The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


Five of the Best

The top five comment pieces from today's papers

The Independent's Johann Hari say that William Shawcross's biography of the Queen Mother ignores her shameless profligacy and her admiration for the far right:

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon kept up her support for far-right politics throughout her life. She did everything she could to bolster the torturing, white-minority tyrannies in Rhodesia and South Africa, because -- as the journalist Paul Callan, who knew her, put it -- "she is not fond of black folk". Our beaming Queen Mum was Alf Garnett in a tiara.

In the Financial Times, Martin Wolf says that the Vince Cable's "mansion tax" is an excellent idea, but replacing council tax with a local income tax would be disastrous:

Mr Cable is quite right: the UK should try to raise more revenue from property taxes. But the best way to reach his objective is not to abolish council tax, but to extend it. A local income tax, by contrast, would damage incentives to work and push higher earners out of local jurisdictions with substantial numbers in relative poverty. This is a recipe for social segmentation.

In the Times, Roy Hattersley argues that it is up to Labour members to convince ministers that the party can win on a social-democratic platform:

Conferences are designed as opportunities for beleaguered leaderships to inspire the dispirited rank and file with belief in victory. At Brighton the process has to be reversed. The "floor" must convince the "platform" that all is not lost -- that social democracy can provide a winning formula. And the persistently faint-hearted have to be taught that, even if their pessimism is justified, they champion a cause that it is worth defending in the last ditch.

The Guardian's Simon Jenkins says that international summits continue to substitute grandstanding for action:

The uncritical respect accorded them by statesmen and commentators is absurd -- largely because they are all enjoying a gigantic junket. Like meetings of the G8 and G20, they are not just a waste of time and money -- they convey a false impression that statesmen are acting, rather than parading. They imply that policy is somehow being influenced by the physical communion of the great and not so good. As such they induce cynicism among those they claim to be helping.

The Economist's Bagehot column says that politicians need to stop arguing about the past and start focusing on the future:

All parties need to explain the background and evidence for their policies. But in general, as every pollster avers, it is the future more than the past that motivates voting. This is as true in Britain as it is in America. History has indeed been kind to Churchill, and not only because he wrote it; but his wartime heroics didn't save him from election defeat in 1945. Tony Blair won a third term in 2005 because, despite the debacle in Iraq, he still seemed a better future bet than the alternative.

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