13 March 2009

How exactly is this madness?

More amusing reporting from the beloved Daily Mail today. Apparently, extending maternity leave, a move that will benefit millions of mothers, is utter madness.


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Mandelson: Government has nothing to apologise for

"If this were some ordinary recession of the sort we've had before, rather than an almighty great international financial crisis in our banks, then we might have something to apologise for... and if it were only taking place in this country, and not round the world, then probably some blame would attach to ourselves here. But neither of these things is true."

Lord Mandelson also said that Britain's chairing of the summit should be an antidote to national pessimism. "Why don't people take a pride in our country and say 'who's giving a lead here internationally?' "

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Top 5 articles of the day

Labour would be daft to make Harriet Harman its first woman leader - Andrew Pierce

Labour's centralist impulse is verging on the demented – Martin Kettle

What’s the difference between Gordon Brown and Bernard Madoff - Jeff Randall

Obama's Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth – Douglas E. Schoen & Scott Rasmussen

This Thatcher mythology condemns her strengths and excuses her failings - Simon Jenkins

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Cameron: Tories also got it wrong on economy

From Politics Home - David Cameron will this evening acknowledge that the Conservative party not only failed to see emerging aspects of the financial crisis, but that previous Conservative governments had presided over “fundamental weaknesses” in the economy. In a speech tonight Mr Cameron will say that his party did not see “as early as we could have” the “unsustainable debts” in the banking sector.

“The unsustainable debts in our banks are a reflection of unsustainable debts in our households, our companies and our government. But if I’m honest, I have to admit that we – the Conservative Party – didn’t see this as early as we could have,” he will say.

“Do I believe we did enough to warn about the rising levels of corporate debt, banking debt and borrowing from abroad? No.”

Mr Cameron will also admit that while his party criticised Gordon Brown’s claim that he had abolished boom and bust, they had, in their spending plans, accepted that this had been the case.

“We based our plans on the hope that economic growth would continue,” he will say.

Mr Cameron is clear that his party were not the only ones in error, and that all parties were part of a “cosy economic consensus”, but that if elected his party would make a clean break with such views. Any future Conservative government will look to rebalance regions and industries in the economy, institute more radical welfare reform, and maintain tougher fiscal discipline.

However, in an apparent criticism of previous Conservative government policy Mr Cameron will also say that weaknesses in the British economy date back "decades", meaning rebalancing must now take place.

“Some of our economic difficulties today relate not only to what has happened in the last ten years, but also to certain fundamental weaknesses that have been there for decades.”

Such a time period would cover the governments of John Major and Margaret Thatcher, and Chancellorships including those of Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and current Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke.

A spokesman for Mr Clarke said that he was aware of and involved in the content of tonight's speech, and was fully supportive.

For full text of the speech click HERE

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11 March 2009

Top 5 articles of the day

The Obama doctrine begins to take shape - Jonathan Freedland

Future of Capitalism: 50 people who will frame the debate - Steven Bernard & Jeremy Lemer

Welcome to the inescapable era of no money - Daniel Finkelstein

Slowly, the Tories' vision begins to emerge - Irwin Stelzer

British politics has reached its Yaffle moment - Philip Collins

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PMQs leader exchanges

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Oh Harriet...

From the todays FT

Harriet Harman (now there's a woman who knows how to frighten the horses) will be introducing her equalities bill next month. Word is that she has asked her officials to ensure that there are some disabled people in the Commons gallery when the bill is launched, adding: "And it would help if some of them were black."

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Why the recession might be good for us

There is little doubt that the recession is having a deep and sure to be enduring impact on every aspect of our lives. Interest rates are at an historic low, the Bank of England is printing £75 billion of ‘quantative easing’ and it was reported this week that unemployment across the UK is likely to reach 3.2 million - or just over 10% of the workforce - by the second half of next year. Our politics has been in a polling limbo for much of the last year as voters settle on which party they deem to be best able to lead the nation out of the recession.

But despite the difficulties we shouldn’t be so quick to lament the global economic downturn in its entirety. If we look hard enough there is a definite silver lining amongst the gathered clouds.

Of course there is enormous sympathy for those who have lost their jobs and their livelihoods following the failure of businesses. Recessions are painful times for society as a whole. Unemployment and bankruptcies sky rockets just as wages and profits plummet. These factors cannot be dismissed lightly.

But there is a compelling case to be made that suggests we are witnessing is in fact a generational structural realignment of the global economy that will prove to be crucial if we are to adapt to a new economic world reality.

By taking just a passing look at the big businesses that have failed since the onset of the credit crunch it is hard to argue that any could have looked forward to a competitive future on the High Street – recession, or no recession. Woolworths had simply not adapted to the modern market; the music, DVD and games retailer Zavvi was made obsolete by iTunes. Adams kids clothing? Cheaper at Tesco. MFI? Go to Ikea. The Internet and the influx of cheaper products from Asia have given consumers unprecedented choice in the market meaning retailers who do not provide affordable, quality goods are superseded. And rightly so.

Of course this is a simplistic look at what is a vastly complicated global financial problem; but the stark fact of this recession is that consumption, whether the take up of available credit or subsequent purchasing on the High Street, has been above sustainable levels for decades and needs to adjust down. The recession has been a much needed wake up call that people must begin to live within their means - a fact that gains new urgency as consumption, fuelled by easily available credit, must alter to ensure a sustainable environmental settlement.

Furthermore, a recession will purge bad investments and excessive spending from the economy, freeing up capital to spend on new innovations and enterprise making Britain more competitive.

For those on the left there should be optimism taken from the newly forged left of centre economic consensus that now welcomes a greater role for the state in economics and a wider awareness of the inequalities in society. There has been widespread popular outrage against obscene city bonuses paid out to top executives while those at the bottom of the ladder suffer. According to polling figures (Fabian Review, Winter 08/09) 56% of the public are in favour of making executives of failed companies pay back their bonuses from the last two years. Furthermore, a massive 76% support the new 45% tax rate for the highest earners in society. In contrast, just 19% support the idea that taxes on the highest earners should be kept low to benefit economic growth. 70% of the same respondents believe that those at the top of society are failing to pay their fair share towards investment in public services.

The left should use this crisis as an opportunity to forge a new economic consensus that places equality and fairness at the heart of proactive and progressive government policies.

It is all too easy to become addicted to endless growth, buoyant share prices and perpetually promising business prospects. It takes courage to call for restraint and regulation. As a party and as a government Labour should not shy away from these challenges. With a Labour government we can weather the hardship by supporting those who are hardest hit and ensuring we emerge at the end of the credit crunch ready to compete in the new economic world order.

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These were anti-war protestors, not Muslim extremists

Every morning I like to check the days headlines to see what is going on in the world. I was shocked and repulsed by the reporting of the major tabloids this morning who covered the Luton troop parade protests yesterday.

I personally disagree with the protestors actions - although I begrudgingly accept their right to demonstrate. I thought their actions were vile and misdirected. These troops had fought bravely and sacrificed much for a cause they had no overall say in.

The fanning of anti-Islamic sentiment today is inexcusable. This protest was not the actions of Muslim extremists, but of misguided anti-war protestors. Framing the issue as radical Muslim attacks on 'our boys' is a horrific distortion that serves no one. Shame on them.

10 March 2009

Top 5 articles of the day

Only a global fix will do – Alastair Darling

Politicians twitter while the country burns - Rachel Sylvester

These criminals can't hold the peace process hostage - Jonathan Powell

UK politics needs a new party – Paul Judge

Have the press let the Tories off the hook? – Michael White

Boris talks some sense

I am becoming increasingly worried by the regularity that I now seem to be agreeing with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

First it was on the Thames estuary airport proposal, then on Fred Goodwins pension. Now BoJo says: "If it looks like illegal immigrants could make a contribution to society, we should regularise their status"

Is he talking sense or am I going mad?

Brown: I take responsibility for what happened when I was Chancellor

From Politics Home

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister
You & Yours, Radio 4

The Prime Minister said he did not shy away from his responsibility for his actions as Chancellor, but insisted the financial crisis did not originate in Britain.

“I take responsibility for everything that happened during the period in which I was Chancellor, I don’t shy away from it,” he said.

However he added: “What I can’t say to people is the cause of the crisis is something that happened within Britain alone”.

He said that the problems in the credit market could only be solved if the international dimension was understood.

“If you don’t understand what the problem is you’ll never solve it,” he said.

Mr Brown also said that while there were problems with the regulation system, the scale of the crisis meant even ‘good’ banks had been affected in unexpected ways.

“I’ve said the regulatory system was not good enough. I’ve said it has to change,” he said, but added that the crisis “affected good banks as well as bad banks as they couldn’t escape being polluted by what was happening across the world”.

He said it would be difficult for a regulator to foresee that the crisis would “reverberate right across the world where nobody again trusted the banks”.

Mr Brown also defended the amount of government money put into the banks, saying it was not “money for nothing”.

“This is not money for nothing this is not something for nothing we have bought shares in the banks and have effectively got more control,” he said.

He also said that there was a “very good chance that the shares we have bought in the banks will be worth more in the year to come”.

The shameful state of education

Now its no exaggeration to say that I despise The Daily Mail and usually take anything printed in the paper with a truck load of salt. But these stark facts are an embarrassment to the government:

They educate only seven per cent of pupils, but independent schools produce more teenagers with three A grade A-levels than all our comprehensives put together.

More than 10,000 pupils at fee-paying schools achieved three As last year. But among those at comprehensives, fewer than 7,500 achieved such good results.

Of those whose families are on benefits and low incomes, only 189 were awarded three As. By contrast, Eton College alone produced 175.

9 March 2009

Leila Deen on Labour List

I have just posted a response to the Labour List post by custard protester, Leila Deen:

I read with great interest this justification offered by Leila Deen for her now notorious custard attack on Peter Mandelson. I really hoped for an insightful defence of direct action, perhaps framed around the historical significance of such protests.

Instead, the veiling of her actions behind feminist rhetoric is an insult to us all. Her actions amount to no more than petty assault on a Government minister and her comments about the protest show a disregard for the democracy that permits her freedoms and liberties. 

The argument that Lord Mandelson bullied an entire cabinet in to submission is laughable. Her highlighting of Harriet Harman as a victim of Mandelsons ‘misogynistic tactics’ is as patronising as it is laughable. 

The modern feminist movement is the inheritance from a long line of courageous and determined individuals who fought for a noble cause. Where as the fight against climate change may very well join this tradition, the same can not be said by these actions and the flimsy justification offered.

Brown condemns IRA violence

PoliticsHome: "Labour Will Swing Left"

"Peter Hain is the latest figure to offer some unsolicited advice to Gordon Brown, helpfully telling the Prime Minister that 'Labour has not had a clear enough narrative across the government'.

The gravitational pull on Labour is now to the Left. That's the assessment of a big majority of our experts and insiders on the PHI100.

A third of the panel reckon this will become manifest after the next election. An even bigger group (sixty one per cent) believe the leftward pull has already started. Very few of the panel don't see any move left.

Leaders of think tanks are most heavily of the opinion that this change is already underway.

More of the politicians and the media panellists, though still a minority of them, believe that Labour won't move left until after the election."

Top 5 articles of the day

If at peace, why are soldiers still dying? - David McKittrick

When Barack Obama and Gordon Brown see 'opportunity', we really do have a crisis – Janet Daley

Why pick fights with friends? Brown must ditch his pride – Jackie Ashley

If Brown started apologising, where would he stop? – Trevor Kavanagh

Why Obama’s left leaning is no tactical feint - Clive Crook