Leader: An exemplary New Stateswoman

Remembering Kirsty Milne.

Jill Chisholm writes: Kirsty Milne, who has died of cancer at the age of 49, was a political columnist and then associate editor of this magazine through the eventful 1990s. Those of us who remember her do so with respect bordering on awe.
 
At the New Statesman, we try to approach the issues we address with intelligence, flair and rigour. However, we are well aware that in this ambition we sometimes fall short. Kirsty will live on in our minds as someone who never did.
 
Whatever she wrote was economically and vividly expressed. Often it was enlivened by caustic wit. It was always rooted in a comprehensive grasp of the facts. The careful judgements on which it depended were never swayed by personal prejudice, ideological bias or the conventional wisdom of the day.
 
Kirsty was lured away from us by the arrival of devolution in her beloved homeland. At the Scotsman, where she exercised the skills we had so admired in her as a columnist and leader writer, she became an acclaimed chronicler of Holyrood’s birth and infancy, before leaving journalism for academia.
 
We shall not easily forget her. In so far as we manage to emulate her, we shall be giving her the tribute she richly deserves.
 

This article first appeared in the 29 July 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue

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Theresa May defies the right by maintaining 0.7% aid pledge

The Prime Minister offers rare continuity with David Cameron but vows to re-examine how the money is spent. 

From the moment Theresa May became Prime Minister, there was speculation that she would abandon the UK's 0.7 per cent aid pledge. She appointed Priti Patel, a previous opponent of the target, as International Development Secretary and repeatedly refused to extend the commitment beyond this parliament. When an early general election was called, the assumption was that 0.7 per cent would not make the manifesto.

But at a campaign event in her Maidenhead constituency, May announced that it would. "Let’s be clear – the 0.7 per cent commitment remains, and will remain," she said in response to a question from the Daily Telegraph's Kate McCann. But she added: "What we need to do, though, is to look at how that money will be spent, and make sure that we are able to spend that money in the most effective way." May has left open the possibility that the UK could abandon the OECD definition of aid and potentially reclassify defence spending for this purpose.

Yet by maintaining the 0.7 per cent pledge, May has faced down her party's right and title such as the Sun and the Daily Mail. On grammar schools, climate change and Brexit, Tory MPs have cheered the Prime Minister's stances but she has now upheld a key component of David Cameron's legacy. George Osborne was one of the first to praise May's decision, tweeting: "Recommitment to 0.7% aid target very welcome. Morally right, strengthens UK influence & was key to creating modern compassionate Conservatives".

A Conservative aide told me that the announcement reflected May's personal commitment to international development, pointing to her recent speech to International Development staff. 

But another Cameron-era target - the state pension "triple lock" - appears less secure. Asked whether the government would continue to raise pensions every year, May pointed to the Tories' record, rather than making any future commitment. The triple lock, which ensures pensions rise in line with average earnings, CPI inflation or by 2.5 per cent (whichever is highest), has long been regarded by some Conservatives as unaffordable. 

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has hinted that the Tories' "tax lock", which bars increases in income tax, VAT and National Insurance, could be similarly dropped. He said: "I’m a Conservative. I have no ideological desire to to raise taxes. But we need to manage the economy sensibly and sustainably. We need to get the fiscal accounts back into shape.

"It was self evidently clear that the commitments that were made in the 2015 manifesto did and do today constrain the ability to manage the economy flexibly."

May's short speech to workers at a GlaxoSmithKline factory was most notable for her emphasis that "the result is not certain" (the same message delivered by Jeremy Corbyn yesterday). As I reported on Wednesday, the Tories fear that the belief that Labour cannot win could reduce their lead as voters conclude there is no need to turn out. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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