So is New Labour dead or not?

When is a party dead? Paul Evans brings us the best of the politics blogs from domestic politics thr

Nusferatu: A Party Undead

This week Lord Mandelson declared Cameron’s claims of New Labour’s demise to be premature.

Andy Newman on Socialist Unity considered what defined the New labour project, and concluded that it: “…was built on two foundations: one was a commitment to neo-liberalism; the other was the belief that electoral success could come through winning over swing voters in marginal seats by triangulating around the Daily Mail driven socially conservative agenda”.

In a detailed look at the failings of the party’s economic agenda, he argued that it was “corrosive because it de-legitimised the whole idea of state intervention in the economy”.

Over at Spiked, the ever confrontational online heir to Living Marxism, deputy editor Rob Lyons observed that “The suggestion that New Labour is dead is somewhat ironic since the party is itself merely the zombie left behind after the demise of ‘Old Labour’.” But Heresiarch argued that Old Labour has never truly left us, suggesting rather that we have been collectively duped:

“Tony Blair looked and sounded like a right-winger when he was actually a statist authoritarian. Gordon Brown looked - and so was accounted - cautious and trustworthy. As a spectacle of legerdemain, New Labour was unprecedented,” he wrote.

Elsewhere, Tory MP David Jones blogged that behaviour in the chamber gave the lie to Mandelson’s claim – while right-winger Shane Greer enjoyed an unseemly chuckle at the disappearance of the New Labour domain.

What have we learned this week?

That it’s not always funny when Tory MPs get arrested. Damien Green has been nicked for allegedly receiving leaked Home Office documents.
Within in minutes, Conservative Home was speculating and Labour Home was gloating. Perhaps if we had greater transparency and decent responses to difficult parliamentary questions, such leaks would be unnecessary?

Around the World

As India wrestled with terrorist outrages on an unprecedented scale, Seriously Sandeep was irked by what he perceived as the appeasement and concern for the perpetrators by fellow bloggers. Aditya Kumar confessed “I am terrified. Petrified,” while Anuradha Bakshi (perhaps the sort of commentator Sandeep was needling at) asked:

“…who are the real culprits: the predators lurking with their indoctrination spiel or a fractured society where dreams of some can never be fulfilled, where hate and animosity are easily ignited and stoked?”

It transpires that Tory MEPs were also among those caught up in the chaos.

Videos of the Week

It’s easy to forget that Robert Kilroy-Silk is still, in theory at least, representing our nation in the European Parliament - he hasn’t spoken in a debate for more than three years. But if you do want to see his powers of rhetoric at work, here he is having a row with TV ghost Timmy Mallett. Online supporter cottz2008 cheered him, writing:

“cum on kilroy u to win it i can rember wen u came to ilkeston to try n be a mp well cum on win it for us”.

But now he has been chucked out of this telly competition, and it’s hard for all of us.

Quote of the Week

“It depends, I suppose, what you imagine New Labour was. If you mean the media-manipulating, bullying, authoritarian bulldozer, then it is still very much alive, and probably worse than ever.

No punches pulled, on Heresy Corner.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.