Archive for December, 2011

The Olympics: a 2.4 sq km project that will benefit the whole of the UK

23/12/2011, 07:30:47 AM

by Tessa Jowell

It’s understandable that in these tough times, as the economy falters and as we hit olympic year, people are of course going to ask is all the spending on the olympics worth it, as Kevin Meagher did on Uncut recently.

It’s right too, that we ensure that the legacy promises we made in government are fulfilled: to transform the heart of east London and inspire a generation of young people through sport.

But Kevin’s polemic misses some key facts about Labour’s reasons for bringing the games to the UK and the reality of what is happening on the ground.

First, it’s just not true that most of the jobs have gone to non-UK residents. The latest figures show that 64% of workers on the olympic park are British citizens and 90% are EU citizens. Contrary to Kevin’s view that local people are not benefiting, 25% of the jobs have gone to residents of the six host boroughs, beating the target of 15% by a good margin. 82% of the olympic park workforce are paid the London living wage or over. While the Tory-Lib Dem government does its best to undermine people’s living standards, here’s one project started by Labour that is still creating social justice.


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Fostering: the ultimate form of community activism

22/12/2011, 08:52:44 AM

by Peter Watt

I wrote recently about other forms of community activism that we, as a political party, should be celebrating. Well can I recommend one in particular to you all: fostering.

Christmas is a time for families and a time for children. It’s a time for celebrating the nurturing, loving and secure environment of home. But of course that is the ideal and we all fall short of that from time to time. And for all sorts of reasons, some children from some families are unable to live at home with their parents. Instead, for a short period, or longer, they live with a foster family. Each and every day in this country there are about 59,000 children and young people living with 45,000 foster families.

The numbers of places available have always been tight, but are getting worse. This week saw fostering network raise the alarm about the looming shortfall in foster carers. Their research indicates that there needs to be a further 8750 families who foster across the UK over the next 12 months to avoid a potential crisis.


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Cumbria was always New and Blue Labour

21/12/2011, 04:04:15 PM

by Jonathan Todd

No less an authority than Lord Mandelson has declared New Labour dead. Dan Hodges has called time on blue Labour. But the revisionist principles driving New Labour long predate it and will surely outlast it. They stretch back to Eduard Bernstein via Tony Crosland and are timeless. As Lord Mandelson certainly knows, they cannot die. And the quest for belonging in a globalised age that underpins blue Labour shows no signs of losing its resonance as we continue to live through globalisation’s biggest economic crisis since the 1930s.

If the revisionist principles of New Labour are un-dead and blue Labour retains significance, perhaps Labour’s future, as both David Miliband and James Purnell have postulated, lies in some fusion of New and Blue Labour.

Labour’s future, in other words, is Cumbrian.

New Labour made Labour’s peace with business; reconciling Labour’s values of social justice with a pro-business attitude at ease with globalisation. Little could be more open for business than a national park which welcomes around 12 million visitors annually, the largest concentration of nuclear expertise in Europe and a vital production facility for BAE Systems, the third-largest defence manufacturer in the world. If New Labour means being pro-business, then New Labour is Cumbrian.


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The Olympics: ten times the disaster of the Dome

20/12/2011, 11:38:23 AM

by Kevin Meagher

I don’t often find myself in agreement with Diane Abbott, but I have cut out her piece from the Independent about the olympic games and pinned it above my desk, so I can read it over and over again while weeping tears of joy.

God bless the woman. She hit the nail on the head, articulating what I have been murmuring to myself for the past couple of years: the 2012 Olympic Games is a dreadful, expensive pile of tosh. Diane didn’t quite put it like that; she is a London MP after all and it takes more bravery for her to diss the games than it does for a chippy northerner like me; but it was a good effort on her part – worthy of a podium spot.

Diane rightly bemoans the “missed opportunity” of not employing more local people in building the games’ infrastructure, saying the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) was “never serious”  about giving opportunities to local people, which may indeed have been a smart move to help avert this summer’s London riots.

Instead the jobs created by the ODA have gone mainly to outsiders, with workers being bussed-in from all across Europe. (more…)

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Cameron lets his cynicism show, again.

19/12/2011, 02:58:00 PM

by John Woodcock

Alastair Campbell’s  notorious “golden rule” on political sackings – that once someone had been subject to a press onslaught for ten days or so they had to go – may well have been apocryphal.

That no-one seems quite sure when he said it or exactly how many days the siege of government had to last before the hapless cabinet member was tossed over the castle ramparts suggests as much.

But Alastair’s rule has passed into Westminster folklore because it accurately encapsulates a wider phenomenon: namely, the power of media pressure in deciding who should be allowed to keep their job in the face of controversy, and who should not.

That sustained pressure has undoubtedly claimed political scalps which, once the storm of controversy has subsided, people realise ought to have remained on their owner’s head.

So on one level, it was shrewd of David Cameron to send out a message on becoming prime minister that he did not recognise the rule and would not be abiding by it. It was the obvious thing for a new premier to do – any signal to the contrary would be an incentive for the press pack to sustain its attack beyond the merits of a story in the knowledge that journalists were guaranteed to get a result if they held out for long enough.


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Sunday review on Monday: “Out of the ashes: Britain after the riots” by David Lammy

19/12/2011, 07:30:19 AM

by Anthony Painter

There is a new moralist movement in British politics. It binds red Tory and blue Labour and even Ed Miliband and David Cameron from time to time. The latter was at it this weekend in his “Christian country” lecture. This new moralism emphasises traditional values, family, responsibility, community, right and wrong, security, good and bad. A judeo-christian thread runs through it. David Lammy’s Out of the Ashes: Britain after the riots is, in part, a significant centre-left expression of this new moralism.

The definitive argument of the new moralism is that Britain has faced two liberal revolutions in the last fifty years: social liberalism in the 1960s and economic liberalism in the 1980s. Both were disastrous and explain why our society faces its current travails. It’s why people are rioting.

This “two revolutions” marker is there in red Toryism, blue Labourism, and it’s in Out of the Ashes:

“The problem is that we can never have enough. The revolutions that shaped modern Britain – the social liberalism of the 1960s and the economic liberalism of the 1980s – have schooled us to think of ourselves as individuals living lives free from each other”.


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Honour and shame in Tower Hamlets

17/12/2011, 12:30:55 PM

by Dan McCurry

We used to be proud of spreading our ideas around the world. Now we are confused about how we explain our identity to the people who have settled here.

The problem is that we need to understand their culture and identity, before we can explain to them our own. With 3,000 honour crime complaints to the police last year, maybe this is the issue that we’re failing to comprehend.

It would help to understand what happened in Tower Hamlets last year, when the Labour party collapsed in on itself over the selection of Lutfur Rahman as candidate for mayor.

It started out as a conversation about secularism. But we didn’t know it was about secularism, because in school we learn everything there is to know about Martin Luther King, but nothing about Martin Luther. We know about the rights of minorities, but not about the separation of church and state.


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The Feltham Fig Leaf

16/12/2011, 07:47:25 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It looks like 2011 is ending for Labour as it began, with a solid victory in a by-election. At the start of the year it was Oldham East and Saddleworth, and last night it was Feltham and Heston.

But although both Oldham and Feltham were strong performances for Labour, the similarities are superficial. The intervening months have fundamentally changed the context.

At the start of the year, the economic argument remained unresolved. Would the public back the Tories’ cuts when they saw them implemented? Or could Labour provide a more persuasive alternative.

Victory in Oldham in January bought the leadership some time to focus the party’s economic policy and make the case to the public.

Since then, Labour has set out its alternative, developing a distinct critique of the coalition and a very different economic prescription.

Eleven months on from Oldham, the choice has been made.

The graph above based on YouGov poll results shows just how badly Labour has lost the argument on the central economic issue – the deficit.


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Hope lies with the (eastern) proles

15/12/2011, 07:59:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

In the summer between the Arab Spring and the European Autumn, my wife and I were naturally delighted about the birth of our first child, Stanley, which helped push the world’s population over 7 billion.

It is autumn in Europe because, notwithstanding the UK’s estrangement under David Cameron, the comparisons between the euro and the titanic continue to hold water. And they will continue to unless the euro is fundamentally reformed.

Cameron has swallowed the City of London’s line on a financial transactions tax. This tax would not be the end of the universe. Indeed, it could contribute towards a rebalancing of the UK economy. However, the move towards this tax seems driven by a determination to punish “Anglo-Saxon capitalism” for the euro’s failings, rather than correct the structural flaws within the currency union, which remain largely in place.

In spite of the persistence of repression in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, spring continues in the Arab world, as democratic flowerings have begun that seem to have an irresistible force. These flowerings were never going to be quick and painless, but the drawn-out process of moving from the left to the right of Ian Bremmer’s J Curve.

Stanley is named after his great-grandfather, who remains as optimistic about America as he did when he emigrated there from Poland over 70 years ago. Hope carried him across the Atlantic. Now hope moves eastwards. Hope powered the Arab Spring, the protests in Russia and the rise of the BRICs. In the decade since the term BRIC was invented these countries have contributed seven UKs (2001 vintage) to the global economy.


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Cameron is the people’s Euro hero

14/12/2011, 10:12:07 AM

by Peter Watt

Recent events have shown that a majority of voters are not generally pro-EU. Or at least they are agnostic at best and not averse to giving the Euro the middle-finger, if given a chance or encouraged. The Times carried a poll on Monday that showed:

“57% of people thought that David Cameron was right to use the veto, with 14% disagreeing and 29% don’t know. 53% also agreed that the use of the veto showed that Cameron is willing to stand up for Britain”.

But as a party we seem to be in denial about this. We seem to think that because we believe that our membership of the EU is a good thing, that everyone, apart from a few rabid right wingers, agrees. After all it is such a reasonable and obviously good thing that countries get on and cooperate, rather than disagree and fight. It can surely only be goggle-eyed euro headbangers that could possibly disagree?  And anyway, no one really cares about Europe. As an issue, it really only worries Tory leaders who need to keep an eye out for friends wielding daggers. Or so the complacent Labour orthodoxy goes.


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