Talking Politics
  • It might sound like a cliché to say that the Palace of Westminster is a hotbed of intrigue, but that is very much the case as the Lords reform battle begins in earnest.

    There isn't actually that much to report from the Commons itself. A minor government official stood up and announced the first reading of the House of Lords reform bill. There were no debates and no divisions. Another long Westminster day wears on.

    Outside the chamber the atmosphere is undeniably different, however. Copies of the government bill were available almost immediately after prime minister's questions. Journalists, politicians and their researchers have scurried away, clutching the much-anticipated papers, scanning the fine print for black-and-white evidence of government concessions (actually it's black-and-green, as bills are printed on coloured paper). David Cameron, Nick Clegg and co want to replace the appointed Lords we've got at the moment with a mainly elected second chamber. Its size will be cut down

    Read More »from Lords reform: The mother of all Westminster battles awaits
  • Jane Kinninmont is a senior research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at Chatham House

    Egypt's new president, Mohammed Mursi, is the country's first civilian leader for more than 60 years, and the first Islamist politician in the modern Arab world to come to power through the ballot box. Yet he is taking on a presidency that has been stripped of some important powers by the council of generals that has been ruling Egypt throughout its 18-month political transition. The elected parliament, in which his party held a plurality of the seats, was unexpectedly dissolved two weeks ago by a court order. As Egypt prepares to write a new constitution, it is unclear how long the current president will be allowed to stay in office. Since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Egyptian politics have gone through a series of dramatic twists, turns and surprises. One of the few things that can be said with much certainty today is that the power struggle in Egypt is

    Read More »from Egypt’s power struggle is still in its early days
  • Cameron's welfare speech marks the beginning of the end for the coalition. But it could help extend its life as well.

    This is, at least, the beginning of the endgame. The Conservative leader's speculation about what his party might do in government after 2015 begins a process which will dominate the run-up to the next general election.

    'Policy differentiation', as the academics call it, is a subject which until now has troubled the Liberal Democrats more than the Tories. That's because the Lib Dems are seen as getting a rawer deal from the coalition than their senior partners.

    Now that is changing. Cameron's first overt move to distinguish himself from the Liberal Democrats shows that his mind's focus is now no longer solely on keeping the coalition intact. He has more than one eye on what lies ahead - and is modifying his behaviour in 2012 as a result.

    The prime minister's subject matter is no coincidence. Benefits is one of those touchstone issues that fires up the Tory right, which

    Read More »from Cameron’s welfare crackdown is beginning of the end for the coalition
  • By Steve Rolles

    Drugs are bad, therefore we must prohibit them. That's the simplistic concept that our punitive approach to drugs is based on. But for a policy that wants to create a 'drug-free' society, criminalising production, supply and possession has been a total failure.

    Drugs are now cheaper and easier to get a hold of, demand is growing and worse still, the 'war on drugs' has created a sprawling international illicit trade controlled by violent criminal entrepreneurs. These mafia kings now turn over more than $300 billion [£191 billion] each year, around £5 billion a year in the UK alone.

    Yet these arguments have actually become mainstream and many experts think the UK's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is out-of-date. The now-infamous Professor David Nutt, who said horse riding was more dangerous than taking ecstasy, gave evidence again at a parliamentary select committee this week arguing to decriminalise drugs. It is worth remembering that the last time parliament tackled this

    Read More »from What would the world look like after the war on drugs?
  • Laia Blanch is international programmes officer at War on Want

    The time has come to unite the hundreds of struggles, campaigns, networks, movements and organisations combating the diverse ways transnational corporations are appropriating our destinies, natural heritage and rights in every corner of the planet.

    Neoliberal globalisation has opened the doors for the exploitation of the world by huge economic powers. They have taken over our lives by creating a blanket of impunity through the dismantling and systematic violation of laws and signing trade and investment agreements which award investors more rights than citizens. Peoples' freedoms have been violated, the earth and its resources destroyed, pillaged and contaminated, and resistance criminalised, while such firms continue to commit economic and ecological crimes without redress. These corporations, driven by their imperative of maximising profit, seek to pit workers from different regions against each other in a race to the

    Read More »from It’s time to confront corporations’ crimes against humanity
  • Wikileaks is dead and Julian Assange killed it.

    The Australian activist has betrayed the founding principles of the organisation he helped create. The plea for asylum in London's Ecuadorian embassy is just the latest absurdity in a saga which has overshadowed the emergence of a vital political technology.

    Far from disseminating information, Assange now peddles disinformation. The most pernicious example is his claim that Swedish charges against him are part of a conspiracy to have him extradited to the United States. This claim has been bolstered by a considerable amount of nonsense about Sweden's 'feminist extremism' and the idea that the allegations against Assange would not constitute rape or sexual molestation in the UK.

    Assange is accused by two women of sexual assault during a short break in Sweden in 2010. The first claims he held her down with his body weight during sex and that she was a victim of 'unlawful coercion'. The second claims that after they had protected sex one

    Read More »from Assange has betrayed Wikileaks and its principles
  • HBO EnterprisesBreaking into the American market: sooner or later every Brit worth their salt has a go. Satirist Armando Iannucci, having flirted with the US in In The Loop, the feature length version of his hit political series The Thick Of It, is making solid progress towards achieving this goal. His new sitcom is based on the political travails of the 'Veep' - the vice president of the United States.

    So much of Iannucci's work is about the comedy of impotence, and Veep is no exception. Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Selina Meyer, whose desperate attempts to make a difference are continually overshadowed by the president. The office she holds is afforded huge respect - motorcades and rooms full of hundreds of people are in a different league to the British politicians Iannucci has satirised. Behind closed doors, though, the story is the same: Meyer's influence is very, very limited indeed. She starts off fairly naive, making stupid mistakes, but ends up getting "more fragile and wily as

    Read More »from Armando Iannucci heads stateside with new sitcom Veep
  • Green leadership begins at home

    By Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends Of The Earth

    Over 100 world leaders are travelling to Rio de Janeiro this week for a major UN summit on how to tackle the dangerous threat to our planet's life-support systems. The Rio+20 talks come 20 years after the first 'Earth Summit', where countries agreed plans for national and international efforts to protect the planet we all rely on.

    The situation now is very different to 1992. We're facing a triple global emergency of economic crisis, billions of people going hungry and an ever-growing squeeze on our world's limited natural resources. We've already exceeded the safe operating space for three of the nine key planetary systems — climate change, biodiversity loss and excess nitrogen and phosphorus production.

    And we're not immune in the UK, where symptoms of this crisis have seen key species like bees dramatically decline — threatening our food supply — energy bills soar due to spiralling gas prices, and communities

    Read More »from Green leadership begins at home
  • Sue Baker is director of Time to Change, England's biggest mental health anti-stigma programme

    It was little more than a week ago when I was listening to Canadian minister of labour, Lisa Raitt, make a remarkable disclosure of her own experiences of post-natal depression. For years she had thought about whether to openly disclose this experience, but decided to so during her speech to the largest ever international conference on mental health stigma and discrimination, in Ottawa last week.

    It was heartfelt and incredibly moving to hear her speak so openly and honestly. There was no mistaking the other internal battle she had experienced; whether disclosure as a serving minister was a professional risk worth taking. This is the terrible burden that those of us with mental health problems face; the weight of stigma and discrimination and the potential consequences of disclosure.

    I sat and listened with a growing sense of hope that perhaps we are starting to see more people in positions

    Read More »from Politicians should be able to admit their mental health problems
  • "There are moments when you think these are hours of your life which you're not going to get back," David Cameron said at one point during his 280 minutes of evidence to the Leveson inquiry. He was talking about the tedium of media appearance after media appearance. For the more cruel-minded amongst you, the same might apply to watching the prime minister today.

    Yet once you start to unpick what was actually going on in court room 73, once you start to look closer and peer into the tactics the PM used, it all gets just a little bit more interesting. The strategies deployed by David Cameron - who didn't get where he is today without being a master at the art of politicking - were pushed to the limit as he strove to avoid trouble. This grilling was a threat, but it was also an opportunity for the prime minister to make his case.

    Did he succeed? That's ultimately in the eye of the beholder, but by breaking down some of his more interesting ploys we can get a sense of the way the session

    Read More »from How Cameron survived Leveson


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