Archive for February, 2014

Letter from Wales: The Scottish referendum has reheated daft talk of Welsh independence

28/02/2014, 02:41:19 PM

by Julian Ruck

Scotland has some serious history. It has produced pure genius in the arts, philosophy, engineering and politics. One can understand a case for independence and separateness, albeit that abstention from out and out support may well be one’s personal inclination.

But is independence desirable?

Is the breakup of such a small land, a land that is so dependent on all its people pulling and working together, the future? Does Sir Colin Campbell’s Thin Red Line matter anymore, where is the enemy?

We have heard all the economic arguments, but is there not the more teasing question of how long finite natural resources ie gas and oil are going to last?

This writer must argue that the future of any world order cannot depend upon sovereign state autonomy and the sanctity of identity. The future for mankind must be consensus, co-operation and a barrier free global sharing of natural resources.


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Can Ed and Nigel do a coalition deal?

28/02/2014, 01:52:39 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Did I hear that right? Nigel Farage is offering to form a coalition with Labour after the next general election. He referred to it as “doing a deal with the devil” to be sure, but I’m still ringing out my lug ‘ole in disbelief.

But hold on a minute. Think about it. UKIP only have two policies, both of which Labour half supports already. The first is a referendum on the EU (which might seem a no-brainer if May’s European elections are a bit icky) and a reduction in immigration (which, again, Labour can live with).

Beyond that, well, there’s not much else. There’s a great big purple haze where there should be ideas. As a political party, UKIP are the equivalent of an empty pint glass.

Whisper it, but they’re absolutely ideal coalition partners. I know, there would be the occasional bit of eye-rolling in Cabinet at some of their loopy suggestions, but they’re not really interested in policy.

And for that matter, they’re not much good at politics either. I know the Tories are quaking at the prospect of what they’ll do to them next May, but take the recent Wythenshawe by-election. Nigel Farage said it was “as dirty as they come” because some people on a poor Manchester council estate had a go at them and Labour got in early with the postal vote sign-ups while Farage’s troops were still trying to find somewhere to park their Range Rovers.


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Young Labour descends into early 80’s style infighting

27/02/2014, 12:26:34 PM

by Renie Anjeh

The events that took place in Bradford last weekend should be a warning for every young member in the party.

Acrimonious divisions and infighting at the heart of Young Labour were exposed, something that was very disheartening for young activists across the country.  I have to confess that I did not attend the conference because it was too expensive but the fact that a vocal minority have successfully managed to embarrass Young Labour members should be of grave concern for us all.

One of the big issues was the rather obvious matter of Labour Students and OMOV.  This has often been the topic of heated discussion in certain Young Labour circles. Personally, I think that Labour Students have other priorities but I also accept that there may well be a case for OMOV to be discussed and it is not unreasonable for people to want that debate.

However, what is completely objectionable is the sheer hypocrisy of some people on the Left who constantly attack Labour Students not having OMOV when their house is not in order.   Trade union reps on Young Labour National Committee are not elected by OMOV and they have often been elected unopposed due to their ‘support’ from union officials rather than young trade unionists.  How on earth is that fair or democratic?

Many of the people, who boycotted Labour Students meetings and threatened to disaffiliate from Labour Students over the issue of OMOV, voted against OMOV for Labour leadership elections.  It just goes to show that for all their faux outrage, their commitment to OMOV is skin deep.

It’s about time the Left are honest that their real problem is not OMOV, or even Labour Students, but about their disdain for moderates in the party.


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Look, something’s different

27/02/2014, 11:35:48 AM

Some of you might have noticed an addition to the site this morning: Adverts.

We decided to take ads because we’re making some improvements to the site, starting with more robust hosting, and that all costs money.

Uncut is not sponsored by any business, union or interest group and no-one involved is paid. The funds have to come from somewhere so ads it is!

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Never mind Brooks, Chilcot is set to make 2014 Blair’s annus horibilis

26/02/2014, 10:49:37 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Last week’s row over his telephone conversation with Rebekah Brooks and the alleged offer of behind-the scenes help doesn’t really tell us anything we did not already know about Tony Blair.

Even in retirement, he moves in rarefied circles and the lure of being at the centre of the action, (albeit in what he thought was a private capacity), helps dull the boredom of being just 60 and having his best political days long behind him.

Of course, there is no post-career plan that will ever satisfy someone like Tony Blair. The most accomplished political communicator of his generation and a figure who has single-handedly defined our understanding of the modern-day Premiership, his life after Number 10 was always going to be a long, protracted anti-climax.

What do you do when there are no more 4am moments, or press conferences to prep for, or crises in the Northern Ireland peace process that require your personal intervention?

Indeed, who actually made the phone call that Rebekah Brooks so assiduously took notes from? Did Blair himself phone and offer his services to her and the Murdochs? Or did he eagerly take Brooks’ call, knowing it was unlikely she was phoning for a catch-up to see how his role as the Quartet’s under-employed negotiator on the Middle East was shaping up?

Blair’s advice to her – establish a credible independent investigation with the aim of establishing wrong-doing, but hopefully not serious criminality – was smart and cynical, but pretty sound counsel nonetheless. He has a big future as a public affairs consultant.


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Labour history uncut: The Red Indian’s bomb fails to explode

25/02/2014, 07:39:47 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

On the 23rd of October, Stanley Baldwin fired the starting pistol for the 1935 general election.

It was just two weeks since Clement Attlee had become temporary leader. Temporary because, although George Lansbury had resigned, the split over who should lead the party remained unresolved.

Not ideal preparation for battle. But as the party readied itself for a poll on the 14th November, there was still hope for things to improve for Labour in parliament. After all, given the disaster of the 1931 election, it would have taken a Katie Hopkinsesque effort to become any less popular.

But Labour dreamed big. Hugh Dalton noted in his diary an expectation of a rise from 52 seats to 240. Others dreamed bigger –an actual Labour majority.

But in real life, not all dreams come true. If they did, we’d be too busy financing the transformation of Crystal Palace into south London’s Barcelona to write this.

A National government poster comes out unexpectedly in favour of skin cancer for children

A National government poster comes out unexpectedly in favour of skin cancer for children


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TTIP. Four letters that will make a big difference to all our lives

25/02/2014, 02:21:45 PM

by Callum Anderson

Last week Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, threw the gauntlet down to Nigel Farage, the leader of the eurosceptic UKIP, by challenging him to a televised debate regarding the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. As far as I am concerned, this should be welcomed by all, regardless of one’s place on the political spectrum. Any opportunity for our senior politicians to debate this subject should be seen as a positive.

Of course, Mr Farage has accepted this challenge, but with the caveat that he would also like the prime minister and the leader of the opposition also participate.

However, Ed Miliband should embrace this opportunity to establish Labour as another party of ‘in’.  As I have argued elsewhere, the UK already benefits hugely in economic terms from EU membership, yet there is still scope to further increase these benefits. And one of the (many) things that Ed Miliband, and indeed any progressive must shout loudly about in the coming years, is the opportunities that will be available to Britain through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States.

For those of you who don’t know, the TTIP is the trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States, with its aims of removing trade barriers, so that it becomes easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US. Furthermore, it will tackle non-trade barriers (NTBs) such as technical regulations, standards and approval procedures.


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Just because its in the Mail doesn’t make it wrong. Harman, Hewitt and Dromey need to provide some answers

24/02/2014, 05:02:08 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another day, another front page from the Daily Mail on the links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) at a time when Harriet Harman, Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey held senior positions in the NCCL.

When the Daily Mail attacks Labour politicians there is a tendency to simply shrug the shoulders and move on. It’s in the nature of the beast, the Mail attacks the party because that’s what the Mail does. So what?

But that doesn’t mean everything it says is wrong.

In this case, the tone might be vituperative and the events almost faded into distant memory, but the Mail’s reports are backed up by hard evidence. Evidence that is difficult to ignore.

The most pointed allegations date from 1976 when Jack Dromey was a member of the NCCL executive and Patricia Hewitt was general secretary (Harriet Harman didn’t start working at the NCCL until 1978.)

In 1976 the NCCL made a submission to parliament on the Sexual Offences Act. In this paper are some extraordinary and inexplicable recommendations,

“(i) A person aged 14 or over should be legally capable of giving consent

(ii) A person aged under 10 should be presumed legally incapable of giving consent

(iii) Where both partners are aged 10 or over but under 14, a consenting sexual act should not be an offence.

(iv) Where one partner is aged 10 or over, the law should presume that consent was not present, unless it is demonstrated that it was genuinely given and the child understood the nature of the act.

(v) As the age of consent is arbitrary, we propose a an overlap of two years on either side of 14, so that, where the participants are 12 or over but under 16, a consenting sexual act will not be an offence.”

It might be that the NCCL’s parliamentary submissions were signed-off without recourse to the general secretary or the executive.

It might be that this particular paper was submitted without going through the proper processes, and Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey had no knowledge of it.

It might be any one of a range of reasons that could explain why they had nothing to do with the recommendations made in the NCCL’s parliamentary brief.


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The UK is staying together. But on what terms?

24/02/2014, 09:29:26 AM

by Jonathan Todd

David Bowie has supposedly waded into Scottish politics. How very dare he. He’d only been awarded a Brit. The ensuing furore may have missed this obvious point of context. Bowie may want the UK to stay together, at least in part, so that his award maintains a meaningful title.

What would we call the Brit Awards after Scottish independence? It’s hard to think of something equally snappy that captures the remnants of the UK. “Not even the most devoted unionist would claim” that the clear poll lead enjoyed by the Better Together campaign “is down to any tearful, emotional attachment to Britain and Britishness”, Chris Deerin has observed. Yet Bowie’s intervention underlines the self-evident point that breaking up the UK would be a needless destruction of something whose value, while immense, is sometimes so implicit as to be overlooked.

After Scottish independence, we wouldn’t know what to call the Brit Awards because we wouldn’t know who or what we’d become. To see what is in front of one’s nose, as George Orwell knew, needs a constant struggle. And sometimes it takes a supermodel dressed in the clothes of a 1970s pop star speaking the words of a contemporary cultural icon to remind us. It’s not that Bowie has gone political. It’s certainly not – pace cybernats – that Bowie is inserting himself where he shouldn’t. It’s just that Bowie is retelling us who we are.

The four words related to Scotland spoken by Kate Moss on behalf of Bowie were a concise version of the message of David Cameron’s speech at the Olympic park recently. The British remain a family – albeit, to again recall Orwell, with the wrong members in charge, though, of course, Cameron didn’t present familial relations in quite such terms. Nonetheless, to file for divorce, to metaphorically and almost literally reduce ourselves to arguing over our CD collection, would be a monumental self-harm. An absurd pettiness in a world of incredible opportunity.


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Letter from Wales: What is happening to the NHS in Wales?

21/02/2014, 10:37:18 AM

by Julian Ruck

“But it’s not normal, it’s Wales!”

Do excuse my take on a few words from Atul Hatwal, editor of Uncut, in his column 9.1.14. The fact remains however, that nothing at all is “normal” in Wales, indeed the principality makes Westminster look as normal as a packet  Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and a ’99 on Southend pier.

Allow me to reiterate the statistics broadcast by BBC Wales in respect of the Welsh NHS:

  • 23,500 patients waiting more than 8 weeks for diagnostic treatment, up from 8000 two years ago.
  • The number of people waiting more than 9 months for hospital treatment has reached its highest level in two years.
  • More than 32% of patients in Wales wait more than 8 weeks for an ultra sound scan compared with 0.1% in England.
  • Death rates now coming into question and the Welsh government is refusing to carry out an investigation.

Mark Drakeford, health minister and master of denial, is blaming all of those nasty people in   Westminster again.

This is what happens when you have professors of social policy (from the Cardiff university crachach madrassa of course) running health services in Wales.

Cathy O’Sullivan, acting chair of the board of Community Health Councils in Wales said on Radio Wales recently about the Welsh NHS, ”It needs a very fundamental shake, around how patients are treated in the 21st Century.”

And here’s the problem.


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