Talking Politics
  • By Nazek Ramadan

    Entering the Calais migrant camp is like stepping out of Europe and into another time and space. I spent the day there earlier this month and at times it felt more like some of the poorest parts of the world rather than France.

    I was lucky to travel on a warm dry day, but I could easily imagine the state of the camp and the tents in the heavy rain, cold and mud. As we head towards winter the conditions there are only going to get worse.

    There are around 3000 people at the camp divided into clusters of different nationalities.

    A Syrian group told me there are around 250 Syrians in Calais. They were disappointed at the way France is treating them and at the UK’s lack of willingness to help. I asked why they hadn’t applied for asylum in France and some said they had but were waiting for a decision or the first interview. Others mentioned having family members in the UK or their knowledge of the English language.

    It was very clear to me after my long conversation with them that

    Read More »from The forgotten faces of the Calais migrant crisis
  • Tim Farron has always been an excellent orator, but something about leadership has taken him up a level.

    His keynote address to the Lib Dem conference was a masterclass. He got the comedy beats right and he got the rousing rhetoric right. He knew when to stop for applause and when to use it as backdrop. It was powerful stuff, and then it was genuinely funny, and then it was powerful again.

    Farron doesn’t photograph well, as those much-shared images of him looking afraid of milk cartons attest. He doesn’t interview particularly well either, as his less-than ideal moment on the Today programme showed on Monday. But he can get on a stage and keep an audience in the palm of his hand.

    The Lib Dems needed it and were grateful for it. They all seemed genuinely enthused afterwards, although they are such a resolutely upbeat lot it can be hard to tell. Farron knew how to stroke their belly. And that’s not to underestimate what he did here. These people had been hammered by the public, decimated in

    Read More »from Farron's speech was brilliantly delivered – but terribly misjudged
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    One wonders what Nick Clegg would have to do to make the Lib Dems hate him. Sleep with their other halves? Scar their children? After all, he’s tarnished their political values, reduced them to parliamentary rubble and turned their political aspirations into a dinner party joke. But still they packed the halls at the Bournemouth conference centre for him. They rose as one for a standing ovation as soon as he entered and again for a more prolonged one as he left.

    “Wonderful man,” a woman on the end of my row of seats said as I passed her. “Wonderful man.” As I left the hall, an elderly woman said to her husband: “I’m glad it was so full. He deserved that.”

    To be fair to him, it was actually a very good speech, not because of its formulation but for how perfectly it encapsulated the state of the speaker and his audience. Both Clegg and the people in the hall are picking up the pieces, trying to figure out what, if anything, went right, and what went wrong. It was the political equivalent

    Read More »from Even after everything, Lib Dems still love Nick Clegg
  • Sadiq Khan may be the narrow favourite with bookies to succeed Boris Johnson as mayor of London, but most Labour people I’ve spoken to believe he has a mountain to climb in order to beat Zac Goldsmith next year.

    As last week’s landslide result shows, Khan is popular among party activists. But he also has his enemies. Many of those who backed Tessa Jowell to be Labour’s mayoral candidate are now deeply sceptical about Khan’s chances in 2016.

    “Sadiq can’t win,” one senior London Labour figure told me this week. “We were beaten in the general election and we’re going to be beaten again in London next year.”

    Others are more hopeful. Despite failing elsewhere, Labour achieved one of its best ever results in London last May, increasing their share of the vote from 37% to 44%. If Khan can hold onto that vote he has every chance of becoming mayor in 2016.

    But while this headline figure may look good for Sadiq, it hides a less impressive wider result for the party. Yes Labour’s share of the vote

    Read More »from Khan he win? Labour harbours doubts about beating Zac Goldsmith
  • By Lynda Thomas

    A series of reports and reviews have highlighted how the UK’s inconsistent and sometimes worryingly ad hoc approach to end of life care is currently failing.

    We know that many people with cancer have trouble accessing end-of-life social care at home. Research commissioned by Macmillan released this week showed that nearly half (44%) of people with terminal cancer rely solely on family and friends for practical support. Seven in 10 of those who felt they didn’t have enough support had to go to hospital as part of an unplanned or emergency visit.

    The distress of people spending their final days in hospital because of a lack of support at home is not something we should tolerate.

    The Choice Review, published in February, recognised this problem and among other measures recommended that people’s end of life preferences are recorded so that staff across the health and social care systems know of people’s choices. It also highlighted the need for fast and free access to social

    Read More »from How government policy can help give people a 'good death'
  • By Ellie Mae O'Hagan


    The first time I appeared on Newsnight was the week before the US elections in 2012. I remember because I went to Washington the day afterwards to follow a group of Democrats seeking to get Obama re-elected.

    One morning in DC I woke up to find dozens of text messages from friends in Britain asking if I was ok. Sleepy and squinting at the morning sunlight, I logged onto Twitter to see what the fuss was about. Turns out the Daily Mail had run a piece arguing that, in a paranoid act of political correctness, the BBC had only invited me on Newsnight because I was a woman. “All in the name of gender equality,” it sighed.

    I was cross and still tired, so I bashed out a quick response on Twitter. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I remember recounting the grilling I’d undergone by producers to see if I could hack live TV. “I didn’t just get invited on because I have a vagina,” I thundered, going into unnecessary detail, “I actually had to be good as well” The story

    Read More »from Corbyn's Cabinet let women down - but he can still capture their support
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment of Ken Livingstone’s former aide Neale Coleman as his new ‘head of policy and rebuttal’ was widely reported yesterday.

    However, Corbyn made another key appointment which has been missed. He also hired Ken Livingstone’s former head of events Anneliese Midgley, as his new deputy chief of staff.

    Midgley’s appointment is significant because it means that alongside Livingstone’s former chief of staff Simon Fletcher (who now becomes Corbyn’s chief of staff) and John McDonnell (who worked for Ken at the GLC) four members of the Labour leader’s inner circle are former senior Ken aides.

    With Livingstone himself also making regular television appearances in support of Corbyn, the apparent Ken-takeover of the Labour leadership now seems all but complete.

    Midgley was a close aide of Livingstone, working on his unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign, as well as Corbyn’s far more successful selection campaign.

    Closely involved in left-wing politics, Midgley moves to Corbyn

    Read More »from Jeremy Corbyn leadership taken over by former Ken Livingstone aides
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    By Laura McInerney

    If Jeremy Corbyn were an omnipotent wizard his education spells would achieve the following:

    ·  Granting lifelong free education to everyone via a ‘National Education Service’ (otherwise  known as 'schools and universities’)
    ·  Vamoosing grammar schools off the planet and replacing them with comprehensives
    ·  Removing the individual charities currently running ‘academy’ schools and letting local authorities step back in and oversee them from town halls.

    Thing is, though: Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a wizard. He isn’t even prime minister. He’s just the guy who gets to stand opposite the guy who has the real power.

    So what will Corbyn’s election to Labour leader really mean for education? On the surface, not much. His party barely put a scratch in the coalition’s education plans last time around and there’s no evidence his new shadow Cabinet will do any better.

    Only one thing makes me nervous about Corbyn and schools. Ninety-seven out of every 100 teachers in England is in a union.

    Read More »from Academies dismantled, tuition fees scrapped - what a Corbyn education policy might look like
  • Yesterday’s prime minister’s questions had all the makings an unmitigated disaster for Labour’s new leader. He began his day accused of offending the nation by refusing to sing the national anthem, while one of his own aides had been accused of assaulting a journalist. Meanwhile the nation’s press had moved onto its fifth solid day of negative headlines about his leadership. If this was supposed to be Jeremy Corbyn’s honeymoon, then he’d be forgiven for wanting to annul the wedding.

    As a result, Corbyn’s arrival in the Commons was greeted with an almighty cheer from the Tory benches. While in the past, newly elected leaders might have expected a heroes’ welcome at their first PMQs, Corbyn’s arrival was met with just two order papers waved from the Labour benches. Behind Corbyn, his MPs’ faces were locked in what can most generously be described as a state of grim expectation. Standing at the side, an impish looking Grant Shapps grinned manically. Above them all, a pit of sharks circled

    Read More »from No blood in the water as Jeremy Corbyn emerges unscathed from PMQs
  • The mudslide of outrage which hit Jeremy Corbyn after he refused to sing the national anthem during a Battle of Britain memorial service has been quite something to behold. Corbyn was branded a “disgrace” and anti-British by the press overnight, with the BBC leading with the story this morning.

    Even Corbyn’s own side have turned on him over the issue. The shadow minister for women and equalities told the Today Programme this morning that Corbyn’s refusal will have “offended and hurt” people’s “feelings” while Labour peer Lord West said it was an “extraordinary” decision which “a large number of people in this country will be offended by”.

    Now it may well be that there are a handful of people out there whose feelings are genuinely hurt and offended by the sight of a middle aged man standing in a room while not singing. However, I would suggest that their feelings must be in such a highly sensitive state that they would be best advised to board up the windows and never leave the house

    Read More »from Jeremy Corbyn should be applauded for refusing to sing the national anthem


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