Look Left – El Comandante, Payday lenders and immigration

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

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On Tuesday evening Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez finally lost his battle with cancer at the age of 58.

Opinion was divided over Chavez’s legacy, however, with some viewing him as a dangerous demagogue and others passionately defending his unique brand of “Bolivarian socialism”.

Champions of Chavez tended to stress his redistribution of wealth to poorer Venezuelans, while critics pointed to some fairly barbed criticism directed at Venezuela by human rights groups like Amnesty International.

Left Foot Forward looked at Chavez’s mixed record and at the reaction of the media around the world to the news of his death. Two of our writers also went toe-to-toe over whether Hugo Chavez was a tyrant or a liberator.

• Payday lenders were told on Wednesday that they have 12 weeks to clean up their act or they risk losing their licenses.

Payday loan firms were told to change their behaviour after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found evidence of “widespread irresponsible lending”.

But our writer Carl Packman warned that those hoping for tough action on unscrupulous payday lenders would be left disappointed.

• The Labour Party turned its focus towards immigration this week, with Ed Miliband promising to take a tougher line in future after past mistakes.

Miliband announced that English language teaching for migrants would be given greater priority under a Labour government and all state workers in face-to-face contact with the public would have to be able to speak English.

HOPE not Hate’s Nick Lowles wrote that Labour must offer a positive, progressive alternative that deals with the wider context behind concerns over immigration.

Progressive of the Week:

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has conceded that debt-funded investment in infrastructure “may assist in reviving growth”.

In a piece for the New Statesman, Cable was the first cabinet member to question George Osborne’s economic Plan A, saying that greater public investment was “crucial” to reviving the economy.

Left Foot Forward reported on Cable’s comments and put them in the context of a report by the British Chamber of Commerce, which cut its GDP growth predictions for this year to 0.6 per cent.

Regressive of the week:

David Cameron was particularly disingenuous during Prime Minister’s Questions this week in response to a question about food banks. The prime minister claimed that the use of food banks had increased “ten times under Labour”.

While factually correct, what David Cameron failed to mention was that under the coalition the number of people using food banks has shot up dramatically – to 128,697 last year, which is an increase of 4,573 per cent on the figures for 2005.

Evidence of the Week:

The High Pay Centre released a report on Monday which claimed that a modest redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom would give a pay rise of £40 a month to the lowest paid 25 per cent of the income scale.

If those earning more than £150,000 took a 10 per cent pay cut and this went directly to the bottom 25 per cent, they would get a 55 per hour pay rise to £7.35, taking them closer to the national living wage of £7.45, the report said.

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