Saturday, February 22, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
The floods that are ravaging large parts of the south of England at the moment are nothing short of a national tragedy, not to mention a national emergency. Ed Miliband is not understating the case today by talking about the effects of these changes to our temperate climate as a national security issue.
Much of the coverage from the left has been of the outrageous statement from the Prime Minister that ‘money is no object’ and ‘we are a rich country’ when it comes to flood defences. Of course we are, but considering that the PM has been peddling nonsense about how we’re nearly bankrupt for almost six years now it is an absurd statement. Considering that the flooding in working class communities in Yorkshire and Humberside several years ago has still not received proper attention from government, this is a particularly salty ointment. Away from the direct comparisons over flood relief, it is obvious to anyone what an insult this is in a climate of public sector pay depression, the hacking back of benefits of the most vulnerable, and the sale of our welfare state.
However, the rural communities that are suffering through the floods know that their current predicament is as a result of a lack of proper spending, and restraint by the Treasury on the abilities of the Environment Agency to take sensible precautions to defend lives and property. They know that they are victims of savage cuts, and they need a different ideology in Downing Street.
This could mark a watershed (pardon the pun) moment for Labour. For a long time I’ve wondered why predominantly working class communities in rural areas across England have been no-go areas for us. Travel to Bridgewater and Taunton, or Gainsborough and Boston, you meet isolated communities, with poor quality employment, poor education and high rates of child poverty. These are working class communities on a par with any inner city, and with fewer opportunities for regeneration. The popular perception of these places as packed to the gunnels with the landed gentry is just tosh. These are our people, and if we are failing to speak for appeal to them, we’re failing in our basic duty to unite working people.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Last weekend, Ed Balls made an excellent tax announcement ahead of the general election in 2015. This announcement, popular with the public, was a commitment to raise tax – to reintroduce the 50p rate of tax for those individuals who earn £150,000 a year or more. That is, to be clear, to take 50p in every £1 earned OVER £150,000. From the squeals, one might think that it actually meant taking 50% of income as a whole. It doesn’t (more’s the pity). In the debate that’s followed, we’ve missed a discussion about where it sits in Labour’s tax package as a whole – how it measures up to our equally important commitment to reintroduce the 10p tax rate for our lowest earners.
The 50p rate of course has its nay-sayers, like the least convincing (former) Labour minister since Alan Milburn, Lord Jones of Birmingham. Lord Jones believes that: "In the last few months we've got 'if it creates wealth let's kick it', really go for energy companies, really go for housebuilding, bankers – this time it's going to be high earners. Are we talking politics or are we talking what's right to create wealth and jobs in the nation?".
I’ve had lots of questions from curious Britons about the continuing saga engulfing Chris Christie, Governor of the (great) state of New Jersey. I would not claim to be an expert in American politics by any stretch, but I did, of course, work on the campaign that saw our candidate, Governor Corzine, lose to the then largely unknown, but uncommonly large, Republican.
There is of course a lot of visceral emotion wrapped up in my response to the mess over the myriad of scandals that grow day by day. This was a man who put some of my dearest friends out of work, and defeated a man who, although not whiter than white and by no means a socialist, was a compassionate politician who stood up to established interests. Underneath the grey beard, grandfatherly demeanour and oh so boring ‘sweater-vests’ of Jon Corzine sat the model politician on paper. Polite, unassuming, good with figures, and an ego smaller almost all of his staff, Corzine was (despite everything else) a good governor.