Showing posts from April, 2014

We shouldn’t be fighting Tony Blair’s Middle East ‘battle’

Last week Tony Blair delivered a high profile speech at Bloomberg in London on the Middle East in which he placed Islamist ideologues in a ‘Titanic’ struggle with those who want to embrace ‘the modern world’ of pluralistic societies and open economies. As with most of Blair’s speeches that I can remember, it was impressive, cogent and well-delivered. But for me it also exposed a kind of utopianism about that modern world he talked about, and a false dichotomy. As he put it,  “ Underneath the turmoil and revolution of the past years is one very clear and unambiguous struggle: between those with a modern view of the Middle East, one of pluralistic societies and open economies, where the attitudes and patterns of globalisation are embraced; and, on the other side, those who want to impose an ideology born out of a belief that there is one proper religion and one proper view of it, and that this view should, exclusively, determine the nature of society and the political econ

Food Banks: Of community - and polarised politics

Food banks have become another one of those political footballs that get kicked around between left and right to seemingly little effect but stopping a great many people – or rather, more accurately, me - from giving them much or enough thought. We saw another example of the polarisation over the weekend with a Mail on Sunday ‘special investigation’ from undercover reporters, headlined: ‘ No ID, no checks... and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims .’ The piece targeted the Trussell Trust charity, which runs more than 400 of Britain’s 1,000 or so food banks and has been vociferous in criticising the Government for recent rises in demand for food banks. It fed into a general right-wing irritation about Labour using food banks to beat the government and provided a few good reasons for scepticism about the real circumstances of some people using them (for example those on big salaries made redundant who retain Sky TV and iPhone contracts).

Liberal poster outrage, and the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of UKIP

The way liberal-left opinion and much of the mainstream political class has turned its fire on the UK Independence Party ( UKIP ) over its latest poster campaign has been quite something to behold – and if I am not much mistaken it could play straight into UKIP’s hands. For me, this one above is rather good as a political poster, making a simple straightforward political point ('EU Policy at Work. British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour') with a simple straightforward image. But it has been attacked with quite impressive outrage from all sides, bringing comparisons with Nazi propaganda and stimulating all from Tories to Greens to vituperation and anger. Tim Montgomerie, the creator of ConservativeHome website and now comment editor at the Times, even tweeted: 'Strong anti-immigrant poster campaign from UKIP', appended to the above photograph. Another UKIP poster to have appeared overnight has the simple statement ’26 million people in Europe

One Nation Quotas: uniting by division?

It is a question often asked in Labour circles: what does 'One Nation Labour' actually mean? If you thought it was an attempt to bring people together and re-establish forms of common life and citizenship, it may be time to think again, for Labour’s interest group politics has muscled in – right on cue. Over the last weekend, plans emerged for what is termed a ‘One Nation Civil Service’, to be outlined in the next Labour election manifesto. These plans will see quotas for the elite Fast Stream programme, of 18 per cent black and ethnic minority, and 24 per cent ‘working-class’, plus further positive action for women. Justifying these moves in a speech to the IPPR think tank (a speech that pulled back from the quota numbers mentioned in the Independent over the weekend), Ed Miliband’s right-hand man Michael Dugher outlined how ethnic minority numbers in the civil service have declined 10 per cent during the current government (though neglecting to mention that