Archive for February, 2011

We can’t afford the luxury of leaving the page blank for much longer

28/02/2011, 12:00:00 PM

by Tom Harris

Ed Miliband was predictably mocked by the Tory benches after his “blank piece of paper” initiative was leaked.

Yet even those government MPs who were oh-so-cleverly holding up their blank order papers for the TV cameras knew that opposition parties, in the immediate aftermath of an election defeat, always – always – review their policy from scratch. The Tories did it in 2005, and in 2001 and in 1997. I seem to remember a perpetual policy review throughout the 80s and into the 90s (remember “Labour Listens”)?

The fact is that the 2010 manifesto failed. It was rejected. It is now deceased, an ex-manifesto. It has joined the Choir Eternal in manifesto heaven. And we will need a brand new one before 2015.

The danger for Ed and our party is that the current political and economic climate doesn’t allow us the relaxed timetable that Cameron enjoyed after his party’s third successive defeat. All the future prime minister had to worry about in those days was how to “detoxify” his party’s brand and capitalise on the inevitable imminent succession of Brown to replace the thrice-victorious Blair. It was all about strategy, message, image. (more…)

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You can’t take on the Taleban with a rolled-up copy of the New Statesman

28/02/2011, 07:00:41 AM

by Michael Dugher

The timing of David Cameron’s trade mission to the Middle East last week, during which he took a large delegation of business figures, many from the defence industries, was awful.  The government’s response to events in Libya and the wider region have been condemned as a complacent shambles. The prime minister, a former marketing man, tried to “rebrand” the trip when he should have known that he needed to remain in the UK to “take charge” and to manage the implications of the growing crisis.

The prime minister should also have had the judgement to know that it was not an appropriate time to be pursuing trade interests with regimes that had begun to attack pro-democracy campaigners in their own countries, and that the priority needed to be the safety and security of British nationals. Douglas Alexander summed it up best:

“I support the promotion of British exports and British goods; that is important to our economic recovery. But I think the last couple of weeks have been a very salutary reminder to David Cameron and to others that foreign policy embraces more than simply trade policy”.

And similarly Ed Miliband wrote in yesterday’s Observer: “Trying to pretend a trade mission for defence manufacturers and other businesses is a ‘democracy tour’ doesn’t cut it”.

But Cameron’s trip also sparked an avalanche of criticism from those, mainly on the left, who remain totally opposed to very existence of the British defence industry. Twitter, in particular, was alive all last week with angry tweeters denouncing the “arms trade” and the “arms salesmen” on board the PM’s plane. The list of major British defence companies who jumped on board the prime minister’s flight included Cobham, Thales UK, QinetiQ and – cue for an especially big boo and an extra large hiss – for that favourite pantomime villain, BAE Systems.  The list also included firms like Rolls Royce, Serco and Amec, all of whom have large defence interests. (more…)

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Monday News Review

28/02/2011, 06:55:13 AM

Action on Libya

David Cameron has given his clearest statement yet that the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi should step down immediately.  Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: “It is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go and to go now, there is no future for Libya that includes him” and he said the British Government was “putting serious pressure” on the regime to relinquish power by imposing a travel ban and an asset freeze.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that a number of Britons had been rescued on Sunday and although there had been some risks, he decided it was the “right thing to do” to ensure British nationals in remote oil fields were evacuated from the country safely. On Sunday evening the Foreign Office confirmed that the Chancellor George Osborne had taken the decision to freeze the assets of the Gaddafi family before the markets open on Monday.  This follows the UN Security Council Resolution tabled by France and Britain, backing sanctions on Libya is response to state violence against protesters. – PoliticsHome (more…)

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Westminster city council proposed byelaw and supporting documents

27/02/2011, 08:04:25 PM

Lots of people found the earlier post regarding the planned byelaw being put forward by tory controlled Westminster council hard to believe. We’ve had countless emails and comments along the lines of:

“This can’t be true, not even the tories are that bad…”

So, just to make sure no one is left in any doubt, here is the draft byelaw:
Draft Rough Sleeping and Soup Run Byelaw

And here is the map of the area they intend to ban people from giving food to homeless people to survive on:
Draft Rough Sleeping and Soup Run Byelaw Boundary

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Tory council to make homelessness illegal

27/02/2011, 03:35:11 PM

The Tories have a new policy on homelessness: make it illegal. That is the extraordinary intention of a Conservative flagship council. Worse, they want to ban Salvation Army soup kitchens.

Westminster city council, the richest and most powerful council in the UK, is proposing a new bye-law to ban rough sleeping and “soup runs” in the Victoria area of London. The proposed new bye-law will make it an offence punishable by a fine to “sleep or lie down”, “deposit materials used as bedding” and to “give out, or permit another to give out, food for free”.

If these proposals are passed, they will also prohibit companies with a proud record of corporate social responsibility from doing good things. Companies like Pret a Manger, who have, very quietly, for many years, given away their unsold food to London’s homeless. If the Tories get their way, companies like Pret will be forced to throw the food in the bin.

What must housing minister, Grant Shapps, think of this? Back in Christmas 2007, Shapps, ostentatiously spent a night in a bag outside Victoria station.

Back then he told Andrew Porter of the Daily Telegraph:

“Our policy is we absolutely need more houses. The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school’. The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there”.

That was then and this is now. If the Tories on Westminster council get their way, Shapps would have been fined for sleeping in the street. Not, we suspect, that he would do it now. (more…)

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The Sunday Review: The New Capitalist Manifesto, by Umair Haque

27/02/2011, 12:03:14 PM

by Anthony Painter

Something is going seriously wrong with capitalism.

Yeah, we’ve heard all this before from you green nuts, socialists, idealists. Why don’t you tell us how mean, corrupt, selfish and deluded we all are again? Whatever.

No, really, something is going wrong with capitalism.

I’ve just said, walk on by – do your recycling, save some workers, sell some Marxist newspapers.

No really…

And this time it really is different. It’s no longer just the fringe that says so. It is the mainstream. And not just the political mainstream. The business and academic mainstream. What’s more, politics, even social democratic politics is light years behind. The new radicals are to be found within the temple of capitalism itself.

Take this:

“There is growing concern that if the fundamental issues revealed in the crisis remain unaddressed and the system fails again, the social contract between the capitalist system and the citizenry may truly rupture, with unpredictable but severely damaging results”.

Who is this dangerous revolutionary? Well, it’s none other than Dominic Barton, global managing director of Mckinsey & Co. Yes, McKinsey & Co. (more…)

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Sunday News Review

27/02/2011, 08:30:34 AM

Ed Miliband: Britain needs a more ethical approach to foreign policy

British citizens facing great danger in Libya have a right to expect more than David Cameron’s shambolic, incompetent government gave them last week. All of us have the right to expect a more coherent and principled foreign policy than the one on show: trying to pretend a trade mission for defence manufacturers and other businesses is a “democracy tour” really doesn’t cut it. But the wider truth is that all western governments are profoundly challenged by the chain of events that began, 10 weeks ago, with a young Tunisian man setting himself on fire in anger and desperation. The central assumption of the durability of long-standing and unpleasant regimes has been swept away. This change in circumstance has left many of the old orthodoxies seeming out of date and on the wrong side of history. – Ed Miliband, The Guardian (more…)

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The week Uncut

26/02/2011, 12:30:25 PM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

Peter Watt thinks our brand’s toxic and we should learn from the Tories

Atul Hatwal brings you the latest shadow cabinet work rate league table

Coach Kevin Meagher is leaving David Miliband on the subs bench, for good

Tom Watson says we must remember the name Mohamed Bouazizi

Peter Mandelson on why there should have been a Granita II

Rob Marchant on faith schools and why a bad idea just got worse

Stefan Stern says Cameron has failed the leadership test

Dave Howells is not happy seeing the sacred cow go off to slaughter

Dan Hodges gets cross with the preachers of  “fairer votes”

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AV is a quick fix benefitting only politicians. And Lib Dem ones at that.

26/02/2011, 10:30:01 AM

by Dan Johnson

In May of last year, Teesside suffered a shock. It was one the Labour party had warned against, but nonetheless people were taken aback. The people of Redcar, devastated by the closure of a local steelworks, blamed their MP, Vera Baird, and sought solace in the arms of the Lib Dems, and many now regret it.

We are often told that in too many seats votes don’t count, that those seats are “safe”, but events in Redcar show that it simply isn’t true. Who, after the 2005 election, would think Labour would lose this seat?

Who, after the elections in 2001 in Blaenau Gwent, Brent Central or Hornsey and Wood Green would suspect that the next time they went to the polls a Labour MP wouldn’t be returned?

There’s no such thing as a safe seat. In fact, the LibDems have made a Parliamentary party out of proving this at by-elections and general elections alike. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

26/02/2011, 08:30:25 AM

Tory plot to oust speaker

The government is privately backing a plan to oust the Commons Speaker John Bercow after the next election. Senior ministers are supporting a proposal which could force the Speaker to face a secret ballot of all MPs to retain his post. If he fails to be re-elected it would be the first time a sitting Speaker has been removed from office against their will. Ministers believe there is a majority in the House of Commons in favour of removing Bercow – but MPs are worried about voting in public to remove him in case he survives in the job. They are giving their tacit support to a plan that would change Commons rules to ensure that the Speaker has to be approved for re-election by secret ballot at the start of the Parliamentary term. As Select Committee chairs are already elected by secret ballot at the start of every Parliament, they believe they can sell it as part of the wider reforms programme which it will be difficult for the Speaker to object to. – the Independent

Ministers have given the green light to a new attempt by MPs to oust Commons Speaker John Bercow. Members of the Cabinet have revealed they will cooperate with a plan to change Parliamentary rules so the Speaker can be kicked out by secret ballot. It would allow MPs to remove the unpopular Speaker without them having to put their heads above the parapet. Despite the discontent towards  Mr Bercow – who is accused of bias against the Tories – many of his critics have been reluctant to push for him to quit for fear of suffering reprisals. But Conservative Party managers have decided to give MPs a free vote on plans to change the rules and bring in a secret ballot, Cabinet sources have revealed. – Daily Mail (more…)

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