SQUALOR, OVERCROWDING, EVICTIONS – THE TORIES HAVE NO ANSWERS ON THE HOUSING CRISIS

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by Olivia Hanks

“Walk down your local high street today and there’s one sight you’re almost certain to see. Young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford.” Sajid Javid’s words, in his speech launching the government’s latest white paper on housing, were rather unfortunate. The sight we’ve all been seeing on high streets this winter is the clusters of sleeping bags in doorways, the faces those of people failed so badly by society that they no longer have anywhere to live at all. This lack of understanding of what the housing crisis really is – not just thwarted aspirations of ownership, but squalor, overcrowding, evictions – sets the tone for this misfiring, misleading, self-contradicting paper.Continue Reading

ARTICLE 50 AND THE MYSTERY OF THE DISAPPEARING OPPOSITION

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by Olivia Hanks

The debate over Article 50 has brought out sharp divisions in British politics, with Tulip Siddiq’s departure from the Labour front bench potentially the first of several resignations. Jeremy Corbyn’s confirmation that he will impose a three-line whip on Labour MPs to back the triggering of Article 50 has caused discontent within his party and outside it, for its message to the government is: do what you like – we won’t make a fuss.

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FROM FLOODING TO HEALTHCARE, WHY ARE WE SO BAD AT PREVENTION?

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by Olivia Hanks

Certain things are inescapable at this time of year. Overeating. Musical jumpers. Footage of the prime minister in wellies, assuring a street that’s under three feet of water that the government will do everything possible by way of assistance.Continue Reading

‘DEVOLUTION’ AND THE TRIUMPH OF TORY DOUBLESPEAK

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by Olivia Hanks

“Let local people decide!” urged George Osborne in his budget speech last summer, as he announced details of his plans for English devolution. What an excellent idea, as, on the face of it, almost everyone across the political spectrum agreed. Unfortunately, local people did not ask for devolution, had no say in deciding its form or content, were kept entirely in the dark about negotiations, and, in the case of East Anglia, are now to be ‘consulted’ on a deal of whose existence they are probably unaware and which, the Treasury has confirmed, there will be no opportunity to amend.

Report after report, from councils, public sector bodies and journalists, has enthused about the ‘golden opportunity’ to give local people a say in the decisions that affect them. Even those expressing serious reservations have praised the ‘principle’ of devolution — ignoring the glaring fact that when you examine the detail of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, or of individual ‘deals’, this principle is conspicuous by its absence.Continue Reading

THE MORALITY OF TAX

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by Olivia Hanks

I’m writing this because I’m unhappy about small businesses not paying tax.

Yes, you read that right.

We all know about the coffee chains and technology giants that are siphoning off society’s wealth and making no contribution; I’m talking about the small, local businesses that are the real lifeblood of every town’s economy.Continue Reading