Nobody leaves Ming in the corner

Dancing lessons, life meaning life and the chances of being ethical and working in the media

Dear Marina,

I am having difficulty understanding the difference between a two-step and a fox-trot, I am not sure I have the confidence for jive and this modern break-dancing looks simply too dangerous. All I know is I like to lead from the front. Can you please help.

Best regards,

Wurzel Fortesque-Smythe, 3rd Earl of Little Snodgrass.
PS: My Roller is at your disposal on election day.

I urge caution to any man choosing to lead from the front. The obvious dangers are stepping on toes, being caught on the back foot and leaving those you hope to lead behind.

If for example you so desired to lead a woman such as myself, you must take me gently but firmly into your arms and guide me. Since it is the woman who moves off backwards, one could say, strictly speaking, it is the woman who leads the way.

But the woman does so with charm and feminine foresight. She is ready to override a man’s urge to veer either left or right should she sense she’s about to back into the competition.

This would be too confusing for the judges and would split the vote.

You are right Lord Snodgrass, to be suspicious of the modern dance moves. There is no consistency to the rhythm, the footwork is lazy and the choreography too predictable.

If I were to choose my perfect dance partner to ensure competition gold, it would have to be none other than Sir Ming Campbell. He has enormous appeal with younger audiences who, responding to modern media coverage have seized ownership of this once deemed old fashioned dance form. At the same time his neat footwork and sartorial good taste has older generations gasping at his nimble footed elegance.

Tony and Dave, by comparison are but a confection of tulle and sequins with two right feet apiece. No wonder the judges get confused.

In short sir, whether exemplifying the fox trot or taking the opposition on a merry tango with his military two step Ming is an inspiration: his enormous talent for guidance has enabled his growing troupe of women to lead the way.

You might argue if we ain’t got that swing, this don’t mean a thing, but I’m optimistic the judges recognise class when they see it and we’ll sweep the floor with the opposition come May.

PS: Having mothballed Ming’s jag, I think it best we don’t avail of your Roller to provide lifts to the polling station. Chris Huhne is loaning us his Toyota Prius instead.

Dear Marina,

This week Amnesty criticised Iraq for its growing use of the death sentence. A report says that since 2004 at least 270 people have been sentenced to the ultimate punishment and that trials frequently are unfair. Now clearly no-one thinks people should be executed unless we can be absolutely certain of their guilt but surely society can choose that an Ian Huntley or Rose West be hung or shot? Are there ever circumstances in which you would support the death penalty?

IDS Essex

Hmmm. 270 death sentences since 2004. You do realize America puts down 114 prisoners a year? It would be more, but there’s a debate in progress as to whether the lethal injection is cruel, in that the recipient might die in some pain. Hence a 3366 prisoner backlog – mostly black Americans - on Death Row in the States.

In Iraq meanwhile they appear to have averaged less than 100 executions a year in a country where 200 died just this week at the hands of the insurgency.

The Iraqis appear remarkably restrained in their use of the ultimate judicial tool by comparison to the occupying forces.

Here in the UK we first need to address our sentencing shambles. When does life ever mean life? Never it seems. Evil people do evil things, get life and get out in seven years.

Should we ever introduce the death penalty here, it’s unlikely given the current form, that death ever actually mean death. It would probably mean you get the noose round the neck and the chair kicked out, to be replaced by slightly lower wobbly stool. You’d break your neck but it wouldn’t actually kill you. Later you’d be released – but don’t expect them to adapt your home for wheel chair use.

Lock up the worst offenders and throw away the keys, I say. Life should mean life. So say the Liberal Democrats too – the toughest party on crime and disorder right now. Okay that’s not difficult since we’re the only party with policies on the subject.

And in a recent street survey in my area carried out by myself and my exellent LibDem team, 95% of respondents agreed!

Anyone wishing to know more about Liberal Democrats and our tough action on crime should go to or

Dear Marina

I’ve got a dilemma. I like to treat people decently, keep promises I make but I also want to pursue a career in the media! What would you do?

S, Manchester

I have just signed 700 letters to local postal voters. I still have to deliver them. My wrist is stiffer than a lonesome Bonobo monkey’s.

So I’ll keep this brief. I have never had any trouble treating people well, keeping my pledges and combining it with a media career – and I’m a single mother.

If you can’t see a way forward, apply for job at the Daily Mail or join the Conservatives. Or do both!

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.