Confessions of a Political Animal

May 24, 2010

A Job Description

This is a joint post by Political Animal and Lost Lucan

The brave new world has dawned, and in the hard cold morning following the battle we can survey the wreckage: the promise of retrenchment with a nasty twist. Cuts, and a re-pointing of the welfare state to the benefit of the better off, with a hike in VAT rather than employer’s National Insurance being used to fill the Treasury’s coffers. From amidst the dust and rubble we rise, clutching the few belongings remaining to us, to start again down the road to government.

And so who will lead us down the twisting path ahead? In some respects it matters not: the hats already thrown into the ring, and those promised to follow adorn the heads of a talented bunch, all of whom could make a decent stab at the task. We are fortunate in having an acting leader who is more than capable of setting the tone for the months and years ahead. No, what matters more is what policies we choose to pursue, around what principles we rally.

The government we face will be nasty, brutish and, sadly, not quite so short. In these times, it is imperative that we offer our new members and the electorate a distinct and decent platform, that we provide a strong voice for employees, the less well off and everyone else who does not fit into the Cameron mould and who would otherwise comprise the great ignored.  To that end, we believe that a successful Labour leader must pursue a progressive set of policies which promote not just equality of opportunity but equality of outcome, with an acceptance that the structural causes of poverty outweigh any impacts of so-called agency in preventing social mobility.

The Whigs had four policy areas to all but sacrifice upon the altar of ambition. We also propose four areas which, in our view, a successful candidate for the Labour leadership should  pursue. They are by no means the only important ones, but they strike at our core values, values which should not be offered up for any price. (more…)

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July 3, 2009

New Standard – same old news values

Printed in Southwark: not all that interested in reporting on it

Printed in Southwark: not all that interested in reporting on it

I am Political Animal, and I am a secret purchaser of the Evening Standard.

Well, just once in fact, so perhaps I don’t need to head for Standardholics Anonymous just yet. But yesterday, the sun was shining, there was 50p burning a hole in my pocket and my train home was 5 minutes late. So I gave in to temptation. But, honestly folks, I had a motive. I wanted to check a hunch I had. Bear with me.

I’ve written before about the running fiasco that is the Elephant & Castle regeneration project. This is probably the biggest such project in Europe and affects the homes and businesses of thousands of people in one of the most deprived areas of inner London. It includes thousands of new homes, businesses and transport facilities. Well, on Wednesday the newswires(alright, Google News Alerts, but that makes me sound so much less important) alerted me to the latest depressing development – or rather, non-development – in the saga. With the project already around seven years behind the original timescale, the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition at Southwark Council have failed to meet their self-imposed deadline of 1st July to reach a deal to progress the project. This follows two years of exclusive negotiations with struggling Australian property giant Lend Lease (also responsible for the Olympic Village) – the exclusivity deal expired on Wednesday. Where this leaves the project is anyone’s guess – in these difficult financial times it is entirely possible that Lend Lease will refuse the meet Southwark’s demands on affordable homes, small business premises and green space protection and simply walk away, leading to years more of delays. The thousand households in the soon-to-be-demolished Heygate Estate are effectively in limbo: no-one knows when their replacement homes will be built and the council is years behind targets in building the temporary ‘decant’ homes. (more…)

November 21, 2008

Scooping the Standard

Proportion of total affordable housing output to be delivered per borough 2008-11

Proportion of total affordable housing output to be delivered per borough 2008-11

They’re a speedy lot over at ‘London’s Quality Paper’, aren’t they? Eighteen days ago, the Animal wrote about how Boris Johnson’s affordable housing targets were heavily skewed towards allowing most of the Conservative-run London boroughs to continue with their abysmal record of constructing affordable housing. And I can’t claim to be first – Inside Housing and Dave Hill both got there before me. The notifications of the targets were sent out to the boroughs’ Chief Executives the week before I wrote the post. So what’s this I see whilst idly scanning the Evening Standard’s website today?

Tory Councils ‘get easy ride on cheap homes’

Yup, nearly three weeks on, the Standard gets the story. I doubt if the blame for this tardiness can be placed at the door of Pippa Crerar, the paper’s generally even-handed City Hall editor, whose by-line (more…)

November 3, 2008

The quest for housing apartheid – Part 3: Boris wades in

The Animal has discussed here before the fact that there is some pretty heavy-weight media backing for the continued ghettoisation of London’s housing supply, with a health dose of outrage being expressed at any attempts to provide a more mixed housing portfolio in the wealthiest areas of the city. Council housing in Kensington? Affordable rents in Fulham? Key worker housing in Hampstead? It’s all dangerous socialistic meddling in the free market, I tell you. Socialists! Reds! Run for the hills!

Now we’ve always known that Boris Johnson was a none-too-covert subscriber to this world view. I’m not suggesting he doesn’t wantsocial housing in London – he’s crossed the Cameron Rubicon in that respect – but he has real problems about where it is built. Scrapping the Livingstone aspiration for 50% of all new build housing to be socially affordable, regardless of location, loomed large in the Mayor’s election manifesto. And he has been as good as his word – last week, the 50% target’s death rites were read. Of course, the runes could be read well before then – appointing two leading former councillors from notoriously social housing-unfriendly Westminster to your team of ‘deputy mayors’, (more…)

October 26, 2008

The quest for housing apartheid – Part 2

I wrote a few days ago about the emerging trend for The Evening Standard, aided and abetted by its stable mate The Daily Mail, to push an agenda which boils down to the promotion of economic ghettoisation in London. First, we had the apparently over-expensive council house for refugees in wealthy Acton, then a council having the gall to temporarily accommodate a decanted council tenant in a nice house in decidedly bourgeois Highgate and on Friday we had the latest installment.

Under the headline £1.5 million houses for homeless, Friday’s Standard expressed its horror at a London borough spending ‘millions’ (allegedly, although the working isn’t shown) on renting houses in pleasant areas of the capital for those judged to be at risk of homelessness. The borough in question is the most aspirational of all – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Of course, the Standard omits to mention that this is a permanently Conservative controlled borough and goes out of its way to pin the blame for this alleged injustice on the Labour government.

The Standard has uncovered one family living in a £1.5million, four-bedroom mews house in (more…)

October 14, 2008

Get back to your sink estates, serfs!

Highgate - not for the likes of you

Highgate - not for the likes of you

The newspapers of the past couple of days have carried some interesting headlines, of the type I wasn’t sure I’d ever see: ‘Top bankers tumble as state steps in’ on this morning’s Financial Times was a particular example. One paper, however, has decided to take a different tack: in the week when it suddenly became fashionable to bash the obscenely rich, The Evening Standard has decided that now is the perfect time to…er…bash council house tenants. Yesterday, the day of possibly the greatest sea-change in the British financial system for at least eleven years and probably much longer, the Standard‘s billboards across London instead carried the headline ‘London’s £2m council house’.

This particular type of story looks like it might be developing into a trend for the Standard – they recently got Tory-run Ealing Council to summarily sack three temporary staff who were about to receive the rights that go with a permanent contract in order to appease the paper’s tabloidesque rage that a seven-person family was housed in a seven-bedroom house by the Council, in a nice area of Acton. Of course, the key issue for the Standard, never quite explicitly stated but happily mentioned at every opportunity, was that the family in question were Afghan refugees who were in receipt of benefits. By constantly describing just how well-off and desirable this particular area of Acton is, the paper’s underlying message was that such a family simply had no place in this sort of neighbourhood.

Having read through that particular story, it is possible that something had gone slightly wrong with (more…)

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