Talking Politics
  • Comment: The coalition’s new puritanism

    Chris Grayling's decision to ban sex work vacancies from Job Centres shows the coalition government to be just as puritanical as Labour was.

    By Ian Dunt

    Rather unusually, Chris Grayling made a good point today. It was not his main point of course, but he must still be commended. The employment minister was busy announcing that sex industry vacancies would be banned from Job Centres when it happened. The main thrust of his argument was very tired and irritating and we shall come to it in a moment. But first we should give the man his due and note his partially successful response to the point that the ban was an instance of government moralising.

    Not so, Grayling insisted. Once new rules come in forcing those on unemployment benefit to get work, it would be quite wrong for those facing the measure to have to take a job in the sex industry. Therefore, sex industry ads had to be removed from Job Centres. One must give credit where it is due, and accept the argument. The sight of the state

    Read More »from Comment: The coalition’s new puritanism
  • All to play for on Trident

    Opponents of Britain's nuclear deterrent need to realise they are closer to achieving their goal than they have been for years.

    Until now politicians have succeeded in keeping the future of Britain's nuclear deterrent firmly on the margins of the post-election defence review. One very public Cabinet spat later and everything has changed.

    Only the Liberal Democrats were opposed to Trident during the general election campaign. Both David Cameron and Gordon Brown sought to use Nick Clegg's opposition to a like-for-like replacement against him in the televised debates. It may have worked; the peacenik Lib Dems have always been weak when it comes to defence issues. In any case, there was no reason to suppose before polling day that the Labour-Conservative consensus on Trident would hold.

    As the concerns triggered by David "junior partner" Cameron's belittling of Britain show, prestige matters in international affairs. Previous Tory and Labour leaders have stuck consistently to the logic

    Read More »from All to play for on Trident
  • Scrapping the default retirement age is being sold as a 'good thing'. Don't be fooled. The government is taking this step not because it wants to - but because it needs to.

    By Alex Stevenson

    There are, of course, huge benefits to making it easier to keep on working. Not being forced to retire on your 65th birthday means many older people have the option to continue slaving away, if they so wish. Paperwork will be cut: there will now no longer be the need for employees to keep 'right to request' working beyond retirement forms, or for employers to give a minimum six months' notice of retirement. And then there's the economy, which will be boosted by the sudden extra injection into the workforce. Britain's annual GDP could be increased by an extra £13 billion.

    "We want to give individuals greater choice and are moving swiftly to end discrimination of this kind," employment relations minister Ed Davey has said enthusiastically. This all sounds marvellous. It plays up our freedom, giving

    Read More »from Analysis: The retirement age’s false choice
  • David Cameron's "spirit of humility" line is likely to undermine Britain's prestige overseas. But, as the immigration cap controversy shows, the real risk stems from deepening division within the Cabinet.

    There are currently six government ministers in India, courting one of the world's largest emerging economies with all their might.

    The prime minister is joined by his chancellor, foreign secretary and business secretary, amongst others, while over 50 senior British business figures are present to do their bit.

    Even Steve Redgrave and Kelly Holmes have come along for the ride. Clearly, this is an important trip.

    Yet the delegation has already raised some fundamental questions about the new government's approach to foreign policy. In an article in the Hindu newspaper today, Cameron says Britain approaches India with a "spirit of humility". It's obviously an attempt to offset the centuries of imperial domination which are now played up as 'shared heritage'. Ah, those were the days.

    Read More »from Immigration row shows world notices actions, not words
  • David Cameron is just as obsessed with the machinations of the British tabloids and broadcasters as New Labour ever was. He's just better at it.

    By Samuel Dale

    Documenting Cameron's rise to the summit of British politics is so straightforward that it becomes, paradoxically, almost unconventional. As the first politician to rise from Tory central office to prime minister, Cameron has been at the heart of British politics since he left university. He learned his trade working on the 1992 election campaign and as political advisor to the chancellor Norman Lamont and home secretary Michael Howard. This was no ordinary introduction to political life. This was the gold-plated fast-track to the very top.

    The relationship between politicians and the media is the big theme of author Nicholas Jones' new book, Campaign 2010. And it is clear that Cameron is an expert media handler, whether it is speaking without notes for party conference speeches or wooing the News Corporation press. He really

    Read More »from Politics, the media and a very clever prime minister
  • We should all be shocked by the revelations contained in the tens of thousands of intelligence reports from Afghanistan released today. But their political impact is unlikely to be as damaging as it initially seems.

    By Alex Stevenson

    There's no doubt the 91,000-plus records released by the Wikileaks website today are deeply troubling. They shine a light on the parts of the war with the Taliban our leaders don't want us to see. Some parts have been redacted in the public interest. Regardless, the remainder will have a damaging effect on the war effort.

    Firstly, Britain's relations with Pakistan have been undermined. The documents suggest Pakistani authorities knew about a plot to assassinate Afghan president Hamid Karzai - but did nothing about it. More western observers will now start to ask the question: is Pakistan really as reliable an ally as the west thinks it is?

    Then comes the ongoing agony about the behaviour of our soldiers. Patriotic fervour, whipped up by the tabloids, is

    Read More »from Analysis: Do the Afghan leaks change anything?
  • Labour must repent for civil liberties

    The coalition is weak. Unless Labour quickly addresses its authoritarian tendencies, we could soon be back in the bad old days.

    By Ian Dunt

    The term 'progressive' is a pernicious and treacherous thing. It is not a belief system. It doesn't denote a series of beliefs or policies. It is a sentiment, a vague allusion. It translates as 'leftish'. Its political usefulness lies in this absence of meaning, allowing right-wingers to attract moderates without actually committing to any specific proposals.

    But whatever progressive is, it isn't locking up innocent children because their parents are illegal immigrants. It isn't about writing articles in the Daily Mail promoting the incarceration of our young people in overcrowded jails to satisfy the inexplicable needs of the gutter press. It isn't defending stop-and-search, which has been shown over and over again to be used disproportionately against ethnic minorities. That is the situation Labour now finds itself in.

    On the very same day that

    Read More »from Labour must repent for civil liberties
  • Britain's new rulers are finding much solace in the strictures of coalition government. But there is danger, as well as safety, in the backroom dealings which now govern us all.

    Ten weeks have passed since Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander sat in the Cabinet Office, thrashing out the first details of the agreement which would establish Britain's first coalition government since the Second World War. Last night the two men sat next to each other at a Policy Exchange discussion, still friends.

    It's as if none of the troubles of this period had ever happened. The horrified Lib Dems reeling as they voted through a "slightly progressive" VAT hike. The dismayed Conservatives watching Ken Clarke abandon faith in prisons altogether. Both sides gritting their teeth as they prepare to fight on separate sides in a battle for electoral reform.

    "I've been cohabiting with Danny for a while now and it's a very pleasurable experience," Letwin says pleasantly. Alexander blushes modestly. "It's based

    Read More »from Why the backroom leaders love the coalition
  • Cameron is trying to start a new chapter in Anglo-US relations. But can he conquer Obama's indifference, or the British public's distrust of America?

    By Ian Dunt

    Tony Blair always used to remind his aides that a 'Love Actually' moment, as he put it, would only present good headlines for a week, while its damaging effects would last much longer. Adopting a critical approach to the US might be satisfying to British pride, but it would harm British interests - or so he believed.

    There are two truths in that statement. The first reveals the British need for a strong American alliance so it can maintain its international influence. The second concerns British resentment of the 'special relationship'.

    While British warmth towards America was never as simple or as easy as many commentators now pretend, its real turning point came during the Iraq war. It was then that many Britons concluded that if influence involved sending their children to fight in a war most people considered illegal and

    Read More »from Analysis: State of the ‘special relationship’
  • Time to protect the privileged?

    Does the unelected House of Lords still deserve its privileged position in British politics?

    By Rebecca Burns

    Following the government's announcement that change is on its way, business in the House of Lords is rather existential at the moment. The Lords has been forced to establish exactly why it exists.

    So the chamber has been transformed into a therapist's office, full of red leather couches for self-interrogation rather than legislation. Our peers must ask themselves why they are entitled, over and above all others, to place their bottoms in those seats.

    Like the privileged echelons of any hierarchy, the upper House has been threatened with reform on a relatively regular basis. The slow rise of the Commons from around the 13th century began the power drain that, 700 years later, led to the loss of the parliamentary primacy of the Lords. A fit of republicanism in 1649 saw Cromwell abolish the Lords outright for eleven years.

    A further insult was inflicted on the Lords by the Labour

    Read More »from Time to protect the privileged?


(1,222 Stories)