Talking Politics
  • Photo: Getty ImagesDavid Cameron sees the Leveson inquiry as an "opportunity" to reassess the relationship between the media and politicians. But his desperate political positioning to save Jeremy Hunt only underlines the likelihood that nothing is likely to change.

    The situation, as the prime minister made very plain on a TV sofa this morning, is very simple. It doesn't matter that Lord Justice Leveson is refusing to have anything to do with the question of whether ministers are behaving badly. What matters is that Hunt is going to answer questions, under oath, in front of a judge.

    He'll be questioned about the inappropriate communications which emanated from his office with News Corporation during its attempt to takeover broadcaster BSkyB. How much did he know about the behaviour of his special adviser, Adam Smith, whose actions he condemned so uncompromisingly in the Commons last Wednesday? If it can be shown that he knew exactly what Smith was up to, he'll have to go.

    The problem is one of process.

    Read More »from David Cameron plays judge and jury over the fate of Jeremy Hunt
  • Photo: ThinkstockBritain's economic recession is being matched by a political one made much, much worse by the coalition. Clegg and Cameron's dream of a 'new politics' is turning into a nightmare.

    For years politicians have moaned about the public being increasingly disinterested in them. What has been a slow-burning problem is now rapidly turning into a crisis.

    On the day that the Office for National Statistics confirmed that Britain has entered a double-dip recession, a separate set of statistics proved equally shocking.

    If the latest findings of the Hansard Society's Audit of Political Engagement are anything to go by, our society's malaise is about much more than just GDP growth.

    It has found that the percentage of people who are interested in politics has slumped to just 42%, down 16 points in the last 12 months. Three in ten people are unlikely or definitely not going to bother voting at the next general election. Less than half think parliament debates issues of relevance to their daily lives.

    Read More »from Britain’s decline is about much more than just money
  • By Ian Dunt

    James Murdoch's extraordinary evidence session at the Leveson inquiry has left media secretary Jeremy Hunt on the brink. Can he survive?

    What has Hunt done?

    Jeremy Hunt, the culture, media and sport secretary, was handed responsibility for News Corp's BSkyB bid after Vince Cable was caught boasting about being "at war with Murdoch" to undercover journalists.

    Before he was even handed the file he was already on good terms with News Corp officials. But even as he held a quasi-judicial role in the process, information was being regularly communicated by his staff to the media company.

    The key figure is Frédéric Michel, News Corp's public affairs executive. The evidence from Leveson came from a stack of emails from Michel to James Murdoch. In them, he appears to be receiving highly confidential information from George Osborne's special adviser, Rupert Harrison, and Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith.

    What was in the emails?

    Once Murdoch realised that Cable would not meet him to

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  • Ladies and gentlemen, we need look no further. In Russell Brand, Britain has just found its next prime minister.

    Russell Brand as he prepares to face the committee (Copyright: WENN)

    An improbable suggestion, you might think. But this morning Brand revealed he has what it takes to sweep boring old Westminster aside as he gave evidence to a committee reviewing the Government's drug policy. Yes, he's an oddball, looking and sounding utterly different to your everyday backbencher. But the basic skills needed to be a success at the ballot box were all there. This one, the talent scouts of Whitehall will be whispering, has got what it takes.

    This was not immediately apparent when proceedings began shortly after 11:30 this morning at the House of Commons.

    In walked Brand, surprisingly tall, like lots of celebrities. He walked like someone who is incredibly cool - again, utterly alien to life in Westminster. He wore a long flowing coat, to match his long flowing black hair. His eyes twinkled with amusement. The staid MPs of the home affairs committee looked

    Read More »from Why Russell Brand should be Britain’s next prime minister
  • Photo: Parliament

    Ministers must avoid a referendum at all costs if they are to succeed in reforming the House of Lords. But that doesn't mean the public doesn't deserve one.

    A lot is at stake here. More than just the fortunes of the coalition, whose deputy prime minister has a lot of political capital staked on this reform. More than just the future jobs of the peers who currently inhabit the red benches of the Lords. This is about a huge change in the nature of the upper House, creating a dual-headed monster of a parliament whose behaviour would be very far from certain.

    This isn't a policy issue, like the massive shakeup of the NHS, where the coalition was able to get its head down and eventually get its way. This is a change to the powers of the Lords and, by extension, the Commons. It will have just as big an impact on who runs this place as the electoral reform referendum held last year. So the public have the right to be consulted.

    Yes, referenda are not cheap to hold. But the current era of

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  • By Jeremy Corbyn MP

    Last Tuesday I asked the foreign secretary about progress towards the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, as a vital component of ensuring peace in the region. The reply was: "We have no chance of achieving a nuclear-free Middle East as long as Iran persists in a programme that the world suspects is a nuclear military programme."

    Of course, this programme - one that is 'suspected' by Hague, but not confirmed - is not the real stumbling block in establishing a new nuclear-free zone, but Israel's already- existing arsenal.

    The prospect of the Middle East being free of weapons of mass destruction was revived by the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. Its final document reaffirmed the NPT signatory, stating "endorsement of the aims and objectives of the Middle East peace process", and recognised that efforts in that regard would contribute "to a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction".

    Read More »from Why do we talk about Iran’s nuclear programme but not Israel’s?
  • Getty ImagesBy George Galloway MP

    Slowly and reluctantly, more and more commentators have had to acknowledge that the sensational Bradford West by-election result cannot be trivialised or put down to accidental factors.

    If more had bothered to visit Bradford during the campaign, they would have been less taken aback by the result and not left floundering for an explanation.

    Bradford has revealed the yawning gap between the cast-iron consensus shared by the old three parties over so many fundamental issues on the one hand, and the alienation of millions of people in Britain on the other. The leitmotif of the Bradford Spring was above all the cry for change, rather than the same old, same old. It was for a change in economic policy - not to the Labour frontbench's alternatives of savage cuts for tea rather than for breakfast, but to a strategy for growth, investment and jobs rather than forever putting the interests of the banks and bond markets first. It was for a reversal of over a decade of war

    Read More »from Galloway: Our politicians need to start listening to the people
  • Doing down the Budget

    Getty ImagesIf this Budget were an underfire minister, it would have to resign.

    Nearly a month has passed since George Osborne unveiled his Worst Budget Ever. Enough time for our politicians to get used to the measures it contains, you might think. You would be wrong. As this week's prime minister's questions showed.

    It did not begin this way. Ed Miliband, sensing the public's ongoing anger with George Osborne's changes, immediately set off on a series of scattergun questions looking at the impact of the Budget on families with children, on charities and, of course, on rich people. Cameron responded by crowing about Ed keeping quiet over falling unemployment. That was too predictable. "Only this prime minister could think it is a cause for celebration that one million young people are still unemployed in this country," Miliband replied scathingly. He is becoming better at dealing with open goals.

    A poor start by the PM, but Cameron was able to hit back quickly enough. He gleefully pointed out

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  • Sir George Young, the leader of the Commons, entered the chamber from behind the Speaker's chair. He craned his tall frame upwards, neck straining, half-tortoise, half-giraffe. Not for him the sight of education secretary Michael Gove telling off opposition backbenchers. His interest was focused on the small, smartly-dressed figure at the opposite end of the room.

    That figure was a stranger to the Commons; a member "wishing to take his seat", as the procedure states. It was none other than George Galloway, Gorgeous George, who has recently persuaded the good people of Bradford West that he will champion their interests better than any other candidate in the recent by-election.

    Galloway was sharply dressed for the occasion. An impeccably cut grey suit, a white shirt, a tie the colour of dried blood. As an independent he did not have a party elder to escort him into parliament once again, so the task fell to octogenarian Sir Peter Tapsell. Sir Peter, the grandest of the Tory grandees,

    Read More »from Sketch: The return of George Galloway
  • The true financial cost of obesity

    By Professor Tony Leeds

    GPs and surgeons yesterday launched a campaign to combat obesity, saying current strategies were not working.

    Around 30,000 Britons die prematurely each year of obesity-related conditions, and many more cope day-to-day with conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and osteoarthritis.

    But attached to this appalling human cost is a financial one, and it's snowballing. For every month of inaction now, the cost will multiply, to the point where — in ten years —it could double.

    Today's situation is grim enough. Almost a quarter of adults in England are obese (with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over). Around 800,000 are "morbidly obese" — with a BMI of 40 or higher, the level at which life insurance companies may decline cover. In short, we are moving towards a situation where a million Britons' lives are threatened daily. Again, a truly awful situation in human terms alone.

    But what are the financial costs, and why should politicians act now?

    An oft-quoted

    Read More »from The true financial cost of obesity


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