8 April 2009

Womens Aid Video



Keira Knightly does an outstanding job promoting a very worth cause in this 2 minute video for Womens Aid.

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Police push protestor prior to his death at G20 rally


There have been plenty of stories since the G20 about the heavy handed tactics employed by the police at the G20 rallies but the video of police shoving Ian Tomlinson to the ground are shocking. Mr. Tomlinson later died in the chaos.

The police have maintained that they used restrained force and that their severity was only in reaction to violent protests. This video clearly shows Ian Tomlinson was no risk to the police or anyone surrounding him.

Jacqui Smith has now called for a speedy inquiry in to the death.

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Why we should keep our nuclear weapons

Barack Obama this week used a speech in Prague to outline his ambitious goal of a nuclear weapon free world. In his address President Obama conceded that such a vision would not be realised in his lifetime, but asserted that the United States had a "moral responsibility" to start taking steps to rid the world of these weapons.

Today there are around 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world (12,000 of which are operational; the rest stockpiled). The majority are held by the United States and Russia.

In the United Kingdom the Government is committed to developing a new generation of nuclear deterrent, despite Gordon Brown indicating that Britain was ready to reduce its own number of Trident warheads if there is a multilateral disarmament agreement.

Would a world without nuclear weapons ever become a reality and more importantly, would this be a safer and more secure place?

The possibility of a nuclear free world remains remote. President Obama has claimed explicitly that the United States will maintain a ‘robust nuclear deterrent’ for as long as any other country does. The BBC sums up this approach to nuclear disarmament very succinctly – “so if just one country maintains nuclear weapons, so will the US. Otherwise that country could dominate the world. And if the US does, so will Russia and China. And the French will not want to rely on the Americans so they will keep them and the British will not want the French to be the only ones in Europe with them, so the British will keep them too”.

There is no doubt that nuclear weapons have been a transformational force in world politics since their first use in 1945. Since then eight countries – USA, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel – have developed nuclear arsenals.

Since 1945, none of these countries have ever deployed nuclear weapons in war.

There have been a few close calls, most notably during the tensions between the United States and the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But with the exception of skirmishes around the Kashmir border, no country possessing nuclear weapons has ever been in direct conflict with one another.

Despite the enormous danger posed by the development of these weapons we have in fact lived through the most sustained period in history without major conflict breaking out between the world’s great powers. The most prominent threats to our national security no longer come from world wars between rival powers but from smaller groups and failed states. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction ensures a tense but stable peace. The stakes of nuclear war promote a more restrained foreign policy and a less trigger happy approach to conflict.
Nuclear weapons have potentially saved millions of lives over the past 60years. The proxy wars fought between the United States and the Soviet Union were bloody and costly, but pale in comparison to the potential destruction that would have been wrought from conflict between the two cold war super powers even without nuclear weapons.

To put it simply we can not ‘un-invent’ nuclear weapon technology. And we can never ensure that all 195 countries in the world will not seek to develop or deploy these weapons. What we must do is ensure that unstable and hostile nations do not obtain nuclear weapons and that the current stockpiles remain secure and unused.

So perhaps before we ditch the bomb, we should give serious consideration to just how secure a post-nuclear world would be and whether the removal of these weapons would in fact save lives.

First posted at LabourList

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7 April 2009

Drop the Tory toff attacks

It is being reported this morning that the Labour party will run posters of David Cameron and his Bullingdon Club buddies during the General Election, accompanied with the tag line “Do you want these men to run Britain?”.

I’ll admit the picture is rather an unappealing snap shot of a privileged upbringing, but it is completely the wrong approach to fighting a general election.

The Labour party preaches about a society where people are not judged or restrained by their upbringing. David Cameron can not help being born in to a life of privilege and wealth just as the rest of us can not choose the circumstances we were born in to.

If the Conservative Party were to launch a campaign attempting to discredit a candidate because of their working class background there would be utter outrage. And rightly so.

Labour has had unprecedented success in the last three general elections is that Labour now has a far broader reach of British society that includes the middle class and upper middle class. As a result, Middle class constituencies (and even a few wealthy constituencies) that were once safely in the hands of Tories are now safe Labour seats.

Now some might argue that Tories are poised to return to power at the next general election given their current polling lead. This may happen but as long as Labour remains a party that is a viable option for Middle Class and upper Middle Class voters, Labour will not spend years in wilderness. Attacks on upper class upbringings can turn voters off.

David Cameron has many, many flaws. The Conservative parties economic message has been in disarray since the onset of the financial crisis and their flagship policy of raising the inheritance tax threshold is apparently no longer a top priority.

By all means attack these aspects of his leadership; but attacking a person’s upbringing goes against everything the Labour Party stands for.

NB: Updated @ 16.55 with comments from Max Kanin.
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Obama makes surprise visit to Iraq

President Obama has made a surprise visit to Baghdad, in what is his first trip to Iraq since taking office.

Air Force One landed in the capital city of Baghdad about 4:42 p.m. local time.

The White House has said Obama would meet US commanders and troops, and speak to Iraqi leaders by telephone. He would call the Iraqi leaders because bad weather prevented helicopter travel to see them in person, the White House said.

Obama's surprise stop in Iraq comes at the conclusion of his first overseas trip as president.

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Time to legalise drugs?

Drugs reform charity, Transform has today published a report examining the costs and benefits of the regulated legalisation of drugs. The publication is the first comprehensive comparison between the cost-effectiveness of legalisation and prohibition.

The report argues that there would be major benefits to the tax payer - suggesting that a legalised, regulated market could save the country around £14bn.
"The conclusion is that regulating the drugs market is a dramatically more cost-effective policy than prohibition and that moving from prohibition to regulated drugs markets in England and Wales would provide a net saving to taxpayers, victims of crime, communities, the criminal justice system and drug users of somewhere within the range of… £4.6bn to £13.9bn."

"The government specifically claims the benefits of any move away from prohibition towards legal regulation would be outweighed by the costs. No such cost-benefit analysis, or even a proper impact assessment of existing enforcement policy and legislation has ever been carried out here or anywhere else in the world."
Taxing drugs would also provide big revenue gains, says the survey. An Independent Drug Monitoring Unit estimate, quoted in the report, suggests up to £1.3bn could be generated by a £1 per gram tax on cannabis resin and £2 per gram on skunk.

“Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution."

Source: The Guardian.
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Obama woos Muslim world

Barack Obama extended an olive branch to the Muslim world from the floor of Turkey's parliament yesterday by declaring the US was not "at war with Islam" but instead sought its partnership to pursue common goals.
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6 April 2009

A constitutional conundrum

There was an interesting piece over at Political Betting last week which I didn't really pick up on at the time. But the latest round of polls got me thinking about scenario that they outlined:


According to their swing calculator, Gordon Brown could find himself 5 points down in the popular vote whilst emerging as the largest party in parliament - by just three seats. 

In the event of no overall control the Queen typically invites the leader of the largest party to form a government.  Such a result would put the Head of State in a difficult position acording to Nick Anstead – would she go with the seat split as produced by the first past the post system, or break with established practice and ask the popular vote winner?

The Liberal Democrats have apparently said: 
The line that has come out of the Lib Dems is that they “wouldn’t oppose” the party with the most seats being able to form a minority government.
This would create a serious dilemma for the Liberal Democrats. Who should they negotiate with first? Ideologically they are still more aligned with the Labour Party, but would they want to prop unpopular government that had been voted in to office with less than a third of the popular vote? 

Of course this is a fairly far fetched scenario - and the British voter has a habit of decisively kicking a government out of power. But it's food for thought. 

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The debt counter

Sky has today been showing its lucky viewers the 'debt counter'. It started at zero at 7am and it's rising at £4,800 a second as per today's report from the IFS.

This is reminiscent of the London Authority's 'unemployment counter' from the 1980's. Back then it hammered Thatchers government and offered a stark reality check on the nations economy.
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What does a trillion dollars looks like? And what would it buy?

$10,000:

$1 million:

$1 billion:


$1 trillion!


That's $1,000,000,000,000!

$1 trillion could pay for all the goods and services produced in Australia in one year.

$1 trillion is enough to run the American federal government for 103 days.

$1 trllion could fund every NATO country's military (including the USA) for one year.

$1 trllion could pay the mortgage of every American home owner for 14 months.

$1 trllion could purchase all the homes htat have foreclosed in 2007 and 2008.

$1 trillion could pay for the Marshall plan ten times over.

But can it save the world financial system?

Courtesy of Tory Bear.

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5 April 2009

Brown gives Blair blessing to become first EU President.

Gordon Brown has given a 'grudging blessing' to the prospect of Tony Blair becoming the first permanent President of the European Union according to todays Independent on Sunday.
Tony Blair has emerged as the leading candidate to become the first permanent president of the European Union after Gordon Brown gave his grudging blessing to the plan. The former prime minister has stepped up his campaign for the job, which he wants to use to build a bridge between Europe and the new Obama administration.
The paper reports that Tony Blair prospects will surprise and potentially anger European leaders given the divides that opened following Britain's decision to follow the United States in to Iraq.

It is known that President Sarkozy of France has been supportive of the prospect of Tony Blair becoming European President. However, the paper reports that it will not all be plain sailing for Mr. Blair. Another Irish 'no' vote on the Lisbon treaty would call in to question whether the position will be created. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly keen to secure a post if she were to lose the German elections in September.

Tony Blair is reportedly frustrated with the lack of progress in the Middle East and feels the prospect for any agreement has been seriously harmed by the Israeli elections. 

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