Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which showed that wages have grown faster than inflation in the last quarter for the first time in five years. Many critics have consequently jumped on the argument pushed by the Labour party of the past, the cost of living crisis, as being dead in the water.
Today is Housing Day; a campaign organised to celebrate social housing. Social housing is of huge importance and is going to prove a massive challenge for the next government. It is also part of a larger problem whose name is often spoken but whose solutions are rarely mentioned; the housing crisis.
New ONS statistics released today confirm what we all thought we knew; the story of economic growth that we have been told as a universal success is a lie. It is London that is centralising growth and not everywhere is experiencing that boom.
As we get closer to the election, the dividing lines between the parties, the arenas where the election will be fought, are becoming clearer. For the left, it’s welfare and specifically for the Labour party it is the NHS.
Recently, there was news to suggest that the privatisation agenda is alive and well in our schools. In came as these things often do, in an insidiously innocuous sounding proposal; this time with the announcement by the Academies Enterprise Trust that they are looking to outsource their non-teaching role.
The Co-operative party describes itself as the ‘best kept secret in British politics’. Often the knowledge of their existence is relegated to the their members, journalists and political anoraks. In the past year they have however had a raised profile, but not in the way would like, after troubles erupted in the Co-op Group, of which they are a member.
Yesterday, on the last day of his party’s conference, Nick Clegg gave his leader’s speech. The centrepiece of his speech was mental health, a theme well foregrounded by media briefings over the weekend.
Today David Cameron addressed the Conservative party conference in what was a well performed speech, littered with a surprising amount of policy announcements.
George Osborne, amongst others, took to the stage today at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham with a pretty clear objective in mind, to set out vote-winning policies and ideas for the next election.
This morning, the last of this year’s Labour conference, Left Foot Forward hosted a fringe event looking at how we make the economy work better for everyone.
At a fringe event yesterday Tristram Hunt reiterated what seems to be the guiding principle for Labour’s ideological approach to education; social mobility.
The debate over Northern devolution is reaching something of a crescendo; after Scotland’s decision to stay in the union there has been a never-ending slew of stories, statements and commitments to the idea of more powers to the North, or more accurately to the English regions in general.
With Scotland going to the polls today to decide about their future in the UK, a huge number of column inches and press releases have been devoted to the growing interest around English devolution. With reports from IPPR, Respublica and many many others; we ask whether or not English devolution is an idea whose time has come.
At the heart of Labour’s One Nation: Labour’s Political Renewal e-book, which summarises 2 years of work from the policy review, lies an anecdote that the authors feel describes where we are economically and socially right now.
During his speech to the TUC this afternoon, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney described the fall in unemployment rate in the US by saying “that headline is much better than the details”.
Frances O’Grady’s speech to the TUC Congress this morning used the imagery of the past to describe the economic and social situation we find ourselves in in 2014.
Being one of the smaller parties in British politics, the comparison to the most dreaded acronym in politics, UKIP, is probably quite a tiring one for the Green party. However, party leader Natalie Bennett had some words about that the party, which although not overwhelmingly positive were not as negative as you’d expect.
At the first full day of the Green party conference, delegates seem in an even more jubilant mood than yesterday. When ex-leader Caroline Lucas MP took to the stage this morning there was thunderous applause and a lengthy standing ovation at the end of her speech. The conference is showing us a party on the up.
The Green Party has begun their autumn conference in Birmingham today, a conference they see as key in their effort to crack the UK political scene once and for all. The party, despite being chronically underrepresented in the media, is seeking to do this with a bid to claim the progressive left of British politics as their own.
Two days ago I wrote somewhat angrily about the state of mental health care in the UK today. I said that after the heightened attention on mental health after Robin Williams’ suicide, the inadequacy of the government’s position on mental health was thrown into sharp relief.
When the news broke last week that Robin Williams had died, it was remarkable how it affected everyone. His career and his personality meant that his passing garnered huge coverage in the media; some of it good, some of it truly terrible.
Recently the Labour party has been putting effort into wooing business leaders ahead of the election; it’s an inevitable part of the electoral cycle but it also represents a very real attempt by the party to persuade businesses and the public that the 70’s style stereotype, where the party is anti-business, is simply not true.
This morning Ed Miliband delivered a speech at a Policy Network event, where he reaffirmed the Labour party’s commitment to big reforms over big spending in an era of austerity.
Today the think tank Class has released a paper written by the authors of the bestseller The Sprit Level which looks into the role the labour market can and should play in tackling economic inequality.
Yesterday, the Guardian carried a piece warning about the tragic effects of the current economic climate of the UK upon homelessness. Homelessness across the UK has increased 26% in four years and by 75% in London alone over the same period.
Yesterday Ed Miliband spoke at the launch of the IPPR’s ‘Condition of Britain’ report saying that the Labour party would be adopting some of the key points from the report as party policy. One of the areas where Miliband has taken policy from the report is housing.
Today IPPR are hosting an event on the release of their ‘Condition of Britain’ report; a report that is widely expected to be heavily reflected in Labour’s 2015 manifesto.
As summer begins to take hold, it is a reminder that conference season is on the other end of the season, for the Labour party it means that their National Policy Forum is soon and that in a year’s time we will have had the general election.
Yesterday saw the second One Nation Labour conference at Queen Mary University. Just under a year away from the General Election, interest in the meaning of One Nation Labour is understandably high and to that end this year’s conference sought to explain the history, strategy and narrative of One Nation Labour.
It has been nearly two weeks since the country went to the polls for the European and English local elections.
Tomorrow is Election Day for the European Parliament and local councils. Because of tomorrow’s proximity to next year’s general election and the polarising effect of the UKIP phenomenon, the campaign has been pretty highly charged, with huge amounts of attention poured onto the argument of whether or not we should be in the EU.
Today Ed Miliband pledged the Labour party’s latest policy in their response to the ‘cost of living crisis’. The next Labour government would commit to strengthening and increasing the minimum wage in what Miliband sees as the most significant change to the minimum wage since its introduction.
When New Labour followed through on John Smith’s commitment to devolution, many sceptics saw it as a means of appeasing the independence movement in Scotland. With the Scottish independence referendum looming on the other side of summer, it is understandable if some think hasn’t devolution didn’t work.
Today, Ed Miliband has announced policy on housing that adds to Labour’s vision of fixing the cost of living crisis. For months Labour has been framing their announcements in terms of this and today they have confirmed their approach to housing.
Last weekend the IPCC released their latest report, compelling the world to drastically scale back its use of fossil fuels in order to avoid a future of catastrophic climate change.
It was a pretty stark warning but it offered an interesting and practical perspective to the green energy debate; the move from non-renewable to renewable energy is affordable.
Research conducted by the New Policy Institute and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation into council tax was released at the beginning of April. The research project focussed upon the impact of the government having replaced the Council Tax Benefit and replacing it with a requirement for local authorities to devise their own scheme.
Labour are expected to make a move on tuition fee policy soon, with many estimating the policy will result in the reduction of tuition fees by around £3,000 a year, possibly even £4,000.
Ed Miliband is set to try and force the government into enacting his energy price freeze before the general election, with a vote in the House of Commons next week.
This week saw the announcement that Ofgem will be conducting a full-scale investigation into the competition (or lack thereof) in the energy market as a result of the dominance of the big six.
In his last big budget before next year’s election, George Osborne today played to the gallery. The budget contained measures for retirees and businesses but few mentions of the imbalanced state of our economy.
Businesses were given a doubled investment allowance, energy bill being cut for manufacturing and reforms to national insurance payments.
Today the Resolution Foundation has released a report marking the end of their nine month review into the minimum wage.
The arguments in their final report are three-fold; they argue for a broader, more far-sighted and assertive approach.
The persistent themes of Ed Miliband’s vision for the Labour party inevitably have a lot of overlap with each other. The theme of responsible capitalism, which has been promoted since Miliband’s ascendency to leadership, surely has in it stipulations for a responsible and moral job market.
Yesterday the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) released a report into potential routes for future reform of council tax. Council tax is a widely criticised model, and with local government facing huge cuts to its budget, the question of how we reform funding and regenerate local democracy is both prescient and important.
The Green Party’s spring conference finished yesterday morning; their last conference before crucial elections to the European Parliament are held in May. Shifting Grounds sat down for an interview with the Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, at the start of the weekend.
Today is the start of the Green Party’s Spring Conference. Despite a strange grilling from John Humphries on the Today programme over whether or not they should change their name, the party is in Liverpool to set out their agenda for a different country and a different politics.
The party sees where we are right now as a point of great change in politics.
Today IPPR has released a report today that looks into possible future paths for the welfare state in the face of complex social challenges it faces. Such challenges include an ageing population, long term unemployment and chronic illnesses; all issues that can and will have an impact upon the size of the welfare bill in years to come.
Ed Miliband will be giving the Hugo Young lecture at the Guardian this evening, and it looks to be a significant speech for the Labour leader.
The speech is set to address issues of public service reform and one of Miliband’s regular themes, power and accountability.
The north/south divide has long been a political issue and a challenge, but against all the press attention, the statistics and the moral arguments, it doesn’t yet seem to have translated into action in Westminster, at least beyond the ever raging HS2 debate.
Contrary to the drastic proposals of Iain Duncan Smith, or the ideology of George Osborne, it seems that the populist radicalism of Michael Gove is one of the most dangerous elements of the cabinet. Unlike his fellow cabinet members, his reforms seem somewhat separate from the rest of government and are not as intertwined with the actions of David Cameron.
Any remnants of the green movement believing they had an ally in the current government will have had their belief shaken recently. David Cameron once infamously pitched the coalition as being ‘the greenest movement ever’; an assertion that has rarely seemed further from the truth.
Whenever there is some good economic news, the opposition, not matter who they are, always use the same language; ‘the news is welcome, but’. Today is no exception, and Labour are absolutely right to welcome the today’s news of a sharp drop in unemployment, and they are just as right to criticise it.
Yesterday, Oxfam made headlines with their warning to the World Economic Forum, meeting this week in the ski resort, Davos. The report was framed with the attention grabbing statistic that the 85 richest people in the world had the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.
Today’s speech at Senate House by Ed Miliband, despite a last minute hijack attempt from George Osborne, represents the most significant policy announcement for the Labour party since last year’s agenda-setting move on the energy market.
The political issues that have been dominant in 2014 so far, and look to carry on being so, are difficult issues for the left. Immigration and welfare loom large in political sphere for everyone, and are unlikely to go away.
Last year we had a promise from David Cameron that we would be seeing permanent austerity, a deliberate and long-term shrinking of the state; yesterday, George Osborne gave us his figures for that.
2014 was started in a typically rabble-rousing fashion by some on the right, obscuring the true nature of the political debate we are having right now.
The use of the phrase ‘responsible capitalism’ seems to have fallen throughout the year; early in 2013, including in pieces on this blog, responsible capitalism was being talked of as the framework for reforms to our economy.
In a speech today, Ed Miliband is to set out plans for a progressive program to facilitate a massive rise in house building, putting flesh on one of his key announcements from conference.
Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy, the Universal Credit, has yet again come under scrutiny for its goalposts being moved once more. The work and pensions secretary has been widely criticised for the faltering progress of his best known reform, resulting in an appearance before the work and pensions select committee yesterday afternoon.
George Osborne began yesterday’s Autumn Statement with the words “Britain’s economic plan is working”, making it clear straight away exactly what kind of statement we were in for.
The statement was by no means a surprising one, with seemingly every journalist having been briefed and every policy trailed through the media since conference season.
Tomorrow is Compass’s annual conference, entitled ‘Change: How?’ in which they ask they ask just that, how do we make change happen? We will be there and be continuing the discussion on change next week, for which we want to hear from you.
During the weekend the witch hunt over links between the Labour and Co-Operative parties intensified. Sunday saw television appearances from both Michael Gove and Grant Shapps, who jointly proceeded to peddle baseless accusations against the Labour leadership.
As we approach the 2015 election, Labour must start to give some real thought to the reality of the party in government, and the future from there.
Social mobility has been back in the news again recently. Today, William Hague went on Radio 4 to counter the effects of John Major’s most recent foray into politics, which consisted of Major criticising the backgrounds of those in politics, saying that the cabinet is dominated by the privately educated.
Yesterday marked the beginning of Living Wage Week, with today seeing the announcement of new rates. For outside of London, the Living Wage has risen 20p to £7.65 an hour, whereas within London it rose from £8.55 to £8.80.
It looks like energy prices is reaching critical mass as a political issue; the big six appeared in parliament this week, prices have dominated the agenda since the Labour party conference and there seems to be no end to the coverage it is getting. It’s an impressive political feat by Ed Miliband.
Yesterday, news came through that Jeremy Hunt had been told the closing down of Lewisham A&E had been ruled unlawful.
Today, the Children’s Society released an urgent but depressing survey into the state of child poverty. If there needed to be any more reminders of the human cost and moral pressures of the standard of living crisis, this would be it.
Ed Miliband has further emboldened his political astuteness over the past few weeks, with energy prices dominating the agenda in a big way. Despite us now being over a month away from the Labour party conference, his calculated (and ideologically sound) move to freeze energy prices has proved a winner.
Today’s GDP figures have solicited some unwarranted sounds of jubilation from government benches, and some rightly more cautious noises from Labour.
Today Nick Clegg took to a stage in east London for a speech to spell out party education policy and to clarify his comments earlier in the week over free schools, comments that not only mark him apart from his coalition partners but also from his own party.
Today, the ONS has released figures from the National Wellbeing Survey, the first to compare the differences between the different nations in the UK.
According to the report, people in Northern Ireland are the happiest in the UK; the Scottish are the least anxious and the English have the lowest life satisfaction.
Once again health tourism is on the front page of the Daily Mail. Today’s splash, which claims to tell the true cost of health tourism, railed against what it claimed was a £2bn cost to the tax payer.
Unsurprisingly, this is not the real figure; instead it is more like £70m, 0.06% of the health service’s budget.
Cracks have started to appear in the coalition’s veneer of unity over education policy. Over the weekend, Nick Clegg voiced his disapproval of one of the key elements of Michael Gove’s free school policy, and in doing so even ended up contradicting one of his own ministers.
It is remarkable the depths to which the government have stooped in the execution of their immigration policies. The so called ‘go home’ vans and text messages from the home office have been getting significant traction in online (and other forms for that matter) outrage, and for good reason.
Today, in a speech with Stella Creasy, Ed Miliband will announce policies to tackle the growing threat and prominence of vicious payday lenders. As another brick fleshing out Labour’s response to the living standards crisis, it’s a bold policy and one that speaks directly to Labour ideology.
A story appeared in The Guardian today asserting that GCHQ was operating with powers unbeknownst to parliament.
It was a big weekend for the debate over education policy. Tristam Hunt made his mark in an interview with the Mail on Sunday in which he stated that Labour would not remove existing free schools and would, rather than scrap the scheme, adapt it.
Today is World Mental Health Day; a campaign set up to raise awareness of mental health, and specifically this year, that of ‘older adults’. Mental health has been back on the agenda and in the media in recent weeks, but not in the positive sense that today espouses.
With conference season officially over, what have we learned about the coalition government and where it is going?
Over the last two weeks on the site we have had some excellent coverage of what came out of Labour’s conference, but possibly left unanswered has been what came out of conference about the direction and identities of the coalition and its cons
As David Cameron left the stage after his speech this afternoon, the impression left by his words was flat, if barely existent. It was a remarkably vacuous speech, bereft of big announcements and largely full of classic Tory rhetoric; proof of a party still trying to catch up after Labour’s conference last week.
In his speech later today Ed Miliband will announce his plans to cut business rates for small businesses, with an annual turnover of £50,000 or less.
It’s economy day at conference. The day started early with an announcement on the extension of free childcare from 15 to 25 hours, responding to the needs of modern parenting, and a bid to seal Labour’s economic standpoint by opening up ‘the sums’ to scrutiny from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
With conference only a matter of days away, it seems the Labour party thinks the time is right for another push on One Nation Labour as the campaigning tool and ideological guide for the party.
As Nick Clegg took to the stage earlier this afternoon to deliver his leader’s speech, he and the Lib Dem high command had spent days spinning the party as having fully grown and matured into its role as a party of government.
It’s no secret that public attitudes and relationships with the welfare state are changing, but reports released this week have shed some light onto what is a murky and complex subject and have left us with some interesting questions.
It has been a bad few days for the Government’s welfare to work programme. On Wednesday the Resolution Foundation released their report into low pay in the UK today, the extent of which was shocking.
Today it has transpired that there is a very real danger of a shortage of school places. According to their report, the Local Government Association (LGA) says that within two years almost half of England’s school districts will have more primary school students than places. Some areas will face up to a 20% shortfall in school places by 2015.
Where has Michael Gove been? Until the news of today’s speech landed, the most we had seen of him in recent weeks has been an impression by John Bercow surfacing on YouTube.
The last few days have been shown us the cold reality of the state of modern Britain, one that has seemingly stretched into No. 10, as demonstrated in yesterday’s revelation that David Cameron had asked the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to talk to The Guardian.
On Tuesday the UK Council for Psychotherapy released research indicating that physical health is receiving ten times the attention that mental health does. This is despite legislation passed last year to address exactly that, to achieve a ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health.
The Universal Credit has today officially landed. After a trial run in four boroughs around the country, Iain Duncan Smith’s controversial policy has been implemented in full.
To mark the occasion the Works and Pensions secretary went on Radio 4’s Today program and managed both to vastly discredit himself and shock many of those listening.
It’s more bad news for the much maligned Universal Credit (UC) today; yesterday Labour attacked the government for the national-roll out of their controversial policy being delayed. Liam Byrne set out the party’s objection when he described the Universal Credit as “the biggest white elephant in Whitehall”.
We started last week with a piece about living standards go up on the site, in light of research by the Joseph Rowntree Trust into minimum income standards. This week we start in a similar fashion by looking at a piece produced at the tail end of last week by the Resolution Foundation on the minimum wage 15 years on.
It is now pretty well accepted that living standards will come to define the 2015 election, specifically living standards in an age of austerity. Last week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation furthered this argument by releasing their latest piece of research, covering minimum income standards.
True to form, today’s spending review was a barrage of further cuts and self-righteous rhetoric. George Osborne set out government spending as totalling £745bn, stipulated the need for £11.5bn worth savings still needed and set out the cuts to be made.
Possibly one of the most high profile of the cuts made is with regards to local government.
One of the things that we often hear from the One Nation Labour camp is that we need to establish a new economic settlement, different from the one established by Thatcherism and inherited by New Labour. However, there is still scepticism as to what this could mean and as to whether or not we are in a state to do so.
It is a well lamented fact of the contemporary job market that the existence of zero-hour contracts is so widespread.
In today’s Guardian there is an interview with the co-ordinator of Labour’s policy review, Jon Cruddas. Up front and centre Cruddas explains One Nation Labour and what it seeks to achieve:
“Work and home is what One Nation is about – family life, how people live everyday life. Care for people, pride in country.
Michael Gove has once again proved himself as being possibly the most dangerous man in the government; Gove has been consistently been pursuing his regressive education agenda but has never attracted the same vilification or even attention as figures like Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and Chris Grayling.
This morning saw the State opening of Parliament, complete with what was a very unsurprising Queen’s speech. In amongst the tradition and the now pseudo-constitutional heckle from Dennis Skinner, the Queen’s speech denoted the future business of her government.
Last Thursday was the One Nation Conference; a day of debate and discussion around the mantra of One Nation Labour.
In the harsh light of day after yesterday’s raft of welfare reforms, both George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith are being pushed to defend themselves. The former has lashed out at Labour and other critics, and the latter is being pushed to put his (minimal) money where his mouth is when it comes to his claim that he could live on £53 a week.
Tuesday saw the energy secretary Ed Davey approve plans for the French energy giant EDF to build a nuclear power plant, the first in what is hoped to be a new generation of power plants. The plant is to be built in Somerset; Hinkley Point C.
Late last year the IPPR released a report, arguing that the North of England is being squeezed out between Alex Salmond and Boris Johnson. In this report, they argued that if further powers were given to the north it could boost the region’s economy, and in doing so, boost the national economy by £41bn.
Why is it that media coverage of climate change is so convoluted and contradictory? Part of the problem derives from climate change itself; it is an immensely complex subject, subject to all manner of technical subtleties and nuances that baffle most of the population. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, claim to be an expert myself.
‘Responsible’ and ‘moral’ capitalism are phrases often knocked about by progressives to describe the ideal end point of their beliefs; the centre of a Venn diagram between ideology and pragmatism. It’s a potent and emotive concept, one that few would disagree with, but also one that is currently lacking in substance.
Last night Jon Cruddas gave a speech to the Resolution Foundation on what he saw as two “building blocks for the Labour Policy Review”: earning and belonging.
Yesterday saw the defeat of government plans to introduce boundary changes to constituencies before the 2015 election. For the first time since the beginning of the coalition the Lib Dems walked through the arches with Labour to defeat a government motion in a dramatic abandonment of collective responsibility.
Today’s speech from Andy Burnham set out One Nation Labour’s alternative to the coalition’s vision of the NHS. Burnham turned the tables on the staple-Tory argument of cost effectiveness, lambasting the coalition’s top-down reforms as being costly and detrimental to both the NHS and patients.
Last week saw the launch of the One Nation e-book, a move signifying the slow but steady progress toward a manifesto.
In these weeks of political rebirth as all the parties put on their serious voices and try to spark our interest again, the Tories have been talking tough justice. Last week at conference, Chris Grayling has made clear his desire to bring a harder line into the Department of Justice.
On the 20th of September 2011 Chris Grayling made the assertion that our benefits system was in such a state that it attracted ‘benefit tourists’, immigrants who come here in order to sponge off our welfare system.