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Gordon Brown is wrong. We need to scrap Barnett and allocate funding based on need

19/09/2014, 10:51:13 AM

by David Lindsay

There is no West Lothian Question. The Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to legislate supremely in any policy area for any part of the country. It never need do so and the point would still stand, since what matters is purely that it has that power in principle, which no one disputes that it has.

The grievance of England, and especially of Northern and Western England, concerns cold, hard cash. What, then, of those who bellow for an English Parliament to bartenders who cannot follow everyone else and leave the room? They fall into two categories. There are the Home Counties Home Rulers. And there are those wishing to live under the Raj of the Home Counties Home Rulers.

On the one hand are those from the South East, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Their definition of England is the South East, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, or at least a certain idea of that area. Give them something for that, and they would be perfectly happy, at least until the votes started to be tallied up. Everyone gets a vote. Even the people whom they have bawled out.

On the other hand are those from everywhere else. Their definition of England is also the South East, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, or at least a certain idea of that area. Although they are often professionally “local” to elsewhere, especially in Yorkshire but also in pockets of other parts of the country, the basis of their political position has always been that they were a cut above their neighbours.

That made them Conservatives until recently, and it increasingly makes them UKIP supporters. That is who the UKIP supporters in the North and elsewhere are. They were never Labour. That is also the context for the fact that there has been a UKIP MEP in Wales for some years and that there is now a UKIP MEP in Scotland, too.

They may never have elected an MP or even a councillor in their lives, or they may live in the only ward or constituency for miles around where their votes ever elected anyone. But enough MPs were returned from elsewhere to make the Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister. That suited them down to the ground.

Quite wrongly, since it would be run by Labour as often as not, they see an English Parliament in the same terms. Their more numerous and concentrated brethren elsewhere would deliver them from the rule of their neighbours. It is very funny indeed that those brethren think that they are those neighbours.

In 1993, 66 Labour MPs voted against Maastricht, far more than the number of Conservatives who did so. Yet there were far more Conservative than Labour MPs at the time. Of those 66, at least three campaigned for a Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum, including that campaign’s chairman, Dennis Canavan.

While it is true that several of those from Wales went on to be among the strongest opponents of devolution, the 66 also included the late John McWilliam, one of the first campaigners for a North East regional assembly.

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There is a problem in the British Pakistani community and it needs to be fixed

03/09/2014, 08:17:45 AM

by Mohammed Seedat

The word “culture” is used often when discussing the horrific Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham: within the Police, amongst Rotherham’s Pakistani community, within the council, in Labour group and of course of the victims.

The BBC Asian network morning phone-in show always provides a raw glimpse in to the notoriously politically-incorrect and diverse British Asian zeitgeist.

On Wednesday’s show there was more denialism from an alarming number of British Pakistani callers about the role of a certain type of violent misogynistic culture that’s developed and become acceptable in too many Pakistani social circles.

The link between the Pakistani culture of the majority of the men convicted in Rotherham and their white targets isn’t new – Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said the same in 2012, so has Trevor Philips.

Rotherham will not recover easily. Perversely the Police’s reluctance to be labelled racist has resulted in increased community tensions. As the Alexis Jay report outlines there were multiple agency failures in a community with deep rooted cultural issues. Unfortunately only Pakistanis within these communities can fix the cultural issues that have no place in any modern society. The cancerous core of community leaders, imported imams and violent paternalism is rotten.

There is no “magic-bullet” campaign that can change the nasty strain of misogyny that has infected parts of the Pakistani community. A community wide change in consciousness is required and only then can this disease be treated – a task that will likely fall on the younger generation rather than upon impotent “community leaders” who have proved so ineffective.

That does not mean the council has no role to play. The Jay Report is damning of the council: “Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so”. This was suppression of justice from the very top – and the report explains how the council could get away with it because “in Rotherham the local Asian community are reported to rarely speak about them [the perpetrators]. The subject was taboo..” (Section 11.4).

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Ukip could make Miliband prime minister but he’s not ready

29/08/2014, 02:17:48 PM

by Samuel Dale

Douglas Carswell’s defection to Ukip has brought parliament back with a bang.

The independent-minded Conservative MP is fighting a September by-election in Clacton as a Ukip candidate. He is odds-on favourite to win.

The Daily Mail claims eight more Tory MPs are in talks to defect.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has told us to brace ourselves for more Tory and Labour MP defections.

The right is splintering as we head towards a tight election and it means only one thing: Ed Miliband is more likely to be in Downing Street next year.

Farage and Ukip want to pretend they have a broad base beyond the Conservatives but it is illusory.

Its northern presence is only in Labour bastions where the best they can hope for is to make up the opposition in a general election.

It is a party that has made a name for itself by collecting disillusioned ex-Tories and will continue to do so.

Neil Hamilton, Stuart Wheeler, Roger Helmer, Carswell and even Farage. Ex-Tories are their primary currency.

Carswell’s defection underlines that Ukip votes could stop enough Tory MPs being elected to seriously damage David Cameron.

Ed Miliband could be prime minister within months. That fact is more likely today than last week.

But our dear leader is still acting like a student politician. He needs to get serious about governing.

Bashing bankers, Murdoch and anyone wealthy is not an agenda for government.

What is Miliband’s foreign policy? How would he tackle the an emboldened Russia or rampant Isis?

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Carswell’s defection is good for Ukip, bad for the Tories but could be best of all for Labour

29/08/2014, 09:30:05 AM

by Joe Coyne

I wonder if we’ll look back on Douglas Carswell’s resignation as the moment Labour won the general election.

His constituency is ripe Ukip territory. Old, white, not particularly well off.

If he gets in – and the bookies have made him odds on – it will show prospective Ukip voters that a vote for them is not necessarily a wasted vote. As a result we could be looking at a subtle but significant shift in the way  voters perceive Ukip.

While they’ve racked up plenty of support in recent local and European elections, the reality is that people tend to take their vote more seriously when they’re electing the next Prime Minister, rather than their local councillor.

But a breakthrough in Clacton could give them huge momentum and convince sympathisers that Ukip really are a serious option when it all gets serious next May and show a Ukip vote may well give you a Ukip MP.

Ukip have still got to win, and a lot can happen between now and polling day. Much will depend on Tory strategy but recent evidence suggests they’ll get it wrong and their tactics will make a Ukip victory more, rather than less likely.

What the Tories should do is position themselves as the anti-UKIP alliance; select a moderate, mildly Eurosceptic candidate and attack Ukip’s extremism and their competence by exposing the shallowness of their policies. That way they could draw in voters from other parties.

There’s no reason why the Tories can’t echo Labour’s warnings about the unfairness of a flat tax or the danger they pose to the NHS.

However, what I suspect they will do is foolishly play the game squarely on Ukip’s territory. Nigel Farage will want the by-election to be about Europe, immigration and welfare and the Tories will probably select a candidate and trumpet policies that they think will ‘appeal’ to Ukip voters, not realising that it’s a political dead end.

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Labour is dangerously complacent about winning back London post-Boris

14/08/2014, 11:32:25 AM

by Samuel Dale

It was the worst kept secret in Westminster but Boris is finally on his way back.

After years burnishing his profile as Mayor of London, he is looking for a Commons seat next year.

Inevitably the focus has been on the implications for Cameron, Osborne and the battle for the Tory leadership.

But it also confirms – almost certainly – that Johnson will not run again as Mayor of London in 2016.

This is leading to a dangerous complacency from Labour.

The theory goes like this: London is a Labour voting city that has been twice charmed by the charismatic Boris but when he goes the mayoralty will slip back to its rightful owners, Labour.

This belief is fuelled by electoral successes.

Labour did surprisingly well in London in the 2010 general election, costing the Tories a majority.

In the intervening years, it has also won back control of councils and had record breaking results in areas such as Camden in May.

But the mayoralty is different. In their own ways Ken Livingstone and Boris have made the Mayor Of London a big job.

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Labour needs to make common cause with left-wing Lib Dem supporters to win in 2015

29/07/2014, 02:46:20 PM

by Robin Thorpe

Politics, especially party politics, requires compromise. Political parties are necessarily a broad church, so it is little wonder than history is littered with tales of disagreements, splits and reunions. The latest twist in the tale that began with the Gang of Four leaving the Labour Party may this time help rather than hinder a Labour election campaign.

Recent speeches by David Laws and Tim Farron highlight the wide disparity in ideological approach present within the Liberal Democrats. The internal debates within the Liberal Democrat party may not be of huge concern to the Labour supporters, particularly as they are likely to haemorrhage seats at the next election. But they currently represent a significant caucus of the population, the support of whom Labour will need to ensure a majority next year.

The David Laws speech was given at the Orange Book 10 year conference on the 24th June 2014 and considers the question “where next for the liberal agenda?”  He rather predictably revels in his own self-importance but also goes onto present ideas that could have been said by almost all of the coalition front bench. He argues  that

“A liberal state must continue to invest in first class education and health services, even as it seeks to contain the share of GDP consumed by the state…the level of tax rates likely peaked over the last 30 years, and liberals will want both to decline further over time…state spending at 40% of GDP should not be necessary or desirable over the medium and longer term as we reform welfare, raise employment rates, reduce crime and are able to shrink the share of GDP committed to defence and – eventually as developing countries develop – overseas development assistance.”

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Labour should use the language of social justice and ambition to connect with voters

30/05/2014, 12:51:29 PM

by Glenn Edwards

It’s less than a year till the general election and there’s been a lot of talk about Labour alienating itself from business interests and lurching too far to the left. But even if Labour hasn’t been effective in courting corporate leaders this doesn’t mean that it is anti-ambition. Current policies actually seem to have a lot in common with Tony Blair’s once cherished idea of combining social justice with ambition, even if they differ from the ‘third way’ in practice. We just need to start thinking about ambition in a much broader light and therein could lie a key part of the Party’s message over the next year.

Labour is pursuing a political approach that views everyone as potential success stories and not just winners or losers, as people pursuing their own human development and not just static stereotypes and as having a stake in this economy rather than just being compensated for their loss. We need a country that doesn’t wield clout in the world simply through a privileged elite in London but on the backs of a vast army of clever and confident people. Labour’s aim to redirect the economy towards high-skill jobs and create a world-class workforce is a policy example par excellence.

There is a feeling that many politicians, particularly on the right, are pandering to the short term interests of a wealthy few at the expense of the long term prosperity of the nation. In no clearer way is this expressed than the political divide over the treatment of the banks. Labour’s policy of taxing banker’s bonuses in order to create jobs for the long term unemployed isn’t a tax on ambition, it’s a tax on greed. It’s a sensible way of bringing back confidence and self esteem to those who lost it so long ago whilst simultaneously helping expand business.

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Negative campaigning works. But on the issues not the personalities

12/05/2014, 11:02:07 AM

by Pete Heskett

Labour’s task for May 2015 is complex. Clearly the party needs a powerful narrative that gives people positive reasons to vote Labour. However, history also shows that in many instances the electorate vote the incumbents out as much as the vote a new party in – Mrs Thatcher’s victory in 1979 was to a large extent a rejection of Labour, unemployment and the three-day-week, Tony Blair’s victory in 1997 was boosted by a rejection of sleaze, and John Major’s benign under-panted leadership.

If Labour’s recent party political broadcast is anything to go by then we seem to be asking the electorate to get rid of the coalition because Nick Clegg is shallow and weak and the Tories a bunch of mean toffs. Now I’m sure there are many Labour loyalists who agree with this character assessment. However, it’s communication that speaks to the prejudices of those already converted not the broad-based liberal coalition that Jonathan Todd rightly identifies as the target Labour needs to attract to form a government in 2015.

For me this raises an important strategic point for Labour’s communications team. Negative campaigning in the UK at least tends to be most effective when it makes a political point rather than when it tries to make a personal point. Or to use a gender-biased footballing analogy, Labour is now looking guilty of playing the man and not the ball.

Let’s look at some of the most effective political ads in UK history. “Labour isn’t working” was a poster that helped bring Thatcher to power. It didn’t attack Jim Callaghan as a person – wise as he was generally rightly perceived as nice guy – but it linked the Labour government with unemployment. A strategic masterstroke that hit straight at the heart of Labour’s credibility – how could a party of ‘labour’ be responsible for extending the dole queue? Mrs Thatcher rose to power with a greater proportion of working class votes than even the worst nightmares of the Labour leadership would have thought possible.

Labour working not

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UKIP are nothing but useful idiots for capitalism’s ugliest forces

01/05/2014, 01:15:21 PM

by Jon Bounds

It’s easy to laugh at the racists and fruitcakes that make up the UK Independence Party roster of election candidates and councillors. Like clichéd children they do say the funniest things. But like kids they don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. UKIP exists for no other reason than to pull the country’s political discourse dangerously to the right and that’s so worrying because voters, members and even candidates and MEPs don’t realise.

UKIP members can’t be striving to take power to carry out their manifesto, because there is no coherent UKIP policy on anything to get behind. Poster boy Nigel Farage doesn’t know, care, or agree with the manifesto. He dismissed the plans with a comment about how he’d, “never read that. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.” And that’s seemingly okay in a media environment that berates Labour for not having detailed spending plans years in advance.

Treasurer Stuart Wheeler has given the party £514, 957 since 2001 and he doesn’t know what their policies are either. Interviewed at a lunch for Eddie Mair’s PM he blustered, called for more wine, and had very little idea what was going on.

“We’ll launch it [the manifesto] after the European elections,” Farage says. After the election. And you thought only the Lib Dems could make up policy so much on the fly.

Essentially though, it doesn’t matter what UKIP’s policies are —they have an almost zero chance of getting into any sort of power, which is one thing for which we might have to thank the failure of the electoral reform referendum to bring in PR. That means that can say absolutely anything: from “repainting all trains in traditional colours” to “sending the buggers back” if it will keep them in the media’s eye. There’s been more coverage of Farage not standing in a by-election than then has been of the Green Party’s whole European election campaign—making simple ideas like not condemning us all to climate chaos seem more ‘out there’ than a flat 30% tax rate.

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Why Labour should fear the blowback from its war on business

15/04/2014, 11:22:40 AM

by Samuel Dale

During his doomed leadership contest David Miliband said Labour could not afford to go into the 2015 general election with no business support.

One year ahead that election and that is exactly what is happening. Labour is at open war with business with signs it is about to step up the offensive rather than build bridges.

The list of proposed interventions into industry is dizzying with almost every major sector targeted.

I’m told Labour is planning a policy blitz on no fewer than eight sectors ahead of party conference later this year. It is part of an ambitious agenda to significantly boost consumer rights and hand power back to consumers and away from huge corporations. 

Ed Miliband positions himself as US President Teddy Roosevelt breaking up monopolies and boosting competition. His modern incarnation has been called many names from pre-distribution to progressive austerity or socialism with no money. In 21st Century Britain let’s see what Miliband is actually proposing in your crucial industries.

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