Archive for February, 2012

The polling that explains why Andrew Lansley is safe

13/02/2012, 07:00:36 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Dead man walking. That is one of the more polite descriptions of Andrew Lansley’s current state of political health.

His bill is an unmitigated disaster. This mish mash of compromises and quangos is trapped in the quicksand of parliamentary process, generating ever worse headlines for Lansley and the government.

Yesterday he suffered perhaps the greatest indignity to date: Simon Hughes ventilating on the right time to shift the health secretary.

Setting aside the nonsense at the heart of what the Liberal Democrat party president was saying – that Lansley should be moved only after the damage has been done when a bill that Hughes himself describes as not the one “we wanted”, has been passed – even hard Labour hearts will have felt a little sympathy for Andrew Lansley having his career dissected by Hughes at his most sanctimonious.

So the conventional wisdom is clear. Lansley is finished.

In one sense, this is right. The secretary of state for health will be moved, but then in the long run so will most of the cabinet. Where many commentators will be wrong is on timing.

For all the pressure, Andrew Lansley is still safe in his job. Yesterday’s Sunday Times YouGov poll held the key to why.


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The week Uncut

12/02/2012, 06:31:47 PM

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

Atul Hatwal reports on an unlikely YouTube sensation

Jonathan Ashworth sends us another page of his whip’s notebook

Paul Crowe says Labour must back financial services

Rob Marchant’s take on the Chris Huhne

Peter Watt on human rights and legal wrongs

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Luis Suarez and football tribalism

12/02/2012, 07:00:28 AM

by Anthony Painter

Yesterday, Luis Suarez refused to shake the hand of Manchester United captain, Patrice Evra. It was idiotic and undignified. It also meant that for the third Liverpool versus Manchester United match running, the story was not going to be about the football.

At half time, there was a confrontation outside the team dressing rooms. And after the match, Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, called Luis Suarez a disgrace and said he should never play for Liverpool again. And so the pot is kept on the simmer.

Since the incidents that have led to this – when Luis Suarez used racially abusive language towards Patrice Evra in a league game in October last year – Liverpool FC has been living through a disaster of its own making. It did not need an FA independent regulatory commission to realise that Suarez was in the wrong. A cursory glance at the striker’s own evidence and the video footage would show, first,  that an offensive term was used and second that it was meant in a hostile manner.

That should have been enough for Liverpool FC to severely reprimand the player, fine him and suspend him of their own accord. Both club and player should have issued an apology. If Suarez refused, he should have been placed on the transfer list. When this did not happen, its American owners, more aware than most of brand value and propriety, should have stepped in. They failed to.


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Dennis Skinner, viral YouTube sensation

10/02/2012, 08:27:51 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The internet is a strange place.

Last year, Uncut ran a regular shadow cabinet goal of the month competition. We picked some choice shadow cabinet moments from the previous month such as clips of parliamentary performances, media interviews and press stories, and asked you to vote on the best.

At the time, the clips – which are on YouTube – initially attracted viewing numbers that typically ranged from the low hundreds to the low thousands with views declining to a trickle in the days after the Uncut piece.

Until a few months ago, that is. Without any prompting from Uncut or elsewhere, the numbers of views started to rise. A little at first. Then some more. And more again to the point where several thousand new people are now viewing these clips each week.

The most popular is this excerpt of Dennis Skinner from last July’s goal of the month hacking special, questioning David Cameron at PMQs over his meetings with News Corporation. At the time, Skinner attracted a few hundred views. As of three months ago, there had barely been any movement in this number.

But in November the invisible hand of the internet intervened.

By last night, almost 34,000 people had viewed the piece with 89 comments and figures rising at a solid 10,000 views per month.  As I wrote this piece there were 40 more views.


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Human rights; legal wrongs

09/02/2012, 07:30:36 AM

by Peter Watt

I am an internationalist, like the best of them. However two separate, but related, issues have today made me very angry. First, the release from prison of the terrorist Abu Qatada. And second, the on-going slaughter in Syria. Both are examples of the way that perpetrators of evil can all too often be protected by the perverse operation of systems of international law. And both show the dilemma of the apparent impotence and weakness of democratic countries.

To put it into perspective; if I were to go into town this weekend, have a skinful, get into a fight and assault someone, then rightly I would, hopefully, be arrested and prosecuted. If the assault was serious enough, or if I had previous, then my behaviour would justify the prison sentence that I would surely receive. Benefit fraud, robbery, tax evasion, illicit drugs – all would likely see a custodial sentence.

But it seems that you can be a convicted terrorist and the legal system can be used to prevent your imprisonment. Abu Qatada sympathised with Osama Bin Laden, praised the 9/11 bombers, was convicted of plotting murder in Jordan and is apparently a member of al-Qaeda’s “Fatwa Committee”.  And yet an on-going legal battle has seen him released, imprisoned and re-released from prison. (more…)

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Labour needs to back finance not attack it

08/02/2012, 07:00:29 AM

By Paul Crowe

Everyone hates a banker these days, right? Overpaid, greedy, venal poster boys (and girls) for the gross distortion of our economy and values.

As Dave Mathieson pointed out on Monday it’s not just British bankers who are busy corrupting their national standards of decency and fairness either. The Spanish bankers are also at it, with Santander and BBVA dishing out eye-watering bonuses that will have many City types wondering what exactly their overseas brethren did to end up with both the weather and the cash.

It’s hard not to recoil when looking at the sheer magnitude of some bonuses and then the gap between top and bottom.

But here’s the problem. Words are powerful, especially on a subject as emotive as this. Attacking injustice is fine, but “bankers” has become a term of abuse that is applied without distinction and as a result ends up tarring everyone working in financial services.

This is unhelpful for the debate and dangerous for Britain’s prospects for two reasons. First, it stigmatises a hard working section of society and second it sets a political context where mindless attacks on financial services are seen as a legitimate response to the crash of 2008.


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Whip’s notebook

07/02/2012, 07:00:19 AM

By Jon Ashworth

Before I became an MP I was for many years a bag carrier, which meant a lot of marching at the side of Gordon, Harriet or Ed through Westminster corridors while trying to look serious, doing my best not to drop the wad of briefing papers and most of all desperately hoping I wouldn’t get us lost.

As a diligent member of the leader’s political office, I would usually take advantage of the opportunity to get their view on some upcoming vote at the NEC or some whipping issue causing anguish. Often a backbench MP or fellow (shadow) minster would need a word with Gordon, Harriet or Ed and so Gordon, Harriet or Ed would assure me they would speak to them “in the vote”.

I never really knew what this meant until I became an MP myself.

Now of course at one rudimentary level I knew it meant they would speak to them as they go through the voting lobbies. But I never really appreciated the whole voting lobby experience. It’s where us MPs all congregate, gossip, catch-up and have that quick word with a colleague we’ve been looking out for. We’re all busy people so it’s often where my good friends and parliamentary neighbours Keith Vaz, Liz Kendall and I get together for a quick conflab about any pressing Leicester issue.


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What Chris Huhne’s departure tells us about British politics

06/02/2012, 01:00:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

So, Chris Huhne has left the cabinet. Entire forests have already been destroyed over the interceding months, since the story broke about the speeding points allegedly taken for him by his wife. He will now be charged and is innocent until proven guilty: that is the fair play to which he is entitled.

We will never know – or at least, not for a while – whether Huhne genuinely went willingly, or was pressured to resign to avoid being sacked. But we’re also in new territory entirely: this is the first time a cabinet minister has been charged with a criminal offence in as long as anyone can remember, no-one quite knows what the rules are. And here’s a thing, which some have questioned: would it be right for a cabinet minister to have been made to go under such circumstances, given that he has not, as yet, been convicted of anything at all?

Yes, it is. Because this is not a parking fine. It’s a criminal charge, and criminal charges have to be taken seriously. Here’s what can happen when you don’t.

Mariano Rajoy, now Spanish prime minister, was last year in a similar position to Cameron and Clegg. But his judgement was another: that he was happy to let one of his party’s main figures, Francisco Camps, stay in post after being charged with a criminal offence. Although Camps later changed his mind and resigned anyway, the point was that, not being able to tell whether he was innocent or guilty, Rajoy had bet his party’s reputation on Camps. He lost.


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Angry with RBS? Take a look at the Spanish bank bonuses that British customers are helping fund

06/02/2012, 07:00:49 AM

by David Mathieson

Poor Stephen Hester.  Poor ex-Sir Fred.  Not of course in financial terms, but perhaps unfortunate to find themselves the individual objects of public indignation while others escape without the slightest scrutiny.

Chukka Umunna made the points again eloquently on the Today programme last week: there would be no RBS to pay Hester or Goodwin anything had we, the tax payers, not come to the rescue of the stricken bank and saved it from complete collapse in 2008.

When millions of public sector workers are having their wages, salaries and in some case jobs cut, the payment of bonuses at RBS – always discretionary and never contractual – should not even be on the table.

But does the story stop there?  Hardly.

RBS is different only in that it is more than 80% owned by the state. For all the other retail banks, the bonuses being paid are funded from the charges paid by millions of ordinary account holders.


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The week Uncut

05/02/2012, 05:06:52 PM

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

Atul Hatwal on Labour’s lost king

John Woodcock says Cameron is full of hot air

Peter Watt stands up for the bankers

Kevin Meagher says the Tories are leading the way on localism

David Talbot wants Labour to land a punch

Jonathan Todd thinks Labour can win on welfare

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