A spirit of compromise is needed in Stormont

A spirit of compromise is needed in abundance at today’s talks

StormontNorthern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers will today begin a fresh round of political talks at Stormont aimed at resolving long-standing sores which have severely hampered the ability of ministers in Belfast to govern.

At stake are the thorny issues of parades, the flying of flags, the legacy of the past, welfare reforms and the operation of the devolved institutions. For the sake of the people of Northern Ireland these talks need to succeed to prove that devolution really can deliver for them and to show that their trust in the Good Friday agreement is not being betrayed. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

Cameron’s welfare plans risk making young people homeless

Without the safety net of a welfare system, many under-25s have no other means of supporting themselves

Job Centre ncrjDavid Cameron left home at 13. So when he announces policies affecting young people living independently, he is speaking from experience.

Unlike many students and young people though, Cameron’s situation was one of unimaginable privilege. While some of us leave home because of disruption, abuse and estrangement, he did so to join one of Britain’s most expensive boarding schools.

Cameron’s latest policy announcement aims to revoke Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for 18-21 year olds and deny housing benefit to under 25s. He wants to use these cuts to fund 1m more apprenticeships. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Responses

Good news on the jobs front, but pay is definitely not recovering

We’re going down an uncertain path, with serious threats for working people

Job Centre ncrjWhat should we make of today’s employment figures? With unemployment finally dropping below two million, but pay only 0.7 per cent higher than it was a year ago?

One of the difficulties for progressive economic commentators at present is how to get the balance right. At a time when the government and its cheerleaders insist that each month’s labour market statistics are a sign we’ve entered a new golden age there’s a natural tendency to go to the other extreme, and insist that there’s nothing positive going on. Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Responses

The Welsh dragon awakens on devolution

The Welsh first minister will today call for a new “Union mindset” that seeks to provide a greater voice and role for the devolved institutions in UK affairs.

Wales flag ncrjDelivering a keynote speech at the Institute for Government this afternoon, Carwyn Jones will argue that, whilst a “devolution mindset” begins with the assumption that the Westminster Parliament is sovereign under a “union mindset”, it is the devolved parliaments and assemblies that are recognised as embodying “popular sovereignty in each part of the country”. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response

New cost of living figures show real effect of recession on pay

And things are even worse than they seem

Money no copyrightjThe UK is suffering from the longest sustained decline in living standards since records began – but things are actually even worse than they seem.

New New Economics Foundation (NEF) analysis reveals the government’s preferred measure of inflation – the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – has consistently understated the impact of price increases.

It is calculated according to price changes in the shopping basket of the ‘average’ household. But there is no such thing. We all buy different things, which means the impact of inflation will vary from household to household – and significantly according to how much we earn. Read More »

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

Labour’s Scottish headache continues

Ed Miliband would do well to start fighting with ‘every fibre of his being’ in Scotland

Scotland independencejLabour’s recent worries will be compounded by news that the SNP’s membership surge has been especially felt across Labour’s West of Scotland heartlands.

Total SNP membership now stands at around 80,000 as of last week – a threefold increase since the independence referendum, making it the third largest political party in the United Kingdom. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , | 11 Responses

On any objective test the Green Party should be in the leaders’ debates

Green PartyYesterday the broadcasters unveiled a proposal for televised leaders’ debates that fails basic tests of fairness and balance

So this is what British politics on TV in the twenty-first century is supposed to look like? Four middle-aged white men arguing over whose turn it is to rearrange the deckchairs as the Titanic sinks?

Whatever qualities David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage may have, the public does not think they represent the diversity of modern Britain. It does journalism a disservice to pretend that they do – the public are not fools.

We can either have a real debate, with all strands of political opinion represented, or we can have another establishment charade that will see the public turning off in droves. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , , , , | 29 Responses

Forging a new NHS from the ashes: Labour’s chance to rebuild a British icon

Labour could propose a tax to save the NHS and people would pay it. So what’s the problem?

NHSjWhat is there to be hopeful about in 2014 Britain? What is there to be proud of?

These aren’t easy questions to answer. Britain today is a place where living standards are falling and secure and decently-paid jobs are harder to come by; where for many the chance of securing a decent home – be it social housing or mortgaged housing – is diminishing; where the NHS is slowly disintegrating and where we and our relatives face a frightening and expensive old age ‘cared’ for by underpaid and often resentful staff.

It’s almost a cliché to observe that mainstream politics has so far failed to provide any kind of light at the end of the tunnel, with nothing on offer but the Tories’ brutal austerity or Labour’s austerity-lite. Read More »

Posted in Left Foot Forward | Tagged , , , , | 69 Responses

A majority in Scotland still want change

Should the Westminster parties fail to listen to the Scottish people they will pay a heavy price at the polls

Scotland ncrIn less than a month, Scotland has become a different country. The referendum may have – narrowly – delivered a No vote, but new and progressive forces have been unleashed which promise that things will never be the same again.

Westminster may have hung on to its political stewardship and breathed an enormous sigh of relief as a result, but it cannot afford to settle back into a comfortable slumber. Things have changed, changed utterly.

The referendum process saw Scots become more politically engaged and assertive than ever before. We are in a new era of civic politics, where it is ordinary people rather than political parties who set the agenda and drive the outcomes. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , | 42 Responses

British female jihadist authors disturbing recruitment document

The document offers a chilling mixture of the mundane and the depraved

Mahmood“…sisters… come and gain true honour by living under the law of Sharia, by marrying a brother who puts Allah before his desires…”

These are the disturbing words of Aqsa Mahmood, the Glaswegian medical student who left for Syria a few months ago in order to join the terrorist group calling itself Islamic State (IS).

In a document that surfaced on the internet a couple of weeks ago, Aqsa sheds light not only on daily life under IS rule but also on the motivations young female Muslims may have for joining the struggle. Read More »

Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Responses
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