There are 3 possible positions on the central issue of division on the Leveson report. One is the press industry’s view, and presumably Cameron’s, namely a stronger version of the Hunt-Black proposals for independent self-regulation which could incorporate many of the Leveson principles, but crucially would be voluntary and depend on the industry coming together to agree its terms and how to enforce them. The second would be Leveson’s own recommendations for independent self-regulation which would include a minimal element of statutory underpinning and perhas some role for Ofcom to audit the regulator, ensure it complied with the Leveson criteria, and to act as a fallback regulator if necessary if the voluntary system failed. The third would be some system of statutory regulation of the press, though that is hardly the choice of anybody. The real choice is between the first two. If the choice is for what the majority of the public wants and for what would provide safeguards against brutalising intrusions of privacy such as we have repeatedly seen, then it is the second option. If it is a trade-off between the power brokers, it will veer to the first. But it is not as simple as that.
Read more “If Cameron, etc. get their way, how would it be different at the next McCann/Dowler scandal?” »
The political scene is almost unrecognisable compared with 2 years ago, even with 6 months ago. For much of this we must thank our good friends the Tories and particularly David Cameron who seem determined to do all they can to ensure a Labour victory next time. Unquestionably however a major part of this is due to Ed Miliband’s leadership. Not just his obvious mastery of the turbulent PMQs arena, much more importantly his manifest honesty and decency (by contrast with you-know-who), his dogged patience, his reaching out to all sections of the Labour Movement (on the one hand his speaking at the Durham Miners’ Gala, the first for a Labour leader for 23 years, and on the other the rapprochement with Blair), and most important of all his symbolism as a voice for change and hope in a landscape that has now descended for years into a political wilderness.
Read more “Ed Miliband’s end of term report: A*” »
David Cameron’s the front man for this government, doing his PR act flitting from one issue to the next, trying to plug the holes in the dyke whenever they regularly appear. George Osborne is the real power behind the throne, the custodian of the government’s agenda. So when Cameron gets himself photographed cracking the whip on a dog-sleigh in the Arctic, it’s all smoke and mirrors. When Osborne said in the Autumn Statement: “We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers”, that’s the authentic voice of brown-nosed anti-environmentalism retoxifying the Tory party. Just as poverty reduction has been abruptly thrown out of the windowa soon as the hunding tightens and the real mettle of the government is exposed, the same is being meted out to climate change and a greener Britain. It’s not even private affluence and public squalor, rather stuff the planet and don’t think about the consequences.
Read more “Greenest government ever? – this lot are deepest brown” »
If referenda are the way to resolve unconscionable problems, as Papandreou seems to think, one could do worse than apply it to the City of London Corporation to unlock the bizarre St. Paul’s stand-off where the stakes are fast rising. The forced resignation of the dean Graeme Knowles, caught between remorseless behind-the-scenes pressure from Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron on the one side and Christian doctrine and the overwhelming support of the Anglican laity for the activists on the other, plus the plaintive appeal of the chapter to the Establishment’s prelate, Richard Chartres the Bishop of London, finally brings to a head the compulsion for an uncompromising choice between God and Mammon which the Church of England should have made long ago. It is also now beginning to shine a searchlight on the most reactionary, anachronistic yet powerful body in the country, the Corporation of the City of London, which is the real driving force behind removal of the tents. This is an unpredictable saga which may lead in surprising directions.
Read more “What we really need is a referendum on the Corporation of the City of London” »
If No.10 continues to resist a full public inquiry into the wider causes and background of the riots, Ed Miliband’s idea of Labour setting up its own inquiry in a ‘national conversation’ with people in rundown areas is a good one. An even better one would be for Parliament itself (i.e. the non-executive legislature) to set up its own Commission of Inquiry, just as the Victorian Parliament used to do over a century ago on critical issues of overriding national importance. That would be a better idea because (i) it would be cross-party and carry the full weight of Parliament, not just of one party, and (ii) whilst certainly taking evidence from across the country, it would be much more than just a national conversation; it would lead to conclusions and recommendations which Government would be expected to act upon.
Read more “If Cameron won’t set up a Commission of Inquiry, Parliament should” »
As Oscar Wilde noted, losing one parent is a disaster, losing two is distinctly careless. Cameron might reflect on that. Backing off one policy may be serious, but backing off six, as he has done over the last few weeks, is beginning to look like a rather careless life-style. The latest one, yesterday, beating a hasty retreat from Danny Alexander’s ill-advised attempt to lay down the law with the unions over public sector pensions whilst still supposedly in the middle of negotiations, is perhaps the most careless of all – an own goal which gratuitously exposed the Government’s weakness. There has been bitter (and justified) resentment from women, especially those born 1953-4, about the gross unfairness of abruptly raising the retirement age when they were already so close to it, but the complaints got nowhere – until Alexander’s intransigence coalesced against him the biggest strike threat for a century. Within a day the Government caved in. We must thank Alexander for so brilliantly highlighting the reviving role of the unions. But there’s still more to it.
Read more “Cameron’s quite the Grand Old Duke of York” »
Danny Alexander’s line on pensions is simple, clear – and wrong. It is this: public sector pensions are ‘unaffordable’, out of synch with private pensions, and have to be ‘reformed’. Payments into pension schemes therefore have to be increased – for teachers, medics and local government workers their contributions could double from next April. The retirement age has to rise – from 60 to 66 by 2020, hitting particularly hard women now aged 53-55. And pensions, when finally received, have to be cut back – by changing the accrual rate from final salary to average over working life.
The result is that local government workers, faced with an average additional 3% increase in their contributions which will then yield a much reduced pensions, are likely to abandon the local government pension scheme in droves as no longer worthwhile, thus adding to the State’s welfare bill in retirement and perhaps collapsing the investment funds which this pension scheme feeds. It was fear of this that forced the Government to put up Alexander to go public on their case even while still in negotiations, throwing in concessions to the lowest paid to keep them in the scheme and to divide and rule the unions over any strike action. But the Government case is misleading for much deeper reasons too.
Read more “The government’s not telling even half the truth about pensions” »
David Miliband’s victory speech that never was to the Labour Party conference last September, leaked to the Guardian, reveals all too clearly the disastrous path down which he would have taken the party to near-extinction, by adopting the Osborne cut-and-slash strategy in full, and indeed perhaps going even further. His claim that “the party will only be trusted when we show in word and deed that the alternative to mean government is lean government” exposes just how far DM was taking on the Blairite project of shrinking the State and outsourcing public services wholesale. Osborne and Cameron have used the deficit created by the bankers (a rather important fact which DM disregards) as the pretext for a massive cutback of public services and of the role of the State, and DM clearly saw himself leading Labour down the same route. There would then have been three parties all agreed on a policy programme driving Britain into prolonged stagnation. What a near escape!
Read more “We now know what a good thing it was that David Miliband didn’t win” »