It was announced only a mere few minutes ago that the former Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, passed away due to a stroke this morning. She was Britain’s longest serving post-war PM and the only woman to ever hold the job.
I will be honest, on a political level, Thatcher symbolised and represented nearly everything I stand against. Her policies as PM have done more untold harm than of any PM since the war. But on a personal level, I do have great respect for her. The thought of a woman PM in the early 1970s was almost unthinkable, even to Thatcher herself at the time. Upon becoming leader she spent the next seven years fighting an uphill battle, effectively fighting those within her party who deemed little would become of her leadership and then Administration. No post-war Prime Minister has so radically shifted the discourse of British politics (with the exception of Attlee). Taken all together she commands at the very least, considerable respect for how radically she changed and shaped Britain for better or worse. I do admire most principled individuals and Thatcher is no exception.
This is how I will remember Thatcher, a skilled, principled and determined supreme heavyweight figure of 20th Century politics, but a political opponent and adversary all the same.
So how much of the Welfare budget do you reckon is spent on unemployed people? 42%? How much do you reckon is claimed fraudulently from the Welfare budget? 27%? Who do you reckon will be hit most by the 1% limit on benefits, the unemployed “scroungers”? And how much do you reckon is given to the skiving “scrounging” b*rstards on Job Seeker’s allowance (2 kids aged 6 and 10) a week? £147?
If you’d given answers close or on the same as the ones suggested, well, then, you’re completely full of sh*t.
This is what was revealed in a YouGov poll where respondents gave answers similar to the ones suggested. Want to know the real answers?
(Don’t believe me, check the link above).
This is of course shadowed by the outright attempt by Conservative HQ’s attempts to divide the nation like never before by turning the working poor on the unemployed poor (most of whom are seeking work).
While instead, this is the poster they should have published.
I’m tired of this, I’m tired of the demonisation and scapegoating of the poor. But hey, why try solve society’s real problems when you can lie and create scapegoats out of the most vulnerable in society?
This is the result of a compilation of results taken from a website called Political Compass that enables you to complete a test that determines where you are ‘politically’. Both of these ‘Crowd Charts’ (a new feature to Political Compass) were put together on the Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) and Birmingham University Conservative Future’s (BUCF) Facebook groups respectively. Yes, more results will be added given enough time, but for now, I though it’d be nice to have a compare of the results so far.
Here we have the results from BULS:
And here are the results from BUCF:
It seems our Tory counter-parts in BUCF have gathered tonight to watch a film called ‘Tory Boy’. At this a certain sketch by Harry Enfield springs to mind.
Enjoy. Maybe this was BUCF members 5 years ago?
This may be the third or fourth time I’ve posted this, but still good fun.
In light of the recent Cabinet re-shuffle Jeremy Hunt has been moved to the portfolio of Health Secretary. It also turns out Hunt endorsed Homeopathy in 2007. Maybe the NHS may end up like this soon:
It was a case of life imitating art as Junior Treasury Minister Chloe Smith did her best ‘startled and luckless MP off The Thick of It’ impression to a less-than-impressed Jeremy Paxman and an even less impressed viewing audience.
Regardless of your view on the government’s austerity drive, it is easy to sympathise with the young Ms. Smith, an MP since 2009, she was only 15 when Michael Howard took his mauling from Paxman over the whole ‘did you threaten to overrule him?’ saga. Smith’s boss George Osborne was otherwise engaged, and so it fell to Smith to defend the government’s latest instalment of ‘omnishambles’ over the u-turn on the plans to increase fuel duty.
And so it began: ‘When was this decision taken?’ demanded Paxman, on no less than seven occasions. ‘I can’t tell you the ins and outs’ came the response from the obviously rattled Smith, before adding that she was not going to provide ‘a running commentary’. The need for a running commentary there was none; Paul Mason’s introduction had listed the recent u-turns for those less well versed in the burning issues of pasties, caravans and charity boxes. Mason’s piece to camera even included the dreaded ‘i’ word: ‘incompetent’. Shades of the Charge of the Light Brigade therefore, as Osborne’s miscommunication and responsibility shirking left Smith to bear the brunt of Paxo’s wrath.
Back to the interview, and there appeared no end to the onslaught: ‘Is it hard for you to defend a policy you don’t agree with?’ ‘Nice question’ she snapped back, before offering the profound Aristotle-esque analysis that ‘I don’t think many things are certain in this world’. The gravitas of this statement was undermined slightly however by the spluttering and large gulp of water that followed immediately after. It was clear that Paxman could scent blood: ‘Which department has underspent?’ he enquired on five occasions, to be told that ‘they fall across and in different ways’ (yeah, me neither). That was the final straw, and, risking an enquiry from the League Against Cruel Sports into his conduct against the flailing Minister, Paxman bellowed ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ Not even Howard had had it this rough. Smith was clock-watching by now, counting the seconds until she could return to the relative tranquillity of the Treasury Office. The ‘i’ word raised its ugly head once more; ‘Do you ever think you’re incompetent?’ Smith muttered something about ‘the best interests of her constituents’, and that was that. Phew.
By Dan Harrison, Former BULS Chair
Among the two years of Coalition government that Britain has been subjected to there has been little to smile about. There is no need to list the ‘omnishambles’ here, even those who have better things to do with their time than check the tweetings of the political geekery are well versed in just how inept and backward this government’s policies are. Then, all of a sudden, there appeared a ray of hope, a reason to celebrate, perhaps this Cameron fella ain’t so bad after all – he wants to introduce Equal Marriage.
I read with despair the comments of those supportive of Equal Marriage and I wanted to shout: ‘Can you not see the mind-forged manacles of institutionalism that Marriage (in any form) brings?!’. The Gay Liberation Front, nurtured on the campus at LSE in the early 70s was very clear in its view, condemning on page 2 in The Gay Manifesto the ‘archaic and irrational teaching [that] support the family and marriage as the only permitted conditions for sex.’ The Gay Liberation Front’s key theme was anti-assimilation. Gay people were equal, sure, but they were different as well, and as such should play no role in conforming to the ‘archaic’ institutions and cultural practises that made up Britain’s history. It was this direct, ‘in-yer-face’ attitude which makes the GLF so important to Gay history in Britain. The concept of Marriage could play no part in their ‘aim at the abolition of the family.’ (p.9)
I for one oppose marriage. I agree with the GLF when they stated that ‘we will not be freed so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the patriarchal family.’ It would have been hypocritical of me, I believed, to oppose marriage, but be in favour of Equal Marriage.
I then looked to see who also opposed Equal Marriage. I could find nobody that shared my opinion on the fundamentally unjust nature of marriage. Instead it was a collection of knee-jerk Tory MPs (the dusty and offensive Peter Bones of this world) and irrelevant Church Minsters, whose quest to preserve ‘traditional family values’ was little more than thinly veiled homophobia and ignorance. These people seem to advocate human rights, as long as this doesn’t stretch to sexuality equality. And I was not prepared to enter this unholy coalition.
It then dawned on me that my argument was flawed. Basically, I was being an academic elitist, pontificating from the comforts of a university on how ‘blinkered’ everyone was apart from me. (I once heard this described as ‘intellectual masturbation’).
So if gay couples wish to show their love to one another and society at large by entering the traditional institution of marriage then there is absolutely no argument, certainly morally, why this shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Sign me up as a convert. Just don’t expect any Queer Radicals to be heading up the aisle any time soon.
By Dan Harrison, former BULS Chair
Thank you Labourlist for pointing this out from the night of the local elections:
This is a tweet from Conservative Central Head Quarters (CCHQ) twitter account from the middle of the results night.
Labour had a net-gain of 824 councillors by the next day.
Hopefully, the fantastic election results for Labour on Thursday will mark the point at which the coalition begins to unravel. Indeed, since the election Tory backbenchers such as Nadine Dorries have accused the PM of ‘privileged arrogance and bad manners’ and have allegedly begun discussing a motion of no confidence.
Dorries goes on to claim that “we do not have true conservative values in our party at the moment – we have a predominance of Liberal Democratic values”, a sentiment most grass-roots Liberal Democrats would wholeheartedly disagree with. Can a government which has implemented such draconian cuts really be considered one which has embraced ‘Liberal Democratic values’?
The problem for the Liberal Democrats is that their vote share declined to a measly 16% of the vote, a second year of pain for a party which has traditionally done better in local elections than in general elections. Lib Dem activists fear that the loss of so many councillors may result in the party facing an ‘electoral wipeout’ in 2015. The Liberal Democrats do deserve the rejection by voters due to Clegg’s decision to abandon core Lib Dem positions, such as on tuition fees, and the failure to moderate a government dominated by conservative principles. However, the product of weaker Lib Dems may just be an even stronger Tory party, especially in the south, or worse, a stronger UKIP.
The worry is that the Tories’ declining share of the vote, coupled with the success of smaller parties such as UKIP, which polled 14% of the vote in areas which they contested, could lead to the party making a further lurch to the right in order to win back the more conservative voters won over by UKIP. Calls have been made by MPs such David Davis to abandon progressive elements of the coalition’s policies such as Lords reform and gay marriage in order to give a “more Conservative flavour to the coalition”.
In particular the success of UKIP has the potential to ignite a fight from Tory backbenchers over Europe, and in this regard both the Tory right and UKIP represent a further danger to Britain. With the European elections approaching in 2014, the Tory party could see the increasing popularity of UKIP, who usually perform well in elections to the European Parliament, as a sign they need to adopt a more Eurosceptic approach. Following David Cameron’s recent unwillingness to work with fellow European leaders on solving the Eurozone debt crisis, a more Eurosceptic approach has the potential to further isolate Britain on the periphery of the European project.
Although, the EU has many, many problems, including a clear democratic deficit, it is an institution which ultimately does serve the British interest. In particular, when it comes to the environment, Europe has led the way internationally in agreeing to ambitious emissions targets and unilaterally implementing a tax on aviation.
What Labour needs to do is address the genuine concerns the public have when it comes to the EU. Last week, the former business secretary, Peter Mandelson, called for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, due to the fundamental changes in the nature of the EU in the decades since the last referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe. Such a high-profile call for a referendum by a former Labour minister, should be heeded by the current Labour leadership. The Labour party has the potential to redraw the debate around Europe by taking the initiative and adopting a policy which would show that the party is listening to the millions of people who clearly have issues with Europe. The opportunity to make the case for Europe would expose divisions within the Conservative party over the issue, while also giving the British people a chance to have their say on a changing institution which does have huge implications for the democracy of this country.
A (mostly) referenced version of this post is available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WcmZYW11nzzWq1OWKVc7s2laxdhHAVJHyp7UsqA4W9Y/edit
By Alex Swanson, BULS Website Editor
Ed Miliband in Birmingham yesterday with Birmingham Council Labour Group leader, Sir Albert Bore
That’s right, throughout Friday Labour saw it’s best performance in a local election since 1995 (all in proportion to how many Council elections were up for grabs as last year we gained more but far more were up for grabs). And similarly the Tories saw their worst local election result since 1996 and the Lib Dems now have dropped down below 3,000 councillors for the first time in the party’s existence.
This was a result that exceeded everyone’s expectations on all fronts. With most Tories attempting to spin the result to say we needed around 450 councillor gains to be seen as a success, we only smashed that with 823! When everyone expected Scottish Labour to lose Glasgow City Council we not only fought off a SNP challenge but took control of the council at the expense of the Lib Dems and Tories. When everyone said Labour would only win a slight majority in our very own Birmingham City Council, we smashed all expectations by gaining 20 councillors and winning a 34 seat majority. When it was expected Welsh Labour would fail in taking Cardiff City Council, we defied all predictions by gaining 33 councillors and winning a majority of 17! And we’re very proud of very nearly almost gaining control of the Greater London Assembly, falling short by 1 Assembly member.
This election wasn’t without its disappointments though. BULS’s very own Honourary life Member, Dennis Minnis, was unsuccessful in taking Edgbaston. And biggest of all, huge disappointment at Ken’s defeat. We are all glad Ken did defy most (but not all, sadly) odds by not letting Boris have a shoe-in election by pushing the margin on the second round to a close 3%. Many Tories see Boris as the next leader and Prime Minister in waiting. “Wiff-waff” may well have edged it in London, don’t expect the country to do the same.
Of course, the results did see successes close to our hearts in BULS. Obviously there was turning Birmingham City Council red, but BULS saw former student of the University of Birmingham, Karen McCarthy, join former BULS Secretary, Brigid Jones, as a Councillor for Selly Oak. Quinton ward, where Grandee Nash played a large hand in, was also successful in electing Caroline Bradley.
All in all, while this was a brilliant result for Labour nationally we have to remember this has happened to opposition parties in the past. Hague, Howard and Kinnock all saw similar successes at mid-term local elections in their time in opposition. This was a much needed boost, not a prelude for the general election. Though it is safe to say, that the media, politicians and the wider public can no longer claim Miliband has no chance at 2015. There’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done, but we now know that we still do have a shot at 2015.
I remember posting this video to this blog just over 2 years ago. We all warned of the dangers drastically chanfed, but as we’re now officially back in recession, we hate to say we told you so.
Chris Grayling, in case you didn’t already know, is the Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell, and Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. He is also a lying bastard and has dreadful communication skills. His efforts tackling the worst unemployment among young people in generations have been lacklustre to say the least. He, alongside faux-compassionate conservative Iain Duncan Smith, is the government’s standard bearer for punitive schemes designed to punish and exploit the unemployed. He has used his position of power and privilege to slander and misrepresent the characters and causes of anyone who dares speak against him. When the inequities of his schemes are highlighted, he resorts to spin and bare faced lies. In short, he is an evil, hateful, immoral little man.
The quite excellent Johnny Void documents more fully Grayling and the DWP’s shameful back-story. Today I come to credit Grayling. In between selling our youth as slaves and branding the Archbishop of Canterbury a militant Trotskyite, he has successfully created one new job. Just the one. Here [link].
I know from experience that jobs working for MPs can receive hundreds of applications for a single position. In this case there may be fewer, given what any politically aware unemployed person will know about Grayling. But if Hell itself were looking for part-time bar staff, even Satan might receive CVs from desperate job hunters. When hundreds of people apply for one position, 99% of those are mathematically guaranteed to be unsuccessful. How will Grayling reconcile these masses of doomed applicants with his wider responsibility for policy? Will he realise that his hateful ideology is wrong in blaming individuals for economic circumstances far beyond their control?
Here’s an idea. The deadline for this job is not until Monday (23rd). The essential qualifications and requirements are actually very low. Any young person who has passed a handful of GCSEs could, with a minimal amount of on the job training, perform the advertised role. I’m going to apply. You should to. So should everyone who is currently unemployed, and even those who aren’t but who will need a job in the near future. We’re all qualified. Assuming that the position is filled on a loosely meritocratic basis, we should all have a fair chance of consideration.
If, by Monday morning, Grayling’s office inbox is fit to bursting with job applications (“the standard was very high”) then maybe, just maybe, he’ll start to consider the massive competition that exists for even the most basic of jobs. Maybe he’ll begin to appreciate just how many individuals are trapped in limbo by a lack of opportunities. Maybe (and this is a long shot) he’ll cut us some slack, stop using his departmental jackboot to bully and intimidate, and start creating real jobs, beyond making cups of tea in his constituency office.
It won’t take long. Thirty minutes to draft a covering letter, and any good student/graduate job-hunter should have a CV to hand, one that can be appropriately tweaked. Grayling may endorse lying, but I encourage honesty, these should be genuine applications. I could put an example here, but several hundred individual submissions will carry far more weight than a thousand copy and pastes. Apply. Apply now! If you’re really lucky – and I mean really lucky – you might just end up working for the Right Honourable Member.
The ad in full (courtesy of w4mpjobs):
As we all know, the London mayoral election is quickly approaching. The two front-runners, and perhaps the candidates who are of most importance to us Labour lot, are well known: Ken Livingstone, the famous collector of lizards, and Boris Johnson, the living incarnation of a 15th century duke.
However, whilst these candidates have received plenty of media coverage, it remains that others have been pushed into the background. So what I want to – very briefly – highlight, are a couple of local council candidates in Birmingham.
BULS has, in the last year, been very active in the local area. Last year, Edgbaston council candidate Dennis Minnis lost by only 21 votes. This year, he is standing again, and BULS has been behind him 100%. A few weeks ago, a few of us went out on a Saturday to talk to local residents with Dennis. As we were walking down Charlotte Road (not too far from the Vale), Dennis told us that in the early 1990s, he won a large redevelopment fund for the street. Before, he said, there were partially deserted and dilapidated high rise buildings. These tower blocks are now gone, and the street looks entirely different (there’s even a nice playground there, where Catie Garner, our incoming Chair, got very distracted with the shiny swing sets). Dennis is incredibly passionate about his local community, and this is just one example of the astounding work that he has done in the past.
Another candidate who I would like to quickly mention is Elaine Williams, the council candidate for Harborne ward. Unlike Dennis, she has never been a councillor before, but is by no means any less passionate. I met Elaine last October, and have been out campaigning for her ever since. Recently, she wrote in Harbone Local News about the local elections (http://www.harbornenews.com/April2012/index.html). On page 15, she talks about the work she has done in the last few months for Harborne. One point she highlights concerns the sale of the Clock Tower on Harborne High Street, a former local community centre. In short, the grade II listed building was in need of repair, and the local Tories commissioned the erection of scaffolding on the building. Along with James McKay, the only Labour councillor in Harborne, Elaine found through an FOI request that the scaffolding cost around £12,000 a week. They then subsequently found an alternative quote of £2,000 a week, which was ignored by the Tories. Within no time, the debt quickly amounted to around £800,000. Recently, the centre was sold for £100,000, effectively meaning that £700,000 of local taxpayers’ money was lost. As James said in a radio interview, you’d be hard pressed to find a flat for £100,000 in the centre of Harborne, let alone a grade II listed building.
It’s also worth having a look at this – http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/harborne_clock_tower_sale_price?unfold=1 – to see more about the work she’s done regarding the Clock Tower (scandal).
As one of the most talked about issues in Harborne, Elaine has been at the forefront of the debate. Like Dennis, she has been passionate about local issues, and would no doubt do a fantastic job as Harborne’s second Labour councillor.
This is my first blog, and as boring as it might be, I really wanted to highlight this issue. Whilst other political issues like the London mayoral election and the Birmingham Mayoral referendum are at the forefront of the news, dedicated individuals like Dennis and Elaine are hardly talked about. Of course, I’m not surprised, but I wanted this rant to provide some needed attention to our local candidates. It’s easy for these candidates to be lost in the political mix, but with the local elections dawning on Thursday 3rd May, I wanted to quickly show that councillors can make a difference, and that these candidates will make a difference if elected.
By Ed Gilbert, Vice-Chair-elect
In the past week the “progressive” mask of the Tory party has all but disintegrated. Once again, boggle-eyed theories of “the enemy within” have been aired. By now most people in the country will be aware of the morally repulsive government scheme that is workfare. Anyone with a heart and a social conscience will be opposing it.
According to Grayling and IDS though, we opponents are just a tiny “unrepresentative” bunch of extremist “trots”. Ah yes, “trots”, meaning trotskyists; because if you can’t counter an argument with logic, reason and facts, then why not descend into slurs, name-calling and ad homninum? I have used the term “trots” in the past to refer to left-wing opponents. It was wrong of me then, being both ignorant and a lazy and knee-jerk form of argument. All in all its use by the government signifies an intellectual unwillingness to engage in the issues.
Yet what can we expect from men who so clearly do not know the difference between right and wrong? Already they have lied through their teeth about the “voluntary” nature of workfare. Government documents are, even now, being fabricated or hidden from official websites. The DWP, as always, peddles its Orwellian propaganda. Everyone who has first hand experience of the Job Centre and these schemes knows that Grayling and IDS are open liars. When brave individuals like Cait Reilly have dared to stand up against workfare, they have been mercilessly slurred and slandered in the Tory press. Now there are threats of a heavy police presence at future workfare protests – presumably to intimidate the vulnerable into compliance.
I am against workfare because I believe in a fair days pay for a fair days work. I oppose businesses exploiting the free labour of the unemployed. I oppose the unemployed being punished for economic circumstances beyond their control. I oppose undermining the wages of paid employees by working for free. I oppose already rich individuals and shareholders profiting from forced and unpaid labour.
According to Grayling and IDS, all this makes me an “extremist” and a “trot”. This being so, all hail Comrade Trotsky!
By Chris Nash
That’s right, four by-election victories on the trot. Yes, all these were in Labour held seats, but it’s important how every single one has seen a significant swing towards Labour each time. The results were as follows:
Labour – 12,639 (54.42% up by 10.79%)
Conservative – 6,436 (27.71% down by 6.32%)
Liberal Democrats – 1,364 (5.87 down by 7.87%)
UKIP – 1,276 (5.49& up by 3.45%)
This has seen a 8.6% swing from Tory to Labour, when compared to the last general election which saw a mere 4.8% swing from Labour to Tory. Yes, the turnout was very low, but what do you expect at this time of year?
Either way, great result!
Friday was the day the old fetish returned. The day Cameron delved into nostalgia. And the day he set Britain at odds not only with the other 26 EU member states, but rationality itself.
What we saw on Friday was a Prime Minister with his hands tied by dogmatic backbench MPs. But not to worry, it seems Cameron had unveiled his all powerful ‘veto’. The only problem with this is that it’s not a true veto of any sorts. Negotiations will still be ongoing, the remaining 26 EU states will still formulate an agreement and Britain will not be present to have any say in the talks.
This is catastrophic failure for Cameron who has severed any attempts to help salvage the Euro which is not only in the EU’s interest but vital in Britain’s interests. In the words of a Facebook update by my own brother:
“Tory lol. Blame the economic problems on the Euro crisis, then veto the plan to save it knowing full well that the the EU will cut you out and essentially get rid of any say you have in determining the future of Europe, and by extension, Britain“
Some may call it Bulldog spirit, I’d like to call it naively dogmatic.
#godisgove and #torybible are to hashtags on twitter which have both appeared in recent days in the wake of Michael Gove’s decision to issue a King James edition of the bible to every state school in England. Now I’m not going to get into the whole inappropriateness of this act (If you know me well enough you’d remember I’m a massive atheist, but, I like to keep my role as BULS’s Vice-Chair totally separate from religion). But here according to LabourList are the top 10 best tweets featuring those hashtags.
@4harrisons - And Cameron said “let there be growth” but lo! There was no growth
@mattedbrooke – And God said, “why have you eaten from the forbidden tree?” And Adam said, “we inherited this fruit from the labour government”
@ChrisBryantMP – Faith, hope and charity – have now been abolished as they were unproductive
@politic_animal – And on the seventh day he would have liked to have rested, but the government had opted out of the Working Time Directive
@lethandrel – And the lame were made to walk and the blind to see – well, according to the new assessments ….
@johnprescott – Blessed are the coalition for they shall inherit from and blame the last government
@cllr_robbins – Blessed are the freeschoolmakers: for they shall be called the children of Gove
@MatofKilburnia – And Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, which Gove did putteth in school dinners & lo Jamie Oliver was displeased
@GoodmotherMobbs – And the lepers were ‘cured’; as ATOS found them fit for work
@evilflea – And then He createth all of the beasts and the animals, excepteth the cat, which he did not make up.
Yesterday we saw a good sign in the economy that inflation had fallen from 5.2% to 5%. We welcome it but it’s still not good enough, especially when Eurozone inflation has remained at a reasonable 3%. It seems however, this is rather irrelevant with the news released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) where unemployment has risen to 2.62 million from July to September.
That’s right, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer who over a year ago claimed “we were out of the woods” now had the audacity to have one of their Ministers for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, claim that ”What we’ve seen over the last quarter has been the real impact of the crisis in the eurozone”. That’s right, they’re blaming their old punch bag, Europe. Don’t get me wrong, the crisis in the Eurozone is severe, but it in now way at a stage to make a real impact on unemployment figures, especially in a non-Euro state.
With the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rising to 1.6 million by 5,300. The highest number of women out of work since February 1988 at 1.09 million rising by 43,000. Youth unemployment breaking the 1 million mark at 1.02 million with a rising by 67,000 and the unemployment rate of 8.3% being the highest since 1996 and the total number of unemployed people the highest since 1994, it’s about time Cameron and Gideon took another look at their plan.
With inflation around 5%, consumer confidence falling for four months on the trot, business confidence falling to a two year low, growth flat-lining in the past 9 months and growth expectations themselves being cut, you would have thought Gideon (George) Osborne would think things could not get any worse.
Well apparently they can. It seems 100 leading economists have written into the Observer to tell Gideon to adopt a plan B. Now while letters like this have been done in the past, the difference being that this time it has an alternative outline. It’s an alternative Miliband and Balls should take head to:
I think most of us can agree that sex education has an important role to play in public schools. But to what level of importance would you say it is?
To Conservative MP, Andrea Leadsom, it seems not very. Let’s put this into context. In England and Wales sex education is not a compulsory subject for public schools (I know for one that I personally received nothing at my High School) and that parents are allowed to “opt out” their child if the school does teach it. And you wonder why we have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.
Anyway, back to Andrea Leadsom. It seems she believes that parents should have to “opt in” their children to sex education classes and that current sex education books are “inappropriate”. This is while a report published by Ofsted last year pointed out that a quarter of schools in England are not providing good enough lessons about sex, relationships and health. At the same time new research in the last couple of weeks provided information that “81% of 14 to 18-year-olds said their information came from the internet, the television and their friends.” and “one in four pupils do not have any sexual and relationship education in school.“.
Now some may say that abstinence only sex education is the only sound and “moral” way forward. But when we analyse this claim, it’s quite apparent that this argument is not grounded in research and facts. The Council of Scientific Affairs states that ”Current research findings do not support the position that the abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is effective in delaying the onset of intercourse.”.
I have already done a similar post on sex education before. But the point still stands, we need more not less sex education. If we truly want to tackle STDs, teenage pregnancies and yes, even abortions (again look to my previous post and subsequent comments regarding abortions) we need sound and effective sex education with no “opt-outs” for pushy and insecure parents.
So please Leadson, could the education system have some more.
David Cameron has a nerve. Not only has he U-turned over his pledge in opposition to hold a referendum over the UK’s terms of membership of the European Union, but today he had the temerity to force Nicolas Sarkozy to back down and accept his presence at key Eurozone talks to try to deal with the Greek debt crisis on Wednesday.
Once again, only one year into the new government, a Conservative prime minister is becoming about as stable on Europe as Edwina Currie is on her feet. We all know deep down he is a staunch Euro-sceptic, so why doesn’t he have the guts to come out and be frank with the British people, and say that he would love us to turn our backs on our continental partners, but that he also loves us to lecture and patronise them on economic policy, despite the fact that UK growth is anaemic at best, and backwards at worst, thanks to his policies.
A referendum on EU membership now would of course be absurd, but having called for one in opposition, the PM should stick to his guns and create a disunited and discredited government, and do us all a favour by breaking up the coalition and triggering a general election. You can’t have your bun and eat it, and you can’t be half in, half out, of the EU – leaving the Eurozone (or more accurately, Germany) to do all the hard work and then turning up to talks this week to act as one of the key players while facing a referendum proposal at home from your own backbenchers is hypocritical and downright embarrassing for Britain.
It was Ed Miliband, incidentally, who called on Cameron to give up his trip Down Under and attend the meeting, therefore whether or not you agree that Cameron has a right to be there, it is clear that the Labour leader is ahead of the curve on this one, as he was on phone hacking and as he was at PMQs this week.
It might sound like a cheap shot from the comforts of opposition – and we all know Blair and Brown disagreed over the Euro – however it is clear that yet again the Tories are divided over Europe. Europhile or Europhobe, this is one of the few reliable constants of the European project.
In light of the NHS reform bill being pushed through the House of Lords, I’d like to draw attention to what many Tories may be thinking now because of it.
Going to use a bit of the Brigid Jones BULS blog formula this morning.
It turns out there’s going to be the biggest drop in middle-income families incomes since the 1970s and so pushing 600,000 more children into poverty according to the IFS. This is while Gideon (George) Osborne has announced a £840 million tax break for multinationals using tax heavens while it turns out the amount of tax money lost in the FTSE 100 by tax avoidance is estimated to be £18bn. So much for the cuts being “progressive”.
To insult to misery, it turns out public sector job losses will 50% higher than originally predicted. So much for Cameron’s pre-election claim that any Minister who came to him with front-line public sector cuts would be told to go back and have a rethink.
After Gideon’s (Osborne’s) low-key and rather dull speech at the Tory Conference today where he claimed his economic plan to be working and even, dare I say it, “flexible”. I’d like to draw attention to the only aspect of Gideon’s plan that has so far proved to be “flexible”, the growth expectations by the IMF over the last 6 months or so, curtsey of LabourList:
The fact is, the CBI, the IMF and now even some Tory backbenchers and Chairs of Treasury select committees have called for a plan for growth or at least attempts to stimulate it. Like we said a few weeks ago, a temporary cut in VAT would be a huge stimulus as pointed out by the IFS.
It seems Gideon was only really to parade the the low interest rates in his speech, but with the abysmal growth over the last year or so, it seems we may have a rise in interest rates regardless if growth doesn’t pick up.
So please Gideon, think again.
9/11 – A Warning from Recent History
For someone of the age of the current crop of Labour Students, it is particularly difficult to believe that it is ten years tomorrow since the lives of millions were changed forever on September 11th, 2001. Most of us were still in primary school at the time, and it is perhaps apt that our generation – one that was constantly told we were growing up too fast – had our innocence of the world around us robbed so suddenly on that bright Tuesday morning. Hearing and seeing the images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center still transfixes all of us, and as much as we might want to look away having seen enough, we can’t quite bring ourselves to stop watching.
However it is our generation – the 9/11 generation – who will be the politicians and headline-makers of the coming years, and if anything good can come of the last decade, it is surely the lesson that those in power have a responsibility not to overreact when faced with such onslaughts. Our party’s most successful leader (in electoral terms) no doubt had good intentions, but made the grave error of marching the troops gung-ho into an unplanned and illegal war, probably creating a whole new generation of terrorists in the process, while at home him and those around him were complicit in eroding many of the freedoms we were meant to be protecting, including detention without charge and freedom from torture. If the horror of terrorism reaches us again, we must pause and assess the causes before acting. The same rule should apply for other crises, like the riots this summer.
Backbench Tories Have Nothing To Worry About
Today is the final day of the Plaid Cymru autumn conference in Llandudno, north Wales. The outgoing leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, made his final conference speech yesterday after an electoral drubbing for the nationalist party in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Unlike in Scotland, where the SNP have been successful, he argued that coalition government in Cardiff Bay (of which Plaid was the junior party) meant Plaid’s achievements in government were smothered by Labour, and that the party was punished by voters for not claiming credit for them.
Aside from the fact that Plaid achieved very little in government in a time of economic turmoil other than a referendum with poor turnout which managed to bore even political anoraks, their experience in coalition should serve as a lesson to Westminster politics. This week Tory backbenchers, angry over law and order, Europe and abortion, moaned that the Lib Dem ‘tail’ was wagging the Tory ‘dog’ and that Nick Clegg was being given too many concessions by the Prime Minister. However come the election in 2015, the Tories will have nothing to worry about, as the voters are likely to give them sole credit for any successes – particularly if the economy picks up (not a given considering Osborne’s slash-and-burn approach) – and they will certainly not be looking to make some sort of permanent alliance with the Lib Dems, contrary to what some commentators are predicting. The coalition dog will probably have his tail docked when the voters are next given a choice.
About Bloody Time
This week the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood for life in Britain was finally overturned (although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the leap forward because the BBC thought Strictly Come Dancing was more important on the news bulletins that night). This is a triumph that equality campaigners have been working tirelessly for for years, and at last gay men will be able to save lives and help tackle the urgent need for more donors. No more will the official policy imply that gay men cannot be trusted to practice safe sex and ‘probably have HIV’.
Although the ban was only replaced with a one-year time lag since a donor’s last encounter, it is still progress, and puts us more in line with the situation in similar countries.
As Ed Miliband gathers opinions and considers the future policy direction of the Labour party as part of the Policy Review, there has been much debate recently about whether or not to pursue ‘Blue Labour’, as proposed by the academic and Labour peer Maurice Glasman. Blue Labour, a response to ‘Red Toryism’, aims to put co-operatives and the community at the heart of the lives of ordinary British people, and is a rebuttal of New Labour’s strangling embrace of neo-liberalism, which left swathes of grassroots Labour supporters feeling alienated and ignored by the party leadership.
Glasman has a point, for throughout the history of the ‘people’s party’ there has been a split between liberals, state socialists and those who favour co-operatives and more local organisation – many Labour MPs today are also members of the Co-operative Party, and since its inception at the turn of the twentieth century the Labour movement has been associated with local organisation and mobilisation.
Martin Pugh in his 2009 book “Speak for Britain: A New History of the Labour Party” argues persuasively that the real dilemma for Labour through its history has not been attracting liberal support, but attracting hard-working but low-paid voters from the temptations of the Conservatives: many ordinary working class communities share the Tories’ patriotism; love of the armed forces (many of them have close relatives or friends serving in Afghanistan); desire for home ownership and a tough stance on law and order – why did so many vote for Margaret Thatcher in 1979, read the Daily Mail, and in a few cases drift to more extreme parties through fear of their jobs because of immigration and globalisation? Pugh stresses that when Labour came into being many voters were torn between it and the Tories because of these economic concerns, plus social beliefs like temperance or the role of the Church in schools.
Where Glasman takes the wrong path, in my view, is in his attempt to respond to Cameron’s Big Society by mimicking it and advocating a further retrenchment of the state, along with a return to a 1950s-style focus on the family, the flag, and feminism being almost unheard-of. That’s not ‘Blue Labour’, that’s just conservatism. If we as social democrats want to see equality of provision across the board, we need to expose the Big Society for what it is: a cover for cuts dreamt up by Steve Hilton when the Tories needed to be seen to be shedding the aura of Thatcherism.
If Labour is to win elections again without ditching our principles – to do so would be an insult to people like the families of those killed in Norway – we need to ‘re-connect with the grassroots,’ to use the spin-doctors jargon, by addressing, or at the very least appreciating, the legitimate concerns of the hard-working folk who keep the economy growing and keep money coming into the Exchequer. Instead of Big Society initiatives, we need to take the lead on key issues like housing, providing ample employment for deprived communities and young people generally, and not simply dismissing people’s concerns about migration and welfare dependency. That does not mean leaving the EU, saying we should only have British jobs for British workers, or undertaking humiliating fit-for-work tests like those currently going on under Iain Duncan Smith. It just means listening to those too well-off to be on benefits but on low wages, as well as staying true to proud values like tolerance. If we go some way to pointing out these worries in opposition, whilst criticising the Con-Dems’ unfair cuts, the sought-after swing voters will follow, and we may just wake up to find ourselves in government again.
Sorry for the lack of blogging in the past couple of weeks, I myself have been working almost full-time with a work-placement on the side. Anyway, I’d like to focus on two of the biggest economic updates in a news dominated by the ongoing phone hacking scandal. The up coming growth figures for Tuesday and the situation over the debt talks in the USA.
First off, who needs a plan B, right? Judging by what is being said by the likes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) this stubbornness is not quite paying off. The GDP growth figures are mainly regarded as the be and end all test for a government’s economic credibility. To meet budget forecasts for growth this year the UK will need 0.8% of that well needed boost. What the NIESR is predicting the Office for National Statistics to actually say is that the UK has grown by a mere 0.1% with some City forecasts predicting a contraction.
Now don’t get me wrong, here in BULS we are capable of recognising that the Chancellor (Gideon) can not control every aspect of the economy. The rise in oil and food prices and the growing concern over the Eurozone crisis aren’t the greatest assets ever. In fact, the idea of austerity does have the vague potential to work, as seen in Canada in the 90s and in the UK in the 80s. But these are totally dependant upon favourable economic circumstances in neighbouring nations such as Europe and the USA. Sadly though, we currently don’t have those circumstances. We don’t have secure and confident markets in Europe and the USA and this is something Gideon totally fails to grasp. Cutting spending to reduce the deficit is all very well but once again, it’s pointless without growth to fuel this deficit reduction and with average pay rising at 2.3% and inflation at 4.2% (thank you VAT hike) this recovery is still far from certain.
Turning our attention over across the Atlantic it seems Federal government has seen a roadblock to progress because of dogged stubbornness with Republican House Speaker John Boehner walking out on a crucial debt talks with Senate leaders and the White House. Now anyone who’s studied the US governmental and political structure will always recognise that it is a system based upon compromise. With an increasingly ideologically driven Republican based House of Representatives, Obama has had to make drastic compromises in the name of reaching a deal for the good of America.
The President has already pledged to double his cuts particularly in the area of medicare which many supporters (such as myself) are completely aghast at, with $650bn of extra cuts pledged recently. Either way, this is a man who will attempt to build the bridge with his conservative law-makers. Sadly, it takes two to build a bridge and this is not what we are seeing from the Republican end of the river who refuse to raise any taxes (I thought they were rather keen on deficit reduction?). The Republicans have increasingly gone down the road of stubbornness in the past few years, but now it’s time to walk the walk as well as talk the talk as they put aside ideological differences. Sadly, given the ever increasing grip of the Tea Party, I doubt this much needed maturity will happen any time soon.
To be brutally honest, when this whole phone hacking milarky began to come out 6, 9 months ago I really couldn’t care that much. But now, truly, everything has changed. The biggest circulatory newspaper of all time is being dropped, Andy Coulson has been arrested, murder and soldier victim families phones being tapped and quite frankly, the media will never truly be the same again.
So what can we identify and salvage from this wreckage? Well first off to get you in a good mood only Ed Miliband’s finest performance as Labour leader to date by being the first to call for enquiries, the first to call for the axing of the PCC, the first to call for Rebekah Brook’s resignation and the first to demand the transfer of the BSkyB bid to the competition commission. Ultimately, this is a welcome overcoming of fear of the Murdoch empire. Too long has a US-based media tycoon dictated overarching control over Britain. Don’t get me wrong, Labour’s hands are far from clean when it came to dealing with the tycoon master, but this is a major break not just for Labour but for British Politics as one major political force cuts it’s links with the media empire it feared. Miliband despite his fine performance recently has to be careful as already a senior Miliband aid received a “very hostile” threat, not veiled at all, from a News International journalist warning: “You have made it personal about Rebekah, so we’ll make it personal about you.”.
This break for British politics is all very well but it depends on Cameron following suit, which he has so far shown to be unwilling. It is clear that Camero also fears the monopoly and is too entwined in the spider’s web of Murdoch’s empire to truly break free. It was Cameron’s decision to bring in Coulson fresh from News of the World not only in to his team while in opposition but as Director of Communications in No. 10 despite an uneasy background record and he has paid dearly for this judgement. Let’s hope Cameron can make the right decision over the BSkyB deal as this is truly the real prize in all this chaos.
For Murdoch to jettison the very paper that brought him into the British media it seems that he realised the true potential of BSkyB. Newspapers are in decline, the future is the internet and TV. Sky’ revenue is already greater than the BBC’s which combined with his remaining papers would place Murdoch beyond reach of any rival media circles and organisations. With this power he could begin to truly cripple one of Britain’s greatest institutions, the BBC. Any chance that Sky would remain a fully bias free organisation is impossible given Murdoch’s record with the Times, the Sun, the NoW and Fox News over in the USA.
We’ve made our move, it’s time for Cameron to follow suit and do the right thing and remove this poison from British politics once and for all.
We’re all very aware of the Tory-led Coalition’s spree of u-turns which numbers around 15. Naturally then it was a matter of time before Cameron would attempt to spin what had been going on. Yesterday in a press conference Cameron claimed that a u-turn (although under this government they have regarded them as “policy rethinks”) was a “sign of strength”. Now in part, I agree with that sentiment. It is far better to consider alternative views and opinions and it is not a sign of weakness if you genuinely change your mind or if the evidence shows other-wise to your own beliefs in the long-run.
However, it’s far far better to get it right first time round. We all know this government is Maoist in terms of the speed of reform and this has clearly been shown through the sheer number of u-turns. Things are not thought out and the public will eventually catch on. It’s all very well to be a “listening government”, but I believe it’s far better to listen before you are made to.
We’ve come along way from the “lady’s not for turning”.
Just a quick blog before bed (the morning will feature the Republican Presidential Nomination race) and I’d like to thank Planetpmc for pointing out the 15 major U-turns the Tory-led government has had to make in the past year. Enjoy:
1. NHS Direct ‘not being scrapped’ - http://bit.ly/lAdTjv
2. Government confirms re-think on school sport funding - http://bit.ly/mtyFFH
3. Downing Street rejects child milk scheme cut suggestion - http://bbc.in/k1NoGE
4. Sale of forests in England scrapped - http://bbc.in/jCmqmT
5. Plans to grant anonymity to rape case defendants scrapped - http://bit.ly/ketJd1
6. Government backtracks on Bookstart - http://bit.ly/j1AvuP
7. Housing benefit cap to be postponed until January 2012 - http://bit.ly/iIrrD1
8. Government admits defeat on immigration target - http://bit.ly/lU5nHV
9. Military covenant to be enshrined in law after months of criticism - http://bit.ly/mQKfUC
10. UK coastguard station closure plans ‘scaled back’ - http://bbc.in/lE0VHs
11. Government ‘abandons’ plans for weekly rubbish collection - http://bit.ly/mveDsv
12. Cameron tears up Ken Clarke’s “soft” sentencing policies - http://bit.ly/iFGA0a
13. David Cameron denies ‘humiliating U-turn’ on NHS - http://tgr.ph/kryKEU
14. Treasury backtracks on Danny Alexander’s pension reform plan - http://bit.ly/lVocDX
15. Ken Clarke forced to abandon 50% sentence cuts for guilty pleas - http://bit.ly/iz4qZA
The 1926 General Strike was a tipping point in industrial relations and Trade Union laws with only the 1980s to rival it. But ultimately, it was rather unsuccessful. Now don’t get me wrong, strikes can work, but this was at an era when strikes could truly make an impact. So for Unison to claim it will unleash strikes on the scale of 1926 is rather worrying. Please don’t think I disagree with the outrage of the Unions and their members but not only do they not know the failed history of that event but strikes really do not have the same resonance and power they once had (thank you Maggie….) in this day and age.
I agree that automatically shifting the retirement age to 66 and then pledging to negotiate is nothing less of a disgrace on the part of the Coalition. But, Ed Balls on the Andrew Marr programme this morning was certainly right in one respect, this is a trap. Many of the Tory right revel in the “glory” of fighting an enemy and to Gideon Osborne, this is indeed a perfect distraction from a flagging economy. So please, make sure public support is on your side before such widespread actions are taken and try your best to negotiate as too often the powerful use the powerless to distract the public from the former’s incompetence and corruption, don’t let the same happen to you and be wary.
It’s not exactly a secret that us in BULS have our, ahem, tad differences with David Cameron. But I personally like to make a point of mentioning areas and events we can agree on (and that is a rather event) and Cameron’s defence of the safeguarding of the international aid spending against the own right of his party particularly that of Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. Never should we balance the books on the back of the poorest people in the world, it is morally wrong and completely unjustifiable. To say other wise is a completely vile idea particularly when Liam Fox advocates this simply as ‘common sense’ which is nothing less than disgusting.
I also welcome Cameron’s pledge for immunisation 243 million children to keep with the millennium development child mortality goal. Far, far too often are third world deaths completely and utterly preventable and especially by such quick and easy means.
We should not be afraid to accept our similarities when they arise and so on this exceptionally rare occasion (and I mean exceptionally rare), thank you Cameron.
Right this had to be cleared up. As you probably know the Telegraph recently published leaked documents on Ed Balls’ role in the Gordon Brown’s camps attempt to oust Blair. It seems from the documents that Balls was a primary agitator in the attempts to demand a leaving date from Blair and presenting Brown as a Prime Minister in waiting……..well is any of this new? Of course not! Will it effect his ability to do his job as Shadow Chancellor? Again, of course not! Will it mean Balls will follow a similar path to his former master, Brown and attempt to oust Ed Miliband? Of course not as unlike Blair and Brown, Balls and Miliband actually ran against each other in the leadership election which was conclusively resolved (if you exclude disgruntled sore-loser supporters of David Miliband). And frankly, Labour is far beyond the petty squabbles of the Blair-Brown and is a largely united force unlike after losing power in the 1950s and 1980s. So all of this is totally irrelevant, we have moved on.
There’s also accusations that Balls alongside Brown ignored warnings and continued spending increases well above inflation and so further created a deficit before the crash of 2008. Come off it! These claims were directed around the year of 2006….when Balls was merely a back-bench MP. Of course you have to remember this is coming from the Telegraph and these claims have jumped on by particularly Michael Gove. This is all very well, but Gove fails to mention that Gideon was committed rigorously to Labour’s spending plans up until the 2008 crash and that on the eve of the 2008 crash Brown had a lower deficit than he had inherited back in 1997 as Chancellor.
Thought you’d like this one. Not sure of the actual date but clearly it is before the general election in 2010.
First off. I’d like to point that I respect the decision of the people of Britain in a resounding ‘No’ vote to AV. It’s a shame further electoral reform has been buried for a century, but I’m not a Lib Dem so I’ll get over it. But, I would like to explain why ‘No’ won.
The primary reason for a ‘No’ victory was Clegg’s insistence in holding the referendum on the same day as local elections across England, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly elections. Because of this the people regarded the referendum as one on Clegg rather than a change to the voting system, consequently, due to Clegg’s unpopularity the referendum could have never been won. The coinciding with the local elections was further capitalised on by the ‘No to AV’ campaign, blatantly spreading personal attacks on the Lib Dems and more specifically Clegg himself. Admittedly, I myself am not the Lib Dems biggest fan any more and the ‘Yes’ side was not perfect either in the campaigning, but the Tories completely refusing to discredit the personal attacks which only gave them legitimacy.
This was because the ‘No to AV’ campaign, despite all the publicity of its Labour supporters, was in effect another Tory ‘No to AV’ group and any attempt to deny this is just misguided. The ‘No to AV’ group was 90% funded by Conservative donors and famously in areas of London ‘Labour No to AV’ leaflets had to be withdrawn because of printing at the bottom that read “produced by the Conservative party”. The ‘No to AV’ campaign went even further down the line than merely personal attacks, they also went on a blatant lying spree with famously the £250 million and vote counting machines claim. The reason why we now no this was a blatant lie was because prominent Labour supporter of ‘No to AV’, David Blunket, actually admitted that the £250 million claim was a figure they plucked out of the air. Now while it was a blatant lie (coupled with the “If you vote Yes this baby/soldier will die” lie) it was an effective lie.
This then leads finally onto the effectiveness of the ‘Yes’ campaign which was nothing less than a shambles. There was no coherent and simple message to sell to the British people and their entire campaign group was made up of Lib Dems and a number of charities, with the former being only good at localised, targeted campaigns.
But anyway, electoral reform is now buried for another century, it was good while it lasted, but it’s time to move on.
I’ve now returned to Birmingham after a week in which the Coalition managed to look incompetent and shambolic as well as cruel. We’ve had Willetts admitting he is content to see poorer students having to settle for a degree at their local sixth form, rather than enjoying the full university experience; Norman Tebbit joining the near-univeral coalition against the NHS transformation; U-turns on defence spending and health to add to the growing list which includes school sports and buildings, forests, and even the Downing Street cat; and of course Nick Clegg. When he hasn’t been complaining that he is the nation’s ‘punchbag’ or facing criticism from his own son, he has been making some interesting comments about social mobility.
I am not going to slam the Deputy Prime Minister for having had a leg-up from his neighbour (a peer of the realm) in order to get an internship at a bank (it had to be a bank), because I challenge anyone reading this – assuming I have a readership – not to have seized the opportunity in the same way if they were in Nick’s position. A Labour party which wants social justice and equality of opportunity from birth should not be blaming someone for a background thay had no control over, and that even includes Cameron who had someone put a word in from Buck House. However, Clegg’s attempts at addressing the age-old problem of the ‘It’s who you know’ culture were embarrassing, coming at the same time this government is slashing Sure Start centres, EMA, univeristy budgets and allowing socially divisive ’free’ schools to blossom up and down the country.
I spoke to people this week in the valleys who have Masters’ degrees who have spent over a year unemployed – young people with ambition, drive and what should be a promising career ahead of them. I overheard sixth form students on the bus complaining that they had not been accepted for any of their UCAS choices, despite the prediction of 4 As at A-level. I have personally had difficulty finding summer placements when I am not lucky enough to be able to work unpaid for six months in central London. Nick Clegg’s diagnosis was correct, but there is far more to it than setting an example to almost-bankrupt businesses by paying interns at Lib Dem HQ.
We need a new cultural shift in this country, brought about by government, where the disadvantaged are caught as soon as possible and at every stage of their lives are helped to gain the same opportunities as the better off. This should not involve positive discrimination or handouts, but should involve investment in our young people which other European countries manage while they bail out their neighbours, but we seem to think is unaffordable. A national internship scheme or national bursary programme, complementing investment in careers education (which at the moment is dire) to inform young people that they are just as talented and ambitious as the more privileged, and what opportunities are out there for the taking, is desperately needed. The underlying factors, such as affordable transport, need to be subsidised so someone who lives in the middle of nowhere with no ‘contacts’ can get work experience in a city near them.
There are important elections coming up in the devolved nations and local councils in England. Young people should be demanding better from the government and their local councils at the ballot box, and should express their dissatisfaction with the Coalition, which just doesn’t get it.
It was without a doubt Labour was going to win the Barnsley Central by-election, but what wasn’t known was the margin and the performance of the other parties. The results are as follows for those who don’t know:
Labour-60.8% (47.3% in 2010)
Independent (Tony Devoy)-5.23% (1.6%)
Liberal Democrat-4.18% (17.3%)
This represents nothing less than a whitewash for the Lib Dems, second place to sixth and losing their deposit is nothing less than humiliating. The Tories fared little better losing around half of their support. Yes, Labour was always going to win this seat, but what we have here is resoundingly bloody brilliant win as public opinion ever so gradually begins to swing against the Coalition.
As I noticed on the BUCF blog today, they have made their position clear on the upcoming referendum, no guesses what side. Now this is the first nation-wide referendum since the 1975 referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EEC, but, BULS officially doesn’t have an opinion on the matter. Now unlike the Lib Dems Youth Society and BUCF, BULS is a far broader church in regards to electoral reform with all forms of voting being supported by individual members, FPTP, AV, AV+ and STV. However, I’m pleased to officially announce that this may well change, as on (probably) the 24th March BULS will have an internal debate and vote on the direction of support for the referendum with “Yes”, “No” and “Neither” being BULS’ final decision on the referendum (ironically using an AV system). This blog is where I’ll put the case for a “Yes” vote for BULS.
One of the great myths of AV is that it fails to produce strong and stable governments. If you look to Australia and its AV system since 1910 there have been only two hung Parliaments, 1940 and 2010. Comparing this to the UK’s FPTP system where we have had hung Parliaments twice in 1910, 1929, February 1974 and 2010, not to forget almost hung Parliaments in 1950, 1964 and October 1974. While in Canada where they also use FPTP, there are more less permanent hung Parliaments.
The second is that people who vote for minor parties get two votes, which simply fails to acknowledge one of the simple aspects of AV. Candidates who are eliminated also have any first preference votes they received eliminated also. So no, people can’t vote twice.
And thirdly is that AV is not tried and tested unlike FPTP. For those in the “No” camp from the Tory party who fail to remember that AV (or at least a similar form of it) was used in the 2005 leadership election and if FPTP had been used, David Davis would have been elected leader of the Conservative party. AV is also used to elect people in charities, businesses, trade unions and even MPs electing their speaker. Hypocrisy is consequently laid bare for some politicians and political party members who oppose the referendum.
AV represents a change to end tactical voting, MPs appealing to a narrow section of their constituents and wasted votes. I’ll be voting “Yes” on March the 24th and May the 5th, I hope you can do the same on at least the latter.
p.s. This is my 200th blog(!) making ‘Ramsay’s F Word’ the largest single category on the BULS website!
‘Unemployment is a price worth paying’ were the words that showed millions of Britons what the Tories really know about ordinary people. As unemployment rises again, and youth unemployment in particular is about to hit 1 million, my belief is that the people, and the Big Society, are better off when we are in work. It is especially important for young people to get a foothold in work and is certainly in the interest of both society, and HM Treasury to ensure that as many young people as possible can get work, or continue in further education.
There is a fundamental contradiction in Tory rhetoric about worklessness. At once they are carving a deep wound in our public services, and ‘cutting’ the jobs, and therefore the lives, of thousands of public sector workers. They cut the Future Jobs Fund, a vital programme which provided 18-24 year olds who had been out of work for six months with temporary employment. They abolished Education Maintenance Allowance, which provided thousands of less well off children the chance to afford further qualifications to help them compete in the labour market. And they quashed the opportunity for 10,000 young people to go to university this year. At the same time the benefit budget is slashed and the coalition promise to get people off benefits and back into work. Where will these jobs come from? And what do those unable to find work, or unable to work at all, do when their benefits are reduced?
The Tories believe the private sector will provide these jobs, that private businesses will create well over 2 million jobs in the next few years. When the private sector created little more than 300,000 jobs between 1993 and 1999, I think everybody can see this for the nonsense it is.
But what would Labour do? The pathetic Tory response to all the criticism has been to point at the lack of concrete policy detail from Labour. They might say that this was a tactic we used while in Government. The fundamental difference is that Labour showed the Tory manifesto up for what it was. Lies, dishonesty, manipulation and branding with barely a sniff of the horror that a Tory government would really unleash. Labour were right.
This is what Labour would have done. We would have kept Education Maintenance Allowance, as Michael Gove promised before the election, thereby helping thousands of young people stay in education and encouraging aspiration. We would have given those 10,000 young people the chance to go to university, the chance to better themselves and more than pay off the cost of their education to the tax payer. And we would have protected the Future Jobs Fund, a scheme which helped 50% of young claimants move off benefits after their placement, and which the coalition advisor Frank Field called “one of the most precious things the last government was involved in, a lifeline that no amount of ‘New Deal’ rhetoric ever offered the unemployed”.
The Tories don’t understand people. They don’t care about people. Otherwise they would realise that every job cut is an assault on a family, every child that has to drop out of college is a slammed door on the future of this country, and every moment a person spends fearful of their prospects will eat away at our ‘big society’.
Growth stalling, inflation rising and unemployment rising, for all the Tories comparison themselves and 1979 coming in “to clean up Labour’s mess”, it seems this government more reflects the 1970s than did Labour. Now, in BULS we’re wise enough to recognise that this ‘stagflation’ is not due to the cuts (as they are still yet to take fully effect yet) but rather the ending of Darling’s economic stimulus.
Up until the growth figures came out last month I personally very much doubted that the UK would actually slip into a full blown double-dip recession, but rather ‘bump along the bottom’. Since these figures have been produced, I fear there is a very good chance now. If this continues and even if worsens when the cuts bite (which I have a feeling they will do) Labour will have the sad duty of saying “don’t say we didn’t warn you” as throughout the election we campaigned to keep investment in the economy until 2011. But, I hope for the sake of the people of Britain, that day never comes.
As I haven’t blogged in a while, and looming essay deadlines have delayed a number of crudely started blogs, I thought I’d share a picture I took during the 2010 election. My hometown of Eastbourne was considered a fairly safe Tory seat until 2005, when tactical voting turned it into a Tory-Lib Dem marginal. 2010 saw it turn a sickly shade of orange as even more tactical voting brought the Lib Dems narrowly to power. This is exactly the sort of seat where Labour can really hit the Con-Dem coalition in the upcoming council elections. To take seats, or even just to push incumbent candidates close, in areas where Labour was non-existent in 2010, would see a lot of shaky knees in the Liberal Democrats, and the Tories too.
But on a light hearted note, if you want to see just how dispirited local Tories were in Eastbourne, when it became obvious they were going to lose, just look at this photo. They even had to persuade themselves to vote!
Now, I’m not going to focus on Alan Johnson, Suzy has already dealt with that, but I just like to say he’ll be surely missed from the front-line politics.
Anyway, we move onto Johnson’s successor, Ed Balls. Now to many Tories, they will regard this as a late Christmas present. The well oiled Tory party machine has already been making well-directed attacks towards Gordon Brown’s former chief economic’s adviser and playing at his past which was so intertwined with the Blair-Brown feud. Yes, Balls was a major figure during the feuds, but as a wise Baboon once said “Oh yes, de past can hurt. But the way I see it you can either run from it, or learn from it.” (the wise Baboon being Rafiki from the Lion King……..BULS draws wisdom from many walks of life). Yes, Balls’ part in the feud was far from his finest hour and many of the economic policies did contribute to the financial crisis (will come back to the latter part later). But, this is a time for Balls in particular to shape his own image and reputation. As Shadow Chancellor, with his deep knowledge of economics, he will be able to establish at least a broad thinking idea of Labour’s alternative and most likely rip Gideon to shreds in the process (I particularly like the idea of the latter).
With growth beginning to slow, inflation and unemployment rising, there has been no better time to be an “attack dog”. But the Tory-led Coalition is quick point out the failures of economic policy Labour made. We did make great progress under ‘New’ Labour, but we also made grave mistakes. But, to counter the Tory-party machine, we do need strong responses in order as well as humility about our record. When Cameron (or indeed anyone) criticises Labour failing to regulate the banks, quote back Gideon and Cameron’s years of calling for further de-regulation. And when Cameron claims Labour’s spending caused the deficit, don’t forget to remind them that Conservative spending policies before the 2008 crash would have rigidly stuck to Labour’s. The Tory-lead Coalition’s deceit cannot last forever and hopefully, Ed Balls can dispel the rhetoric as soon as.
Well the results are in and yes, the most important point of the night, Labour has kept Oldham red. With a 48% turnout (down on May’s 61%) the results are as follows:
Labour – 42.1% of the vote (31.9% in May)
Liberal Democrats – 31.9% (31.6%)
Conservatives – 12.8% (26.4%)
UKIP – 5.8% (3.9%)
BNP – 4.8% (5.7%)
So the first good result you can see (apart from Labour winning) is that the BNP lost its deposit, always a good thing. But without a doubt the most notable result of the night was the complete collapse of the Conservative vote, yes, third parties are always squeezed, especially in by-elections, but not to this extent. A 14% slump in the vote is rather unheard of, leading to a 11% swing from Tory to Labour (a swing I could very easily get used to). It seems that a combination of tactical voting and a half-hearted campaign by CCHQ, despite insistence otherwise, is going to mean DC will have some stuff questions to answered by from his backbenchers.
Also, great to note that Labour’s majority in Oldham (3558) is now higher than it was in 1997, during Labour’s peak.
Given I’m one of BULS’s token few Northerners, I though it would be appropriate to have a blog on the upcoming by-election. Cautious confidence is probably the best way to describe Oldham East and Saddleworth. Already we have seen a number of polls from ICM and Populus showing Labour having a around 17% lead over the Lib Dems (with a surprising slump in support for the Tories). However, another polling company, Survation, has recorded the Labour leader being 1&(!!). Labour are the bookies favourite to win, but, I cannot stress any less without doubt, not to slacked the momentum. This is the first time in years that the Lib Dems wont be all masterful in by-elections.
Throughout the entire campaign the Lib Dem candidate and Cleggy have been emphasising that this by-election is about selecting a new local MP. I’d have to agree that this is what it ought to be about, but since when have by-elections ever been about local issues?
The Institute for Government yesterday published what they regarded to be “the most successful policy intervention since 1980″ (http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/pdfs/PSA_survey_results.pdf). So what are the top five you may ask, well I’m pleased to say three out of the top five are directly and solely the result of the last Labour government.
It’s good to know Labour had a large positive and successful impact despite all it’s flaws over the past thirteen years.