Posts Tagged ‘British politics’
British social democracy is dying a slow death
The Scotsman, June 8th 2013
Ed Miliband and Labour have been busy this week making policy announcements, marking out political terrain, and in the eyes of opponents, making unprincipled U-turns.
Labour has announced it will not reverse the end of winter fuel payments for wealthy pensioners and child benefit for top rate taxpayers, as well as imposing an overall ‘cap’ on welfare spending for the first three years of a future Labour Government.
There are short-term factors at work. Labour are increasingly keen to reposition itself and challenge the widespread perception that it is ‘soft’ on welfare. The party also has anxieties about the narrowness of its overall lead over the Tories, and its inability to close the economic credibility gap with the Conservatives, for all the problems of the coalition. Read the rest of this entry »
Nigel Farage, the Scottish Debate and the Future of Europe
Open Democracy, May 19th 2013
This is an age of uncertainty, crisis and doubt. The UK is experiencing multiple crises: political, constitutional and economic, of the UK in Europe and of Europe itself as an idea and project. And underneath all of this is a deep-seated Western fear, of loss of confidence in Western modernity and anxiety about the future.
The lack of sureness now being displayed in Britain’s political elites is one manifestation, as is the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. The Westminster village has been talking of little else since UKIP burst through in the English local elections winning 23% of the vote, humiliating the mainstream parties.
Cut then this week to the beautiful setting of Edinburgh’s High Street, its castle at one end, Holyrood Palace at the other, tartan tourist tat in between. This was the improbable setting for Nigel Farage’s northern sojourn and face off with Radical Independence supporters.
Insults flew back and forth; the protestors called Farage ‘racist scum’; he retorted by calling them ‘fascist scum’ and then attempted to taint the broad church of Scottish nationalism and the SNP by claiming the former had a ‘fascist side’; the next day in a combative interview on ‘BBC Radio Scotland’ Farage accused the interviewer David Miller of the same ‘hatred’ as the protestors and hung up (1). Read the rest of this entry »
What Difference Does It Make? Making Explicit the Change of Independence
The Scotsman, May 4th 2013
It has been another fast-moving week in Scotland’s constitutional conversation even leaving the comedy controversies aside.
There was Denis Canavan, chair of ‘Yes Scotland’, distancing himself from SNP policy in suggesting Scotland that should have its own currency; while the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee made the startling observation that independence will involve shaking things up for the UK.
Then there was Alex Salmond’s announcement that an independent Scotland would not have a central bank. This is part of the ‘don’t frighten the horses’ approach of ‘continuity independence’ which sees the maintenance of the pound sterling as Scotland’s currency, with Treasury and Bank of England oversight, and Scotland remaining in the UK Balance of Payments. Read the rest of this entry »
Can Ed Miliband’s Labour Challenge the Westminster Consensus?
The Scotsman, April 27th 2013
Ed Miliband does not have to seek out his troubles and much of it seems to come from his own side rather than from opponents.
This week Len McCluskey, head of Unite laid into Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander claiming that if Miliband listened to them, ‘he’ll be defeated’ and ‘cast into the dustbin of history’. Worse, George Galloway endorsed Miliband for PM, just the sort of thing to scare off marginal voters.
Labour’s poll ratings are on average 9% ahead of the Tories producing a predicted Commons majority of 96 seats, but most people think it should be further ahead at the moment.
The electoral system may aid Labour and hinder the Tories, but underneath the headline figures there is a lack of conviction in Labour. 66% of voters think Miliband isn’t ready to be PM with only 24% feeling that he is ready. Only 12% of the public thinks Labour are the most capable party to take tough decisions, while 48% think this of the Conservatives. Read the rest of this entry »
Four Nations and a Funeral: The Demise of the British Welfare State
The Scotsman, March 30th 2013
The British welfare state is meant to be one of the ties that bind us together; along with the NHS and the BBC representing our common strands of citizenship.
Each has been remarkably eroded in recent years but on Monday April 1st huge changes will occur in the first two – the welfare state and NHS in England – which will have massive consequences for hundreds of thousands of people up and down this country already hard pressed and vulnerable, and for the very idea of Britain itself.
A host of benefit changes are away to occur: the bedroom tax, the abolition of Disability Living Allowance, the housing benefit cap and a real cut in most benefits. At the same time, there will be the biggest overhaul of the NHS in England in decades, with private health care providers the world over drooling at the prospect of getting their hands on the NHS billions.
This is not the mandate David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith stood on in 2010. Cameron impressed on people that he was a different kind of ‘compassionate conservative’, stressing the perils of inequality and poverty, and citing the work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s influential ‘The Spirit Level’. Read the rest of this entry »