Posts Tagged ‘sunday review’

Sunday review on Thursday: The not-the-London-Labour-mayor hustings

28/11/2013, 01:14:49 PM

by David Butler

When is a husting not a husting? When it is a Progress Campaign for a Labour Majority event on winning in London. That all the invited panellists, including the curiously absent Sadiq Khan, are considered potential nominees for Mayor of London was just pure coincidence.

The event was less a tale of two Londons (or One London Labour or whatever today’s vogue is) but of two de Blasios. David Lammy and Diane Abbott sought this mantle both through reference to New York’s Mayor-elect and through the language and policies on offer. Lammy provide a toned down version of de Blasio’s message, whilst Abbott raised the rhetorical and policy stakes, offering a clear left-populist platform. This, and her potential support from the remnants of Ken’s old machine, makes her a serious contender within a party and electorate to the left of the national norm. Even Andrew Adonis and Tessa Jowell, neither of whom particularly fit the de Blasio mould, referenced “two cities” and “One London” respectively.

However, in many ways, it felt like a London housing policy seminar that happened to have a different title. Both Abbott and Lammy announced support rent regulation, albeit with Lammy obfuscating by calling for “fair rents”. Lammy subsequently redeemed himself with an eminently sensible proposal to build housing on the Green Belt. Jowell warned about the impact of the mansion tax on “asset rich but cash poor” families, a rather surprising move in the circumstances; worrying about those who do well out Britain’s over-inflated housing market should not be high up her priority list. As expected, Adonis had the more innovative ideas proposing to explore shared equity schemes and a “housing bank” to take a stake in future developments in order to prevent land banking.


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Sunday review on Thursday: Left Without A Future by Anthony Painter

25/07/2013, 10:56:34 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Breadth. That is the defining characteristic of Anthony’s book. Left Without A Future provides a clear-sighted overview of the forces – economic, societal and cultural – that are re-shaping our politics.

Daily, we see the results of these forces reported in the news, but stripped of context.  Left Without A Future provides the missing link: a narrative that explains what on earth is happening.

Whether it is the global societal changes that have enabled the Arab spring and are destroying how British political parties traditionally operate, or an economic predicament where austerity is not working yet market worries about borrowing prohibit a full-blooded state response, Anthony illuminates the common challenges that politicians across the world are struggling to address.

As the title of the book suggests, nowhere are these challenges being more keenly felt than on the left.  Europe’s leading left wing parties are in varying degrees of turmoil and the right is in the ascendant. Even in France, where Hollande defeated Sarkozy, the polls are bleak and spirits are low.

The failure of the left to understand, let alone appropriately respond to, the changing world we live in, is vividly brought to life. The analysis of Britain’s own tea party left as embodied in groups such as UK Uncut and Occupy – a rambunctious mix of uncompromising idealism and aggressive trade unionism – is as apposite as it is overdue.

Throughout the book, the insight is leavened with references to the key texts that are informing left thought (many of which have been reviewed by Anthony on pages of Uncut over the past three years.)The impression is of a left in ferment.  There is much commonality on the diagnosis but confusion on the prescription.

Left Without A Future contends that the answer lies in new institutions. Institutions  connect theory and practice, policy design and human experience. The right institutions will establish rules and an environment that shapes behaviour to meet policy goals.

It is a case that is made persuasively. Reformed, locally accountable institutions provide the only true joined-up response to an environment where the tidal currents of culture, society and economy merge and crash over our politics.


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Sunday Review: my best books of the year

23/12/2012, 08:00:07 AM

by Anthony Painter

A sense of crisis is good for the world of thought it would appear. 2012 has been dominated by a continuing economic crisis – most particularly in Europe. There is not yet a sense that out of the wreckage of the old will emerge the new. And yet, in some of the books that have been published this year – some of which I have reviewed on Labour Uncut – there are fresh approaches that may provide hope.

The worldview of both the centre-left and the centre-right in the UK is astonishingly narrow. In many ways our political culture has become incredibly indulgent: narrow, short-term, parochial, interest driven, transactional and tactical. We only have to look at the debate about our future membership of the European Union to see that – it completely disregards the fact that we are hurtling towards irrelevance. Equally, the debate about our economic future is mired in the politics of the moment. Much of what is dressed-up as economic analysis is simply political positioning.

So it has been with relief that in our increasingly global market in ideas, research and debate, there are new ideas and perspectives if we choose to look for them. Other than fighting all the cuts on the left and fighting the EU on the right – both misguided in their own ways – where is the domestic vision for national recovery? If there is a defining feature of the UK’s politics in 2012, it is that we are embracing smallness and irrelevance with seeming self-righteous glee.

In modern times the political challenges have never been so great and the response from our leaders so poor. Perhaps more than anyone else, this is epitomised by the current chancellor of the exchequer who seems to think that national recovery is a political game. The game-players are not only on the government benches. But he, more than anyone else, symbolises the age of small politics in the midst of great challenges. Unless he and our political leaders shift course decisively then an era of British decline awaits. It is entirely avoidable.

In these books of the year, let’s hope that pathways to a bigger politics present themselves. I hope that Santa brings you enough book tokens to enjoy one or two of the following gems (in no particular order).

1. Why nations fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

The future will be defined by the institutions we build. Acemoglu and Robinson take us a tour of economic development across six continents and unlock the key to development at “critical junctures.”.Breathtaking in scope and consequential.

2. The price of Civilization by Jeffrey Sachs

Sachs has established himself as a leading critic of the new centre-left Keynesian orthodoxy. Good for him – someone has to push back against the use of Keynes to avoid real choices while conveniently ignoring the potential unforeseen consequences of much of what is proposed. But that’s not the strength of the book. The strength of this book is that he actually includes a costed plan for recovery and elimination of the primary deficit while investing in science, education, childcare, infrastructure etc.

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Sunday review: Back from the brink, by Alistair Darling

11/09/2011, 11:16:44 AM

by Anthony Painter

Like the Kennedy assassination, new camera angles on the decline and fall of Labour in office will be discovered for many years to come. What’s more, each new piece of undisclosed footage will end with the same dreadful, bloody result. So why do we do it to ourselves? We just can’t help it.

The latest offering from a senior Labour figure, the ‘never knowingly over-optimistic’, Alistair Darling’s Back from the

"A wise voice of reason"

brink has the same literary merit as the others in the genre: structure and style are put in the service of proving a point. But like the chick lit, executive biography or self-help genres (the political memoir may be a subset of this latter category- for the author) it is not full-throttle, florid prose that is the attraction. The author gets to have their say, settle a few scores and we get to vicariously sit in the room while momentous decisions are made.

Perhaps only Chris Mullin’s diaries would be worth recommending to a non-Westminster obsessed friend amongst the New Labour memoirs. For the rest, twenty minutes in the company of exclusive in the Sunday Times would be enough. None of this is particular to Darling; it should be clear by now that this is not my favourite genre. If it’s your taste then Back from the Brink is no better or worse than most of the others.

The Alistair Darling who emerges from these pages is decent, honourable, intelligent, courageous, and resolute. He’s rather like Alistair Darling in fact: very likeable and engaging. When events have subsequently proved him right, he makes his point and then moves on. There is no great crescendo of self-justification. But there’s no real mea culpa either. We simply see things- most of which we knew already- from his perspective. Kennedy gets shot and dies. (more…)

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