Archive for August, 2010

Nick Palmer wants to avoid the traps on animal cruelty

27/08/2010, 09:08:36 AM

One of the traps for the new Labour leadership is the notion that politics in Britain today is entirely about deficit reduction. How to do it? How fast? How much? Yes, we need to have an intelligent and balanced response to the Tory-Lib Dem government’s cuts frenzy, but Labour victories have always been based not just on good management but on policies to make our society better.

One element of the 1997 victory was the separate New Life for Animals manifesto, which set out a long list of ways that Labour would make Britain more compassionate. The best-known reform was of course the hunting ban, but arguably the animal welfare act 2006 will change the life of animals in Britain more deeply, because it makes it possible for future government to introduce easily-passed secondary legislation on everything from circus animals to pet markets. It was the first comprehensive animal welfare legislation for 96 years.


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Friday News Review

27/08/2010, 07:54:34 AM

Ed confirms family rift

“In the battle between the two Miliband brothers for the Labour leadership crown, things are getting a little bit tense. Ed admitted to the Daily Mirror that hadn’t spoken to David in two weeks – but he insisted the contest would not damage their relationship.

He accepted there was an “honest disagreement” between them about the direction of the Labour Party. Ed launched into his strongest attack so far on his brother’s tactics and his closeness to Mr Blair’s New Labour project. Banging the desk, he all but accused David of being trapped by the right-wing press into thinking only a move to the right would see Labour back in power.” – The Mirror

Other candidates round on Milibands

“From candidates who said they wanted to move beyond the new Labour / old Labour debates of the past, there is a danger of walking into caricatures. What we actually need to do here is put together a programme that is credible on the economy and on interest rates but at the same time will deliver the decent public services and the fairness that the majority of lower and middle income families want. The idea that we should either only focus on unskilled working people on the one hand or only focus on middle England on the other, I think both those things are pretty out of date. I worry that they’re rerunning the debates of the past.” – Ed Balls, Left Foot Forward


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The Oona King interview: **contains Wire spoilers**

26/08/2010, 03:30:48 PM

Oona: cute child not included

There are many signs on the wall in Oona King’s campaign office. One states that you may have “tea, or coffee, and MAYBE a biscuit”. A poster charts the details of hot drink preferences for every member of the office (Oona, decaf coffee with milk). Somebody has hand-drawn a week countdown calendar to the ballot on a piece of A4 paper. It is simple but well organised.

Oona’s office is up a tiny spiral staircase. There are dog-sized seagulls staring in at the window of the boathouse-type affair on Heron Quay, but even their squalling, which occasionally drowns out the recording, can’t do much to mask Oona’s cackling laugh. Had we used the Uncut Laughometer for our crowdsourced interviews, Oona’s would have won on the decibel of her laugh alone.

As the campaign staff whisper around the Newsnight team setting up downstairs, Oona perches in heeled patent red boots on her office chair, next to a picture of her model-cute son and cackles away with her spin doctor. (She can’t show us any pictures of her little girl, she explains, because her phone and laptop were stolen at the weekend).


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Blair’s hand of history is flipping us the finger – but that’s ok, says Dan Hodges

26/08/2010, 11:37:02 AM

THE TINY BAND which follows my musings on Twitter knows three things: I can’t spell; I regularly Tweet globally matters meant for private consumption; and during the world cup I mounted an isolated and ultimately futile campaign in defence of Emile Ivanhoe Heskey.

To me, Big Emile is socialism personified. The collective before the individual. The selfless work ethic. Dignified persistence in the face of intolerance and prejudice.

There’s also something wonderfully affirming about setting yourself against the majority. Knowing that you, and you alone, are voting online for Emile to start against the USA. That you will be the only person in the bar in a t-shirt sporting the Ivanhoe heraldic crest. Celebrating his sublime flick, whilst the rest see only Gerrard’s finish. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

26/08/2010, 08:24:39 AM

Feuding brothers

“It was always an ambitious hope. Two loving brothers would maintain warm relations even as they both challenged for one of the greatest prizes in British politics. But the seemingly friendly contest between the two Milibands for the Labour leadership has come to an abrupt halt as the sons of one of Britain’s greatest Marxist thinkers turned their fire on each other.” – The Guardian

“The mother of Labour leadership contenders David and Ed Miliband is ‘upset’ that their relationship has been damaged as the feud between the brothers erupted into open warfare yesterday. A Labour activist who knows the family said: ‘Marion is finding it all very difficult. They have been a close family for years and now she is concerned that their relationship will never be the same again.” – The Daily Mail

Clegg forced onto the defensive

The hard-hitting conclusion from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) did not take into account moves to get people off benefits and into work, the Deputy Prime Minister said.  IFS, Britain’s leading economic think-tank, calculates that the poor will be disproportionately hit by the measures, which include tax rises and benefits cuts. Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers have claimed that other changes, including an upcoming £1000 rise on the point at which income tax is paid, will protect the poorest in society.  But this was clearly undermined by the IFS analysis, which suggested that the most disadvantaged would still be worst off, bearing more of the brunt of the cuts than the wealthy. Yesterday the Liberal Democrat leader attacked the figures as partial.” – The Herald Scotland

Cruddas backs Miliband Senior

“Our party has such talent and energy. We can no longer be divided against ourselves. Together, we can kick the coalition out of office and develop a new agenda, with proposals for a living wage, union representatives on company boards, new social housing and investment in green jobs. This is why I’m supporting David Miliband’s campaign. He has the patience, the strength and the convictions to get the public listening to us. He can lead a credible opposition and build a party that is united for the first time in a decade.” – Jon Cruddas, The Mirror

Scargill gets the boot

“Former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill has been told he is being expelled from the National Union of Mineworkers. Mr Scargill, who led the union through a bitter, year-long strike over pit closures in the 1980s, is among a number of people who have received letters saying they no longer qualify for membership. Mr Scargill, the union’s former president, has told friends he intends to fight the move. He retained an honorary position within the NUM after standing down as a full-time official and has been engaged in work for the union.” – The Press Association

Cameron reveals name

“David Cameron’s new-born daughter is to be named Florence Rose Endellion, Downing Street has revealed. The baby was born by caesarean section, weighing 6lb 1oz, on Tuesday while the prime minister and wife Samantha were on holiday in Cornwall. St Endellion is a village in the north of the county.” –

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Milena Popova on the government’s misunderstanding and misuse of information

25/08/2010, 01:19:10 PM

I have been re-watching the West Wing recently – it is remarkably addictive. Somwhere in between mainlining up to 5 episodes a night, this quote struck me:

“It’s not just about abortion, it’s about the next 20 years. Twenties and thirties it was the role of government, fifties and sixties it was civil rights. The next two decades it’s gonna be privacy. I’m talking about the Internet. I’m talking about cell phones. I’m talking about health records and who’s gay and who’s not. And moreover, in a country born on the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?”

Sam Seaborn says this in the first-season episode “The Shortlist”; so if Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the show, understood this back in 1999, why is it that our politicians and leaders continue to be so woefully ill-equipped for the 21st century eleven years later? (more…)

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Chris Kelly and the young game cockerel: caption contest

25/08/2010, 10:29:17 AM

The Conservative MP for the seat of Dudley South is the millionaire heir to the Keltruck haulage fortune, Chris Kelly.

After barely two months in Parliament, he took the opportunistic photo intervention to new places on 16 July.

Some small children having “found a young game cockerel”, Kelly turned up at their school with his camera to rescue the situation. His press release tells us that he “enjoyed showing the cockerel to the reception class and went to lengths to explain to the children his knowledge of chickens.”

The man is a genius.

One Conservative colleague described him as “the most self-promoting man, including all politicians, that I have ever seen”.

We must not let him out of our sight.

In the meantime, what is Chris saying to the young game cockerel, or vice versa?

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Wednesday News Review

25/08/2010, 07:10:28 AM

The Milibands get personal

“David Miliband will today make his strongest criticism of his younger brother Ed with the Labour leadership contest getting personal as it reaches a critical stage. The former foreign secretary will suggest his brother is pandering to Labour’s core vote rather than reaching out to the middle classes and that his strategy will keep the party in opposition rather than return it to power. David Miliband will set out clear dividing lines between him and his brother, seen as the two front-runners in the race to succeed Gordon Brown. Ballot papers will be sent out next week and the result announced on 25 September.” – The Independent

“We must look forward for new ideas and outward for a new coalition of voters. There is no future for Labour in the comfortable but deadening policies of the past. And there is no future in a politics based on a tactical, patchwork approach to building electoral support.” His speech at the King Solomon academy in north London comes as the Labour leadership contest appears to have narrowed to a straight fight between the Miliband brothers, whose strong relationship has become strained over the summer.” – The Guardian

Diane Abbott: The myth of the forgotten middle class

“There was a ubiquitous television advert for sweets in the 1980s where the catch line featured an endearing moppet saying “Don’t forget the fruit gums mum!” You no longer see this ad. But the right of the Labour Party has it’s own ubiquitous recurring theme where someone pops up and says “Don’t forget the middle classes!” The latest tribune of the right to utter this sentiment is my leadership rival David Miliband. We do not have to choose between appealing to middle-class and working-class voters. It is bogus to pretend that anybody is suggesting this. But only when we leave the “New Labour” era behind will voters of all classes be willing to trust us again.” – Diane Abbott, The Independent

The first of many?

“A Liberal Democrat councillor in Liverpool has defected to Labour because of his opposition to the coalition government’s latest cuts. Ian Jobling is believed to be one of the first councillors in the country to switch sides since the May elections. Mr Jobling, who was first elected in 2003 and is a member of Merseyside Police Authority, said the proposed cuts to the police force had really bothered him. He told the BBC: “On 28 May, when the coalition was only two weeks old, communication came through that we would have to have a £4m budget cut to policing.” –

Changing of the guard in Wales

“The Welsh Labour Party’s general secretary is to quit, he has announced. Chris Roberts, 52, said he intended to step down from the top job after five years in the post, saying five years was “about right” for the job and he was leaving in order to pursue new challenges.” – Wales Online

6 lbs 1 oz

“There were cross-party messages of support for the couple on Twitter, with Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls writing: “Wonderful news about the Cameron’s new baby – she will share a birthday with our 9 year old son – just finishing birthday cake.” – Ed Balls,

“Shadow foreign secretary and Labour leadership favourite David Miliband said: “I’d like to offer many congratulations to Samantha and David Cameron on the birth of their baby girl.” – David Miliband, Daily Telegraph

Paternity leave, but when?

“Despite presumably being the last thing on Mr Cameron’s mind, the early birth has several political implications.  The prime minister used the scheduled paternity leave as a decent reason to excuse himself from the invitation to speak at the TUC annual conference, where he was likely to receive an angry reception from delegates.  The birth raises the possibility of him attending the conference.” –

Another Tory non-dom?

“The controversial hedge fund manager who gave £500,000 to the Tories faced questions about his tax status last night after official records suggested that he is resident in Switzerland.  Millionaire Jon Wood did not pay tax in the UK until 18 months ago and his business moved from the tax haven of Monaco to Britain only earlier this year. Yet he became the Tories’ largest donor in the run-up to the General Election when he handed over the cheque two days before polling day.” – Daily Mail

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Was David Miliband marauding before the gun was fired?

24/08/2010, 05:26:20 PM

THERE was an intriguing little tale in last week’s Independent diary. It’s a story that has been doing the rounds for a while. The question was whether or not David Miliband was running a “shadow” leadership campaign during the general election, when everyone else’s noses were firmly pressed against the grindstone.

The Indy reckons it has proof that Miliband Major was buttering up Labour members in safe seats rather than knuckling down to campaign in nearby marginals. The paper seems to have a copy of his campaign itinerary from 25 April that shows the then foreign secretary touring Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton South East and Manchester Withington, meeting “members and supporters” rather than actual voters.

Miliband’s people say the story is “absolute rubbish” claiming that the itinerary “was put together by the Labour party for David to follow, which he did.” Which is slightly strange. Why would the party put one of the best known faces in the government into safe seats rather than marginal ones? Senior members of the cabinet don’t get told where they must go. Most are willing to go with the flow, but some make demands that would make J-Lo blush. (more…)

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Labour leadership top trumps

24/08/2010, 01:04:40 PM

Uncut has commissioned Dave Howells to produce that crucial leadership contest accessory: the top trumps.

Like real top trumps, it won’t keep you amused for very long unless you are a small child. But with the Milibands’ respective movements for changes each trundling on and Andy Burnham’s new 9,000 word manifesto o’ t’North just out, we’re confident that there’s a market for minor distraction.

Readers who feel that any scores have been misassessed, or that new special powers should be added, are encouraged to record them below. (The graphic may take a while to load on slower connections).

You can follow Dave Howells on Twitter.

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