpredictable or unexpected. As has been argued over the last year or so, the government’s response to a perceived problem has been to demand that UKRead More »from Three embarrassing truths about Cameron’s porn filter
- Ian Dunt | Talking Politics – Thu, Dec 19, 2013A tweak in the approach to regulating legal highs could provide a glimmer of hope for campaigners demanding a more liberal approach to Britain's drug laws.Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Norman Baker announced the launch of a review into legal highs last week, as the government tries to get a handle on an industry which can alter the chemical compositions of substances faster than it can pass legislation banning them.And smuggled in there – left unspoken – there was a potentially revolutionary development.Baker will be taking evidence from several countries' approaches, including the US, where broad families of synthetic drugs are outlawed, and Ireland, where there is a general law banning dangerous psychoactive substances.But he is particularly interested in the system used in New Zealand, where anyone producing a drug for recreational use is required to obtain a licence, that puts the onus on the manufacturer to prove the substance's safety.It's a subtle shift,Read More »from Smuggled into the legal highs review: A glimmer of hope for liberals
- By Adam BienkovBoris Johnson has spent the best part of six years and millions of pounds of public money in promoting a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.He has chaired committees, toured the globe and even captained a ship from Tower Bridge to Kent to visit the proposed sites.With a few clicks of his keyboard, Sir Howard Davies yesterday ruled all of that work null and void.Johnson's first choice of a purpose-built island airport in the Estuary does not even get a mention in the airports commission's report. His second choice of an airport on the Isle of Grain has also failed to make the shortlist.Even expansion at Stansted, which Johnson wanted put under the microscope for £3 million of taxpayers' money, has been ruled out by Davies.Unlike most victims of ritual humiliation, Johnson was at least offered some consolation by Davies. Put under pressure by the government to avoid a full on confrontation with the mayor, Davies inserted a couple of paragraphsRead More »from The sinking of Boris Island
- Guest writer | Talking Politics – Tue, Dec 17, 2013When the immigration restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers are dropped on January 1st, almost nothing will happen.Legions of Romanian beggars will not descend on your high street, Bulgarian hordes will not occupy your local job centre and your local children's playground will not be turned into a temporary encampment for swan-eating immigrants.There will almost certainly be a significant rise in people coming in from these two countries. But there is no reason to believe this rise will be any greater than that seen from any of the previous EU countries allowed these rights to work in the UK.The rise will be concentrated in urban areas well-used to successive waves of immigration and before long these new immigrants will be successfully absorbed into the UK. The net result will be a slight extra strain on public services, balanced out by a slight but much-needed boost to Britain's economy.And yet, if you've been listening to warnings coming out theRead More »from May’s cynical attempt to create division will lead to racist attacks on our streets
By Isabella Sankey
Our prime minister is right. There are those in our midst determined to undermine the best of our democracy. They seek to eliminate the rights and freedoms of ordinary people in the name of misguided ideology. They wear away at our justice system and the rule of law. And they use rhetoric to spread myths and divide communities.
Unfortunately, occasionally all-too-prominent among these people is our prime minister himself. It's hard to take his latest vow to safeguard our precious democracy and values too seriously, given that he's presided over devastating attacks to our justice system, the rule of law and our human rights protections.
Undoubtedly, there are horribly warped world-views hiding on the fringes of society that give serious cause for concern. The horrific murders of Drummer Lee Rigby – a young soldier killed in Woolwich - and Mohammed Saleem – a grandfather stabbed in the back on his way home from prayers – highlight the urgency and importance ofRead More »from Gagging extremism will only drive it underground