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£100,000 to make lavvies fit for Lords

£100,000 to make lavvies fit for Lords | General Politics |

Up to £100,000 is to be spent refurbishing two toilets used by peers and VIp guests at the palace of Westminster, according to a House of Commons contract.


The House of Lords lavatories give a “poor image” of the palace of Westminster and are in an “unacceptable condition for the high-profile area they are in”, adds the job description put out to tender via the website


The paperwork states the last revamp took place more than 20 years ago, and the contract is valued by the House of Commons authorities at between £90,000 and £100,000.


The work to ensure the toilets in the Salisbury Room area comply with disability access legislation is estimated to take 42 days to complete.

There is one cubicle and two urinals in the men’s toilets and one cubicle plus a hand basin in the women’s toilets, according to the House of Lords.

The nearest alternative disabled accessible toilets to the Salisbury Room are said to be more than 125 metres away from the House facility.


The tender document adds the toilets – used by peers, staff and visitors from delegations from overseas parliaments – have reached the “end of their serviceable life”.

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British Social Democracy is dying a slow death

British Social Democracy is dying a slow death | General Politics |

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 toprate taxpayers, and it will impose an overall “cap” on welfare spending for the first three years of a future Labour government.


There are short-term factors at work. Labour is 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.


More long term, Miliband and his team have the goal of remaking social democracy, and with it the culture and ethos of British capitalism. This has been the rationale for “One Nation Labour” and Lord Glasman’s “Blue Labour”. But for all the intellectual pretensions (leaving aside that “One Nation Labour” doesn’t travel over the Border very well), both have remained sketchy aspirations and, at best, works in progress.


Miliband is trying to shift Labour away from the parameters and wreckage of New Labour. He has said he wants to “move the centre ground leftwards”, in the way Thatcher did the same rightwards, but so far Chancellor George Osborne’s observation that “in opposition you move to the centre; in government, you move the centre,” has been proved correct.

Putting this week’s changes in historical context provides a very different picture from that offered by the Labour leadership – one of a painful retreat that began many decades before New Labour and which contributed to the triumph of Blair and Brown.


From the close of the post-war Attlee government, Labour has continuously failed to make the political weather in a progressive direction and instead has engaged in playing political catch-up with rightwing reactionary ideas.

Several key moments have burst the hopes of British social democracy. In 1967, then prime minister Harold Wilson abandoned the central tenet of his government, the National Plan, which was focused on boosting long-term economic growth and challenging Treasury fiscal orthodoxy, as he belatedly and humiliatingly had to accept devaluation of the pound.


Nearly a decade later, in 1976, Labour was forced to embrace huge public spending cuts at the behest of the IMF. At the same time, Labour prime minister James Callaghan openly adopted monetarism and declared the post-war consensus dead. Many historians date the triumph of Thatcherism as a set of ideas, not to the 1979 election victory, but the capitulation of the Callaghan government in the summer and autumn of 1976.


Labour’s hollowed-out social democracy, due to the twin blows of 1967 and 1976, led directly to the creation of New Labour: a political project which made an explicit Faustian pact with globalisation, power and privilege that produced ten years of economic growth and public spending increases, before the train went off the rails. Miliband’s Labour has numerous challenges in its attempts to reinvent contemporary social democracy in hard times. It faces voter doubts about their credibility on the economy, welfare and immigration. There is a perception that Labour is retreating in the face of Osborne’s ideologically charged language of “strivers and shirkers” on welfare, and concerns about the appeal of UKIP to working class Labour voters.


There is a difficult debate for Labour about priorities in public spending and making the case for the welfare state. On the one hand, the GMB trade union savages shadow chancellor Ed Balls for advocating what it calls a “fake Tory argument” on welfare, while TheEconomist lauds the party for slaying its “sacred cows” of universalism, Keynesianism and the Fabian state. Tory strategists believe that the announcements of Balls and Miliband this week open up a major opportunity for them on welfare and making the case for a more targeted, selective welfare state. Alex Salmond believes this can be labelled as a further move towards the Johann Lamont “something for nothing” caricature of welfare.


Beyond the trade-offs between universality and selectivity, is the question of the philosophy and values of British social democracy. This is a political tradition which has given the world Anthony Crosland, Richard Tawney, George Orwell, the Webbs and many more thinkers and intellectuals.

They thought about the ethical basis for their socialism, the moral basis of government and public life, and how to make a society that challenged the undeserving rich and championed equality and fairness.


Where are British Labour’s intellectual drivers now? There are debates between Blue and Black Labour, the latter deficit hawks, and between the Compass radicals and Progress Blairites, but somehow none of it recognises the long retreat and emptying of the social democratic tradition over several decades.


It seems a tall order for Ed Miliband to redress this: the longterm progressive crisis, the post-New Labour disorientation of most of the party beyond the last true believers in “the project”, and the constraints and choices imposed by the coalition, austerity and the prospect of a decade of low to no growth.


Labour has a small membership base, admittedly now bigger than the Tories, and is reliant on union funding, making it vulnerable to Cameron’s opportune legislative attack on the party-union link, and exposing Labour to accepting any corporate offers that come along, such as John Mills of shopping channel JML, and the charge of hypocrisy on tax avoidance.

Ed Miliband has maybe made it a little easier this week to rebuff right-wing media attacks on him as irresponsible and the son of Gordon Brown. But in the long term, he has contributed another piece to the complex, intricate jigsaw of the slow death of British social democracy.


Many acknowledge Miliband has good intentions, but this week’s repositioning of Labour has just narrowed the political choices and what passes for debate in the Westminster village, leaving those looking for a radical alternative to the economic, social and fiscal conformity that has a vice-like grip on British politics, with no home south of the Border.


Written by Gerry Hassan - published in The Scotsman - Sat 8 June, 2013

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Warning on ‘ugly face of nationalism’

DAVID Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have been warned that a failure to replicate elements of Scottish devolution in England could give rise to the “ugly face of nationalism” south of the Border.


Labour MP Graham Allen, who chairs the House of Commons Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, suggested that, as the debate on independence raged in Scotland, the issue of devolution in England would gain traction.


He said Ukip could during t he next few months “potently but unpredictably unite anti-Government and anti-Europe sentiment in England”.


Aspokesman for Ukip said the political parties at Westminster had “failed miserably” to address the English Question, but denied Nigel Farage’s party would become a vehicle for the ugly face of English nationalism. He insisted it provided a “reasonable and reasoned voice for those concerned about the democratic deficit at the UK and European level”.

Charles Patrick O'Brien's comment, May 31, 2013 7:12 AM
I wrote this to the Express'Sir,I read the article and could not help myself from laughing out loud.To explain;the first column was an inspiration just substitute Scotland for the UK and the argument is identical.The last column and reference to "The Stockholm Syndrome" could not have put it better,that is what is happening ,and has happened for a long time,and probably will continue to happen.The reasons for independence and withdrawing from a union that no longer suits,lets part as friends,and good neighbours,we wont mind lending you a "cup of sugar".We have in Scotland a country that is not much smaller in area than England but only 10% of the population,which means we need migrants in Scotland.Prior to the union (UK Great Britain) Scotland had a quarter the population of England,but our people were pushed out,some might say in an insidious conquest attempt so that we would not have the "man-power" to over-throw the union and regain independence,its possible,maybe I give too much credit to the devious politicians of the time,and maybe not.So who is milking who? the EU milking the UK and the UK milking Scotland,aye its the same argument or reason for leaving an unfair union,take you pick which one.Yours faithfully,Charles P.O'Brien
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Former UKIP candidate resigns after calling Scots work shy & drug addicts

Former UKIP candidate resigns after calling Scots work shy & drug addicts | General Politics |
The SNP yesterday criticised Ukip for its “unacceptable views” after one of the party’s politicians resigned for having “offensive opinions” about the Scots. Ron Northcott, a former candidate in Plymouth for Ukip, tendered his resignation following an exchange on Twitter about the hostile reception given to his party leader Nigel Farage in Edinburgh last week. A demonstration, in which protesters shouted down Farage, accused him of being a racist and demanded he go home to England ended with the Ukip leader having to be escorted away from a pub on the Royal Mile in a police van. Northcott quit after making comments, many of which have since been deleted from Twitter, which suggested Scots were work-shy and drug addicts. Yesterday a SNP spokesperson said: “These remarks reveal yet again the unacceptable views which Ukip propagate. For a senior member to have such offensive opinions also under-lines that Ukip are a major embarrassment to the No campaign.” The results of a ComRes poll published last night showed that support for Ukip throughout Britain has hit a record high. The party’s support was at 19 per cent, behind Labour on 35 per cent and the Tories on 29 per cent. It found 46 per cent of Britons would vote to leave the EU now, with 24 per cent in favour of staying in.
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Scots private sector growth now ahead of UK

Scots private sector growth now ahead of UK | General Politics |
GROWTH of Scot­land’s pri­vate sec­tor econ­omy ac­cel­er­ated to its fastest pace in a year in April, and was ahead of the UK av­er­age, a sur­vey has re­vealed. The lat­est Pur­chas­ing Man­agers’ In­dex (PMI) re­port, pub­lished by Bank of Scot­land to­day,also shows a re­turn to growth in the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor north of the Border in April, fol­low­ing nine con­sec­u­tive months of con­trac­tion. How­ever, the sur­vey sig­nals only very mod­est growth in the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor last month. Growth in Scot­land’s dom­i­nant ser­vices sec­tor mean­while ac­cel­er­ated sharply be­tween March and April. The PMI re­port will pro­vide some re­lief at a time when the econ­omy con­tin­ues to face sig­nif­i­cant head­winds from the Coali­tion Govern­ment’s aus­ter­ity mea­sures and dif­fi­cul­ties in the eu­ro­zone. Don­ald MacRae, chief econ­o­mist at Bank of Scot­land, ex­pressed hopes on the back of the lat­est sur­vey that Scot­land was “now be­gin­ning a more ro­bust re­cov­ery”. The head­line Bank of Scot­land PMI rose from 51.1 in March to 53.1 in April on a sea­son­ally-ad­justed ba­sis, climb­ing fur­ther above the level of 50 which is deemed to sep­a­rate ex­pan­sion from con­trac­tion to sig­nal an ac­cel­er­a­tion in growth of out­put. The April PMI read­ing for Scot­land is ahead of the UK av­er­age of 52.4, sig­nalling slightly faster growth north of the Border. Scot­land’s PMI out­put in­dex had been slightly be­low the UK av­er­age of 51.4 in March. The lat­est PMI re­port shows the pace of growth in em­ploy­ment in the Scot­tish pri­vate sec­tor ac­cel­er­ated for the third time in four months in April, to reach its fastest pace since last July. Both the Scot­tish ser­vices and man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors recorded a rise in staffing in April. But the lat­est sur­vey, com­piled by fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion firm Markit, sig­nals that Scot­tish man­u­fac­tur­ers’ new ex­port or­ders were un­changed be­tween March and April. The PMI Scot­land re­port read­ing for Scot­tish man­u­fac­tur­ers’ new ex­port or­ders has been at, or close to, the neu­tral 50 mark since De­cem­ber 2012, sig­nalling a sus­tained flat trend in new de­mand for Scot­tish goods over­seas. The pace of to­tal in­com­ing new busi­ness ac­cel­er­ated in both the man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vices sec­tors north of the Border in April. New busi­ness in­flows in Scot­land’s pri­vate sec­tor have in­creased in ev­ery month since last De­cem­ber. Mr MacRae said: “April’s PMI climbed to a 12-month high, sig­nalling growth in the pri­vate sec­tor of the Scot­tish econ­omy at the start of the sec­ond quar­ter of the year. “Both busi­ness ac­tiv­ity and employ­ment grew in the man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vices sec­tors while the vol­ume of new busi­ness rose for the fifth month in a row.” Mr MacRae, how­ever, high­lighted the lack of growth in ex­ports for Scot­tish man­u­fac­tur­ers. Re­fer­ring to the growth of new busi­ness in the Scot­tish pri­vate sec­tor econ­omy, he said: “De­mand growth was largely UK-based, with the level of new ex­port or­ders show­ing a flat trend for the last five months.” He added: “Th­ese re­sults sug­gest the Scot­tish econ­omy is now be­gin­ning a more ro­bust re­cov­ery.” Data pub­lished last month by the Scot­tish Govern­ment showed the econ­omy north of the Border grew by 0.5% in the fourth quar­ter of last year, as re­new­able en­ergy out­put rose and the ser­vice sec­tor grew. News of the strong quar­ter-on­quar­ter rise in Scot­tish gross do­mes­tic prod­uct came as a sur­prise, given a 0.3% fall in UK-wide GDP in the fi­nal three months of last year. The data showed ser­vices out­put in Scot­land grew by 0.3% quar­ter-on­quar­ter in the fi­nal three months of 2012 in spite of a 4.2% drop in ac­tiv­ity in the fi­nan­cial and in­sur­ance cat­e­gory. And there was an 8.8% quar­teron-quar­ter leap in elec­tric­ity and gas sup­ply in Scot­land in the fi­nal three months of 2012, much greater than a cor­re­spond­ing 2.2% rise UK wide.
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Austerity to last beyond 2020 say experts

Austerity to last beyond 2020 say experts | General Politics |

AUSTERITY will last beyond 2020, with the prospect of £9billion of tax rises after the next election, experts warned yesterday.


A study from two leading thinktanks predicted the current programme of spending cuts will not be enough to prevent a debt timebomb in the coming years, even if the economy grows slightly.


In a gloomy outlook for Britain’s finances, they warned that reductions to public spending would be required for at least seven years, going beyond the 2020 General Election. The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Institute for Government said: ‘Spending reductions are set to be a long-term feature of UK public finances, rather than a short, sharp experience.’


Their report added that ‘deeper cuts for longer’ would be needed beyond 2018 – when the Chancellor said austerity would end – if the country was to ‘withstand another major economic shock’.


Around £23 billion will need to be cut from public spending from 2016 to 2018, of which £9 billion will need to be raised by taxes, as ministers will already have trimmed Whitehall departments, the welfare budget and local authority spending.


They called on George Osborne, who will announce the Coalition’s 2015-16 spending plans at the end of this month, to ‘be frank about the long-term reality of austerity’.


But yesterday’s report also ratchets up the pressure on Labour to make clear how they would deal with long-term austerity policies, after objecting to the spending cuts.


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Catalonia poll bogged down by verbiage

Independence bid in danger of sinking


Catalonia’s ruling Convergència i Unió (CiU) party is desperately trying to present a united front after one of its leaders declared that “nothing is happening” to bring about independence and it emerged that the two party leaders cannot agree on the wording of the ballot paper in the proposed referendum.


artur Mas, the Convergència leader, wants the ballot to read “Do you want Catalonia to become a state within the European Union?” However, the Unió wing led by Josep antoni Duran lleida favours the wording, “How do you want Catalonia to be linked to spain: as an autonomous region, within a federal state or as an independent nation?”


the split this week emerged a day after Mr Duran lleida angered colleagues when he told the right-wing newspaper La Razón that the independence process was going nowhere.


“as for the sovereignty process,” he said in an interview, “the Catalan parliament has made two declarations [on the right to decide] and a commission has been set up but in practice nothing is happening.”

the following day, the party’s secretary-general, Josep Maria Pelegri, assured a press conference that “we’re all going in the same direction. Everyone tries to exploit what we say but the route has been mapped out and no-one has deviated from it.” However, he conceded that there was not sufficient consensus on Mr Mas’ proposal of a single question ballot.

Jurists within the national transition Council set up by Mr Mas are said to feel that a question with multiple options would see the international community take the referendum seriously.


this assertion of unity is unlikely to alter the growing public perception that nothing of substance is happening and that the process is becoming bogged down in detail. there is an ongoing dispute about whether there is any point in holding a referendum if the spanish government does not recognise it as legitimate. Madrid cites the constitution, which outlaws referendums, and earlier this month the constitutional court threw out the Catalan parliament’s declaration of sovereignty and the right to decide.

However, there is no law preventing the Catalan government from holding a consultation on the right to decide, so long as it does not call it a referendum.


Were there a majority in favour of independence, Madrid might have trouble ignoring the will of the people, even though the ballot had no legal status.


Meanwhile, a commission has been established with academics and other wise men and women enlisted to come up with ideas of what the institutions of a putative Catalan state would look like. one proposal includes putting Catalonia’s defence in the hands of the French government.


attempts to drum up support for independence among Catalonia’s large Moroccan community fell flat when noureddin Ziani, the man recruited to the task by CiU, was deported as a spy.


on the more pressing economic front, with news that the number of young Catalans forced to emigrate in search of work has risen by 42 per cent in four years, CiU and its coalition partner Esquerra Republicana have still to agree a budget five months into their mandate.


the elephant in the room is that neither of CiU’s leaders is interested in independence. Mr Duran lleida has opposed it publicly on numerous occasions, while Mr Mas only jumped on the bandwagon last september when it became politically expedient to do so.


Perhaps in their wrangling about the wording of the ballot they are both seeking the best formula to ensure they get the desired response: independence, no thanks.

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MPs could get pay rise of up to £20,000

MPs could get pay rise of up to £20,000 | General Politics |

MPs are in line for a dramatic pay rise of up to £20,000 in a move that could spark public fury.


The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has been looking at an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000 - although the lower figure is considered more likely.


The hike would be partly offset by curbs to their gold-plated pensions and personal expenses.

Ipsa took responsibility for MPs’ salaries and pensions two years ago, and has been carrying out a fundamental review.


A survey released by the watchdog in January found politicians on average believed they should be paid £86,000 rather than £66,000, with some demanding more than £100,000.



Speaker John Bercow is among those who have been pushing for better remuneration, warning that the Commons must attract people from all backgrounds.


Ipsa is due to deliver its initial proposals for consultation next month, although the main changes will not come into effect until after the general election in 2015.


However, any significant rise is certain to be controversial as the economy continues to struggle and the rest of the public sector is subject to tight pay restraint.


Officials are concerned that David Cameron and other party leaders may find it difficult to back such an increase.


Last month ministers acted to reduce the government element of their pay so they did not benefit from a 1% increase granted to MPs.

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Seriously, how many of us get half of that or quarter of that salary!!!

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UK Tories now only 3 points behind Miliband's Labour as poll lead slips

UK Tories now only 3 points behind Miliband's Labour as poll lead slips | General Politics |

ED Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party was under renewed scrutiny last night as its lead over the Conservatives fell to only three points.

Support for the Opposition has slumped to 34 per cent, down four points from a month ago, and its lowest level since the 2010 general election, according to the latest poll from Ipsos Mori.


The Conservatives were up two points, despite internal turmoil over the EU referendum, poor local election results and the fact the Government is in mid-term.


Strategists are blaming Labour’s own lack of clarity on Europe and disillusionment with the leadership of Mr Miliband for the poor performances in the polls and this month’s local elections.

The poll put the Conservatives on 31 per cent, while UKIP were at 13 per cent – ahead of the Lib Dems, who remained unchanged on 10 per cent.

Yet the survey is of those who say they are certain to vote – and Labour supporters are less likely to say they will definitely turn up at the ballot box.


But it does underscore how soft Labour’s lead is. Privately, Labour insiders are warning of a ‘crisis of legitimacy’ if the party only secures a 34 per cent share of the vote at the next general election.

While it would still give the party a parliamentary majority of around 30 seats, it would be the lowest winning percentage of the vote since the Whigs won in 1832. Mr Miliband’s personal approval ratings were unchanged from last month, with 35 per cent satisfied and 49 per cent dissatisfied. Senior party figures including Lord Mandelson have warned that the unions have further entrenched their grip on Labour, dictating candidate selections for the 2015 general election.


Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor, has also said voters need clarity on Mr Miliband’s ‘direction of travel’, adding that the party also had to reveal its economic plans if it wanted to win voters’ trust.

Tony Blair has taken a swipe at Mr Miliband’s leadership too, warning last month that Labour was in danger of becoming a party of protest. He said the party had to resist temptation to ‘settle back into its old territory of defending the status quo’.


Alan Milburn, the former health secretary, added his support to Mr Blair, saying: ‘The closer the election comes, people will stop asking Labour what it is against. They will want to know what Labour is for and what, if elected, it would do.’


Mr Miliband’s refusal to back welfare reforms has also proved unpopular. Taunting him recently at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said Labour should change its name to the Welfare Party.


Under Mr Miliband’s leadership, support from business leaders has slipped away and the party has become increasingly reliant on funding from trades unions. According to the latest donation figures from the Electoral Commission, unions are still providing three pounds out of four to the party.


Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps said: ‘Until Ed Miliband breaks his overwhelming reliance on the union barons’ coffers, he cannot stand up for Britain’s hardworking people.’

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Brown’s plan to sur­ren­der 30 seats to the Lib Dems

Brown’s plan to sur­ren­der 30 seats to the Lib Dems | General Politics |
GORDON Brown wanted 30 would-be Labour MPs to stand down at the last elec­tion, in the hope of cut­ting a deal with the Lib­eral Democrats.


The em­bat­tled prime min­is­ter sug­gested to aides they make way for Nick Clegg’s party in mar­ginal seats to stop the Tories get­ting in, a new book claims.


But the plan was re­jected by his in­ner cir­cle, who said the Lib Dems would not agree to an al­liance. The scheme is de­tailed in ‘Five Days in May’ by for­mer Labour min­is­ter Lord Ado­nis.


It tells of the in­ner tur­moil of the Labour Party in the run-up to the cre­ation of the Coali­tion.


It says that Mr Brown learned of the Tory elec­tion gains as he jet­ted in to Stansted from his con­stituency. Lord Ado­nis wrote: ‘When mo­biles were switched on as the plane tax­ied to a stand … the bad news was up­per­most.


‘A Tory swathe was be­ing cutthrough the East and West Mid­lands and south­ern Eng­land. Asuc­ces­sion of Lib Dems were also

fall­ing to the Tories. “Our prob­lemis that the Lib­er­als are just tooweak against the Tories”, Gor­donsaid to me on the phone as hiscon­voy left Stansted.


‘“I al­ways knew this would be our big prob­lem which is why I wanted to do that deal with them”, he added. He was re­fer­ring to his pre-elec­tion idea of stand­ing Labour can­di­dates down in 30 Lib-Dem-Con­ser­va­tive marginals, a sug­ges­tion re­buffed strongly by his cam­paign team.’


Lord Ado­nis said Mr Brown was keen to make a swift over­ture to Mr Clegg to form a pact, but he was re­buffed. The for­mer min­is­ter said al­though Mr Brown con­grat­u­lated the Lib-Dem leader on the elec­tion, he was ‘rather like an un­cle con­grat­u­lat­ing a nephew on good exam re­sults’.


Talks then foundered over who would lead a Lib-Lab coali­tion.


Calls to Gor­don Brown’s of­fice were not re­turned last night.

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