Look Left – The Pope, falling living standards and Miliband’s mansion tax

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

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On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI shocked Catholics by resigning – the first Pope to do so since the year 1415.

Citing poor health – and visibly ailing in some of his more recent appearances – Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger had divided opinion since taking over the papacy in 2005 due to his conservative positions on a range of issues, not to mention his handling of the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal.

Almost as soon as the announcement had been made the speculation started as to who would succeed Pope Benedict XVI.

Left Foot Forward was first in there with a list of the front runners for the papacy. We also looked at how the retired Pope has split opinion, as well as at whether the favourite to succeed Joseph Ratzinger could usher in a progressive papacy.

• On the day the Bank of England warned that inflation was going to remain above its 2 per cent target – further eating away at household spending power – the Office for National Statistics reported that living standards are now back at 2003 levels.

Real earnings have declined for three consecutive years, the report found, due in large part to pay freezes and economic restructuring.

Earlier in the week Left Foot Forward looked at the coalition’s policy of growth denial, the pay gap at some of Britain’s top firms, as well as at the extent of the drop in average real earnings.

• Ed Miliband surprised many people today when during a speech in Bedford he pledged to bring back the 10p tax rate that was abolished by his predecessor Gordon Brown, with the money to fund the proposal coming from the introduction of a mansion tax.

In an unashamedly social democratic speech, Miliband also promised to break the stranglehold of the big six energy suppliers, stop the train company price rip-off, introduce new rules to stop unfair bank charges and cap the interest on payday loans

Left Foot Forward detailed five reasons why progressives should back Ed’s mansion tax.

Progressive of the Week:

US President Barack Obama  delivered a surprisingly progressive State of the Union address on Wednesday, challenging his Republican opponents with pledges on gun control, free trade and a minimum wage of nine dollars an hour.

Although it is unlikely that a plan to increase the minimum wage by 25 per cent would pass the House of Representatives, Obama’s decision to put the policy out there will at least have an impact on the debate.

Regressive of the week:

The government has vowed to continue with the mandatory elements of its workfare schemes, despite a court ruling that regulations under which most of the programmes were created are unlawful.

The ruling followed a challenge from Cait Reilly, a 24 year-old geology graduate from Birmingham, who has won a Court of Appeal ruling against a government-sponsored unpaid work experience scheme at Poundland.

Despite losing the case, the government has also insisted it will not return money to tens of thousands of unemployed people who have had benefits docked under the rules.

Evidence of the Week:

Young people are increasingly locked out of the property market and it takes a person in their 20s seven years on average to get the money to put down on a house, a report out on Monday warned.

On average across England, a person in their 20s wanting to purchase the average first time buyer home (£175,265) would have to save a deposit of £35,053, the report by the Home Builders Federation found.

Left Foot Forward has produced a graphic detailing the average amount of a young person’s annual income it now takes to get a mortgage.

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