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    Both Miliband and Balls know they need to do more if people are going to be persuaded to put them in charge of public money.

    There isn’t much doubt which side enjoyed the Autumn Statement more in the Commons chamber. Tory MPs wore gleeful looks that showed they thought the Chancellor had planted his ball firmly in the back of Ed Balls’s net. They cheered with terrace gusto. Labour MPs looked solemn and attentive. Perhaps their expressions were meant to project scorn and disbelief at what George Osborne was saying. They could also be interpreted as masks of defeat.

    The mood imbalance was, to an extent, inevitable. The focus of the Autumn Statement was things the Chancellor wants to talk about and things Labour says are missing the point. Osborne boasts that the economy is growing lustily. Labour asserts that people aren’t feeling it in the marginals. Osborne declares that his plan for fiscal prudence has delivered the stability from which future prosperity will flourish. Balls says Osborne’s plan has left voters feeling out of pocket.

    The Tories think they have won the biggest argument of the parliament – the question of who was to blame for the economic mess and who is best qualified to clear it up. Labour think, or at least hope, that there is a bigger argument about who the economy serves, who can be trusted to look after ordinary people, and that the Tories are ill-equipped to meet that challenge.

    The problem for Labour today was that Osborne got to set the terms of the debate, so Balls arguing vigorously in the debate he would rather be having sounded close to a capitulation. When he accused the Chancellor of being in denial, the charge ricocheted back in his face. The Tories guffawed merrily. The Labour leadership – both Eds – remain confident of having the last laugh, to the extent that the macroeconomic indicators fuelling Conservative levity conceal real pain that will cost the government votes. The economy that Tory MPs were cheering is on paper; the one Labour’s cost of living campaign focuses on is in winnable constituencies. That’s the theory, at least.

    But what today also demonstrated is that Osborne believes Labour’s reputation for overspending is terminally toxic. One of the Chancellor’s favourite gambits is engineering parliamentary debates exclusively to force Labour MPs to vote against something that most voters think is sensible. This device has been deployed with some effect over welfare reform, challenging the opposition to advertise their squeamishness about benefit cuts, which they duly did.

    Today, Osborne gave advance notice of the next trick he will pull from the same box. He intends to put a "Charter For Budget Responsibility" before parliament next autumn, reaffirming the coalition parties’ determination to press ahead with the current trajectory of deficit reduction. The tactical logic behind this move is clear. It means that, six months before a general election, Labour will have to choose between endorsing the government’s economic policy (which they won’t do) and voting against prudent budgeting (which they will insist is a principle they cherish).

    The standard Labour line in response to these Osborne stunts is to denounce them as cynical game-playing, unworthy of indulgence by a serious opposition whose eyes are fixed on the higher prize of transforming Britain’s economy and society for the better. Etc.

    For nervous Labour MPs that can sound rather like a declaration of intent to walk straight into the trap, although Ed Miliband probably has more leeway with his own side now than he did a year or two ago. Since the party’s successful conference – and the energy price freeze pledge that disoriented the Tories for weeks – there is more patience in the parliamentary Labour party for Miliband’s insistence on doing things "in his own time, on his own terms."

    Still, after today, I suspect there will be increased pressure for one of those things to be a clearer line on long-term fiscal policy. Both Eds have said repeatedly in speeches and interviews that they recognise the spending constraints under which a future Labour government would operate. Osborne clearly thinks that message hasn’t reached the public and that he can continue pummelling Labour as the party that opposes every cut, while plotting to raise taxes, borrow and spend like Topsy.

    Privately, senior Labour figures concede that this is a weakness. Both Eds know they need to do more if people are going to be persuaded to put them in charge of public money. There is, behind the scenes, a rolling discussion about the kind of measures and policies that will help Labour "cut through" with its determination to be prudent. The lesson that Miliband has learned from the energy price freeze is that voters don’t listen to vague declarations of intent. Many actively avoid anything the sounds like politics. So to get their attention, you need something big, bold, easy to understand and unignorable.

    There are many on the Labour side who would like to get through a campaign without having to apply that logic to the delicate matter of budget discipline. Perhaps it can be avoided. The Eds may be right that a cost of living crisis will soon wipe the grins from Tory faces and that Osborne’s attempt to force the debate back to his preferred terms, while effective in the Commons today, will have diminishing returns over time. But the looks of unease on the Labour benches today suggest the party is still uncomfortable when the conversation turns to balancing the books. That is a weakness of which Balls will be well aware. I imagine the shadow Chancellor will be marching some sacred spending cow to the slaughter before polling day. 


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    Labour MP Tom Watson recalls growing up in South Yorkshire.

    "Trotsky wanted to move to the seaside." This is Paul Heaton's explanation for why, 30 years ago, he came to live in Hull, which was named UK City of Culture 2017 on 20 November.

    I am interviewing the legendary singer and songwriter for the Housemartins and the Beautiful South at the King’s Arms, the Salford pub he owns. On the day of the announcement, David Cameron name-checked the Housemartins’ 1986 album London 0 Hull 4 in celebration of the city’s win. Heaton reacted by calling him a “f***ing imbecile” on the King’s Arms Facebook page and banning him from entering the premises.

    Everything about this pub is quirky. Upstairs, a rehearsal of Little Shop of Horrors is taking place. Adjacent rooms are packed with amps, keyboards and lighting equipment. A tiny studio room is being used for a script reading. Heaton silently appears in the centre of the room like the shopowner in the children’s TV programme Mr Benn. The idea of having a pint in a pub where Cameron is banned, with a hero, on the 23rd anniversary of the Thatcher resignation, is driving me giddy. As I begin my second real ale, he sips his first blackcurrant cordial and explains what Hull means to him.

    Heaton didn’t feel able to help with Hull’s pitch for City of Culture because he feels that “bidding is begging”, but now it’s won he’s had an idea for a living-art installation, re-creating some of the colourful residents of the road in Hull – alcoholics and militant activists – who inspired the song “The Rising of Grafton Street” on the Beautiful South’s second album, Choke. Today, Cameron has inflamed Heaton’s sense of injustice at the privileges enjoyed by one class at the expense of another.

    “You’ve voted Labour in the past. What would it take for Ed Miliband to get you back?” I ask.

    “Full nationalisation,” he says, without a pause. “Capitalism has gone so far up its arse that I can’t keep up with it. We were warned all the way through the Seventies: don’t believe in the socialist utopia. They’ve been trying to sell capitalism to me since I was three years old and saw my first advert. Hopefully people will look back in 50 years’ time and say this was the age of the w**ker.”

    We’re both too polite to admit that full nationalisation of public utilities is never going to happen under Ed Miliband, so we go back to sharing our love of Hull. We chuckle at the characters we both recall: the lad who used to wrap his trainers in Sellotape so he could pick up cigarette butts at the bus stop on Newland Avenue. Dave Dennett who ran the off-licence on Beverley Road and had his own draught beer on tap. Then there was Martin, who ran the Mainbrace pub but moved to Leeds – and so Paul followed him to his new local further across the M62. It didn’t work out in Leeds; the city felt like a “flag-waving frontier town”.

    I smile, remembering how my own birthplace in South Yorkshire is often ridiculed by friends and family from the West. By my third pint, I’m overcome with nostalgia. There’s a symphony of Beautiful South lyrics playing in my head like a battalion of tubas and trombones.

    I can see why Heaton ended up in Manchester. It’s a great city for music. He agrees – though it’s not a city of singers, he says. I think of the Hallé Youth Choir, but I assume his point is more to do with Shaun Ryder and Ian Brown’s nasal intonation than high-end classical singing. The one thing that Manchester has got is music lovers who follow their bands, as loyally as the football fans follow Manchester United. If Oasis play Glastonbury, “500 lads go down on the bus”.

    I ask him what the differences are between north and south. He says the distinction is just “a squiggle on a map”. It’s the class divide he’s interested in, not geographical distance.


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    Minutes after the Chancellor declared that the UK was growing "faster even than America", US growth was revised up.

    One of George Osborne's favourite new boasts is that the UK is growing faster than any other G7 country. In the most recent quarter, output rose by 0.8%, compared to 0.7% in the US, 0.3% in Germany and 0.4% in Japan. Osborne said in his Autumn Statement: 

    I can report that Britain is currently growing faster than any other major advanced economy.

    Faster than France, which is contracting.

    Faster than Germany, faster even than America.

    Unfortunately for the Tories, who were keen to push this line today, that's no longer true. Just 25 minutes after Osborne sat down, the US published revised growth figures showing that GDP rose by 0.9% in the third quarter, 0.1% above the UK's growth rate. And, of course, while the UK is still making up lost ground from the recession (the economy is 2.5% smaller than in 2007), the US economy is more than 5% above its previous peak. 

    But while the US's sterling performance has robbed Osborne of a political line, a strong American economy is unambiguously good news for the UK and the world. 


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    Inequality is a more important explanation than rising employer costs for why the wages of the typical worker have fallen behind GDP.

    One of the big surprises in today’s Autumn Statement lies in the new OBR projections. Growth has been revised up as expected—at least in the short-term. But wage forecasts are down. Amazingly, after today’s largely positive economic news, the squeeze on wages is now going to be even longer than the OBR thought in March. The updates reflect the OBR’s revised view that the crisis has caused a larger and more permanent hit to productivity than previously thought. They will also add momentum to a debate that was already gaining pace before today’s announcement: is the link between economic growth and wage growth weakening? And how soon will a recovery bring an end to the squeeze?

    Earlier this week, the Treasury entered this debate by briefing its own new analysis of how the link between economic growth and living standards has changed over the longer term. Their top-line message was clear: there’s been no fundamental shift in the relationship between growth and pay. Instead, wages have simply been squeezed by rising employer costs — both pension contributions and, more pointedly, the increases in employer National Insurance introduced under Labour. But how adequate an explanation do employer costs really provide for the changing link between GDP and pay?

    We can answer this by looking at a report written for the Resolution Foundation by Professor John van Reenen and Joao Paulo Pessoa. Although the paper is referenced in HMT’s briefing, they have not gone as far as replicating the wider analysis the paper covered.

    In the fuller analysis we see that there are three potential culprits for why the link between GDP growth and wage growth has weakened over time. First there’s the question of whether the share of national income going into workers’ compensation has been falling, and the share going to profits rising. If so, the compensation workers receive will have lagged growth in GDP. Second, there’s the fact that not all compensation goes into wages—some goes into pension contributions and some goes into employer National Insurance. This is HMT’s focus. Third, there’s the fact that wages are not distributed evenly across the economy. If those at the top get a growing share of wages over time, wages for typical workers in the middle— at the median —are likely to lag behind.

    So here, in three simple charts, is the story of how much each of these things have mattered in the last 30 years.Chart 1 shows how trends in GDP compare to trends in average worker compensation since 1972. If the share of national income going to labour was falling, we’d see a growing gap between the two. We don’t see much of this. At the start of the crisis in 2008, overall compensation had only fallen slightly behind GDP. This suggests that changes in the share of GDP going to labour don’t account for much of what’s going on.

    Chart 1: The role of a falling labour share—GDP and average total compensation

    What about the non-wage costs that the Treasury focuses on? Chart 2 shows that a gap has indeed opened up between a measure of average compensation, which includes these costs, and average wages, which doesn’t. This confirms HMT's basic claim that non-wage employer costs have risen, squeezing the amount left over for pay. Not all of this change is about employer NICs —rising pension contributions have played a bigger role. This is of course no bad thing in itself, although its generational implications are harsh for the young people taking a hit to their pay to fill historic pension fund deficits. Either way, the trade-off between these costs and wages is clear.

    Chart 2: The role of employer costs — average total compensation and average wages

    That leaves the question of how wages are distributed by the labour market. Chart 3 shows how trends in median wages—the pay of the worker in the middle of the distribution—compare to trends in average (mean) wages, which also capture growth in wages at the very top. The gap between the two shows the extent to which inequality accounts for the typical worker falling behind economic growth. As we can see, this gap is the biggest of the three. Inequality is a more important explanation than rising employer costs for why the wages of the typical worker have fallen behind GDP.

    Chart 3: The role of inequality—mean wages and median wages

    What should we make of all this? There’s no disguising the fact that it makes for a lousy whodunit; no single factor is to blame. And of course today’s new OBR forecasts for wages owe as much to the unusual dynamics of our post-crisis labour market as they do to the longer-term story we see in these charts.

    But the findings also show how much we need a more serious, less partisan debate about these fundamental changes in how our economy works. There will be those on both sides of the political aisle that don’t much like the implication of these findings. For some on the left, it is appealing to turn to a falling labour share as an explanation for wages falling behind. They see the owners of capital hoarding ever more profits, squeezing out workers. But in 2008, such changes only accounted for around a fifth of the gap that had opened up between GDP and median pay since 1972. On the other hand, non-wage costs accounted for more than a quarter (27 per cent). That means accepting the basic truth in the Treasury account: rising employer costs put pressure on pay.

    But we also need to challenge the temptation, more common on the right, to say that high or rising employer costs are a simple cause of the weakening link between growth and wages. This is inexcusably partial. Inequality accounted more than half (53 per cent) of the gap that had opened up between GDP growth and median wage growth from 1972 to 2008. Yet inequality has so far been missing entirely from government briefing on this issue. If there are still those who think high levels of inequality aren’t relevant to the living standards of ordinary workers, they too need to wake up.


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  • 12/05/13--14:06: Nelson Mandela dies aged 95
  • The former South African leader has died, president Jacob Zuma has announced.

    Nelson Mandela has died aged 95, it has been announced. 

    He had been treated at home for a lung infection in recent weeks, after spending three months in hospital. 

    The announcement was made by South African president Jacob Zuma, who said that "what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves. Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell."

    From the New Statesman's archives:

    John Pilger, 2013: Mandela's greatness is assured, but not his legacy

    Hedley Twidle, 2013: The last days of Nelson Mandela

    Mamphela Ramphele: "Mandela said: never accept anyone telling you one sole organisation is the author of this freedom"


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    Cameron says "a great light has gone out in the world", while Miliband says he "taught people across the globe the true meaning of courage, strength, hope and reconciliation."

    Following the news of Nelson Mandela's death, which was announced by Jacob Zuma tonight, David Cameron and Ed Miliband have both paid their tributes.

    Cameron said:

    A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero. Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life. My heart goes out to his family – and to all in South Africa and around the world whose lives were changed through his courage.

    Miliband said:

    The world has lost the inspirational figure of our age.

    Nelson Mandela taught people across the globe the true meaning of courage, strength, hope and reconciliation.

    From campaigner to prisoner to President to global hero, Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for his dignity, integrity and his values of equality and justice.

    He was an activist who became President and a President who always remained an activist. Right to the end of his life he reminded the richest nations of the world of their responsibilities to the poorest.

    Above all, he showed us the power of people, in the cause of justice, to overcome the mightiest obstacles.

    He moved the world and the world will miss him deeply.

    During the struggle against apartheid, the Labour party was proud to stand with the people of South Africa in solidarity. Today we stand with the people of South Africa in mourning.

     


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    The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

    1. Britain’s needlessly slow recovery (Financial Times)

    The government has been led astray by focusing on deficit and debt rather than the health of the economy, says Martin Wolf.

    2. The Tories could fight an election tomorrow. Not so, Labour... (Independent)

    The Labour leadership needs to add detail to its alternative journey, writes Steve Richards. 

    3. Osborne's autumn statement was a study in pessimism. Who will offer hope? (Guardian)

    As Britain gets richer, the Tories motor on with their cuts agenda, writes Polly Toynbee. We can afford a brighter future and Labour should say so.

    4. George Osborne's recovery is built on sand (Daily Telegraph)

    Britain desperately needs reforms to boost business and trade, not increase consumption, says Jeremy Warner. 

    5. Autumn statement: no big winners, but Ed Balls is the clearest loser (Guardian)

    A Westminster discussion worth hearing would have acknowledged that Britain is recovering – then asked why that recovery is serving so few people, says Aditya Chakrabortty.

    6. A lesson in how not to deal with China (Financial Times)

    Britain apparently has nothing to say on the rising tensions in the East China Sea, writes Philip Stephens.

    7. As usual, we’re addicted to the short term (Times)

    The Chancellor’s good news should not obscure Britain’s appalling lack of investment in the future, says Philip Collins. 

    8. George Osborne will have to push harder than this (Daily Telegraph)

    The Chancellor may have felt pleased with the Autumn Statement, writes Fraser Nelson. But much more work is needed if the Chancellor is to halt our spiralling national debt.

    9. France in the Central African Republic is latest use of 'Hollande doctrine' (Guardian)

    The country is using military intervention in Africa for humanitarian means – but also to boost its leader's polls, says Simon Tisdall. 

    10. A deficit memento and a cap trap (Financial Times)

    The goal is to place the burden centre stage and show that only the Tories can handle it, writes Janan Ganesh. 


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    Laísa is one of the most high-profile critics of illegal logging and charcoal burning in her region of Brazil, but receives little or no protection from the authorities.

    When whichever football luminaries picked to announce the World Cup draw today pull the first name out of the proverbial hat, football fans the world over will be tuning in see who their national side will play in the first round. Some may even check their bank balance and weigh up the possibility of travelling to Brazil next June to see the spectacle for themselves.

    For those who do make the journey an exciting time surely awaits. As well as a vibrant culture and renowned Brazilian hospitality, there’ll be sparkling new hotels, stadia and shopping centres. Add the excitement of watching top level sport in arguably football’s greatest tournament, in arguably the most football-mad country in the world, and it could be the holiday of a lifetime.

    But behind the glitz and charm, what a tourist won’t see are the forced evictions that have seen whole communities kicked out of their homes to make way for those stadia and hotels. Also likely to be hidden from view are the homicides that have reached such levels that Brazil is now ranked seventh most violent country in the world. Those most at risk are young black men - nearly 80 per cent of young people murdered in 2011 were Brazilians of African descent, a group that makes up five per cent of the population. And rural people trying to protect their land from illegal logging and charcoal burning are also under threat.

    One of them is teacher and activist Laísa Santos Sampaio. Laísa is from a rural community of 350 smallholders in northern Brazil. She is a member of a group that promotes the environment and sustainable development. She has been the target of persistent death threats since 2011.

    In May that year, her sister María and brother-in-law Zé Claudio, both prominent environmental campaigners, were shot dead by contract killers. Two men were convicted in April this year, but a third man who allegedly ordered the killings was acquitted and still lives in Laísa’s community. Others closely associated with the three are also present in the community, and Laísa believes they are responsible for the threats she has received.

    One of the most terrifying of these threats was carried out in August 2011, when the trunk of a coconut tree was placed across a road near Laísa’s house – an act recognised in the region as a death threat. Soon after, her house was broken into and her dog was shot eight times. María and Zé Claudio experienced exactly the same immediately before they were killed.

    Laísa told Amnesty International that before her sister and brother-in-law were killed, a woman had warned them they were in danger: The same woman then “wept as she told me that a strange man, who had been at the house of the man who had ordered [María and Zé Claudio’s] killings, was driving around my plot of land,” she said.

    In June last year, someone from the local community told Laisa that killing Zé Claudio hadn’t been difficult, and that killing Laísa and her family would be even easier – it was just a question of getting the people who want to do it together.

    Unsurprisingly, Laisa lives in fear. “I am frightened by the slightest noise, but I have to continue my work,” she said.

    Laísa is one of the most high-profile critics of illegal logging and charcoal burning in her region, but receives little or no protection from the authorities.

    Her case features prominently in Amnesty’s annual Write for Rights campaign, which the New Statesman is supporting in the run up to Christmas.

    With the world’s media preparing to descend on cities across Brazil next June, the authorities there would rather you didn’t know about Laísa and those like her. But according Brazil’s Pastoral Land Commission, over 900 people have been killed in land conflicts in the Brazilian Amazon since the mid-1980s. However, fewer than 30 cases have been brought to trial, and only a handful of perpetrators have ever been convicted and imprisoned.

    You can help to stop Laísa being the next land activist to be killed in Brazil by writing to the Brazilian Secretary for Human Rights, Mario do Rosario. Ask the Secretary to protect her and ensure she is safe to conduct her environmental work without fear. Email direitoshumanos@sdh.gov.br

    You can also send a message of solidarity to Laisa, letting her know that you are thinking of her. You can send a card to Laisa c/o José Batista Gonçalves Afonso, Rua Barão do Triunfo, 3151, Bairro Marco, Belém, PA, CEP 66093-050.

    For more details of Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign and to find out about other cases, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/write

     


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    The first poll on the Autumn Statement shows that voters agree with Balls that Osborne is "in denial about the cost of living crisis".

    George Osborne may have got the better of Ed Balls in the House yesterday (this morning's papers make grim reading for the latter), but it's the shadow chancellor who the public are siding with. A snap poll carried out last night by Ipsos MORI on the Autumn Statement shows that 40% agree with Balls that Osborne is "in denial about the cost of living crisis", compared to 24% who agree with Osborne that his "long-term plan for economic recovery is working" (10% don't know and 27% agree with neither). 

    Given that it was Balls's "denial" line that prompted more jeers than any other from MPs, it's striking that voters take the opposite view. As his special adviser Alex Belardnelli noted last night, "On 6pm news millions will have seen pictures of Cameron & Osborne laughing heads off while @edballsmp points out living standards falling." 

    By a slim majority, voters believe that the Autumn Statement will improve the economy (40-38) but worryingly for the Tories, 54% believe that it will harm public services, compared to just 21% who agree. Osborne and David Cameron have long argued that austerity has proved that the state can do "more with less" but they've yet to convince the public. 

    The poll is also a reminder of how toxic the Tory brand remains. Despite measures such as the freeze in fuel duty, the introduction of universal free school meals for infant pupils, the £1,000 cut in business rates for small firms and the imposition of capital gains tax on foreign property owners (as opposed to tax cuts targeted at high-earners), the public are much more likely to believe that the Autumn Statement will benefit the rich than the poor.

    Forty seven per cent believe that it was good for "rich people" (just 5% believe it was bad), while 44% believe that it was bad for the poor (14% believe it was good). Even worse for the Tories, 42% believe that the Autumn Statement was bad for "people like me". This shows that the Tories aren't just struggling to win support among "the poor" but also among the "squeezed middle". If they're to have any hope of beating Labour in May 2015, they will need these ratings to shift significantly over the next year. 


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    The Chancellor's ideological cuts are but one route to sound public finances. Alternatives, centred around investment, are available.

    Yesterday, George Osborne’s neoconservative plans were laid bare. Hidden amid all the other numbers, the Treasury announced a further year of austerity spending for 2018/19: the ninth in a row, if you’re still counting. But this Autumn Statement was different, because it was the first where Osborne called for a permanent, structural shrinking of the state.

    Until now, each fiscal announcement since 2009 has sought to return the public finances to roughly where they were before the crash. Now, out of choice, the Chancellor is proposing that public spending should fall, as a share of national income, to far below its pre-crisis level - and indeed well below the trend since World War II. 

    Back in 2007, expenditure stood at 40.5 per cent of national income. It increased rapidly to 47 per cent by 2009, mainly due to the economy shrinking, rather than rising spending. Ever since, the Treasury has been clawing its way back towards Labour’s level of spending and in March the plan was to reach the pre-crisis benchmark by 2017. In the Autumn Statement everything changed and without any announcement the Chancellor pencilled in a cut to 38 per cent of GDP in 2018.

    In times past, when spending slipped this low it was because the economy was roaring. For example in the late 1990s, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were caught off guard, with inherited Conservative spending plans and a booming economy. This time is different; the economic projections are far from impressive and the strain of shrinking the state is to be borne by spending restraint alone.

    Turning to the detail, in 2016 and 2017 the plan is 'more of the same': total real spending is to fall at the same pace as from 2011 to 2015 (around half a per cent a year). Then, on top of seven years of cuts, spending in 2018 is to be frozen, even though economic growth is projected to stand at 2.7 per cent.

    If implemented, these plans would lead to the end of public services as we know them. By 2018 spending on services would be almost one-fifth lower, even compared with today. And if the government continued to protect areas like the NHS, international development and schools, other departments would face cuts of around two-fifths. Many services will be spending less than half what they did ten years previously. The only option for limiting this damage would be more deep welfare cuts, and even the coalition has been struggling to find many of those, which don’t hurt pensioners.

    The most wilfully counterproductive aspect of the Treasury plan is perhaps its proposal for public investment. Yesterday the OBR revised down its expectations for business investment as a driver of recovery, suggesting that public investment is needed more than ever. But for the two years after the election it is to be flat in real terms. This is a further decline, as a share of GDP, and a further restraint on growth.

    None of this is inevitable or necessary. In October, the Fabian Society Commission on Future Spending Choices proposed another way. We argued for a significant boost to public investment and for overall spending to rise after 2015 by one per cent a year for two years. This would take spending as a share of national income to the pre-crash benchmark of around 41 per cent of GDP. After that, expenditure should return to trend and match annual rises in GDP.

    The Fabians’ proposed spending path is totally compatible with sustainable public finances but diverges hugely with Osborne’s spending plans. By 2018 there would be almost £40bn more to spend, enough to turn Osborne’s huge cuts to public services into a freeze. There would still be tough spending decisions to make, but meltdown could be avoided.

    This begs the question: how can any MP who values the public sector can remain silent? One suspects many Liberal Democrats simply don’t understand what the coalition’s post-2015 plans entail. It is not just Labour, but the Lib Dems too, who must define an alternative, so that the Tories do not set the terms of the fiscal debate as the general election draws near.

    Osborne’s ideological cuts are but one route to sound public finances and many others are available. We do not need to deliberately 'overshoot' pre-crisis spending and permanently shrink the size of the state.


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    Ahmed Kathrada went to jail with Nelson Mandela, and in Mandela's later years sometimes acted as his spokesperson.

    I met Ahmed Kathrada on a chilly autumn day in 2010. A book of Nelson Mandela’s personal papers, including transcripts of taped conversations and letters, was being released. Mandela, even then, was too unwell to travel to promote the book, so Kathrada – his closest friend and adviser – was doing the media rounds on his behalf.

    About a decade younger than Mandela, Kathrada was in his 80s and needed assistance to walk. He told me that in the last few years, they had started to call each other “Madala”, or “old man”, a sign of their affection and mutual trust. There was good reason for this trust: they both stood in court at the high profile Rivonia Trial, and subsequently spent 26 years in jail together. After their long captivity and the end of apartheid, they stood in parliament together, too; while Mandela was president, Kathrada was a member of parliament for the African National Congress (ANC).

    He told me about the first time he met Mandela, when Kathrada was just a teenager. “Two law students whom I knew studied with Mr Mandela at the University of Johannesburg. That was 1945 or 1946, so well over 60 years ago. At that time, non-white people who were professionals – doctors, lawyers, or even university students – were so few that you were immediately in awe of them. And that’s what these three were. Mr Mandela, the first time I met him, I thought, ‘he is a university student, so he must be something special’.”

    In 1963, Kathrada and Mandela were among 10 men charged in the Rivonia Trial. Aimed at silencing the leadership of the ANC, this trial resulted in Mandela’s long, famous incarceration at Robben Island.

    “The relationship [between those of us standing trial] became stronger because right from the start, we had taken a collective decision of how to approach this case,” says Kathrada. “It was not a criminal case, but a political one. As the case proceeded it became clear that we were going to die, because the law provided for the death sentence for these crimes. It seemed that nothing could save us. But among the eight of us we had four of the most senior leaders of the African National Congress and if they cracked, the morale of people outside would just plummet. We were all together.

    “We decided that those that went in the witness box would not apologise for what we had done. In fact, we would proclaim our political beliefs again in court. No apologies. We said to ourselves: even if there is a death sentence, you are not going to apologise. You are not going to ask for mercy. Uppermost in your mind is your responsibility to yourself, to your family and to the community.”

    On the subject of Mandela, the man he described as an “elder brother and mentor”, he was affectionate but measured, in the way that true friends are. “He makes it clear that he never pretended to be a saint. He has got shortcomings, the weaknesses of ordinary people.”

    As Kathrada has it, one of these weaknesses was vanity. He described how, prior to the Rivonia Trial, he was on a small committee tasked with looking after Mandela while he was underground. “He was already well known at that time. Pictures of him, with his beard, had been appearing, and we suggested he should shave it off. He just refused. That beard went with him to his training camp in Algeria – you can see a photograph. He came back with the beard. It only went in prison after he was arrested.”

    Kathrada went on to relay a story of when he, Mandela, and three other Rivonia trialists were transferred suddenly to Pollsmoor prison in 1982. “After all those years in separate cells on Robben Island, we were sharing a cell, and we could see each other’s habits again. Mr Mandela was very attached to Pantene hair oil. It had stopped being manufactured, but he is a very determined person. He wanted his Pantene and he went to the highest prison authorities. He did not believe them when they said manufacturing had stopped. Eventually the prison authorities instructed some poor chap to go from pharmacy to pharmacy to find it. He brought back whatever he could.”

    I asked whether Mandela had lived up to expectations in power. “He would be the first to say that whatever progress we made was as a collective, and he was a symbol of that collective,” said Kathrada. “And he will say the same thing: we can’t be satisfied. We have made progress, but we have a long way to go. But he took very, very significant steps in the years he was president. The question of forgiveness and reconciliation was the policy of the organisation. He didn’t invent that, but it was his style. When he emerged from prison and became president, among the first things he did was to invite the widows and wives of former presidents – apartheid presidents – to tea. Maybe another president would not have done that.”

    Today, as the world reels from the passing of Mandela at the age of 95, Kathrada issued a moving statement bidding farewell to “my elder brother, my mentor, my leader”:

    “While we may be drowned in sorrow and grief, we must be proud and grateful that after the long walk paved with obstacles and suffering, we salute you as a fighter for freedom to the end.”


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    Mole has been doing some digging around the New Statesman mailbag this week, and would like to offer a hat–tip to Sean Dooley of Cheshire:

    I were just bollockin’ me whippet fer buggerin’ off wi’ me Pigin Times wen yon issue dropt on t’doormat. I were scrykin’ wen I saw t’words “The North” in big print. “Praise t’Lord,” sed owr lass, “ah tow’d thee the’d not f’got us up ’ere!”

    Wi’ cn die ’appy now an’ t’poor editr dus’nt ’av to bother abaht owt this side o’ East Barnet tilt next centenary issue. A’ calls that a win-win, Mother!

    There also appears to have been some confusion about where exactly “The North” is. Fleet Street is the centre of the universe, and Gok Wan is from Leicester, therefore Gok Wan is from the north.

    Hope that clears everything up.


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    The prime minister did go on a dodgy trade trip to South Africa in 1989, but tweets alleging that he wanted Mandela executed while a student are mistaken.

    As the news of Nelson Mandela's death broke, there were inevitable reminders from the left - and some on the right - that the Conservative Party's stance towards the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s was not, to say the least, something its current members would be happy with.

    Most infamously, there were the "Hang Nelson Mandela" posters, pamphlets, badges, and songs. One image in particular - you can see it above - contains two particular allegations about David Cameron's time as a young Tory in the 1980s. You can see it being passed around on Twitter right now.

    The first claim is untrue. The "Hang Nelson Mandela" merchandise was produced by a faction of the notoriously extreme Federation of Conservative Students, an organisation that was fiercely libertarian and anti-communist. Former member Harry Phibbs - now a councillor for Hammersmith & Fulham - said its members were often frustrated that "the Thatcher government wasn't Thatcherite enough".

    In 1985, when the image above was created, Cameron would have been 19, and by all accounts he was pretty uninterested in politics while at university. He wasn't close to being a part of the FCS, let alone a "top member" of the Tory party's most radical youth group. Phibbs has explained to the Independent that the images were created by a small splinter faction as a parody of the "Free Nelson Mandela" badges that many left-wing students were wearing at the time - there's no evidence that Cameron was part of this faction.

    Phibbs, by the way, also wrote an article for the FCS paper in 1986 alleging that Harold McMillan was a war criminal for cooperating with the Soviet Union in WWII, a charge so ridiculous that it gave the thoroughly fed-up Norman Tebbitt no choice but to shut the FCS down.

    The second charge, that Cameron took an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa in 1989 while working on policy for the Conservatives, and that it was paid for by a lobbying company that opposed sanctions, is true. Many Tories opposed sanctions during the 1980s, something a lot of them - including Cameron - have regretted since then.

    In 2006, he said:

    The mistakes my party made in the past with respect to relations with the ANC and sanctions on South Africa make it all the more important to listen now. The fact that there is so much to celebrate in the new South Africa is not in spite of Mandela and the ANC, it is because of them - and we Conservatives should say so clearly today.

    It's your choice how much you wish to believe the sincerity of his apology for what was a murky time in the Conservative Party's recent past, but he has apologised.


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    The appointment of the man who was Chancellor at the time of the crash would make it even easier for the Tories to warn "don't give the keys back".

    Ed Balls's much-panned response to George Osborne's Autumn Statement has restarted the speculation about whether he will be replaced as shadow chancellor before the general election. Among commentators, Alistair Darling is again being touted as the ideal replacement. He's done the job before and has indicated that he'd be open to a frontbench role once he's finished saving the Union in September 2014. 

    The Telegraph's Peter Oborne makes the standard case for Darling this morning: "He would bring unrivalled goodwill as the man credited with saving the British financial system in 2010 and then saving the union in 2014. The arrival of Alastair Darling just nine months before the general election would do wonders for Labour’s chances...because no British politician is held in as much respect as Mr Darling is today." 

    But while the replacement of Balls with Darling would win plaudits from the commentariat (who revere him for his battles with Brown), it is less certain that it would improve Labour's election prospects. Borrowing a line from Barack Obama, the Tories' message at the next election will be"Britain is on the right track. Don't give the keys to the guys who crashed the car in the first place", one that could persuade nervous voters to stick with the status quo.

    In this regard, the appointment of the man who was Chancellor at the time of the financial crisis would be a political gift to the Tories. Osborne and Cameron make much of Balls's Treasury past, but how many outside of Westminster know that he was City minister from 2006-07, or that he previously served as Brown's special adviser? Voters are more likely to remember him for his time as Schools Secretary than his time as Brown's brain. 

    Darling's supporters will point out that he was the man who stopped the banks from going under, not the man responsible for the system of light-touch regulation that created the crisis. Others will note that he urged Brown to be more open about the cuts that Labour would have to make in an attempt to prevent the Tories from claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility for themselves. (Although it's worth recalling that it was also Darling who vetoed Balls's smart call for Labour to rule out a post-election VAT rise.)

    But all of this detail will be lost on voters. To them, Darling is the man with "the weird eyebrows" (yes, as any pollster will tell you, voters are shallow) who was at the helm of the ship when it hit the iceberg. Are they really going to trust him with the economy again? Labour would undoubtedly benefit from the return of a politician as experienced and as shrewd as Darling but the shadow chancellorship is not the job for him. 

    I suspect that Ed Miliband, who has notably avoided returning "greybeards" to the frontbench in favour of promoting the "new generation", recognises as much. Balls, who remains the best qualified figure for the job, is still more likely than not to be in his post come May 2015. 


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    Tom Humberstone's weekly observational comic for the New Statesman.


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    "Mandela did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it."

    Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.

    You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
    You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.

    Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it. And perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him.

    Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London.  Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people.  There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.

    Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.

    This post originally appeared on Musa Okwonga's blog.


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    This recovery runs to a traditional Conservative narrative - harsh medicine applied by a single-minded Chancellor.

    " 'Without the Liberal Democrats, there wouldn't be a recovery.' That's Clegg's election line there", tweeted the very astute editor of this blog during Nick’s stint at Prime Minister's Questions this week and there’s every indication that he’s right to say that’s what we’ll be hanging our hat on in 2015. The same line was tweeted moments later by the Lib Dem Press Office and Danny Alexander has written to members with a similar message after the Autumn Statement

    “This recovery would not have been possible without us, and neither would the vast majority of the positive measures in today’s Autumn Statement. In fact, setting the Tory Marriage Tax break to one side, the Autumn Statement is packed full of Liberal Democrat ideas.”

    And of course, it also happens to be true (though I don’t suppose that fact will feature much in the comments section of The Staggers), not least because by going into coalition in the first place we provided a more stable government than any other option allowed at a time of great economic uncertainty.

    And yet it’s hard to escape the notion that this will be painted as anything other than a Tory victory. This recovery runs to a traditional Conservative narrative -  harsh medicine applied to a patient suffering from a potentially fatal illness, ignoring the cries and the pleas for mercy, because they know what’s good for you. Of course, it’s not precisely true – as Stephen Tall has pointed out, Plan A got abandoned (or at least diluted) some time ago. But that’s how the story is playing out.  And it suits the Tories that it does so, because it means they can own it.

    Hence the willingness to dump the "green crap", the huskies, and any notions of hugging a hoodie. Because it’s the nasty party that owns the economic narrative. And let’s not forget, after three years of austerity, recession and economic malaise, that nasty party is only 3 or 4% worse off in the polls than when it was running against the most unpopular Labour government for a generation or more (this morning’s YouGov poll notwithstanding).

    I fear the Tories think the nasty party narrative suddenly has traction and electoral credibility. And it’s that single-mindedness that will make it so hard for the Lib Dems to claim any credit for the economic recovery. Not helped by the fact that the 'differentiation strategy' dictates that, for the second half of the parliament, we are meant to distance ourselves from the Tories at every turn.

    Sure, Lib Dems will be awarded the odd battle in the court of public opinion – raising the tax threshold, free school meals, pension reform. But the narrative of the Autumn Statement is triumph for Osborne, disaster for Balls. The battle for the Lib Dems will be to get nary a mention at all.


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    Littered throughout the speech were references to northern towns and how they will benefit from the coalition's policies.

    George Osborne wants to create "a job-rich recovery for all" and it was very evident from the Autumn Statement that the Chancellor is well aware of the electoral challenges his party faces at the next election. Littered throughout the speech were references to northern towns.

    On job creation:

    "But they now expect the total number of jobs to rise by 400,000 this year. And this is being felt right across the country - since 2010 the number of jobs in Carlisle and on the Wirral, from Selby to South Tyneside - have all grown faster than in London."

    On housing:

    "So this week we are announcing a billion pounds of loans to unblock large housing developments on sites in Manchester and Leeds and across the country."

    On fuel duty:

    "I've had further representations from many Honourable Friends, from the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, to the Member for Argyll and Bute, and of course, the Member for Harlow who is such a champion of the people he represents."

    These references are important. If the Conservatives are to stand any sort of chance at the next election, then broadening the appeal of the party to people living in cities and towns in the north and the midlands is absolutely critical.

    A recent YouGov survey showed that an overwhelming majority of voters in the north support Conservative policies - cutting net immigration, the benefits cap, Help to Buy. But when asked which party they would consider voting for, one in four said they would NEVER consider voting Tory. Looking at the marginal seats that the Conservatives will be targeting, you start to see the problem. Bolton West, Oldham East, Wirral South and Rochdale to name just four are in the Tory cross hairs.

    Broadening the appeal of the Conservatives beyond their south eastern heartlands is not going to be easy. There's no such thing as a silver bullet or a quick fix solution to the fact that the Tory vote has been dwindling for decades. But the Tory Party has shown itself over time to be thoroughly capable of adapting to broaden its base.

    People often criticise the Chancellor for putting politics above economics. Yesterday's speech shows that you can combine a sensible economic approach - bringing down the deficit, weaning us off our debt addiction, creating the conditions for businesses to thrive - with a nod to one of the most significant political challenges facing the Conservatives - appealing to voters in the urban north.

    Nick Faith is head of communications at Policy Exchange


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    In almost all print media there will be articles about health and nutrition that are complete garbage.

    Benjamin Franklin said two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Another one we could add to this list is that on any given news website and in almost all print media there will be articles about health and nutrition that are complete garbage.

    Some articles that run under the health and nutrition “news” heading are thought provoking, well researched and unbiased, but unfortunately not all. And to help you traverse this maze – alongside an excellent article about 20 tips for interpreting scientific claims – we will look at seven clichés of improper or misguided reporting.

    If you spot any of these clichés in an article, we humbly suggest that you switch to reading LOLCats, which will be more entertaining and maybe more informative too.

    1. “Scientists have proven that” or “it has been scientifically proven that”

    Why?: In science we never prove something, we can only improve our confidence in a hypothesis or find flaws with it.

    Details: Sometimes it is possible to disprove something confidently, but that mainly works in domains like physics. Medicine is notoriously messy because it deals with changeable, complex and individual bodies. There are potential exceptions to nearly anything, and the link between two things is generally statistical, rather than clear-cut “if X then Y” relationships.

    Health and nutrition is even worse because it deals with how we interact with our equally messy environment. We know about most of the big contributory causes of bad health such as starvation, disease, parasites and poisoning so arguably many new findings are smaller refinements that are hard to pick out from the “noise” of individual variation and habits. We know plenty of things, just beware of absolute certainty.

    Takeaway: Discount the findings of any health or nutrition article with “scientists prove that…” by 80%.

    2. X causes cancer, so it must be bad

    Why?: There are no good or bad substances. Even water can kill you if you drink too much of it.

    Details: There are a surprising number of things associated with slightly increased or decreased risks of getting cancer. We tend to think of things as pure/good/healthy or impure/evil/harmful, but in practice there’s no distinction. Many medications are poisonous, but they are helpful because they are more poisonous to infections or cancer cells than to the rest of the body.

    Sometimes it’s the dose that makes the poison. So sleeping a lot or a little is associated with higher mortality (even when you control for depression and sickness, which of course also affect how much you want or can sleep). There can also be trade-offs between risks and benefits. Moderate alcohol intake can be good for heart health (in middle aged men, at least), but it increases the risk of pancreatic cancer and accidents. Whether something is good for you may depend on who you are, what you do and other risk factors.

    Takeaway: As Oscar Wilde said, “everything in moderation, including moderation”; it is probably better to eat a diverse diet than to try to only eat “good” things.

    3. [Insert natural product, spice or beverage here] cures cancer, diabetes or heart disease

    Why?: There are no “natural” or magic cures for cancer, diabetes or any diseases of ageing.

    Details: If these “natural products” actually worked, people consuming them would rarely, if ever, get the diseases of old age and die. The longest mean health and life spans of any sizeable population are in developed countries, and they are mainly attributable to antibiotics, vaccinations, reduction in smoking, improved sanitation, and public healthcare infrastructure. We don’t have artificial “silver bullets” either.

    The reason is that most of these conditions are very complex and don’t have neat causes that can be fixed easily. Science is certainly working hard on the problem, but progress is generally piecemeal.

    Takeaway: We already have many drugs that were extracted from natural things or are based on them. When the Cochrane collaboration, an international network of thousands of researchers and organisations, compiles the results of large human trials involving natural products, then it is time to take notice.

    4. X gene causes you to smile/be grumpy/get diabetes

    Why?: No single gene causes a behaviour trait or, except in rare cases, a complex disease.

    Details: When a single gene mutation causes something, we call it a monogenic disease. Monogenic diseases include cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and sickle-cell anemia. Complex behavioural traits and diseases of ageing are polygenic and multi-factorial disorders, which depend on both genes and environment. No one gene causes you to be happy, sad or diabetic.A sad case of personality. aeu04117

    The same applies for brain areas and neurotransmitters: serotonin is involved in mood regulation, but it is also involved in regulating gut movement (90% of it is in the intestines). Adding more serotonin is unlikely to help either function. If you get happy by eating chocolate, it could be because you enjoy the taste and may not be due to chemical reactions within the brain.

    Takeaway: If you truly want to find reasons for your traits or propensity towards a complex disease, why not compile a detailed family history?

    5. Red wine, turmeric or yoga can help you live longer and be healthier

    Why?: Unfortunately, there is no fountain of youth or elixir of life.

    Details: Articles that state eating something or doing something can help you live longer generally make their case using a long-lived or comparatively healthy population such as Japan. In these populations, the effects of eating or doing something can be explained by their homogenous genetics and environment. Even so, these people still live the normal maximum human lifespan, which is about 100 years.So innocent. Public domain photos

    Science has figured out a lot about how ageing works, and some researchers work on slowing it down. However, there is still a vast step from what works on a small lab animal to a useful pill for humans. Stay tuned.

    Takeaway: If you want to live longer, don’t smoke, take recommended vaccinations, exercise and just try to enjoy life.

    6. A new study from [insert elite university name here] …

    Why?: Science, unlike religion, doesn’t work based on authority. Don’t assume that an experiment is well constructed and executed because it’s from an elite university.

    Details: Less elite universities can of course do bad research but “brand names” apply in academia as they do elsewhere. Some universities have or can afford bigger press teams than others. Journalists are trained to provide accurate, nuanced and unbiased analyses to the public. This is regularly practised in the political domain with reports on political scandals and other investigative journalism. We need the same for science.

    Takeaway: Would you still read this article if the research was performed at the University of Never-heard-of-them in Where-in-the-world-is-this city?

    7. Just-so stories

    Why?: In science, laboratory results seldom make simple stories. This is especially true when dealing with biology.

    Details: It’s easy to believe a good story, such as how diet habits like those of your ancient ancestors are healthier for you or that women think in a certain way because they were gatherers rather than hunters. It sounds plausible. Unfortunately, sounding plausible often has almost nothing to do with actually being true.

    Takeaway: If you come across a neat little just-so story, it is likely over-simplified and stripped of its contextual underpinning, or just plain wrong.

    Our aim isn’t to undermine the value of science but to become more critical reporters and readers. The list is by no means exhaustive and if you feel we have missed an important cliché, please comment below, email or tweet us. In the meantime remember, if you want to live longer, have fun and do nothing.

    The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

    The Conversation

    This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


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    The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

    1. Follow Mandela's example, and laugh at this rightwing fawning (Guardian)

    Mandela not only made history, he did so in a way that made others, from David Cameron to Elton John, want to rewrite theirs, writes Marina Hyde.

    2. South Africa may still face a day of reckoning (Times) (£)

    Even Nelson Mandela’s transcendent goodness might not be enough to secure a lasting settlement, writes Matthew Parris.

    3. The Left does not own Nelson Mandela’s legacy (Telegraph)

    With the death of Nelson Mandela, the British Left has lost its leading icon, says Mary Riddell.

    4. Africans must now walk to freedom (Financial Times) (£)

    A man of unique authority, Mandela set a very high standard for us to attain, says Kofi Annan.

    5. How computer games can help us overthrow capitalism (Guardian)

    The challenge is to design a game where instead of being a badass in LA, you can be a goodass on a communal farm, says Paul Mason.

    6. Ed Miliband needs to look forward and avoid George Osborne’s expertly laid trap (Independent)

    Osborne’s Autumn Statement performance was that of a man confident that he has won the argument, says Andrew Grice.

    7. What does George Osborne's growth offer the young? (Guardian)

    The forecasts of growth should be good news for young people just starting out in work, but in fact this appears to be a recovery for the elderly, the wealthy and the bosses, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

    8. Balls isn’t working. Labour must ditch this liability (Times) (£)

    Whatever the opposite of star quality is, the floundering Shadow Chancellor has it in spades, says Jenni Russell.

    9. Of Bitcoins, bubbles and B&Q vouchers (Financial Times) (£)

    The object of anarcho-utopian fantasies is of little value if you want a pizza, writes Tim Harford.

    10. This court case will make Nigella stronger (Times) (£)

    The more the revelations emerge about her troubled marriage, the more we love her for her flaws , says Janice Turner.


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