Archive for October, 2012

Is the Leveson Inquiry about to re-open?

24/10/2012, 07:00:25 AM

by Atul Hatwal

On Monday night a big news story broke. Yet it received scant coverage in the print media.

The first claims were filed at the High Court against  Mirror Group for hacking. While this story was running number two on the BBC website through Monday night into Tuesday morning, it was accorded considerably less prominence on the websites of the newspapers and received extremely modest coverage in their later print editions.

Quelle surprise.

The last thing most of the print media want are the gruesome details of new hacking revelations thrust before the public, just as the newspapers prepare to decry the Leveson report as the greatest assault on freedom since the doodlebug.

But this is important.

This is the first time a news organisation other than News International has been in the legal firing line. The “one rogue organisation” defence has never looked so shaky.

This post-Leveson update of the “one rogue reporter” line will be mounted by the non-News International newspapers in the days and weeks following the publication of the judge’s recommendations.

After the initial shock and awe of wall to wall headlines proclaiming the death of liberty, the majority of the non-Murdoch press will fall back to their second, and ultimately more robust, line of defence.

They will say that the evidence presented before the Inquiry proves only one thing: that News International was rotten. Not the press as a whole, just Murdoch.

Yes there might be lessons to be learned for all of the print media, but on the basis of the facts as presented, the case for statutory action only applies to New International. One rogue organisation. To sacrifice the freedom of the press for the actions of Rupert Murdoch would be disproportionate, illogical and excessive.


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The Tories might tolerate youth unemployment, we do not

23/10/2012, 07:00:21 AM

by Rory Palmer

Having grown up in a North Nottinghamshire coalfield community I have seen the costs of a lost generation. That community lived the consequences of Thatcher’s destruction of industry and its vicious spiral of hopelessness.

Areas with traditions of industrial pride and hard graft saw a generation denied opportunity. The consequences were painful; drugs and crime, poor health, long term worklessness and aspirations smashed. This is why the coalition’s refusal now to change course is not just incompetent but dangerous.

The government’s austerity plan and a growth-less economy is a toxic combination for youth unemployment. Nationally over a million young people are now looking for work. In the East Midlands we have seen increases of over 20% in young people claiming out of work benefits.

This challenge is urgent. We need government at every level to act and act decisively. Local government is doing what it can. In the face of slashed budgets Labour-led councils across the country are developing youth job programmes. These areas saw the real impact of Labour’s Future Job Fund which was so callously axed by the coalition, with the prime minister calling the jobs it created “phoney”.


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Forcing the likes of Starbucks to Pay Where You Earn would help tackle tax avoidance

22/10/2012, 04:23:50 PM

Last week Phil McCauley won the “top of the policies” vote at Pragmatic Radicalism’s event on industrial policy. The winning proposal tackled the question of reducing corporate tax avoidance

I believe we must act to end tax avoidance. We have seen numerous examples of famous brands proudly paying very little tax; just last week it emerged that Starbucks have a grand total of £8.6m in corporation tax in this country over the last fourteen years.

Once again, as the spotlight has been shone on an embarrassed corporation, we’ve seen a litany of familiar excuses wheeled out to excuse not paying their fair share. This time, as well as the usual “we’ve done nothing illegal” line, part of Starbucks defence was that they paid their fair share of tax via national insurance contributions for their employees! This assumes away the entire basis of corporation tax (e.g. on companies’ profits) and sells every other tax payer short – company and individual alike.

Starbucks disgraceful tax avoidance will not be the last revelation of this type, and unless action is taken, we will continue see yet more billionaire entrepreneurs seeking plaudits whilst legally robbing the exchequer.

For years, all governments have failed to rebalance our taxation system. My proposal involves a new approach that requires legislation from the next Labour government and which represents a radical shift away from the failed approaches of the past.

It’s time for pay where you earn.


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George Osborne whiling away his time watching films is the weirdest thing about #traingate

22/10/2012, 07:00:26 AM

by Jonathan Todd

George Osborne’s journey south on Friday enlivened the afternoon and made a bad week even worse for his party. Most attention has focused on his unwillingness to travel pleb class and allegedly to pay the full fare for the standard that he thinks he requires.

All of which strikes me as ill-considered. But it’s the watching films on a train journey on a Friday afternoon that strikes me as profoundly odd and a touch troubling. It makes me worry about the man and our politics.

So, he wants to travel first class?

That doesn’t look good these days. The leader of the opposition was informed a few weeks ago on the Thick of It: “It is career suicide. You may as well shit in the aisle.”

I travel quite frequently on the same west coast mainline as Osborne. I manage to work in standard class. The main barrier is the unreliability of Virgin’s wi-fi but it is perfectly possible to put a shift in before pulling in at Euston.

That said, as much as few politicians would admit it, I imagine there is something in Gyles Brandreth’s view that politicians of Osborne’s standing only meet people who are right and people who have problems, eager to put them right and share their problems. Such people would be a hindrance to work. But, these days, even those in first class are likely to consider themselves to have problems and to be eager to share with the chancellor their thoughts on putting right our moribund economy.

Overall, then, a politician in first class is as attractive as shit in the aisle and may not add to the politician’s productivity.


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Why Labour has to win in 2015

19/10/2012, 02:50:29 PM

by Ian Stewart

Politics is a game. It is irrelevant to the real needs. The authorised version of the game and its rules have been pickled, or maybe set in aspic, or possibly worse. The ingredients that make up our HP Sauce have curdled. That is the view from the bottom of the pile, it is the reason why so many of us cannot be bothered. It is also the view peddled by the seemingly endless parade of hip young things in our media today. That is unless they can find a cause that ticks the right boxes of their sales demographic.

If you want to practice politics go to a good university then get that job as a researcher or SpAd. Get yourself into a union machine, work in local government or law or work for a pressure group or the media. In other words get inside the established channels as quickly as you can, starting with student politics.

Whatever you do, do not get a job outside of the process. The process is king – never forget that. Once inside you can play the game to your heart’s content. In your chosen career – showbusiness for ugly people – you will be talking to others similar to yourself and most of those interested in what you do will also be like you. The rest of us neither matter nor care, except during elections.

You can read a lot of leftish blogs and sites these days and most of them seem to accept the rules of this game. It’s a game that few can ever win. Left wing commentators occasionally wring their hands over the fate of beings called “the low paid.”

I have a suspicion that most of them have only sensed these beings from a slight distance. Let me help you, my fellow blogging comrades, in your search for these mythical beings. They were serving your coffee, washing your dirty plates and getting you that glass of wine in the bar at that conference you attended… (did you tip, or did you think a few extra quid would be demeaning? Tightwad.)

I know this because I am one of them. I’ve spent most of my working life in catering, hotels, restaurants and bars. I admit that I’m atypical (particularly in London) as I am English and fairly educated. Oh, and I am interested in politics. Forgive me, I spent all of my working day on my feet, including my break, and am a little cranky. Sadly, in many respects George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London is all too familiar today. To those who see politics as simply a tribal game or as irrelevant to the lives we all lead, let me explain what a large bulk of “the low paid” go through on a daily basis.


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When Ed Miliband marches against austerity tomorrow, will he answer the £10bn question?

19/10/2012, 10:22:26 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Tomorrow, when Ed Miliband attends the TUC’s march against austerity, he will be asked a simple question.

The answer will help determine whether One Nation Labour is an idea that will resonate with the public or just an ephemeral phrase du jour:

Ed, do you back Unite, Unison and the GMB who have just submitted a claim for a 13% rise in wages on behalf of 1.6 million local government workers?

Yes or no?

No, don’t use a parsed formulation of words involving the phrase “tough choices” while avoiding a clear position.

Do not obfuscate, this isn’t a demand to write the next manifesto several years before the next election, it’s just a question that cannot wait three years for an answer.

Neither is it good enough to say that this is a matter for local government as if the leader of the Labour party is somehow legally proscribed from having an opinion.

For the unions, in a very practical sense, this wage claim is part of the alternative to austerity and it is a question they will ask of Labour’s leader, face to face, on Saturday.

Their local government members have faced real terms pay cuts, year on year since 2009. 13% sounds a lot for a wage claim but it would only recoup the real terms losses (e.g. the difference between inflation and the nominal pay rises awarded) suffered since 2009.

What is the point of the union movement if it cannot protect its members from never-ending pay cuts?


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The government’s top 30 “real achievements”

18/10/2012, 11:12:18 AM

by Michael Dugher

Back in July, after a torrid few months for the government following their budget for millionaires and with Britain in a double-dip recession, David Cameron and Nick Clegg responded the way they always do: they organised another press re-launch.  At the event held at a railway depot at Smethwick in the West Midlands, they announced that the Government would publish a mid-term review in the autumn outlining what they had “achieved” and identifying future goals and objectives.

So following the party conference season, and with the imminent publication of this review, it seems a good time to look back over the last two years to assess what the government has really achieved and to outline what its real half-term report should look like.  Here are the government’s top 30 real achievements:

On the economy:

1. When the Tories took office the economy was growing, but the government’s policies choked off the recovery and have delivered the longest double-dip recession since the second world war;

2. The IMF has cut its UK growth forecast for 2012 to minus 0.4 per cent;

3. Borrowing is up.  Compared to last year, borrowing is up by 22 per cent so far this year;

4. Tax cuts for the rich – the government is cutting 5p from the 50p top rate tax, giving 8,000 people earning over £1 million a tax cut of over £40,000 a year;

5. And at the same time as helping millionaires, the government is introducing a “granny tax”, which will see 4.4 million pensioners who pay income tax losing an average of £83 per year.

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So, if Labour win the next election, where will we be in October 2015?

18/10/2012, 07:00:56 AM

by Peter Watt

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people will be demonstrating against the cuts to the public sector being imposed by the government.

The TUC’s “we were told there was an alternative” march and rally in central London is the latest in a series of events organised against the cuts since Ed Balls unveiled his emergency budget in June.  PM Miliband faced heckling and walkouts at the TUC in early September and at the Labour party conference 100,000 protesters ringed the conference over-shadowing his Tuesday speech.

Government ministers have faced UK Uncut activists chaining themselves to their cars, bikes, houses and constituency offices as disruption and protest is maximised.  But it is the anger towards prime minster Miliband that is most palpable.  The elation of the election victory a mere four months ago must now seem a very distant memory to our beleaguered PM.

The problem seems to boil down to a sense of voters feeling let down as Labour impose their austerity package.  Of course Miliband and Balls can point to a series of speeches and announcements that they made in opposition that they say made it clear that they would need to make cuts.  As Balls said in his interview with Andrew Marr last week:

“We said it would be tough and it is, five years of failed coalition policy that delivered negligible growth means that the government books were even worse than we thought.  Of course we were always clear with people that we would need to make some cuts but unfortunately in reality this means that we have a much tougher job on our hands than even we realised.”

But it appears that voters were not as clear about the Labour party’s intentions as Miliband and Balls now claim that they were.


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Time for policy in the pub with Iain Wright

17/10/2012, 02:48:49 PM

Yes, it’s that time of the month again: time to go to the pub and talk policy. Tonight it’s all about industry with shadow minister for competitiveness and enterprise Iain Wright.

So, if you want to know how we can get this country moving again, get yourself down to the Barley Mow pub on Horseferry Road SW1P 2EE this evening. The fun kicks off at 1830 and runs till 2030.

For those that haven’t been to one of these Pragmatic Radicalism events before, it’s a quick fire format with 90 seconds for speakers to present a policy idea, 2 minutes for questions and answers and then a vote at the end on the best policy.

Tonight as a special bonus, if the whole pub chants “Iain Wright, Wright, Wright,” the winning policy will be automatically adopted in the next manifesto.

OK, that last bit isn’t true, but it wouldn’t it be fun?

See you in pub.

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Demonstrating against Google? Because of the anti-Islam film? You’re kidding right?

17/10/2012, 07:00:39 AM

by Rob Marchant

On Monday, the Telegraph reported an attendance of over ten thousand at a demonstration outside the UK headquarters of Google, over the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims”.

The first point to note is that these are only a small handful of the 1.6 million Muslims who live in Britain, and who care passionately enough about the subject to get up and do something, in this case to try to ban it. Yes, we can and should respect the fact that some of our population are annoyed at the negative portrayal of their religion, and that they have the right to demonstrate (the vast majority of Muslims very likely see this news and merely shrug, or are possibly even irritated by the counter-productivity of the protests themselves).

But perhaps it is important is that those other thousands of sensible, free-speech-loving Muslims do not merely shrug, and that they can engage with the idea that, however irritating, banning is not the answer. In particular, it is important that their religious leaders, and so-called “community leaders”, do not merely shrug, or worse, indulge this silliness.

In part, it’s about free speech, but in part, it’s also about the long-term health of this religion: because there seems to be an existential crisis developing within it, a polarisation between moderate and extremist which has been slowly brewing for decades over the twentieth century which is making  for an explosive collision with progressive, humanitarian values in the twenty-first.


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