Tag Archives: Editorials

The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all

There’s always hope, though I am not sure how much.
You have to have faith in something though. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 4th December 2015 19.05 UTC

Labour retains safe Labour seat in Lancashire heartlands byelection. No story there, then. Except that, in the case of the Oldham West and Royton byelection, there undoubtedly is a story. This has been a torrid back end of the year for Labour. Splits, bad blood and bad headlines have cooked up such a witches’ brew for Jeremy Corbyn’s party that the expectation on all sides, based on doorstep evidence, was of a Labour slump and even perhaps a loss to Ukip. Early editions of the Daily Mail on Friday were so confident that they ran a pre-declaration story headlined “Corbyn effect costs Labour thousands of votes.” But, let’s be honest, no one else saw evidence of a big Labour win coming.

It is true that the Labour vote fell this week in Oldham West compared with the general election. But so did everybody else’s. That’s because turnout as a whole went down from 60% in May to 40% on Thursday, sadly typical for a modern byelection. What matters though, was that Labour’s share of the vote actually went up – by seven points – not down, while the Conservatives fell by 10 points and Ukip, supposedly the great threat to Labour this week, managed only a small increase while still ending nearly 11,000 votes adrift of Labour’s new MP Jim McMahon.

That’s a good bankable win for Labour in anyone’s money. Mr McMahon’s success puts him into the top 20 Labour shares of the vote in Britain and gives his party a much-needed electoral fillip after a grim time. The flip side of it is that it’s a bad loss for the challengers, Ukip and the Tories, never mind the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, all of whom might have persuaded themselves that Oldham West might offer them something. The gas has gone out of Ukip’s balloon, at least in Lancashire, while George Osborne’s party has no electoral dividend to show for all his northern powerhouse-building.

It’s a mistake to pretend that Labour’s win is all that unusual, though. By a coincidence, the first byelection of the last parliament was in neighbouring Oldham East and Saddleworth in January 2011. Labour successfully put up its share in that byelection too, by a meaty 10 points, while the Tory share halved. It was a reassuring win for Labour’s new leader Ed Miliband, whose party mostly did well in byelections for the next three years. But like most byelections in the early part of a parliament it said little or nothing about the 2015 general election result when it eventually came. There was a long way still to go, then as now.

Mr McMahon was clearly an excellent candidate in a crucial contest for his party. Talented, local, competent, well known in an area where he is the council leader, he was nobody’s callow besuited candidate from Westminster central casting. These things probably mattered more than that he was on a different wing of the party from his leader. Labour’s factions will argue long and loud about whether Oldham was a victory for Mr McMahon or Mr Corbyn. Their respective conclusions will reflect their respective prejudices. The truth is surely that, between them, they did enough to allow the Labour brand to win once more.

Real votes matter more than opinion polls. Yet each of them is important. Labour can draw comfort from Oldham West. But it has to beware the message of a poll this week which showed, first, that the voters grew more doubtful about air strikes in Syria as Wednesday’s Commons vote drew near but, second, that Mr Corbyn’s job ratings have fallen sharply since he took over in September. Mr Corbyn now has a net approval rating of -41, compared with -8 in September. David Cameron, by contrast, has a rating of zero, with voters evenly divided. That should be cause for Labour concern.

Still, we should not be hypocritical. If Labour had lost Thursday’s byelection, this editorial and this weekend’s political talk would all be about Mr Corbyn, especially after a searing week at Westminster over Syria. His leadership would be on the line. The profiles of Hilary Benn would be being burnished. So if defeat for Labour would have been bad for Mr Corbyn, it surely follows that victory for Labour must be good for him. His leadership is therefore not on the line right now. In Oldham at least, Mr Corbyn was not the issue in the way his opponents and critics might have imagined. On Wednesday, Labour MPs went along with majority party opinion and supported him on Syria by two to one. This tells us something, perhaps not too much, about the future. Nevertheless, the Labour leader can undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief this weekend. And so can his party, at least until next time.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour

Fingers crossed that we can move forward. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 1st May 2015 12.15 UTC

The campaign is nearly over and it is time to choose. We believe Britain needs a new direction. At home, the economic recovery is only fragile, while social cohesion is threatened by the unequal impact of the financial crisis and the continuing attempt to shrink the postwar state. Abroad, Britain remains traumatised by its wars, and, like our neighbours, is spooked by Vladimir Putin, the rise of jihadist terrorism and by mounting migratory pressures. In parts of Britain, nationalist and religious identities are threatening older solidarities, while privacy and freedom sometimes feel under siege, even as we mark 800 years since Magna Carta. More people in Britain are leading longer, healthier and more satisfying lives than ever before – yet too many of those lives feel stressed in ways to which politics struggles to respond, much less to shape.

This is the context in which we must judge the record of the outgoing coalition and the choices on offer to voters on 7 May. Five years ago, Labour was exhausted and conflicted, amid disenchantment over war, recession and Gordon Brown’s leadership. The country was ready for a change, one we hoped would see a greatly strengthened Liberal Democrat presence in parliament combine with the core Labour tradition to reform politics after the expenses scandal. That did not happen. Instead the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have governed together for five difficult years.

That experiment has clearly run its course. The outgoing government proved that coalitions can function, which is important, and it can be proud of its achievements on equal marriage and foreign aid. But its record, as our recent series of editorials on detailed themes has shown, is dominated by an initial decision to pursue a needless and disastrous fiscal rigidity. That turned into a moral failure, by insisting on making the neediest and the least secure pay the highest price for an economic and financial crash that they did not cause. The evidence is there in the one million annual visits to foodbanks, a shocking figure in what is, still, a wealthy country.

David Cameron has been an increasingly weak prime minister. On issues such as Europe, the integrity of the United Kingdom, climate change, human rights and the spread of the low-wage economy, he has been content to lead the Tories back towards their nastiest and most Thatcherite comfort zones. All this is particularly disappointing after the promise of change that Mr Cameron once embodied.

The union at risk

The Conservative campaign has redoubled all this. Economically, the party offers more of the same, prioritising public-sector austerity which will worsen life for the most needy – imposing £12bn of largely unspecified welfare cuts – while doing little to ensure the rich and comfortable pay a fair share. Internationally, the party is set on a referendum over Europe which many of its activists hope will end in UK withdrawal. It’s also set on an isolationist abandonment of British commitment to international human rights conventions and norms, outcomes which this newspaper – unlike most others – will always do all in its power to oppose. At the same time, the Tories go out of their way to alienate Scotland and put the UK at risk. The two are related: if a 2017 referendum did result in a British exit from the EU, it could trigger a fresh and powerful demand for a Scottish exit from the UK. The Conservative campaign has been one of the tawdriest in decades.

The overriding priority on 7 May is therefore, first, to stop the Conservatives from returning to government and, second, to put a viable alternative in their place. For many decades, this newspaper’s guiding star has been the formulation offered by John Maynard Keynes in a speech in Manchester in 1926: “The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.” The task on 7 May is to elect the parliament and government that will come closest to passing Keynes’s triple test.

Some despair of the whole system, believing a model created for two-party politics is now exhausted, failing to give adequate expression to the diverse society we have become. We are hardly newcomers to that view: we have demanded electoral reform for a century and believe that demand will find new vigour on 8 May. But for now, this is the voting system we’ve got. How should we use it?

To the charge that they enabled a government whose record we reject, the Liberal Democrats would plead that they made a difference, mitigating and blocking on issues such as Europe, the environment, child benefit and human rights, without which things would have been worse. That adds weight to the view that the next Commons would be enhanced by the presence of Lib Dem MPs to insist on the political reform and civil liberties agendas – as they did, almost alone, over Edward Snowden’s revelations. Similarly, it would be good to hear Green voices in Westminster to press further on climate change and sustainability. Where the real constituency choice is between these parties and the Conservatives, as it is between the Lib Dems and the Tories in the south-west, we support a vote for them. But they are not the answer.

In Scotland, politics is going through a cultural revolution. The energy and engagement on show are formidable – and welcome. The level of registration is an example to the rest of Britain. If the polls are right, and the SNP is returned as Scotland’s majority party, we must respect that choice – and would expect all parties that believe in the union, and the equal legitimacy of all its citizens, to do the same. We do that even as we maintain our view that, whatever myriad problems the peoples of these islands face, the solution is not nationalism. Breaking apart is not the answer: not in Europe and not in the UK. We still believe that the union rests on something precious – the social and economic solidarity of four distinct nations – and that is to be nurtured and strengthened, not turned against itself.

A sense of what is just

Which brings us to Labour. There have been times when a Labour vote has been, at best, a pragmatic choice – something to be undertaken without enthusiasm. This is not such a time. Of course there are misgivings. The party has some bad instincts – on civil liberties, penal policy and on Trident, about which it is too inflexible. Questions linger over Ed Miliband’s leadership, and whether he has that elusive quality that inspires others to follow.

But Mr Miliband has grown in this campaign. He may not have stardust or TV-ready charisma, but those are qualities that can be overvalued. He has resilience and, above all, a strong sense of what is just. Mr Miliband understood early one of the central questions of the age: inequality. While most Tories shrug at that yawning gap between rich and poor, Labour will at least strive to slow and even reverse the three-decade march towards an obscenely unequal society. It is Labour that speaks with more urgency than its rivals on social justice, standing up to predatory capitalism, on investment for growth, on reforming and strengthening the public realm, Britain’s place in Europe and international development – and which has a record in government that it can be more proud of than it sometimes lets on.

In each area, Labour could go further and be bolder. But the contrast between them and the Conservatives is sharp. While Labour would repeal the bedroom tax, the Tories are set on those £12bn of cuts to social security, cuts that will have a concrete and painful impact on real lives. Even if they don’t affect you, they will affect your disabled neighbour, reliant on a vital service that suddenly gets slashed, or the woman down the street, already working an exhausting double shift and still not able to feed her children without the help of benefits that are about to be squeezed yet further. For those people, and for many others, a Labour government can make a very big difference.

This newspaper has never been a cheerleader for the Labour party. We are not now. But our view is clear. Labour provides the best hope for starting to tackle the turbulent issues facing us. On 7 May, as this country makes a profound decision about its future, we hope Britain turns to Labour.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The Guardian view on zero-hours: the number that keeps getting bigger

Well for me  in my particular circumstances I can see that some zero hours contracts might work.  However for most folk they are not a good thing  and should not be used to replace more secure working arrangements.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on zero-hours: the number that keeps getting bigger” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Wednesday 25th February 2015 20.07 UTC

Let’s not be sour. The bounceback in jobs during the current recovery has been staggering – exceeding all predictions. During the depths of the slump too, although things were dreadful, the UK shed far fewer posts than any of the macroeconomic models suggested. Whereas in the past there had been something close to a one-for-one proportional relation between lost jobs and lost output, for every three percentage points of GDP that disappeared after 2008, only 1% of jobs went up in smoke.

But let’s not be blinkered either. If there is reason to be cheerful in the quantity of jobs in a famously flexible labour market, there is reason to be fearful when it comes to the quality. Underemployment, perma-temping and the recasting of low-grade staffers as “self-employed” hires shorn of all rights were striking features of working life in the recession, and all trends that have been stubbornly slow to reverse in the recovery. That much is reaffirmed every month when the official labour market statistics appear. Nothing, however, sums up the pall of insecurity that has befallen so much of the workforce like zero-hours contracts. We can’t map the numbers over long years in this case, because – until recently – the arrangement was still so exotic that no proper figures were collated. Slowly but surely, however, the information gap is being filled and, in every new droplet of data, zero emerges as the number that keeps getting bigger.

At the dawn of the slump it was estimated that there were fewer than 200,000 “jobs” without guaranteed hours. Since then much has changed – the term “zero hours” has gained currency, definitions have changed, and new data sources have been tapped to tally up the individual workers affected, recognising that some will rely on multiple jobs. But through all the refinements and seasonal blips that might colour the figures, there has been only one trend. The Office for National Statistics reported on Wednesday that there were 1.8m zero-hour contracts, and 697,000 zero-hours workers, both numbers that have been climbing fast.

Not every no-strings contract represents exploitation, it’s true, but too many do. While there are a few professionals happy to put in a well-paid hour on an as-and-when-needed basis, the ONS confirmed that the real zero-hours boom is in pubs, hotels and restaurants, sectors where low pay is rampant. While some big zero-hours groups, such as students, may be content to avoid fixed weekly commitments, it is dismaying to learn that it is mostly women who are working with zero security. A sharp rise in zero-hours workers of two to five years’ standing confirms that this way of doing business is becoming not only more widespread but also more entrenched.

After much delay, the coalition talks about banning the most abusive contracts, which actually bar staff from seeking employment with anyone else while they hang around waiting for shifts that may not come their way. It may be a start, but it’s not enough. At the very least, zero-hours workers must be given – as Labour proposes – a right to demand steady hours after six months.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The Guardian view on journalism and advertising: selling the news short

We are all brought and paid for to a degree, I suppose. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on journalism and advertising: selling the news short” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 20th February 2015 18.57 UTC

For 160 years the Daily Telegraph has been as integral a part of British life as the long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer and cycling to evensong that John Major once invoked, while paraphrasing George Orwell. You may not have shared the paper’s politics, but it was widely respected for straight, accurate news reporting of the sort that is essential to any healthy democracy.

This week the paper’s integrity suffered something of a body blow when its highly respected former chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, published a devastating attack on the newspaper’s ethical standards. Mr Oborne detailed a pattern of behaviour in which, he said, stories had been suppressed, removed, downplayed, boosted or discouraged in order not to offend – or, alternately to please – advertisers and/or financial institutions. His decision to go public with his allegations was sparked by the minimal coverage devoted to last week’s revelations – widely reported in the UK and round the world – about HSBC’s part in creating and encouraging tax evasion mechanisms. Mr Oborne believes the story was downplayed because the company’s chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, was anxious not to lose advertising revenue from the bank. This is a serious accusation, since Mr MacLennan told the Leveson inquiry on oath that neither he nor the paper’s owners played any part in editorial decisions.

If Mr Oborne’s claims are right, he is justified in saying that the HSBC coverage, or lack of it, amounts to a fraud on Telegraph readers. A number of senior executives and former editorial staff at the newspaper have, albeit anonymously, endorsed Mr Oborne’s general critique. The paper, normally an advocate of transparency, has so far declined to answer any detailed questions about Mr Oborne’s article. A long, dishonest and callow editorial on Friday almost comically attempted to shift the blame onto the BBC and the Guardian. You would never guess that the criticism – unreported in the Telegraph – actually came from neither of these sources, but from their own much-celebrated former colleague, who until recently was writing editorials.

Many news organisations, old and new, rely on advertising. Indeed, the noted historian of British newspapers, Francis Williams, described in his 1958 book, Dangerous Estate, how the daily press “would never have come into existence as a force in public and social life if it had not been for the need of men of commerce to advertise. Only through the growth of advertising did the press achieve independence”. But the reverse can also be true – as evidenced by widespread and dismal practices in the Indian press in which editorial coverage is routinely bought, and newspapers invest in companies about which they write.

The Telegraph, as a privately owned newspaper, is not obliged to respond to questions about its editorial standards. If it wants to put up shutters and throw mud at rivals, it’s perfectly entitled to do so. But, the longer it remains silent, the more its readers may draw their own conclusions about the integrity of a great British institution.

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