Recent Articles

Incapacity benefit – the truth

by Mike Killingworth     September 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Iain Duncan Smith recently announced that he intends to move 500,000 IB claimants onto Job Seeker’s Allowance, at a saving of £1,500 a year each to the public purse.


In fact, like all the Coalition’s welfare reforms, this is not so much about cutting the tax bill as transferring the money from those who need it to their own friends.
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A political strategy for Conspirators

by Mike Killingworth     July 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm

The political outlook for progressives in Britain is, arguably, bleaker to-day than at any time in recent – or not-so-recent – history. Even in the heyday of Thatcherism the Labour Party offered a clear alternative vision of what society could and should be. The intellectual energy of the left is sapped: the generation of iconoclasts who came to the fore in the ’70s and ’80s appear to be childless.

The only exception is the Internet, which has enabled us all to connect and debate to an extent that was the stuff of dreams a generation ago. Yet nothing similar has happened here. If the political power of the Internet is to be realised in Britain, it will have to come from beyond the existing parties themselves.
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Was the Euro-result a flash in the pan?

by Mike Killingworth     June 20, 2009 at 2:00 pm

There was only one story following the recent elections to the European Parliament – the success of the parties of the far right (UKIP and the BNP). Unlike most contributors and commenters on LC, I have consistently argued that the votes for these parties should be seen as a bloc. Campaigning against the BNP – as the left and indeed the centre-right for that matter have focussed on – probably merely had the effect of shifting a few votes from the party seen as wingnuts to the one seen as (relatively) more respectable.

Some evidence for my view has now emerged in the form of a mega-poll conducted – apparently as the result of an internal commission – by the on-line pollster YouGov. I say “mega poll” because its sample size was over 32,000 – about twenty times that of an “ordinary” opinion poll. This large size was necessary to achieve enough BNP (and UKIP) respondents to make analysis of their views statistically respectable. As with almost all contemporary polls, it has been “weighted” to match the demographic characteristics of respondents to those of the population at large.

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What can we do about sleaze?

by Mike Killingworth     April 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

This extract from Jackie Ashley’s column a couple of weeks ago struck me:

You might think that after the Jacqui Smith pay-movie story and multi-homed minister Geoff Hoon we must have plumbed the depths of “politicians on the take” stories. You’d be wrong. Tens or hundreds of thousands of claims by MPs are shortly to be released publicly. Most are unexceptional and within the rules. But according to plugged-in government sources, some are “awful, just worse than you can imagine” and likely to destroy careers.

Voters are going to be furious at some of the wheezes used. I am told that many of the 1997 intake of MPs have been particularly brazen. Incumbents at the next election are going to face opponents waving copies of their expense claims. The cost of DVDs, sofas, garden gnomes and nights out will crowd centre-stage, elbowing aside quantitative easing and the future of higher education. If I’m right, and some MPs are forced out this year, then we may see damaging byelections following what will surely be bad local and European elections for Labour. Even those who stay on will face a higher than usual toll of unseated MPs when the general election comes.

….my first thought was that voters should not only elect an MP at a General Election but also determine their salary and expenses.
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Aren’t markets evil?

by Mike Killingworth     January 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm

A few days ago I posted a comment on LC in which I suggested that most people who make money do so dishonestly – in other words, bankers aren’t a species apart, more like typical capitalists – and I named three people who I thought had made their money in an open and honest way. I was quickly picked up on one of the names, who turned out not to be as squeaky-clean as I had thought.

I was more interested, though, in the behaviour of the dog in the night. Not one of the free-marketeers who comment so copiously here cared to offer another name of a successful entrepreneur who had made their pile transparently and cleanly.

Free-marketeers love to tell us that every time a transaction takes place, that because the parties are willing to agree to the price, that price must therefore be fair.
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Religion and politics: a different approach

by Mike Killingworth     December 24, 2008 at 10:30 am

It’s perhaps a comonplace on a basically secular site like this that religion and politics should be kept as far apart as possible – except, perhaps, when religious leaders say things about poverty or discrimination that we happen to agree with.

And it’s undeniably true that the track record of religions when they intervene in political life has, over the centuries, been remarkably poor. It’s as though there’s something about the exercise of power which is hostile to the central message of religion, that you should love your neighbour as yourself.

And yet this message is so obviously true, and so obviously represents a thing both perennial and urgent, that there will always be a yearning to unlock the puzzle and find a way in which at least those religious people who do hold that message to be central to what they do can engage fruitfully in the political arena.
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Idiot of the Week?

by Mike Killingworth     October 27, 2008 at 4:03 pm

There’s always plenty of competition for that title, but I’d like to nominate Val Shawcross, Labour GLA Member for Lambeth and Southwark, who is quoted in the Evening Standard as accusing Tory Mayor Boris Johnson of “letting his personal prejudice override any sense of reason”.

What dreadful thing has Bozza done now? Well, he’s decided not merely to replace London’s awful bendy-buses with rear-platform double-deckers with conductors, but to order 800 of the things – enough to operate most of the routes that run through London’s West End, if not all of them.

It’s hard to believe that bus design is a matter on which the “correct position” can be derived from a love of, or a hatred for, an ideological position on more obviously political matters – and the reality is that Londoners want their Routemasters back, or failing that, as near a replica as possible which meets contemporary standards on safety and “greenness” (they’ll almost certainly be “dual-fuel” jobs). Which is what Bozza wants to give us.

You’d think that people would learn from election campaigns, especially ones they lose. Whilst I doubt Ken’s bendy bus policy cost him his job in City Hall, I never once heard anyone – even Ken – claim during the campaign that it was a vote-winner. You’d think the Labour Group on the GLA might even take the opportunity to back Bozza on this one, if only for the kudos of later being able to say that they don’t go in for childish point-scoring.

‘Loveable’ banking?

by Mike Killingworth     October 12, 2008 at 3:30 pm

We don’t yet know what the effect of this week’s financial crisis on living standards will be. At the moment, the worst hit are those who want or need to sell their home to buy a smaller one, but it is hardly likely to stop there. It seems that our “progressive” politicians don’t have any depth of ideas on which to draw to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. They desperately want to put Humpty back on his wall, but this time he’ll need a rather broader platform if he isn’t going to fall off again.

Those of us who equate our happiness to the prospect of increased material wealth are going to be disappointed, and politicians who set out their stall on that basis – as they all have for as long as any of us can remember – are going to find it tough going, too. Ironically, it seems that Cameron has a better understanding of this than most. Brown is probably relieved that he’s being called on to deal with the financial sector again – his Presbyterian inheritance is of little help to him in developing creative responses to the social responsibility of government – to find a way to interlace community with individual freedom.

Yet the financial crisis does provides an unique opportunity to do just that. continue reading… »

Why “the left” needs new direction – part 2

by Mike Killingworth     September 23, 2008 at 7:36 am

I argued last week that Social Democracy needs to be re-invented. This week I show how.

Harold Wilson said that the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing, a proposition New Labour has tested to destruction. Historically, our ethical impulses have focused on issues of poverty and inequality – or rather, on powerlessness. Empower people, we said, and all will be well. Benn, Scargill, Livingstone and others re-interpreted the ethical dimension as the promotion of the interests of particular social groups. This frame of reference led to a narrative of struggle clearly distinguishable from the Tory narrative of government. The problem with struggle is that either you win, in which case – like the A.N.C. in South Africa – you don’t know what to do next, or you lose, in which case your position is worse than your starting-point. Warlike words such as ‘fight’ and ‘struggle’ need to be dropped from our lexicon. They obscure our necessary ethical focus. continue reading… »

Why ‘the left’ needs new direction

by Mike Killingworth     September 19, 2008 at 8:31 am

As the Labour Party Conference kicks off this weekend, this article is the start of a series on where ‘the left’ goes from here.
I will be blogging on the subject for LibCon more regularly from now.

Social democracy was the hegemonic form of progressive politics, both in theory and practice, in this country throughout the twentieth century. It sought evolutionary change of institutions and practices rather than revolutionary disjuncture.

However, this had less to do with the political acuity of Labour in that period than with specific historic circumstances that uniquely favored it.
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