Top five political indiscretions...

The week in politics as viewed from the blogosphere...

One of the big political news stories of the week was yet again broken on the blogosphere. A Jonathan Isaby post at the telegraph.co.uk gave out the results of the Ealing by-election postal votes, with the help of a breach of electoral law on behalf of the Conservatives.

Before it was taken offline, Political Penguin flagged it up and was the first to note its importance. There’s still a screen grab (with appropriate smudging) there.

Cicero was so dismayed at the turn of events in Ealing he proclaimed: “I hope never to see such an unprincipled and unscrupulous campaign ever again.”

Mike Smithson at Political Betting assessed the result of the by-election in terms of how each leader fared. He wrote: “Goodish for Gordon but not good enough for him to risk a general election…

“The only reason Cameron has been able to steer his party in a different direction has been because he has been seen as an election winner. Once that perception goes he could be in for a testing time. By October/November the polls need to have got better…

“There have been repeated murmurings against Ming Campbell and some in the party were suggesting that his leadership could be on the line if the party did badly. That did not happen and Ming is probably safe.”

In a week where politicians were pushed into revealing if they had indulged in illegal substances, the blogging community felt the need to lend their opinions to the debate, with a few feeling the need to clarify their personal drug experiences.

Iain Dale (who hasn’t and never will) called for an end to the drug taking witchhunt. He asked: “Does having smoked a joint at university impair a politician's judgement 25 years later? Of course not. Tony McNulty's abilities as Police Minister can be judged on his performance today - not by what he may have done 25 years ago.”

Peter Risdon (who has, on and off, for 30 years) took the opportunity to expand on some of his own position towards drug criminalisation: “The drug prohibition laws are tyrannical, stupid and destructive, and I’m not going to dignify them by pretending I will take the slightest notice of them.”

Anyone shocked by this week’s revelations should check out Daniel Finkelstein's top five political youthful indiscretions, which include shooting a child dead and participating in orgies – though not necessarily at the same time.

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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