Look Left: Gay marriage, child poverty targets and the IMF verdict

James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.

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The government’s gay marriage bill was passed in the commons this week by 366 votes to 161. The bill wasn’t popular with the parliamentary Tory party, however, with 133 Conservative MPs voting against it.

The issue dominated headlines in large part because of a ‘wrecking amendment’ tabled by Conservative MP Tim Loughton, who opposes gay marriage.

A group of Tory MPs led by Loughton attempted to derail the bill with an amendment to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. However MPs instead backed a Labour plan to consult on changing legislation governing civil partnerships.

This week James Bloodworth looked at the consistent level of support gay marriage has received from the public in recent years, while Chris Creegan argued that gay marriage wasn’t only about a stronger society, but about fundamental freedoms. Peter Tatchell also looked at gay rights across the Commonwealth.

Stewart Lansley and IPPR director Nick Pearce went head to head on Left Foot Forward this week on the issue of child poverty – or more specifically over the suggestion that the 2010 Child Poverty Act should be dropped by the Labour Party.

The act hoped to eradicate child poverty by 2020, a goal which the UK is no longer on course to meet.

Lansley argued that the best option would be to stick with the act’s principles and targets but revise the timetable, whereas Pearce wrote that the coalition had already abandoned the act and Labour “would do better to come up with credible plans for reducing child poverty that stand a meaningful chance of success”.

• In its assessment of the UK economy on Wednesday, the IMF said that despite the coalition’s economic strategy earning it medium term credibility, planned fiscal tightening would act as a drag on growth.

“Persistent slow growth could permanently damage medium-term growth prospects – this could arise if private sector deleveraging is larger than expected, credit conditions fail to improve, external demand does not pick up, and the drag from fiscal consolidation is greater than anticipated,” the IMF’s report said.

This week Left Foot Forward covered the report as it was released, and Graeme Henderson of IPPR North looked at the government’s misleading message that public sector jobs are acting as a drag on growth in the private sector.

Progressive of the Week:

Danny Dorling of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) had a new paper out this week on health inequalities in the UK.

In it Dorling looked at the growing health inequalities that are blighting British cities – in Glasgow for example mortality counts during 2012 and 2013 have been rising. The last time actual rises in mortality were reported was during the depression of the 1930s.

Dorling’s work offers an important starting point in terms of addressing an issue that’s likely to be exacerbated by the coalition government’s austerity measures.

Regressive of the week:

Speaking in the Commons on Monday night, Conservative MP Gerald Howarth referred to something he called the “aggressive homosexual community” during a speech opposing gay marriage.

“There are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see [equal marriage] as but a stepping stone to something even further,” Mr Howarth said.

Howarth did not, however, elaborate on what further measures these “aggressive homosexuals” might want.

The Tory MP has never been a fan of equality, voting against the Civil Partnerships Act in 2004.

Evidence of the Week:

The committee on climate change published analysis on Friday showing that every family in Britain could save at least £1,131 and as much as £4,525 if the government adopted a target to decarbonise the power sector by 2030.

Under ‘central case assumptions’ about gas and carbon prices, the report indicated that a strategy focused on the deployment of low-carbon power throughout the 2020s would result in cost-savings of £25-45 billion compared to a strategy of investment in gas-fired generation.

This translates as £1,131 to £2,036 per household. If gas and carbon prices were higher, the cost savings could be as much as £100 billion or £4,525 per household.

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