Dogging or votes? We need change for political engagement

More people are dogging than are members of political parties: what a comment on modern politics

Margret Thatcher is reported as having said that her greatest achievement was Tony Blair when New Labour strode out of the centre waters of British politics, with their feet firmly on the Right side of the bank. Despite a large array of poisonous policies, the effects of which are still being felt more than two decades on, Tony Blair might well be the most devastating legacy Thatcher left us – not just devastating for the Left but for politics as a whole.

Postal votingjPerhaps the one good thing to come of Mr Farage, beyond a dazzling array of fruitcakes and looneys and perhaps the most PR-illiterate officials British politics has ever seen, has been to make politics interesting again. This may sound trivial, but it’s not- quite the reverse.

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Posted in Clean Politics | Tagged , , , | 6 Responses

‘I was the victim of a grooming gang’: a personal story

Helen contacted Left Foot Forward via the Ex-Muslims Forum after the publication of the report into the Rotherham abuse scandal. She discusses her experiences as the victim of a grooming gang, and speaks out about her sense of betrayal over the failure to address the issues decisively.

One day I ran into a furniture shop in my hometown in the south of England and hid behind a pine wardrobe, breathless, scared and hiding from the man looking for me.

Alcohol-abuseI was at school when this happened, a 16 year old white girl, and my “boyfriend” was 24 and a violent, drug-dealing thug – from his own accounts. He was also of Pakistani Muslim origin.

I was a naïve teenager, from a family where the circumstances could be described as “difficult” at best, especially if my absent father failed to take his medication. My mother struggled to cope with her life, and was often depressed and suicidal. I can look back now and see I was vulnerable, with low self-esteem and desperate to get away from home.

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Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , | 6 Responses

New surge in support for Scottish independence

A surge in support for the Yes campaign has come at the same time as some question Alistair Darling’s leadership

New polling has pointed to a dramatic upsurge in support for Scotland becoming an independent nation. With just a little over 2 weeks to go until polling day, YouGov’s figures show that when those who say they won’t vote and those they say don’t know how they will vote are excluded, support for independence stands at 47%, up from 39% in a similar poll at the start of August.

SalmondjSupport for Scotland remaining within the union now stands at 53%, down from 61% at the start of last month, and giving the no campaign a lead of just 6%.

Interestingly, the figures suggest that some in the Better Together Campaign might well have been right earlier this year to be questioning the role of Alistair Darling leading the effort to keep Scotland in the Union.

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Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , | 5 Responses

Struggling with payday loans is still on the rise

People struggling on payday loans has risen by 42 per cent in the last year – the industry still needs to be reformed

After scandals relating to adverts on children’s TV, selling loans to people who have mental health difficulties, people too young to take out loans, people who cannot afford to pay back and competing on how fast they can sell loans rather than on price, you would think by now the payday lending industry as a whole would have changed. News today reveals otherwise.

Payday lendersjAccording to debt charity StepChange the number of people struggling with such a loan has increased by 42 per cent in the last year – which means that all the time the industry has faced increased political scrutiny they have still acted unscrupulously and immorally.

Subject to investigation upon investigation, from looking at the way in which the industry operates as  a whole by the Office of Fair Trading in 2012, to assessing how competitive it is from the Competition and Markets Authority, nothing seems to stop payday lenders targeting the most financially vulnerable, from whom they make the most money.

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Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

Labour’s alternative to the Tories’ assault on workers’ rights

There is an obvious link between Tory disdain at the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act – and it closely involved workers’ rights

Following recent public sector strikes, David Cameron said new anti-strike laws would be a commitment in the next Tory manifesto. He wants to make the ballot threshold for holding a strike so high it would be nearly impossible.

Human Rights ActjThe Tories have also recently indicated they want to pave the way for Britain’s expulsion from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is in addition to their existing commitment to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA).

Though it may not be immediately obvious, these commitments are very strongly connected. The Tories want to pull Britain out of the ECHR because they know it guarantees the right to take industrial action. So long as we’re signed up to it, the government can’t make it impossible for working people to go on strike in this country.

And it’s not just about going on strike. The ECHR’s protections extend to all sorts of challenges faced by workers.

For example, in a famous case a few years back, the Daily Mail used cash incentives to encourage its employees to surrender their trade union rights and representation. A sub-editor at the Mail and a loyal National Union of Journalists (NUJ) member, Dave Wilson, refused to exchange his union rights for a pay-rise and was subsequently declined an increase in wages.

But the ECHR protects against discrimination on the grounds of union membership. In fact, recognising that such discrimination threatens the very existence of trade unions and undermines the ability of workers to collectively bargain with their employers, the European Court of Human Rights intervened to stop the Daily Mail.

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Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

The debate for Scotland gets ugly

With less than three weeks to go until polling day, the climate around Scotland’s referendum on independence has taken an ugly turn.

Amidst fears of voter intimidation at polling stations, it is being reported that the Better Together campaign leader, Alistair Darling will this week hold talks with Police Scotland to seek assurances on the safety of voters amidst his “increasing concerns about the temperature of the debate.”

Scotland independencejThis talks come just days after the Shadow International Development Secretary, Jim Murphy was forced to suspend his 100 towns and 100 days tour of Scotland after speaking in Kirkcaldy on Thursday.

Video footage has shown Murphy being pelted with Eggs with members of the public clearly heard jeering him, some of whom accused him of being a “traitor”, “parasite”, “terrorist” and “quisling”.

Speaking to Sky News’ “Murnaghan” programme yesterday, the Murphy said of the sorry affair:

“I don’t mind heckles and, d’you know what, I don’t even mind people throwing eggs – that’s just a dry cleaning bill.

“But what happened after the first televised debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond is that things took a sinister turn.

“Instead of turning up in crowds of people on all sides there was an organised mob of Yes supporters, facilitated through Yes Scotland and local organisations through websites, Facebook and other social media.”

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Posted in Clean Politics | Tagged , , , | 14 Responses

The right is split – good news for the left

David Cameron, the Member for Brussels Central, has run out of ways to lie to his eurosceptic backbenchers – rejoice!

In an exclusive run by the Independent today, it’s found that up to 100 Conservative MPs will revolt and defy Cameron in the next election saying the UK must leave the European Union, even if he achieves concessions for Britain.

Cameron jumperRecognising David Cameron as more of a John Major figure, trying to fend off euroscepticism within his party rather than embracing it, the rise of Ukip and the recent resignation of Douglas Carswell has given backbench Tories more confidence to ask difficult questions of their party leader.

In short, and as it has been long suspected, the right is split irreconcilably. When Tony Blair took on the left of the Labour party by ridding Clause 4, he did it in full knowledge that the centre, and parts of the right, could find a new home and populate the Labour support, while the left had virtually nowhere else to turn, save for the minefield that is British Trotskyism.

Now with the split in the right, Cameron doesn’t necessarily have his right flank covered given the rise of Ukip, and the dream of taking parts of the centre ground, with a little help from the LibDem government partners, seems like a pipe dream.

Of course the Tories have already ruled out an electoral pact with Ukip; but then Ukip should rule this out themselves anyway. In the last election many people standing for Ukip refused to run against Tories that had well known Eurosceptic convictions – drawing directly on a desire not to split the right on this issue of Europe.

But can Ukip afford to do such a thing this time? After all, and as they have cause to say over and over, they are not just a single issue party now: they are a party of flat taxes, of relaxed drug laws, and a new found love of libertarianism. These are things that the party don’t see eye to eye on with the Tories.

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Posted in Clean Politics | Tagged , , , | 39 Responses

Clinton aide accuses Nothern Ireland politicians of abysmal leadership

A former aide has sparked controversy in saying that Northern Irish politicians, back some 20 years ago, displayed abysmal leadership

A former senior aide to the Bill Clinton during his time in the White House has issued a damning indictment on the state of Northern Ireland’s politicians.

Bill ClintonjWriting for the Irish Times to mark the moment, 20 years ago from the 31st August that the IRA declared its ceasefire, Nancy Soderberg, who, under Clinton, served both as his Deputy National Security Adviser then later as US Ambassador to the United Nations accuses all parties of an “abysmal abdication of leadership.”

Opening with a warning that “too many in Northern Ireland take two decades of a ceasefire for granted” she goes on to outline the role that the Clinton administration played in the peace process and the struggles it had in allowing certain members of Sinn Fein and the IRA into the United States.

Her strongest and most stark words however are left until the end, with a warning that Northern Ireland is in danger of getting stuck in the past, thereby making progress going forward much more difficult.

Looking back at the role played by Senator George Mitchell in brokering the Good Friday Agreement, Solderberg says of both unionists and republicans that “rather than spending these past years building a shared prosperity, both sides remain far too stuck in the past, making progress vulnerable and even reversible.”

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Posted in Media Integrity | Tagged , , , | 2 Responses

Accepting Carswell with open arms is actually a massive risk for UKIP

It has gone unnoticed, but accepting a genuine libertarian who disregards party loyalists is actually a really bad move for UKIP

In a tweet yesterday, Owen Jones said:

Douglas Carswell … is a really bright and serious man (with reactionary politics). If I was a Tory, I’d be scared.

He’s absolutely right to say this, but I’ll go one further: if I was a Ukipper I’d be quite scared as well.

UKIPFor David Cameron this means one less Eurosceptic. I’m downplaying it a bit, sure; Cameron will be worried that a very intellectual, and rather influential member of his party has gone, which makes Cameron look silly, and has gone to a party that has for some time been tearing chunks out of the Conservatives.

But David Cameron doesn’t really want out of Europe, and Carswell was one of the strongest and most often heard Eurosceptic voices in his party. Cameron might have a fight from his own backbenchers about Europe now, but – and I say this as critic and foe of his and his government – Cameron often comes out on top of his internal fights. He may well show some muscle again on this.

For Ukip however, Carswell crossing the fence means that libertarianism is now back in vogue for their party. Just looking at Carswell’s resignation letter, it is populated with positive references to immigration for example:

“On the subject of immigration, let me make it absolutely clear; I’m not against immigration. The one thing more ugly that [sic] nativism is angry nativism.”

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Posted in Clean Politics | Tagged , , , , | 12 Responses

Payday loan broker firms: the next poverty scandal

For good reason payday lending has been subject to considerable scrutiny, but there’s another problem to solve: that of broker firms selling credit applications to the highest bidding lenders

There’s a truism that all governments should listen to, which has never been quite so apt as to when it applies to firms dealing in short term credit: regulators are always two steps behind the firms they are regulating. So while it is with much enthusiasm that I (regularly) talk about successive victories over the payday lending industry, I add caution by warning that with strong rhetoric by politicians usually comes business mastery.

Payday lendersjIn short, the scandals that rock the payday lending industry are not over, far from it; and we’ve plenty of international examples that suggest as much. An industry as embedded to keeping financially pressured people in more debt, as payday lending is, will always try and find different ways to keep the money coming in.

The next one, for my money, will be the existence of payday loan brokers. The difference between these firms, and payday lenders themselves, is key: one (payday lenders) provide the loans that consumers take out and pay back, while the other (brokers) bid the information of applicants that have used their services to lenders who will pay the highest price for them.

The potential for scandal is perhaps obvious: already the Financial Conduct Authority, who regulates the payday lending industry, has found that many brokerage firms do not tell consumers they are brokers. Owing to this, consumers are often left unaware that they are paying added fees on top of the already bloated prices that payday lenders will charge them.

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Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , | 2 Responses
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