James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.
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• Margaret Thatcher’s funeral took place on Wednesday, bringing together a host of politicians from across the political spectrum to pay tribute to a woman who, whether they like it or not, almost certainly shaped their politics to some extent.
It’s become something of a cliche to point out that Lady Thatcher “fiercely divided opinion”, but the sheer extent to which the late Prime Minister polarised the nation was evident not only in the crowds that thronged the route to St Paul’s Cathedral – some wept while others chose to turn their backs on the coffin – but also in the less conciliatory scenes in a number of Northern towns and cities, where effigies of the late Prime Minister were burned.
The Tory press predictably sought to portray all of those protesting against the late Mrs Thatcher as toxic remnants of the far-left, out of touch with mainstream public opinion. Undoubtedly many of those celebrating the passing of Mrs Thatcher are politically (and morally) beyond the pale, but the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders would be foolish to underestimate the bitterness still felt at Mrs Thatcher in many former industrial regions.
This week YouGov revealed that many ‘Thatcherite’ assumptions are not as firmly planted in the public mind as the Right likes to believe, with 61 per cent of those questioned saying major public utilities should be run by the public sector. Given some of the other rogues who got a state funeral, Lady Thatcher should have got one, argued Kevin Meagher. Across the nations Thatcher’s legacy continues to divide people, argued Ed Jacobs. Chris Creegan also looked at how the policies of the Thatcher government unwittingly brought about lesbian and gay equality.
• In a shameful betrayal of their party’s claim to preside over the “greenest government ever”, Tory MEPs this week scuppered plans to reform the European Emission Trading Scheme, which would have cut the huge surplus of allowances currently being traded.
The excess means that the price of carbon on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has gone as low as 5 euros a tonne in recent years – meaning essentially that it’s cheaper to pollute. 334 MEPs voted against the reform and 315 in favour. A roll call of votes showed that 21 Conservative MEPs voted against the Coalition government’s stated position while 4 voted in favour
• Wednesday’s funeral largely overshadowed some grim economic news: unemployment rose by 70,000 between December 2012 and February 2013 to 2.56 million. The latest labour market figures also revealed that pay rose by just 1.0 per cent in three months to February, the lowest growth rate since records began in 2001.
The figures were unreservedly bad: youth unemployment rose by 20,000 and long term unemployment increased with the number of people out of work for over two years up by 28,000. This will come as a big blow to George Osborne who in recent months has cited falling unemployment as proof that the government’s economic plans are working when all the other indications appear to show they aren’t.
This week Duncan Weldon of the TUC wrote on Left Foot Forward that falling household incomes, alongside fiscal austerity, tight credit conditions and the impacts of the Eurocrisis, were all adding to a major demand crisis in the economy.
Progressive of the Week:
Brighton and Hove city council is considering whether to become the first city in the UK to provide rooms where people can use illegal drugs supervised by a health professional and without fear of prosecution.
Brighton previously had the notoriety of being the city with the highest number of drug-related deaths of anywhere in the UK, and even today the city hosts more than 2,000 problem heroin and cocaine users.
This week James Bloodworth argued that the recommendations for Brighton should prompt a more in-depth reassessment of Britain’s drug laws.
Regressive of the week:
Energy company RWE npower did not pay a single penny of corporation tax in three years despite making profits of £766 million.
Grilled by MPs on Tuesday, npower chief executive Paul Massara claimed there was “nothing amazing” about not paying any corporation tax in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
He added that the company was able to deduct some of the £5 billion it had invested over the period of five years on new power plants against its tax bill. Watch the video here.
Evidence of the Week:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut the UK’s growth forecast more than any other major economy and called for the government to spend more to stimulate growth.
In a damning indictment of George Osborne’s failing austerity drive, the IMF said that Britain’s economy will grow by just 0.7 per cent this year and by 1.5 per cent in 2014 – a 0.3 percentage point cut for each year. This is a greater cut than for any other leading economy, including Italy and Spain.
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