A customer pays for their tube journey using an Apple Watch. Photo: Getty.
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Apple Pay is here – if you have the right device

In certain shops, with certain banks, you can now pay amounts up to £20 using certain Apple devices. 

Trailing, as ever, behind our transatlantic friends, today the UK finally got its hands on Apple Pay. On the surface, it sounds great: you can now pay contactlessly for amounts up to £20 using a phone or, for the lucky few, an Apple Watch. But there’s a catch – or rather, a series of them.

First, you have to be with the right bank. As of the launch today, Natwest, American Express, Nationwide, MBNA, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander are all participating. Barclays, meanwhile, has only just agreed to be involved in future, while HSBC has delayed for two weeks. That still leaves First Direct, Halifax, Lloyds and TSB. 

Then, you need the right device. Only the very newest Apple stock  - ie the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus and Apple Watches – can be used for contactless payments. For online payments, you can also use the latest iPad Airs and iPad Minis. (As James Allgrove points out at Tech City News, the online payments aspect of the technology could actually be the most revolutionary: we already have contactless cards in the UK, but online payment forms are still long, laborious, and often can’t be filled out on phones.)

If you’re with the right provider, and have the right phone or watch, and manage to set up the payment system (in-depth instructions here) you then need to go to the right shop. Around 250,000 locations are currently signed up, including M&S, Boots, Waitrose, Costa coffee, and TfL’s public transport network.

In a way, the limited nature of this payment system so far is no bad thing. The gradual move towards a cashless society – and perhaps, eventually, even a cardless one – will make things much more convenient for the lion’s share of us. But as of 2008/9, around 3 per cent of households did not have a bank account, and this proportion rises significantly when you look at the poorest section of society. Other customers feel uncomfortable using payment systems which can easily be tracked. New "fintech" developments like Apple Pay could incentivise businesses to phase out riskier payment options (cash, cheques), and restrict their businesses to those with a bank account and/or an iPhone.

So in summary: for most of us, today’s launch won’t significantly change how we pay. But for the lucky few of you buying lunch today at M&S with your iPhone 6 and American Express card, enjoy. The future is yours. 

Barbara Speed was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric in 2014-16.

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Everyone's forgotten the one issue that united the Labour party

There was a time when Ed Miliband spoke at Momentum rallies.

To label the row over the EU at Thursday’s Labour leadership hustings "fireworks" would be to endow it with more beauty than it deserves. Owen Smith’s dogged condemnation of John McDonnell’s absence from a Remain rally – only for Corbyn to point out that his absence was for medical reasons – ought to go down as a cringing new low point in the campaign. 

Not so long ago, we were all friends. In the course of the EU referendum, almost all of the protagonists in the current debacle spoke alongside each other and praised one another’s efforts. At a local level, party activists of all stripes joined forces. Two days before polling day, Momentum activists helped organise an impromptu rally. Ed Miliband was the headline speaker, and was cheered on. 

If you take the simple version of the debate, Labour’s schism on the EU appears as an aberration of the usual dynamics of left and right in the party. Labour's left is supposedly cheering a position which avoids advocating what it believes in (Remain), because it would lose votes. Meanwhile, the right claims to be dying in a ditch for its principles - no matter what the consequences for Labour’s support in Leave-voting heartlands.

Smith wants to oppose Brexit, even after the vote, on the basis of using every available procedural mechanism. He would whip MPs against the invocation of Article 50, refuse to implement it in government, and run on a manifesto of staying in the EU. For the die-hard Europhiles on the left – and I count myself among these, having run the Another Europe is Possible campaign during the referendum – there ought to be no contest as to who to support. On a result that is so damaging to people’s lives and so rooted in prejudice, how could we ever accept that there is such a thing as a "final word"? 

And yet, on the basic principles that lie behind a progressive version of EU membership, such as freedom of movement, Smith seems to contradict himself. Right at the outset of the Labour leadership, Smith took to Newsnight to express his view – typical of many politicians moulded in the era of New Labour – that Labour needed to “listen” to the views Leave voters by simply adopting them, regardless of whether or not they were right. There were, he said, “too many” immigrants in some parts of the country. 

Unlike Smith, Corbyn has not made his post-Brexit policy a headline feature of the campaign, and it is less widely understood. But it is clear, via the five "red lines" outlined by John McDonnell at the end of June:

  1. full access to the single market
  2. membership of the European investment bank
  3. access to trading rights for financial services sector
  4. full residency rights for all EU nationals in the UK and all UK nationals in the EU, and
  5. the enshrinement of EU protections for workers. 

Without these five conditions being met, Labour would presumably not support the invocation of Article 50. So if, as seems likely, a Conservative government would never meet these five conditions, would there be any real difference in how a Corbyn leadership would handle the situation? 

The fight over the legacy of the referendum is theatrical at times. The mutual mistrust last week played out on the stage in front of a mass televised audience. Some Corbyn supporters jeered Smith as he made the case for another referendum. Smith accused Corbyn of not even voting for Remain, and wouldn’t let it go. But, deep down, the division is really about a difference of emphasis. 

It speaks to a deeper truth about the future of Britain in Europe. During the referendum, the establishment case for Remain floundered because it refused to make the case that unemployment and declining public services were the result of austerity, not immigrants. Being spearheaded by Conservatives, it couldn’t. It fell to the left to offer the ideological counter attack that was needed – and we failed to reach enough people. 

As a result, what we got was a popular mandate for petty racism and a potentially long-term shift to the right in British politics, endangering a whole raft of workplace and legal protections along the way. Now that it has happened, anyone who really hopes to overcome either Brexit, or the meaning of Brexit, has to address the core attitudes and debates at their root. Then as now, it is only clear left-wing ideas – free from any attempt to triangulate towards anti-migrant sentiment– that can have any hope of success. 

The real dividing lines in Labour are not about the EU. If they were, the Eurosceptic Frank Field would not be backing Smith. For all that it may be convenient to deny it, Europe was once, briefly, the issue that united the Labour Party. One day, the issues at stake in the referendum may do so again – but only if Labour consolidates itself around a strategy for convincing people of ideas, rather than simply reaching for procedural levers.