Recent Events Articles

Why is Dave risking Tory civil war by pursuing same sex marriage?

by Guest     February 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

by Phil BC

If it wasn’t churning up waters polluted by the most bigoted filth the Tory benches can muster, you could almost sit back, have a nice cup of tea and watch the Conservative Party tear itself apart over gay – or as I prefer to call it – equal marriage.

It was almost entertaining to read The Telegraph’s forensic job on the havoc it’s wreaking upon the party’s body politic. Constituency chairs stepping down and resigning, activists going on strike, around 180 Tory MPs set to abstain or vote against … on the surface it looks like the worst crisis the Tories have faced since Thatcher was ousted.

All this begs the question. If we are to take the protestations of the withering grass roots at face value and equal marriage is driving the activist base away, then why is Dave so determined to pursue such a self-destructive course? Presumably he would like to win in 2015?

I think there are four things going on.

Dave really believes in marriage, whether it’s between a woman and a man, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. As rare an instance it may be these days, here we have a party leader acting out of genuine conviction.

It’s therefore difficult to disagree with Michael Gove(!) who, batting for Dave in Sunday’s Mail says “It’s wrong to say to gay men and women that their love is less legitimate. It’s wrong to say that because of how you love and who you love, you are not entitled to the same rights as others. It’s wrong because inequality is wrong.” Well said.

But Dave is nothing if not the consummate politician. Equal marriage is much more than the disinterested pursuit of sincerely-held convictions – there are a couple of important political stakes in play. The first, and most obvious, is the attempt to move away from the ‘nasty party’ image. True, attacks on our poorest and most vulnerable people so millionaires can have a hefty tax cut isn’t something I would do if I was overly concerned with cultivating a compassionate conservative image.

But Dave is gambling that people really don’t care about attacks on social security and “skivers” and that it will all be forgotten in time for 2015 by when, he hopes, the economy will have picked up. At the price of the stop-the-world-we-want-to-get-off types who infest the constituency associations, Dave must hope the swing voters lured by the liberal conservatism of his “hug a husky” phase will give him another punt.

The second, and probably the most overlooked aspect of the row is how it can, and is, strengthening his leadership. On the face of it the opposition talked up by the Telegraph looks serious. But, electorally speaking, equal marriage – like Europe – is a second order issue.

As has been pointed out, it’s not likely to have much of an impact on the Conservatives’ performance – and they may, in fact, gain more than is lost. Nevertheless, what we have here is a party leader going against what appear to be the immediate interests of his party. He’s caved to backbenchers on Europe and Lords reform, but not this time.

With Labour and LibDem backing the legislation (on the whole) Dave will get his way in the teeth of a feral but declining internal opposition. And once they lose the Commons vote tomorrow, the less able they can mount an opposition in the future. Just as victory emboldens an insurgency, defeat can work to demobilise one. With his internal enemies weakened or decamping, the less likely Dave’s Irritant Tendency can derail his plans for the remainder of this parliament.

Lastly, and to strike a conspiratorial tone; Europe, equal marriage, they’re all rather good for keeping the NHS and the economy out of the headlines.

Phil blogs more regularly at A Very Public Sociologist

What happened to the five big political trends over 2012?

by Leo Barasi     January 9, 2013 at 11:20 am

Through 2012, I kept track of five questions on the issues shaping UK politics. For a final time, I’m revisiting them to see how they’ve changed and where we are now:

1) More attention to growth
Until the omnishambles Budget, the country was pretty evenly split on whether the government should slow deficit reduction to concentrate on growth.

After the Budget, ‘concentrate on growth’ opened a lead that stayed above 6pts, and reached 17pts after dire economic figures in the summer. But in the poll conducted immediately after the Autumn Statement, views were back to being evenly split.

Not only is this important for debates about the future of the economy, but it also says something interesting about the public’s relationship with political news. I’m often quite an exponent of the view “the politerati are talking to themselves, the rest of the country couldn’t give a stuff”. But the shifts in attitudes after the Budget and the Autumn Statement are a reminder that some political news does get widespread attention and change attitudes.

More on this question here

2) Speed of cuts
After holding steady for most of the year, the proportion saying the cuts are being made too quickly has now fallen a bit further, to 44%.

Clearly this isn’t good for the credibility of Labour’s line “too far, too fast”. This will be an interesting one to keep watching when more cuts start to bite. For example will personal experience of cuts to child benefits and the 1% cap start affecting views of cuts in general?

3) Blame for the cuts
This is another one that hasn’t moved far in Labour’s direction. Over 2012, the proportion blaming Labour for the cuts fell from 39% to 36%: hardly a radical shift.

At the same time though, the coalition have started picking up a bit more of the blame: up from 22% in January to 27% at the end of the year.

But this still means that two and half years into the government, more people blame Labour for the cuts than the current government.

More on this question here

4) Old and tired
But underneath the economic questions, there’s a host of measures about how the parties are viewed. One of the important ones is about whether they’re seen as old and tired.

Over 2012, Labour overtook the Tories as being seen as less old and tired – going from 15pts behind to 7pts ahead.

Going into an election campaign while being seen as out of fresh ideas is not a good basis for winning votes. Think the Tories in 1997 and Labour in 2010.

That said, elections aren’t always principally about change and fresh ideas. Sometimes they’re more about competence and reassurance, when being seen as old and tired matters less. Nevertheless, this isn’t good news for the Tories so early into their term.

5) Leaving the EU
Throughout the year, the question of the UK’s membership of the EU has kept coming up. With the Euro elections not too far off, it’s pretty much inevitable that it’ll be discussed throughout 2013, even if Cameron finally does get round to making his fabled speech on the EU.

Opinion has been pretty consistent in a majority wanting to have a referendum (but then people always say they want referendums) and a plurality saying they’d then vote to leave. But as I’ve argued before, there are good reasons to think a referendum could lead to a vote to stay in the EU.

Nevertheless, so long as polls keep showing more people wanting to leave, the story’s going to keep being pushed by Eurosceptics.

More on this question here

Pro-Choice protests after Savita Halappanavar’s death

by Sarah McAlpine     November 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm


Feminist groups are organising pro-choice protests demanding a change in Irish abortion law following the death of Savita Halappanavar who died of septecimia after being denied an abortion that could have saved her life.

Although Doctors assessed that 17-week pregnant Savita was miscarrying, they were unable to remove the foetus for three days due to the presence of a heartbeat. Abortion is legal in Ireland if the mothers’ life is at risk due ruling in 2010 from the European Court of Human Rights. However, the Irish Government has so far failed to implement any legislation to reflect the court’s ruling.

The ordeal left Savita in agonising pain, and opened her cervix up to infection. When she and her husband begged doctors to terminate the pregnancy they were told “this is a Catholic country”. Although Savita eventually had the foetus removed from her womb, it was too late and she died from infection a few days later.

The Pro-choice Campaign (Ireland) is organising a protest in Savita’s name outside the Dail at 6pm this evening, demanding that the Government cease in delaying a change to the law. The group released a statement on their facebook page accusing the Irish government of being “content to kick the problem down the road or pretend it doesn’t exist.”

“We will no longer tolerate their delaying tactics. Women’s lives are in danger until we have this legislation.”

British feminists are also planning a protest in solidarity outside the Irish Embassy in London at 6pm.


Netroots next week: what it is all about

by Sunny Hundal     June 20, 2012 at 10:45 am

In less than two weeks time Netroots UK will be hosting the biggest digital-activist focused event of the year.

The aim of Netroots is to find ways in which the web can be harnessed to connect with other people and encourage change. That’s it. This year we will have a special focus on the NHS bill and how activists can fight it.

It’s different from most political conferences: we want people to get involved, be inspired and learn from other activism taking place. There will be three types of sessions: strategy, training and wider discussions.
continue reading… »

N30 demo: join the private sector wealth creators’ bloc

by Dave Osler     November 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Good thing I won’t have to take David Cameron up on his stupid idea of bringing the kids into the office when teachers go on strike next Wednesday. I can just picture the chaos that would inevitably result.

The 11 year old would sulk in a corner all day long, telling anyone who politely introduced themselves that she really, really hated them and never wanted to speak to them ever again. Knowing my luck, she would demonstrate her awareness of the F-word within earshot of the chief executive.

continue reading… »

Ed Miliband: the comeback kid

by Guest     July 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

contribution by Jon Stone

Though not quite a return to the pre-Blair Labour manifesto calling for a breakup of newspaper monopolies, Labour’s vote in parliament to delay any takeover of BSkyB is definitely welcome.

it is not something I could imagine the Labour Party of three years ago doing.

For a political machine that still goes out of its way to shape its policies to appease The Sun, doing something that will undeniably piss off the Great Satan himself is babysteps to a more assertive relationship with the right-wing gutter press.
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Is the traditional (Compass) conference format outdated?

by Guest     June 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

contribution by Sean Gittins

On Saturday June 25th, I attended Compass’s annual conference. There were over 90 speakers and a vast range of different organisations from the broad to the narrow left.

The plenary session and panel discussion is the de facto format of most conferences. In my view such a format is outdated and badly in need of alteration, especially for conferences on the left.

This was the main reason I was disappointed by the conference. It wasn’t the issues covered so much, as the way those issues were discussed and presented that I felt to be problematic.
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What do these two kinds of patriotism tell us? #royalwedding #OBL

by Robert Sharp     May 3, 2011 at 10:22 am

I found it impossible not to make the mental link between the celebrations in America, and the recent flag-waving down on The Mall. Both events have been obvious moments of unity for the respective countries.

Both events also mark symbolic endings to a particular period of national history.
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Why isn’t the Royal Wedding also a day of protest?

by Guest     April 27, 2011 at 9:05 am

contribution by Adam Grace

In the build up to the big day even the police have designated as one only for “pageantry and joy”, the lack of even the slightest stirring of a republican protest movement is surprising.

The increasingly ferocious anti government protests in the capital and around the country have taken many by surprise in the last 8 months. There are undeniably a burgeoning number of people who have found it necessary to push at the boundaries of political dissent as they hear their democratic voice being reduced to a muffled murmur.
continue reading… »

Despite setbacks, UKuncut are back on the streets

by Guest     April 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

contribution by Tim Hardy

Many of us went out again in London under the banner of UKuncut this Sunday. We were met at our start point by dozens of police vans containing more officers per protester than were at the EDL march in Blackburn.

FIT officers were on the scene openly filming everyone in an act of surveillance as intimidation.
continue reading… »

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