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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Who is responsible for an austerity violating human rights? Look to New Labour

Labour's record had started to improve under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. 

The UN has made it clear the Government’s austerity programme breaches human rights. This is not because of spending cuts - it is because because those spending cuts target women and disadvantaged groups, particularly disabled people and asylum seekers.

The degree of injustice is staggering. The Coalition Government used a combination of tax increases and benefit cuts to reduce the net income of the poorest tenth of families by 9 per cent. The cuts faced by disabled people are even more extreme. For instance, more than half a million people have lost social care in England (a cut of over 30 per cent). Asylum seekers are now deprived of basic services.

The injustice is also extremely regional, with the deepest cuts falling on Labour heartlands. Today’s austerity comes after decades of decline and neglect by Westminster. Two places that will be most harmed by the next round of cuts are Blackpool (pictured) and Blackburn. These are also places where Labour saw its voters turn to UKIP in 2015, and where the Leave vote was strong.

Unscrupulous leaders don’t confront real problems, instead they offer people scapegoats. Today’s scapegoats are immigrants, asylum seekers, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people. It takes real courage, the kind of courage the late MP Jo Cox showed, not to appease this prejudice, but to challenge it.

The harm caused by austerity is no surprise to Labour MPs. The Centre for Welfare Reform, and many others, have been publishing reports describing the severity and unfairness of the cuts since 2010. Yet, during the Coalition Government, it felt as if Labour’s desire to appear "responsible" led  Labour to distance itself from disadvantaged groups. This austerity-lite strategy was an electoral disaster.

Even more worrying, many of the policies criticised by the UN were created by New Labour or supported by Labour in opposition. The loathed Work Capability Assessment, which is now linked to an increase in suicides, was first developed under New Labour. Only a minority of Labour MPs voted against many of the Government’s so-called "welfare reforms". 

Recently things appeared to improve. For instance, John McDonnell, always an effective ally of disabled people, had begun to take the Government to task for its attacks on the income’s of disabled people. Not only did the media get interested, but even some Tories started to rebel. This is what moral leadership looks like.

Now it looks like Labour is going to lose the plot again. Certainly, to be electable, Labour needs coherent policies, good communication and a degree of self-discipline. But more than this Labour needs to be worth voting for. Without a clear commitment to justice and the courage to speak out on behalf of those most disadvantaged, then Labour is worthless. Its support will disappear, either to the extreme Right or to parties that are prepared to defend human rights.

Dr Simon Duffy is the director of the Centre for Welfare Reform