A couple of weeks ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its latest data on UK property prices. For anyone, particularly young people, who aspire to getting themselves onto the property ladder, the data did not make good reading. It showed that house prices in December were 5.7 per cent higher across the UK compared with a year earlier, predominately driven by a 12.3 per cent increase in London.
Indeed, the average property in the UK will now set you back a cool £250,000. For people looking to settle in London or South East England (which as a result of the unbalanced UK economy and jobs market is a substantial proportion), this rises to £450,000 and £306,000 respectively.
But what would that even buy you these days?
Save for the rare gem that quite probably requires a lot of work, a £300,000 property (be it a house or a flat) in London or South East England is likely to be only a fairly modest 3-bedroom semi of the type to which many young families will aspire. Yet, the stamp duty bill on this purchase will be £9000, equal to several months’ entire after-tax pay for average earners.
This has resulted in the government pocketing £16.6 billion in stamp duty tax since 2010.
The Labour Students conference began the Friday before last with a co-ordinated effort by several clubs, threatening disaffiliation over the issue of One Member One Vote (OMOV) for elections to the Labour Students National Committee.
In the run-up to conference, the clubs had sent a letter protesting the decision by Steering and the National Committee to block three motions asking for a further debate on OMOV at conference. However, as delegates had already voted on this issue at National Council and agreed not to discuss it until after 2015, the three motions were blocked.
This tension continued into the conference with a mass walkout by several clubs over this issue and a poorly worded motion in favour of stopping censorship and inference from National Council. The motion as a whole would have done nothing to progress their aims and was rightly voted down by the remaining delegates after the walkout.
It is important to note that the walkout was bound up in the politics of Labour students – it was led by supporters of Tom Phipps for National Secretary, though Tom did not walk out himself.
To be brutally honest, I cannot see what the walkout or the whole disaffiliation threat will achieve at all, other than dividing us in the crucial run-up to 2015.
I cannot understand what we will achieve as a divided organisation. On the back of our membership cards, it said “Through our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone.”
The plan for Labour general election victory launched by Uncutat Labour party conference last year included identifying how to fund a radical Labour alternative. Making deeper cuts in certain areas to free funds to spend elsewhere. We identified £34bn of additional cuts to pay for free, universal childcare, 1 million new jobs in areas that need them most through a revived, regionalised Future Jobs Fund, and 1 million new homes.
Last week, Demos published a report in which I argue that this strategy of reallocating public resources from where they are having least impact to where they could have most has the potential to increase the number of apprenticeships delivered. The failings of the Youth Contract have been well documented. In contrast, other schemes – such as the Creative Employment Programme – have much more rapidly increased apprenticeships.
The solution is as simple as it is potentially powerful: reroute funding from the Youth Contract to schemes like the Creative Employment Programme. If we look closely at these schemes, it’s clear why one is performing well and one isn’t.
Since April 2013 the Community Employment Programme has committed funding to create 634 apprenticeships, and 655 paid internships across 491 employers. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of these positions have been created through ‘consortiums’, whereby a lead applicant such as a local authority, LEP, trade body, or larger employer stepped forward to make an application on behalf of a number of employers who might not otherwise understand how to create apprenticeships or what combination of the myriad of funding they may be eligible for.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.