Lords taking liberties?

The best of the politics blogs brought to you by Paul Evans. This week read about the Geert Wilders

Liberty and Lords

Thursday 12th was an unlucky day for Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose absurd hairdo and appalling film-making skills were sent packing at Heathrow.

While few had any time for 'Fitna,' the crude and offensive film that Wilders was hoping to screen in the House of Lords, as a liberty-loving bunch, bloggers were almost universally dismayed by the decision to ban him from entering the UK. The role of Lord Ahmed (a man who merrily hosted the European racist Jöran Jermas) in persuading the Home Office to refused him entry came under particular scrutiny.

On Pickled Politics, Sid contrasted his response with that of the Quilliam Foundation, which: “believes that although many of Wilders’ public statements are bigoted, ill-informed and offensive to people of all faiths, this is not an adequate reason to prevent him from coming to the UK”. He noted:

“Lord Ahmed’s reaction is most certainly a robust denouncement of Wilders. But it resembles too closely for comfort, the ugly gesture of a rabble-rousing feudal oligarch, threatening mob violence against the House of Lords.”

And for Cranmer this was a serious matter indeed. “Lord Ahmed,” he contested, “must be prosescuted for treason”. He sets out the case that Ahmed's indication that he may he rouse a large group of Muslim protestors to prevent the screening of 'Fitna' amounted to the gravest crime in the land:

“There appears to be prima facie evidence of an attempt ‘to intimidate or overawe both Houses or either House of Parliament’ by an ‘overt act or deed’,” he explained.

The Wardman Wire's Carl Gardner also had law on his mind – arguing that the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 have been incorrectly applied, since they refer to the conduct and not the presence of an individual. And on his own blog, Head of Legal, Gardner noted: “I've not heard any comment about this either from Liberty, or from David Davis. Why not? It's a major free speech issue.”

Of the blogs more sympathetic to the government position (and there are precious few), even The Osterley Times could not endorse Wilders' ban, though it accepted that: “...the government were probably concerned about the level of anger he might generate as he did so. So one can find many arguments for and against him being allowed entry”.

The film was screened, despite Wilders' absence.

What have we learned this week?

Much glee from Guido and Dizzy, at David Hencke's revelation that Derek Draper phrased details of his Berkeley education with what appeared to be calculated ambiguity. Draper has now set up his own personal blog to deal exclusively with the endless pisstaking. I wonder whether he was at Wellington with Lord Archer?

Around the World

Lester Ho is a Malaysian student studying in Japan. This week his blog carries photos of a protest in Shinjuku against the economic policies of prime minister Taro Aso. “Back in my country, Protesting is illegal and you need a special permit (which you hardly can obtain one from the government or police),” he writes.

Video of the Week

On Playpolitical you can watch Sky News' head to head between Lords Pearson and Ahmed.

Quote of the Week

“Without open debate, falsehood and bigotry can fester in dark nether-regions, safe from the severe scrutiny of mainstream society. Once subjected to free debate, most of the most odious ideas will wither and die.”

Stephen Farrington.

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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In your 30s? You missed out on £26,000 and you're not even protesting

The 1980s kids seem resigned to their fate - for now. 

Imagine you’re in your thirties, and you’re renting in a shared house, on roughly the same pay you earned five years ago. Now imagine you have a friend, also in their thirties. This friend owns their own home, gets pay rises every year and has a more generous pension to beat. In fact, they are twice as rich as you. 

When you try to talk about how worried you are about your financial situation, the friend shrugs and says: “I was in that situation too.”

Un-friend, right? But this is, in fact, reality. A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that Brits in their early thirties have a median wealth of £27,000. But ten years ago, a thirty something had £53,000. In other words, that unbearable friend is just someone exactly the same as you, who is now in their forties. 

Not only do Brits born in the early 1980s have half the wealth they would have had if they were born in the 1970s, but they are the first generation to be in this position since World War II.  According to the IFS study, each cohort has got progressively richer. But then, just as the 1980s kids were reaching adulthood, a couple of things happened at once.

House prices raced ahead of wages. Employers made pensions less generous. And, at the crucial point that the 1980s kids were finding their feet in the jobs market, the recession struck. The 1980s kids didn’t manage to buy homes in time to take advantage of low mortgage rates. Instead, they are stuck paying increasing amounts of rent. 

If the wealth distribution between someone in their 30s and someone in their 40s is stark, this is only the starting point in intergenerational inequality. The IFS expects pensioners’ incomes to race ahead of workers in the coming decade. 

So why, given this unprecedented reversal in fortunes, are Brits in their early thirties not marching in the streets? Why are they not burning tyres outside the Treasury while shouting: “Give us out £26k back?” 

The obvious fact that no one is going to be protesting their granny’s good fortune aside, it seems one reason for the 1980s kids’ resignation is they are still in denial. One thirty something wrote to The Staggers that the idea of being able to buy a house had become too abstract to worry about. Instead:

“You just try and get through this month and then worry about next month, which is probably self-defeating, but I think it's quite tough to get in the mindset that you're going to put something by so maybe in 10 years you can buy a shoebox a two-hour train ride from where you actually want to be.”

Another reflected that “people keep saying ‘something will turn up’”.

The Staggers turned to our resident thirty something, Yo Zushi, for his thoughts. He agreed with the IFS analysis that the recession mattered:

"We were spoiled by an artificially inflated balloon of cheap credit and growing up was something you did… later. Then the crash came in 2007-2008, and it became something we couldn’t afford to do. 

I would have got round to becoming comfortably off, I tell myself, had I been given another ten years of amoral capitalist boom to do so. Many of those who were born in the early 1970s drifted along, took a nap and woke up in possession of a house, all mod cons and a decent-paying job. But we slightly younger Gen X-ers followed in their slipstream and somehow fell off the edge. Oh well. "

Will the inertia of the1980s kids last? Perhaps – but Zushi sees in the support for Jeremy Corbyn, a swell of feeling at last. “Our lack of access to the life we were promised in our teens has woken many of us up to why things suck. That’s a good thing. 

“And now we have Corbyn to help sort it all out. That’s not meant sarcastically – I really think he’ll do it.”