- oD 50.50
G4S: securing whose world?
Devalue or Else!
Re-birth of the nation?
Jon Bright (London, OK): Ed Balls was quoted fairly widely for coming out in support of a written constitution at a Fabian fringe in Bournemouth, and his remarks have now been published:
'I do not underestimate how difficult it is. It would take years and be hard', said Balls. With the issue currently being debated within government, Balls said his personal view was that they should take the plunge and embark on a written constitution.
Jon Bright (London, OK): Just wrote a small piece on the problem of European identity over on the dLiberation blog. Without a common feeling of being European I don't see how the EU can overcome the stiff resistance it faces at the moment - yet most people in the EU itself seem to assume a few abstract values will do the trick. What do you think? Have a look, comment here or there - would be especially interesting to hear from someone who does feel European!
Jon Bright (London, OK): OurKingdom finds itself slightly chuffed to be featured in Iain Dale's round up of the UK's best and brightest political blogs. Dale's list, voted for by readers of his own blog, identifies 500 UK poliblogs as worth a read. The stats are relatively predictable: fourteen of the top twenty blogs lean towards the right and only five of the five hundred can claim a genuinely large readership (I'm sure you can guess which ones) - i.e. one that is in five figures per day. But the UK's political blogosphere is growing - Dale says he knew of only 600 political blogs last year, comapred to 1200 this year. And, perhaps more importantly, the mainstream press is waking up to the idea - Nick Robinson, Ben Brogan, the Spectator's Coffee House - all are growing in importance as the big names behind them pay them more attention. Dale himself is at the top of the tree, of course.
Jon Bright (London, OK): Sunder Katwala has another article in OurKingdom's blossoming (but still under construction) section over on openDemocracy, advising Cameron on what he thinks the future of the right should be. It follows 'Much Left' his five point overview of the way forward for the left, by challenging the right to really modernise. It's great to see the left have the confidence to tell the right what to do. Have a read. Don't forget you can access our most recent articles, and go through to the articles homepage, using the OK articles feed on the right hand sidebar.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Cameron would have beaten Blair in an election and he remains a serious, modern candidate. But I find there is something oddly unattractive about his attractiveness, an avatar like sense that his looks have been remodelled for the screen. I felt it the first time I saw him fesh into the leadership at a Demos event. Up against Blair it would have been like a computer game: an election in Second Life in which the latest version has the better pixels.
Moderator: This is a response to this post by James Graham.
Stella Creasy (London, involve):
Thank you for responding to my speech to the Make Votes Count fringe. Like you I am committed to democracy as the process by which we find shared solutions to shared problems. That’s why I believe political parties are vital; they are the vehicles that bring individuals and groups together to work for a set of common priorities for social action. The alternative is a world in which only the loudest voices or largest wallets determine outcomes. Electoral reform is a moral imperative to ensure a fair and open process by which we choose between those competing agendas. That only a minority of the public consider themselves to have talked about politics in recent years to me suggests it is not the fairness of voting they question, but its very relevance.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Writing on slow speed connection, but you must look at this story in the Mail on Sunday and this article by Simon Davies giving more background. It seems that a "personal decree" made by Jacqui Smith means that from tomorrow all phone records will be made available to nearly 800 local councils, other public bodies and quangoes, without any need for a warrant. Can this be true? And why do we only learn about it now?
Jon Bright (London, OK): As you've probably noticed (unless this rssed its way to your door) we've given OurKingdom a lick of paint and a bit of a redesign. This is in honour of two things - a possibly/probably/will he/won't he November election, and the fact that we are expanding our publishing range.
Down the new sidebars we've stuck a few feeds off some of our tags - in addition to highlighting our articles section (hosted by openDemocracy - watch out for a coming exchange with Fiona MacTaggart on compulsory voting) and Clive's dLiberation blog. There's also a map showing (most of) our authors. But there aren't enough - and we are still quite thin on the ground outside London. If you are writing on the same issues as us and want to get your own blue pointy thing on there then email me at email@example.com. We are always open to new contributors, from all backgrounds and political persuasions.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Following my brief report from the front line of the ippr fringe, I've read Jack Straw's speech to the conference. Straw heads the Ministry of Justice and is Michael Wills' boss. So those initiatives which Wills is set to announce will be signed off by Jack. He told the Conference that his new role includes being lord chancellor:
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Listening to Jack Dromey attacking Tory Etonians on the Today programme and the discussion afterwards between Charles Moore and Matthew Taylor, it confirmed that Labour should leave the class struggle to the Tory Party - where, as I've written before, it burns bright and more fiercely and personally than in the Labour Party, especially where the leaders of the Conservative Party itself are concerned.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I feel discomforted by being at Bournemouth. I spoke at the ippr fringe meeting on democracy at Bournemouth. The best contributions were by Meg Russell of the Constitution Unit and Francesca Klug, who helped draft the Human Rights Act. I addressed my remarks to the Minister, Michael Wills, who is in charge of the Gordon Brown’s democratic programme (except, it seems, Citizens Juries – who IS responsible for the unfolding debacle?). I said that while it is extraordinary and indeed historic for a Government to place the nature of the constitution as a whole into public debate, many congratulations, etc, the exercise is taking on all the signs of trying to cure the symptoms not the illness.
Jon Bright (London, OK): I was hovering by the bar at the above named Manifesto Club night yesterday evening at Islington's Old Queens Head. The idea of the evening was rather a good one - to let people take the 'Citizenship Test', which must be passed by everyone wishing to become a British citizen, or apply for indefinite leave to remain. As we sat in the all new smoke free environs of the Queen's Head turret bar, fielding the Home Office's citizenship questions, two things became apparent.
Jean Lambert (London, MEP): The Green Party is about to ballot its members on whether we should change one of the most unique aspects of our organisation - the absence of an official leader. At the moment we are represented by two 'principle speakers', elected on a yearly basis (see this Guardian debate). Should we now be moving towards a single identifiable leader, elected for a longer term? I am supporting change.
Gareth Young (Lewes, CEP): In Jack Straw’s latest salvo against the Conservative’s policy of English Votes on English Matters (Living with West Lothian, Prospect Magazine, October 07) he generously warns the Conservatives against Little England-ism and a slide into "narrow English nationalism". The inference being that an English parliament comprised of Westminster MPs without an English executive is somehow a narrower more introspective form of nationalism than Scottish Labour’s Scottish Parliament and Government (nee Executive).
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): So Boris has won the race and become the Tory candidate for London. By a landslide. No surprise there, but when momentum starts... Coming back from Bournemouth and the extraordinary domination of Brown and seeing the steely glint in Boris' eyes in the Evening Standard, the following scenario unfolded before my eyes as I bumped home on the Northern Line.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Just back from the Labour Party conference where I spoke at an ippr fringe on the Dog and Duck question of whether anyone cares about the constitution. Michael Wills, the minister in charge of making our values democratic was the star turn, and Meg Russell, and Francesca Klug and I tried to address the question with Guy Lodge holding the fort. More on all this anon.
Jon Bright (London, OK): Legendary hardman John Whitaker Straw is all over the press today as he announces a beefing up of the law covering self-defence, in our favour (unless you are a criminal). Existing legislation has not prevented him
decking detaining fully three criminals already in his past life (and pursuing a fourth who gave him the slip). Straw echoes noises made by Boris Johnson, declared winner of the Tory mayoral primary today in one of the most predictable election results in history: Boris has also promised to 'have-a-go' if he sees a crime taking place, though his current arrest record is decidedly less impressive than Straw's. Could the two of them team up to make the streets safe for ordinary people again?
David Smith (Weymouth, Saving Democracy): The Liberal Democrats are to be congratulated on taking democratic reform more seriously than of late, and for their paper "For the People by the People". What is not clear is how they expect their proposals ever to be implemented: there is as yet no popular mandate for such reforms. Charter 88 has, I believe, attracted some 70,000 signatures over the years, although many will have long since forgotten they signed. The number of anti war protesters exceeds this number by far, and yet represents a minority of the electorate. We have somehow to connect others to the issue of democratic reform.
Tom Nairn (Livingston and Melbourne, RMIT University): Since Gordon Brown’s appearance as United Kingdom Premier, assorted premonitions have surfaced in the gloom. Britlanders now inhabit a haunted house on the edge of a cemetery, where such terminology seems appropriate. Brown was not of course elected, parachuted from On High, or installed by an indignant mob: over many years he materialized in fits and starts, glimpsed intermittently like a ghost from times past, brooding but saying almost nothing. Then suddenly the spirit was there, seated all too comfortably in the Anglo-Brit living room, account-books and Britannic sermons to hand. The armchair’s previous occupant had left for Jerusalem.
Daniel Leighton (London, Power Inquiry): The spectre of popular sovereignty haunts Bournemouth. Amidst the fevered speculation over election timing, binge drinking and Sun-sponsored men dressed as Gordon Brown clones in Churchill style clothing flicking inverted v signs at conference goers to support the Sun's campaign for a referendum, the serious the debate over our constitutional future has also been continuing.Keith Vaz's ethnic Minority Task force held an event with Minister of State at Justice, Michael Wills, and columnist Yasmin Alibhai Brown, with the admirably blunt title of "Should the UK have a written constitution?". Michael, who is in charge of the whole participation process announced by the Prime Minister, rightly noted the fact that we now have a Government that has itself actually posed this question and this is a historic first. His own answer was essentially "only if people think we should have one". Well, yes but the State of the Nation polls over the last decade and a half have always shown they do, by a massive (if passive) 75 per cent or more.
Mike Small (Fife, The Guardian): As Iain MacWhirter wrote the other day in the Herald: "You have to wonder if Labour has acquired a death wish. How could it be so stupid, so irresponsible, as to plunge into another self-inflicted crisis just as Alex Salmond's honeymoon was beginning to wear off? The Scottish Labour Party had an opportunity to make a fresh start with a new leadership and it is throwing it away."
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Over on Pickled Politics, Sunny Hundal has responded to my appeal for left thinking as well as to Sunder Katwala's important response in oD, where the leader of the Fabians sets out his 5 point approach. (One that is clearly linked to the thinking of the next generation of Labour leaders so Cameroons look out...) As ever Sunny is practical, radical and clear, though he does not pick up on the debate about the individual and inequality in the comments on my initial appeal. Could it be that something entirely missing from the Prime Minister's speech is beginning to emerge, namely a left-liberal, progressive strategy? Don't bet on it, but do contribute to it if you can, every grain of sand will help - and even grit!