Archive for January, 2012

Sunday Review on Monday: The dog that finally barked by Richard Wyn Jones, Guy Lodge, Ailsa Henderson, Daniel Wincott

23/01/2012, 07:30:44 AM

by Anthony Painter

Is England the new Catalonia? It’s a serious question. We’ve up until this point associated regional pride with secessionist regions in the north of Spain. FC Barcelona, anti-Francoism, pride and fierce independence is how we think of one of Europe’s most vibrant and vivacious regions. It’s easy to see Scotland in the same sort of independent light. But England? Well, a new report into Englishness suggests that we might be entering that territory.

The Dog That Finally Barked published today, by the IPPR, assembles a stack of evidence that suggests that after many years of a predicted rise of Englishness, it is now actually happening. Not only that, but this rising Englishness has a political expression that may become irresistible. This has profound implications for the future of the centre-left. And yet we bury our heads in the sand even more firmly the more difficult questions of identity and nationhood become.

In a selection of European “regions” (or “nation”, cross-national definitions are tricky but bear with it), 45% of Catalans feel more Catalan than Spanish. Scotland is top of the “regional” pride league with 60% saying they are more Scottish than British (only 11% say they are more British than Scottish). Independence is still very much a live possibility.


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Cameron’s PMQs boasts unravel again

20/01/2012, 08:03:46 AM

by Atul Hatwal

In what is becoming a regular fixture at prime minister’s questions, another one of David Cameron’s answers has unravelled as the facts have come to light.

Scrabbling around for a response to Ed Miliband’s attack on the catastrophic 8% rise in unemployment over the past year to 2.7 million, the prime minister wheeled out his government’s commitment to training, highlighting the small 1% fall in long term unemployment in the last quarter from 867,000 to 857,000.  He stated,

“Any increase in unemployment is disappointing… That is why we are taking so much action to try and help people to get back into work… It is…noteworthy that there is a small decrease in long-term unemployment. I hope that shows that schemes such as the work programme that the government are introducing are beginning to have an effect”.

But Uncut can reveal that despite the prime minister’s boasts of action to boost training, his administration has actually cut the number of places available by 26%, from 141,000 to 96,000 over the past year.


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Labour can punish the government’s complacency on crime

19/01/2012, 01:24:23 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

The latest quarterly crime figures were published today. They include figures for recorded crime, and for the British Crime Survey (BCS), covering the 12 months to September 2011.

Recorded crime showed an overall fall, and a fall in most crime types – apart from robbery and theft, which rose by 4%. Robbery with a knife rose by 10%.

However, it is the British Crime Survey (BCS) which gives a more accurate picture of crime levels and trends, because it includes crimes not reported to the police, and has used the same methodology for thirty years. (The UK Statistics Authority impressed this point on the Conservatives before the election, and as they have now accepted it.) Today’s BCS figures estimate that overall crime rose by 4%, but this is not found to be statistically significant. The figures also show increases in all BCS categories, except vandalism and bicycle theft – but again, these are not found to be statistically significant.

The most important BCS finding, and the most important in today’s figures as a whole, is for the sub-set of “personal crime” – which includes violence, robbery and theft, and other “personal acquisitive crime”. This rose by 11% – a finding which is statistically significant.

Another notable point is the continuing trend of increasing public confidence that “the police and local council are dealing with the anti-social behaviour and crime issues that matter in the local area”. The trend in public confidence was rising for several years before the election, on the back of Neighbourhood Policing and other initiatives, and confidence is now at 57%. This directly refutes ministers’ repeated assertion that confidence in the police is falling – an assertion which has formed a large part of their justification for introducing elected Policing and Crime Commissioners.

Today’s statistics also include more detail on last summer’s riots, and on knife crime. They confirm that despite the high visibility of the riots, there is little effect on overall crime levels. Even in the areas concerned, looking only at the month of August, the share of total recorded crimes was relatively small: highest in Croydon and Haringey, at 14% of total crime, and between 5% and 10% in other affected areas. This equates to 1.5% of total crime in England and Wales in August, or around one tenth of one per cent of crime for the year. (more…)

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My good friend Luke Bozier

19/01/2012, 07:30:51 AM

by Peter Watt

Go to the Labour party website. Click on “Join Labour” and it says:

“Do you feel the same way we do about the kind of Britain you want to live in?

A Britain where there is a first-class health service free at the point of use; where education is always a priority; and where you and your family are treated equally and can feel safe and secure.

Join us and be part of our journey. Maybe you already vote Labour at election time? Maybe you have thought about joining but not actually done it? Maybe you think you are too young, too old or too busy? Maybe it’s because nobody has asked you. We’re asking you now.

Join us and help shape our country’s future”.

Stirring stuff and it was just such sentiment that made me re-join the party in 1992. I’ve been a member ever since. Through good times and bad; when I have agreed and when I have disagreed. I even stayed a member when the then party leadership decided to shaft me. And I have got no intention whatsoever of leaving. For me and for many members it is an emotional as well as an intellectual attachment. No, that is wrong; it is much more an emotional attachment than an intellectual one. It is why we can become easily stirred by things that non-believers barely register. (more…)

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The Tories: cuts for you, bonuses for bankers and yachts for royals

17/01/2012, 10:34:51 AM

by John Woodcock

You don’t need to be mystic Meg to predict that the next general election will be fought on the twin pillars of economic credibility and who has the right priorities for Britain.

The great importance of Ed Miliband’s and Ed Balls’ excellent speeches over the past few days is to make crystal clear how serious Labour is about demonstrating the former, and to open up the space for us to take on the Tories over the latter.

The public are understandably deeply anxious about the economic turmoil that is afflicting economies across the world. They are concerned by a deficit made even harder to shift by the Tory failure on jobs and growth, and rightly believe major and sustained belt tightening will be necessary to get back on track. And they will simply not listen to what we have to say if we allow the political debate to be dominated solely by an argument between more versus less, with Labour on the side of spending more. (more…)

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Where does idealism stop and pragmatism begin?

16/01/2012, 07:30:58 AM

by Kevin Meagher

For all the talk about the font size and just how luminescent our mea culpa on the deficit should be, there is a bigger question stalking the Labour party: where does political idealism end and pragmatism begin? How is the balance to be struck between what Labour wants to do and what it has to do?

On this wheel the party always breaks. It’s been the same since Ramsay McDonald’s great betrayal of 1931, when he led breakaway Labour MPs into the national government to enforce Sir George May’s disastrous austerity package during the depression.

The same drama played itself out under Clement Attlee, when rearmament costs saw charges imposed for false teeth and spectacles, besmirching Aneurin Bevan’s idealistic vision of a free NHS. He promptly resigned from the cabinet, beginning a decade-long cold war with his arch-pragmatist rival, Hugh Gaitskell.

Most damagingly, the IMF-inspired austerity package, that James Callaghan’s government was forced to swallow during the financial crisis of the mid-seventies, saw Labour’s entire programme junked; precipitating the internal war that would rip the party to pieces during the early 1980s. (more…)

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The nice party isn’t going to get into government

15/01/2012, 11:26:57 AM

by Dan McCurry

Ed Miliband has never attended the Cenotaph in his donkey jacket, nor has he screamed from a podium, “Yeeeaaaar alright”. But the difference is that those leaders existed at a time when Labour was ungovernable, or they made Labour governable, and it took everything out of them. Ed, on the other hand, was gifted a benign set of circumstances, but has led us into decline.

If there is a plot against him, then I’d hardly be the first to know. But if there is, it won’t happen until May. With the London elections such a knife edge business, no one wants to rock the boat. This means one of two things: either Ed has the chance of being the turnaround kid, or the Labour party (on the national stage) is in for a lame duck period.

Maybe it is too late for Ed Miliband. I’m not ruling out a bolt from the blue that will reignite his leadership, but I think luck tends to hang out with those who have chutzpah. And if Cameron can be admired for one thing only, he knows how to brazen it out.


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January Shadow Cabinet League

13/01/2012, 11:17:00 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s Friday the 13th. And the Tories are level pegging with Labour in the polls and discontent with Ed Miliband’s leadership continues to swirl. The sense of gloom is palpable.

But on one measure at least, hope continues to flicker.

The revival of the shadow cabinet’s appetite to hold the government to account continues apace. This month’s shadow cabinet work rate league table reveals a new benchmark – the highest number of weekly stories proactively generated by the Ed Miliband’s team since he became leader.

This isn’t just a matter of issuing a media release commenting on someone else’s news, it’s making the news.

Chuka Umuna and Andy Burnham have led the charge with each generating four stories since the last league table.


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A letter from a commuter

12/01/2012, 08:00:30 AM

by Peter Watt

Dear Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband,

I just got in from work, and catching up on the news I saw that the two of you had another spat at PMQs today. It got me thinking and I feel the need to share something with you. You may need a bit of imagination, but bear with me.

It is early in the morning, a cold and wet day. You are tired, the kids went to bed fractious and woke early. You are rushing to get the train for work and when you get to the station there is a queue. What do you do, go to the machine or try the counter? Your heart starts to beat faster as the clock ticks towards the arrival of your train and the queue is moving slowly. Finally you get your ticket and if you had the time you would make some witty ironic reference to the ticket vendor about the absolute bargain that the several hundred pounds for your monthly season ticket represents.

With seconds to spare you race up the stairs, past the pool of vomit, broken bottle and smell of stale urine. The train doors open and you and several hundred other people attempt to board an already overcrowded train. Several hundred pounds on a ticket and there are no seats. Instead you seem to have paid for a column of space that is slightly wider than you. Move even slightly in any direction and you will invade someone else’s space. The train smells of wet dog, assorted perfumes and at least one person in breathing proximity had too much to drink last night, followed by a kebab. Still at least it is only a short journey.


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Sunday Review on Tuesday: “The price of civilization” by Jeffrey Sachs; “Betterness: economics for humans” by Umair Haque

10/01/2012, 09:37:53 AM

by Anthony Painter

The most infuriating aspect of recent political history is the way in which the old regime has reasserted itself so quickly. There is little doubt that the downside of neo-liberalism has been demonstrated in spectacular fashion. What is the response? Neo-liberalism.

A different way of doing things is desperately needed. It is not just about a different ideology, but also new institutions, a different way of thinking, of doing business, and of running an economy. At this time of enormous opportunity for change, the left has responded with sanctimonious triumphalism and off-the-shelf Keynesian social democracy. And so default neo-liberalism is winning. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Both Jeffrey Sachs and Umair Haque have constructed a credible alternative argument – one is aimed at US politics, though is relevant this side of the Atlantic too, and the other is aimed at business. Haque challenges business to be better; not more profitable but more meaningful. Sachs challenges society to be more “mindful” and politics to adhere to a greater ethic of good. This is all well and good, but it is in their practical arguments that both succeed – and make a contribution to helping us understand how we can shift our economy and society away from neo-liberalism. (more…)

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