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04.06.13

Labour must look forward, not back, to win in 2015

I had this on Labour Uncut last week.

Peter Kellner reminded us in his recent hard hitting analysis for Progress that the Tories’ central message in 1992 was that Neil Kinnock was a dangerous man who would lead Britain down the road to ruin. He also recalled that the same trick completely failed in 1997. This was because, he argued, Tony Blair had reassured voters that their jobs, homes, pay and savings would be safe with him.

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29.09.12

Moral reform: what it should mean for Labour

I had this on Labour Uncut earlier this week.

The moral reform that I see as vital to Labour would not abandon the traditions of mechanical reform that politicians like Roy Hattersley upheld. It would, however, recognise and adapt to the limitations of this mechanical approach. Matthew Taylor’s concept of pro-social behaviour and Marc Stears’ of active equality could be crucial to this adaptation.

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08.03.10

Launch of RSA project with lessons for Cumbria

Tonight sees the launch of an RSA project that should produce important results for public service provision in South Lakeland and Cumbria. Working in partnership with Peterborough City Council and the Arts Council, the RSA (of which I am a fellow) will implement a wide range of projects that will help citizens become more self-reliant, resilient, altruistic and creative. Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, notes:

“If public agencies are to improve service outcomes in the difficult years ahead they will need to forge a different type of relationship with citizens. This is one of the assumptions behind the partnership.”

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28.07.09

How the middle classes can be the change on social mobility

Matthew Taylor argues with good sense and strong social conviction:

“It would be better both for schools and for wider society if middle class parents put less energy in trying to get into ‘good’ schools and more in supporting their children and being active parents in more socially mixed schools (which, as it happens, is what I have done with my two boys). There is a marginally greater risk of a child failing in a more mixed school but people (and media comment) exaggerate this danger hugely; as I pointed out, 90% of the performance of children can be predicted from the resources and support they get at home. But, while going to a mixed school is a small risk for the well-off there is clear evidence that greater social mixing and a wider range of ability in a school are most definitely good for children from poorer backgrounds”.

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18.07.09

The long walk through the institutions

Charlie Brooker is typically pugnacious and amusing when he writes:

“Right now all our faith has poured out of the old institutions, and there’s nowhere left to put it. We need new institutions to believe in, and fast. Doesn’t matter what they’re made of. Knit them out of string, wool, anything. Quickly, quickly. Before we start worshipping insects”.

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18.07.09

The long walk through the institutions

Charlie Brooker is typically pugnacious and amusing when he writes:

“Right now all our faith has poured out of the old institutions, and there’s nowhere left to put it. We need new institutions to believe in, and fast. Doesn’t matter what they’re made of. Knit them out of string, wool, anything. Quickly, quickly. Before we start worshipping insects”.

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08.05.09

How ethical can East Dulwich be?

Newsnight’s “Ethical Man”, Justin Rowlett, spent one year doing all that he could to reduce the carbon footprint of his family. He went to more considerable lengths to do so than, I think, the overwhelming majority of people in this country would even contemplate, as he discusses in the video below.

The end result of all of this sacrifice? A 20 percent reduction in his total carbon footprint. So, a gain, but enough of a gain to justify all of the pain? There was certainly more pain involved than, I fear, the average Brit could tolerate. Some might shrug their shoulders in the face of this and say: “What the UK does doesn’t matter anyways, as the key to averting climate change is what happens in China”. 

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17.04.09

A week is a long time in politics, but four years is a very short time

“A week is a long time in politics, but four years is a very short time”, as Michael Barber once told Tony Blair’s Cabinet in a misquotation of Harold Wilson. Alistair Darling will be hoping that the first part of this is true and that next week’s Budget allows the political focus to move on from the Damien McBride-affair. This affair has undermined the momentum that Gordon Brown built at the G20 conference and Darling will attempt to recapture this.

However, he might reflect upon the second part of Barber’s observation, as he draws up his Budget.

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01.04.09

Pubs are good for us

IPPR made a welcome and timely publication yesterday. The fact that 39 pubs are closing every week is a massive drain upon UK social capital. This is a trend that needs to be checked and is one of various reasons why Matthew Taylor is right to argue that the suggestion by the Chief Medical Officer of a minimum price for alcohol deserves a better debate. This suggestion seems poorly understood and the debate around it under informed. My understanding of this suggestion would improve the competitive position of pubs relative to off licences. It is preferable that people drink pints of foaming ale amongst friends in pubs, rather than knock back strong alcohol in a lonely pursuit of oblivion. The Chief Medical Officer’s proposal would make the former more likely to happen, while also doing something to address our penchant for problem drinking.

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09.03.09

The Gaullist ascendency? I still prefer cross dressing

Richard Reeves is typically thought provoking in the current Prospect. He quotes an interesting line from a recent Liam Byrne speech. Labour’s “mantra should be really simple. We want a country of powerful people”. Given his excellent biography of John Stuart Mill, I wondered whether Reeves also found this line evocative of a famous line from Mill: “with small men no great thing can really be accomplished”.

“On the one side” of the Labour Party, argues Reeves, “stand those for whom the economic crisis demonstrates the need for a more muscular state; on the other, a diverse group”, including Byrne, “who want to use the state to give more power to individuals”. Similarly, Jesse Norman has previously divided Labour into Trimmers, Romantics and Deniers. Remarks from Matthew Taylor and David Miliband are said to define the Trimmers. “Instead of a Government-centric model of change in which we assume our rulers should be given the blame for what goes wrong and the responsibility for making it right”, claims Taylor, “we need a citizen-centric model in which we reinstate ourselves as the authors of our own collective destinies”. In other words: we want powerful people.

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02.02.09

The future of the Labour Party

“This was the week in which Labour lost the next election”, according to Matthew d’Ancona. A coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems is the best response, thinks Sunder Katwala, while Matthew Taylor suggests a, “radical departure from past practice. How about declaring a unilateral political ceasefire?” John Prescott was spitting feathers in a wholly absurd and unnecessary fashion with Taylor. Presumably, he is at least as angry with Katwala. But, at least, Prescott wants to fight this war; the next general election.

Danny Finkelstein suggests that Ed Balls is briefing against Ed Miliband as part of the next war; the race to be the next leader of the Labour Party. Balls, allegedly, wants to be the candidate of the left in this contest, though I can’t see him usurping Jon Cruddas from this position. Given that Labour could well swing leftwards in opposition, as a Blair/Brown backlash occurs against a backdrop of continued economic struggles, this is a position from which Cruddas could be victorious.

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13.01.09

Statues in the centre of new housing estates

Some might think that Andy Burnham tried to fuse incompatibles in socialism and culture in his address to the Fabian Society tonight. However, Tony Crosland produced some memorable lines on culture in one of the greatest socialist tracts that this country has ever produced.

“We need not only higher exports and old-age pensions, but more open-air cafes, brighter and gayer streets at night, later closing-hours for public houses, more local repertory theatres, better and more hospitable hoteliers and restaurateurs, brighter and cleaner eating-houses, more riverside cafes, more pleasure-gardens on the Battersea model, more murals and pictures in public places, better designs for furniture and pottery and women’s clothes, statues in the centre of new housing-estates, better-designed street-lamps and telephone kiosks, and so on ad infinitum. The enemy in all this will often be in unexpected guise; it is not only dark Satanic things and people that now bar the road to the new Jerusalem, but also, if not mainly, hygienic, respectable, virtuous things and people, lacking only in grace and gaiety”.

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