Anti-wind-farm candidate James Delingpole pulls out of Corby by-election, as the town continues to have no wind farms

Delingpole cites "stunningly successful campaign"; others cite desire to avoid losing £500 deposit.

Harry Cole of Guy Fawkes' blog has a quote from anti-green journalist James Delingpole, announcing his withdrawal from the Corby by-election:

What would be the point? John Hayes has just gone and made my every dream come true. I’m overjoyed. In fact, I think I may well have run the most stunningly successful election campaign in the history of elections.

Delingpole, of course, was running as an anti-wind-farm candidate in a constituency without any wind farms. Since Corby still has no wind farms, in a way he has been astonishingly successful, and will doubtless soon be attempting to sell residents of the arctic circle magic amulets which keep away lions – works 100% of the time!

It was always unclear whether Delingpole was running in Corby on local issues or in an attempt to make his voice heard nationally (beyond his already considerable platform as a Telegraph columnist). There are ongoing tussles in Corby around an application to build a wind farm, but since that application hasn't been dropped, it seems Delingpole was just using the by-election as a megaphone, and didn't really care about the situation in Corby at all. Fancy that.

Delingpole cited the anti-wind-farm rhetoric of DECC minister John Hayes, but since Delingpole gave Cole his statement, the DECC secretary of state (Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who outranks the Conservative minister) has contradicted Hayes. Will Delingpole re-enter the race?

That seems unlikely. As Tim Fenton points out:

Delingpole has withdrawn just before the deadline for submitting nomination papers, which is 1600 hours today (pdf). So he doesn’t have to stump up a £500 deposit, but gets his free publicity. The Fawkes blog item is spin of the most blatant kind: the real story is that James Delingpole never intended to submit himself to the electorate of Corby and East Northamptonshire.

It would be wonderful to know what Delingpole was planning to give as his reason for pulling out before Hayes' comments gave him a convenient excuse. Now, we never shall.

A wind farm, not in Corby. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.