Category Archives: Political Opinion

These contests are taking their toll on us all

With Gordon Brown leaving his position of Labour Party leader after the loss of power at the last election, many of us – from inside and outside of the party – feared a rushed contest to instate a new leader.

And now what do we have? The months are dragging by before the final membership ballot. In a ceremonial announcement, the new leader will not be announced until the annual conference at the end of September. Countrywide hustings, union and constituency (CLP) nominations are coming in dribs and drabs.

The painfully prolonged, selective scrutiny is making this new Labour member is running out of patience.

Swathes of people (notably those in the South East of England) are disconnected from the hustings, and thus the message of each of the candidates standing is lost. Without access to the internet, many older people are reduced to choosing a leader on the basis of their past credentials.

Coinciding with this onslaught is the campaign of choosing the next Labour contender for the election of the London Mayor. With Oona King battling with ex-incumbent Ken Livingstone, the party is positively divided.

Two Eds, two Milibands, an Andy, one feisty woman, an Ex-MP and Red Ken do not equal a united political machine. The sooner a new leader is chosen, the better. After all, there are a lot more problems to deal with than deciding who will be the one to sort them out.

A symbol of cultural expression or a symbol of female opression?

France is the latest country in the growing list of western nations to revile the full veil – with its  lower house of parliament voting unanimously (except one) to ban the burqa and niqab from being worn anywhere in public. It is likely that the upper chamber will follow suit.

According to the BBC, 2000 of the five million Muslims in France are believed to wear the full veil. The penalty of wearing it in public is estimated to be around €150 (£120), with higher fines and custodial sentences for men found to be forcing women to cover up in public.

Last month it was reported that Conservative MP Philip Hollobone proposed to table a bill to ban the veil in this country. He described the burka as “against the British way of life”.

Earlier today, Diane Abbott, Labour leadership contender filed an early day motion, abhorring the recent decision in France. She commented:

Speaking today about the bill, Diane said:

This bill is divisive and contrary to international human rights law. It contravenes basic civil rights such as the freedom of expression and religion. Proponents of this bill are hailing it as a liberating piece of legislation for women and a victory for democracy, but I refuse to agree with these sentiments. This bill is simply an enforcement of French secularist values on a small minority of society, and this is evident in the threat of citizenship classes as punishment

The majority of Muslim women who wear the burka choose to do so out of free will, so to criminalise a religio-cultural practise under the pretence of sexual and religious liberation is completely wrong.

Politicians are not elected to regulate what is worn by citizens; in turn, secular society is important in 21st century Britain. The dichotomy between religious culture and a plurality of belief must be balanced, fair and inclusive. Marginalising women, instead of listening to them is no better than putting them behind a piece of material, after all.

Digital UK aimed at reducing burden of welfare state

Everybody of working age will be online by 2015, according to the government’s “digital champion“.

Martha Lane Fox has suggested that tasks such as applying for school places and free school meals should be done online, with those applying for benefits having to pass an “informal” IT test.

“As Martha’s work shows, promoting digital inclusion is essential for a dynamic modern economy and can help to make government more efficient and effective.” David Cameron

In the name of making services more efficient and cost effective, services are to be held at arms length – with a series of hurdles to jump. Web-only application is neither fair nor viable for a national government to impose. In areas with a lack of public services offering computer training and internet access, many people could be excluded from applying for help.

This shortsighted proposal ignores the basic problems of the millions of people who are living under the poverty line. Technology is still unaffordable for many. Limited and timed internet access at a local library or job centre is not the answer to reducing the number of people claiming for financial assistance from the welfare state.

Overqualified and out of work – the story of the education policy victims

To be newly graduated.

Today’s message to the class of 2010 has hit a raw nerve. We are taught to do the best for ourselves: schools, colleges and sixth forms condition many of us into the ideal of university as being a foundation for getting the most out of a career.

Just weeks before I symbolically throw my mortarboard into the air for good luck, I fear that it will be more than luck that some of the 420,000  graduating students will need. With an average of 69 people applying for each graduate job and in the face of accumulating interest payments and mass youth unemployment, higher education policy must be addressed.

The last government’s gung-ho approach to getting half of young people into higher education is constantly criticised for devaluing education. More worryingly, the recession-lead cut on jobs, followed by the new coalition government cutting of public sector workers and Future Jobs Fund will result in thousands more people signing up for Jobseekers’ Allowance this summer.

Creating jobs, not cutting them should be a top priority for any government committed to tackling the current problems faced in our society. The Tory ‘big society’ policy cannot work autonomously from the job market; furthermore, the big society should function as more than a social capital boost for those who can afford to run a public service, along with doing paid and other domestic work. Opening doors and giving opportunities to those who cannot find work could lead to a more positive impact, such as crime prevention and redressing the growing ‘dependency culture’. In turn, the third sector needs to be protected from austerity cuts to remain effective.

The next months and years will prove to be interesting for any new graduate (and those of the years before). In some respects, I must agree with the coalition reduction in the numbers of university places. It will reduce the number of unemployed graduates in years to come – leaving 10,000 people without a bachelors degree is a small price to pay compared to the individual debts that we suffer from now, with thanks to top-up fees and the new Labour higher education mess.

Could the inequality gap open further?

Child benefit – the universal allowance paid to all parents of children under 19 is under threat.

Labour’s Frank Field, who took the post of ‘poverty tsar‘ in the coalition government last week has already spoken of reforming the benefit system for new parents. Both the left and right of the political spectrum have disagreed with the plans laid out by Mr Field. Whilst us on the left would rather a benefit to create an equally good upbringing of all children; the right has shown concern to the taxation of the benefit, which would hit the most well off the hardest.

Some reactionary headlines this week have included:

Frank Field says pay new mothers £25,000 to stay at home to bond with their babies

Tory adviser’s plan to axe child benefit for over 13s sparks outrage

Mr Field’s comments come as the government is looking to relentlessly cut public spending. He has suggested that the benefit may be taxed, and equate to the age of a child. As well as saving money, it is a strategic plan to get parents back into the workplace.

According to calculations, £3 billion a year could be saved if over 13′s no longer received the money.

Axe wielding over money that many parents rely on to bring their children up with should be condemned by the left. It is an easy target and is justified by its ability to get parents back to work. In reality, it could be responsible for creating an even bigger gap between rich and poor – especially in these hard economic times.

Yvette Cooper MP told the Evening Standard that:

Cutting child benefit, child tax credit and breakfast clubs is a deeply unfair way to cut the deficit. It would hit children and working mums hardest – making it more difficult for many mothers to work.

A British Obama?

Just as we thought the Labour leadership campaign was going to be a dull amalgamation of getting to know David, Ed and Ed (again), mixed together with tedious bargaining – a relevantly unheard of candidate has thrown off his gloves and stepped into the ring.

Welcome James Garner, or ‘Jim’, as they call him in his pseudo constituency of South Luxton and Wetfield.

With his witty, and sometimes informative comparing of the political weeks in the build up to the election, Conor Pope has broken through again.

Unfortunately, other than the journey that Garner will be taking in the next few months, I assume that the rest of the campaign will be nothing other than deadly boring. Some home truths will need to be addressed before the issues of new Labour, and indeed the ‘next Labour’ that DM describes can be ironed out.

The world’s first green president?


The polls have opened in Columbia today. It has been a closely contested campaign between left wing Social National Unity Party candidate Juan Manuel Santos and Green Party representative, Antanas Mockus.

Antanas Mockus is described as somewhat ‘eccentric’ in the US. He is pushing a manifesto of policies that progressive lefties on this side of the Atlantic are gagging to hear from a left party.

Consistency between ends and means: Get out of the rules results in the short term is a shorthand, in violation of moral norms, social rules or laws to accomplish something. He who practices it can get some individual benefits, but produces large social costs by causing in others the temptation to use the same procedure.

Consistency between the law and custom: For social rules are met without conflicts or contradictions is important that the law, the moral standard and custom are mutually consistent.When the State has not earned the respect of citizens, it is easy to generate rules or practices that are socially accepted but are legally and morally unacceptable.To restore respect for the law and rules, it is important to transform the habits and show them the moral implications.

Greater equity by way of education: Inequality is not just a problem of distribution of goods and money. One of the main factors causing social differences occur in the possibilities for people in access to knowledge and training that contribute to the development of autonomy.

Respect for Justice: The judges are the guardians of the rule of law.Respect and strengthen the judicial branch is essential to reduce violence and impunity. A strong and just state, capable of carrying out and enforcing the law, enforce the rights and duties and ensure the provision of public goods and services. The protection and social support to judges helps consolidate a State that does not threaten or be intimidated.

*The above was translated with Google Translate

Go Antanas Mockus!

Brian Haw gets rehoused in police custody

Brian Haw, the anti-war protester who lives opposite the House of Parliament has been arrested.

Mr. Haw has been living on Parliament Square for the past nine years, protesting against the ‘War on Terror’, globalisation and anti-capitalism.

Since 1 May, there has been an increase in the number of occupiers on the Square. “Democracy Village” consists of a number of tents; with a range of people campaigning for different causes.

One member of the group told the Daily Telegraph:

“He doesn’t really want to be associated with us for his own reasons. He is quite set in his ways.”

How right is ‘Next Labour’?

Two more men threw in the gauntlet for the forthcoming Labour Party leadership contest yesterday.

Currently, the contest stands at: the Miliband brothers, Ed Balls, and John McDonnell

On Monday evening, at an over heated and overly cramped Progressive London discussion in the Trades Union Congress headquarters, Ken Livingstone laid down the following points that the party (and thus candidates too) should aim to address:

“One, Labour must recognise that the party lost five million votes after 1997, four million of them under governments led by Tony Blair, during times of economic growth. Therefore our assessment must go deeper than just this election. We have to connect with everyone Labour lost touch with.

“Two, Labour must be a coalition that includes both middle and low income earners. Labour cannot win by limiting itself to either or taking any part of its electorate for granted. We need a policy that leads the whole of society.

“Three, protect investment, defend public services. Bankers, not the public, must pay for the economic crisis. Bankers were paid £8.5bn in bonuses in the four months to April, compared with £7bn during the same period last year. For the bankers, nothing has changed, yet public services are going to be slashed. And for the British economy to revive investment must be defended.

“Four, we must draw a line under the military adventures abroad that revolted many electors and saw trust break down, even before the expenses scandal. Labour must recognise that the Iraq war was a disaster, making us closer to Bush’s America than Obama’s. The public must know Labour will not make this error again.

“Five, Labour must show it is looking to the interests of the next generation and the future of the planet, which means applying progressive levers of investment and planning to tackle the challenge of climate change.

“Six, Labour must defend its relationship with the trade unions from any attempt to demolish this vital link with the largest civil society bodies in our country, democratic organisations that enable Labour to counter the vested interests of multi-millionaire donors like Ashcroft.”

Whilst announcing his candidacy in the contest, John McDonnell said that:

Labour needs a wide contest, and that it must not be merely a battle between “the sons of Blair and the sons of Brown.”

The pool of talent in this race thus far iss limited.

With the narrow demographic of white/male/middle class/Christian/Oxford Graduate that became even more apparent after the instatement of “New Labour” and of Tony Blair as leader in 1994.

Whilst David Miliband campaigns for “Next Labour”, I have to question how ‘next’ or ‘post new Labour’ the party can become under such a narrow scope of thought? Having voted in favour of Iraq, for tighter asylum laws, for the introduction of ID cards, and many other failures in the Labour government catalogue: I am left wondering what the man is going to try to change about the party? Especially under the guidelines that were set out by Ken Livingstone above.

John McDonnell, however, has a more impressive voting record. Being a backbench MP.

  • Voted very strongly against introducing foundation hospitals.votes
  • Voted very strongly for removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.votes
  • Voted a mixture of for and against a wholly elected House of Lords.votes
  • Voted moderately for introducing a smoking ban.votes
  • Voted very strongly against allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.votes
  • Voted strongly against Labour’s anti-terrorism laws.votes
  • Voted moderately for laws to stop climate change.votes
  • Voted very strongly against the Iraq war.votes
  • Voted strongly for an investigation into the Iraq war.votes
  • Voted moderately against introducing ID cards.votes
  • Has never voted on a transparent Parliament.votes
  • Voted very strongly for the hunting ban.votes
  • Voted strongly against introducing student top-up fees.votes
  • Voted very strongly against greater autonomy for schools.votes
  • Voted very strongly for equal gay rights.votes
  • Voted strongly against a stricter asylum system.votes
  • Voted a mixture of for and against more EU integration.votes
  • Voted very strongly against replacing Trident.

We await a prolonged leadership contest. Behind the fruity photos of David Miliband and the “cool” image of his younger sibling; I would advise everybody who has a vote to look very carefully at which way the party would be taken under the ‘next’ Labour regime. Further to the right, or realigned and democratised?
Since publishing, Diane Abbott MP of Hackney North has announced that she will be standing for Labour party leader.

Where are all the women?

As David Cameron announces his final ministerial line-up, I have found myself asking the same question as during the latter months of Gordon Brown’s premiership: Where are all the women? Not much more than a year ago, David Cameron had said:

“If elected, by the end of our first Parliament I want a third of all my ministers to be female.”

Read more of my article for Left Foot Forward here