Look Left – The Week in Fast Forward

The economy, mutualism, the Taleban, climate change, Swedish schools and James Purnell.

The Week in Politics

• The battle over the economy took centre stage this week, with two sets of economists writing very different letters in support of the two different approaches to when and how much to cut the deficit by. In the red corner, 67 of the world’s finest minds wrote to the Financial Times today backing the chancellor’s decision to delay spending cuts, warning that the priority “must be to restore growth” and that a “sharp shock now would be dangerous”.

In the blue corner, 20 of the planet’s biggest brains, who wrote a letter to The Sunday Times last weekend calling for “a detailed plan to reduce the structural budget deficit more quickly than set out in the 2009 pre-budget report”, arguing that “the UK’s budget deficit is now the largest in our peacetime history and among the largest in the developed world”.

This is one to watch, and we’ll be following all the way through to polling day; stay tuned for further developments.

The past week also saw a fierce debate on mutualism, with both sides having their say here on Left Foot Forward. On Monday, the Conservative Co-operative movememnt set out their plans to allow workers to take “far more control over the actual running of local services”, the new co-operatives being run as not-for-profits, with the potential to use surpluses both “to improve services and increase wages”.

The following day, the Co-operative party responded to the plans, describing the Conservatives as “completely clueless” on co-operatives, claiming they didn’t understand “the great strides that have already been taken in public services, nor the underlying philosophy behind public sector mutualism” – though conceding that giving employees a stake in their business “provides workers with economic gains and creates companies that are responsive to their frontline staff”.

We even learned this week that Guido banks with the Co-op. You really couldn’t make it up.

The biggest news this week, however, came from Pakistan, and the capture of the Taleban’s most senior commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in a secret raid by the CIA and ISI. The New York Times, which broke the story, says Baradar has been in custody in Karachi “for several days”, undergoing “interrogations”. According to intelligence sources, his capture could “could cripple the Taleban’s military operations”.

The welcome news came as Operation Moshtarak commenced in Helmand province, which Left Foot Forward analysed in detail. Patrick Bury, a former captain in the Royal Irish regiment who has fought in Afghanistan, wrote that, despite the “Taleban resistance melting away” and the operation going to plan, without the political will for an enduring campaign, operations like Moshtarak would “remain strategically futile”.

And on Tuesday, Frank Spring wrote for us on the “metrics of counterinsurgency”, explaining how the success of the operation should be judged. These include: kill ration (as distinct from body count); win/loss ratio; kill vs. wound/capture ratio; duration of operation; combined action operations; driving technique (really); reliance on air and artillery support; pattern-setting and telegraphing moves to the enemy; and possession of higher ground at dawn. Read the article for a detailed list and explanations.


Progressives of the week

Tory-run Coventry city council, which this week announced plans to install dimmer switches on all 28,000 of the city’s street lights over the next 25 years in a bid to cut carbon emissions and combat light pollution at a cost of £250 million.

The proposals by Coventry council follow similar initiatives in Cornwall – which is running a three-year programme to replace streetlights across the county with new adjustable bulbs – and another Conservative controlled council Wokingham, which last June began a one-year trial of turning out selected street lights at night, aiming to save £18,000 in taxpayers’ money per every 1000 lights.


Regressives of the week

The Sunday Times, who last Sunday published pseudo-science as fact, claiming the “world may not be warming”. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the “scientists” they cite have links to big oil, just like Tory big wigs Peter Lilley and Lord Lawson, who Left Foot Forward exposed last November.

The paper was also accused by leading climate scientists of “making things up” and “printing misleading claims”. Perish the thought!


Evidence of the week

The LSE report into Swedish schools, which dealt another blow to the Tories’ plans to introduce the Swedish model to the UK.

The report pointed out the reforms to the Swedish system were against a background of no choice, which is not the case here, and that, while the Conservatives propose that schools be relatively free from state control, in Sweden, they are compelled to follow a national curriculum.

It is the latest in a long line of setbacks to David Cameron’s flagship education policy, which Left Foot Forward have chronicled since our launch last August.


Conor Pope’s Blog The Week

This week, Conor visits the bright lights of London, and he’s so impressed he films Big Ben, for a full 30 seconds! Back on the sofa, he talks Scousers, Tories and scum-sucking pigs:


What’s trending on Twitter

According to our friends at Tweetminster, here is a list of the week’s top political trends and stories, that were popular, discussed and had significant reach:

• The Nicholas “Mr Snobby” Winterton first class train travel outburst;

• James Purnell’s decision to stand down as an MP (see below for more);

• The David Wright scum sucking pigs” furore;

• The Tories getting teenage pregnancy stats wrong – wrongly claiming 54 per cent of under-18s in the most deprived areas fell pregnant;

• Gordon Brown’s interview with Piers Morgan;

• David Cameron’s Q&A on MSN;

• The spoof poster wars; and, for the Lib Dems

• The Lib Dem branch suspended in rules probe and the Liberal/Tory “deal” story


The sad news that James Purnell is to stand down from parliament spread through twitter like wildfire. Here’s a selection of the latest tweets:

@deancarlin: Really sad to head the news that @jimpurnell is standing down. Massive loss

@LawrieMK: May not agree with all his politics, but hope that the quality of debate on the future of Labour is not affected by @jimpurnell‘s departure.

@Senders73: departure of @jimpurnell does not bode well for Labour’s future RT @guardianpolitic James Purnell quits as MP http://bit.ly/cGzvMm

@jamescowley: @jimpurnell resigns to cause Gordon more damage, as he lays out is radical agenda for a real choice at the General Election.

@gabyhinsliff: welcomes @jimpurnell to ranks of used-to-be-somebodies. can see why he wanted out. but damn, it makes next Lab leadership contest dull…

@shamikdas: Hope he returns! RT @Jessica_Asato: Am deeply sad that @jimpurnell‘s stepping down. He’s the most interesting politician around @ the moment

@Andrew_GwynneMP: And a final farewell #FF to @jimpurnell

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