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Archive for the Category "Politics"

The Pod Delusion 3: Gordon Brown’s speech Oct 05

A quick plug for the third episode of The Pod Delusion, the podcast what I’ve been doing stuff for.

This episode asks whether atheism is just for the middle classes, what’s available on Freeview and whether quack iPhone apps are worth the money (clue: no). My contribution is about Gordon Brown’s keynote speech to the Labour conference – mostly on the content but with a bit about the rapidity of online reaction.

You can listen on The Pod Delusion website or use the player in the sidebar on the left (people from the future: if I’ve redesigned and it’s no longer on the left, sorry). You can also subscribe via iTunes. Win.

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The Pod Delusion on party conference Sep 25

The other day I mentioned The Pod Delusion, a new podcast to which I’m contributing.

Episode 2 is out today and subjects include homeopathy, NHS cuts and the BNP on Question Time. My piece – “if it’s not sung, if it’s spoken, it’s a piece” – is a quick guide to party conference, and in particular Lib Dem conference, for those who’ve never been to one.

Linky linky: Pod Delusion websitepodcast RSS feediTunes directory

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A plague on both your homes May 16

I may write more about the MPs’ expenses scandal over the coming days. It’s a fascinating piece of car-crash current affairs, watching those who lectured us that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” suddenly turn out to have had something to hide themselves. It’s been a bad week for MPs, but hopefully, in the long run, a good week for politics, as the institution of Parliament, set in its arcane, superior ways, is brought down to earth with a thud.

The Telegraph‘s circulation has risen – the main objective for the newspaper, of course – but it hasn’t helped its journalistic reputation by putting what appear to be genuine scoops like the Elliot Morley and Shahid Malik affairs alongside innuendo and prurient invasion of privacy. There are two issues muddled together: those cases where MPs were dishonest, and those cases were MPs took advantage of a flawed system (albeit one which they, en masse, had the power to clean up).

Labour blogger Kerron Cross pleads for us to remember that MPs are human too, as fallible as the rest of us when it comes to making expenses claims. As I’ve said in a comment submitted to his post, I sympathise with that, and some of the claims highlighted by the Telegraph are simply errors – both clerical errors and errors of judgement.

Kerron stands up for Morley, who is accused of pocketing mortgage-related expenses for over a year after his mortgage was paid off:

Take Elliot Morley, one of the most villified individuals this week. One of things most people will tell you is that Elliot is one of the nicest (and most boring) MPs in Parliament. For whatever he is being accused of now, I can’t think of a man less likely to be implicated in a major scandal.

I’m a forgiving sort and am prepared to believe, if this is the outcome of the various inquiries, that Morley really did make a clerical error. The trouble, though, is that the Government of which he was part loves its macho posturing. Say Morley had continued to claim job seeker’s allowance for 18 months after getting a job. Do we think this Government would be satisfied with “Sorry, it was a mistake and I’ve paid the money back”?

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Cameron less radical than Howard Jan 13

A non-musial interlude now with this brief foray into politics.

I read the news today, oh boy, and it said

Cameron would cut MP numbers

which was like déjà vu all over again. Haven’t the Tories talked about this before?

Ah, yes. Here’s Michael Howard’s pledge from 2004:

The Conservative Party would cut the number of MPs by about one-fifth if they were elected, Tory leader Michael Howard has said.
The precise number of MPs to go would depend on the result of the Welsh referendum [to scrap the Assembly], but it would probably mean a reduction of around 120 from the current total of 659.

And here’s Cameron’s “new” proposal:

David Cameron would remove more than 60 MPs as part of a Tory plan to make parliament work more efficiently.

Drawing on plans drawn up by Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor, the Tory leader today pledges to introduce legislation in his first term as prime minister to cut the size of the Commons by 10%. There are currently 646 MPs, a figure that is due to increase to 650 at the next election.

So Cameron – via Kenneth Clarke’s constitutional review – has managed to come up with basically the same policy as before, except significantly less ambitious.

And while we’re playing House of Commons size reduction top trumps, let’s check what Nick Clegg’s position is:

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is calling for the number of MPs in the House of Commons to be cut by 150.

That’ll be two-and-a-half times more MPs gone than the Tories are offering.