Five ways to see if your MP provides value for money

Published in The Huffington Post on 11th July, 2013.

The issue of how much we should pay our elected representatives is again causing debate and outrage. Having worked in Parliament, I have seen firsthand that many MPs work incredibly hard, are committed to improving the lives of their constituents and are involved in politics for the right reasons (Steve Rotheram immediately springs to mind).

That said, I have also come across too many MPs who have only minimal interaction with their constituency and who are lazy, arrogant and vastly unfit for office. Some MPs in safe seats – those that are unlikely to ever lose an election because the support for their party outstrips the opposition – simply do not need to put the hours in because they know they have a job for life.

The appropriateness of giving MPs a £6000 pay rise at a time of economic stagnation and when a lot of people, especially those in the public sector, are really suffering, will understandably dominate the headlines.

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Young people pay the biggest price for PCC election shambles

Source: The Guardian

Published in The Huffington Post on 19th November 2012.

‘Farcical,’ ‘a complete shambles’ and ‘a comedy of errors from start to finish.’ That’s just a taste of the autopsy report on last week’s elections to appoint Police and Crime Commissioners.

Turnout ranged from a dismal 11.6% in Staffordshire to a high of 19.5% in Northamptonshire. The number of people that voted (4.8 million) was only half the total number of reported crimes last year (9.1 million – including London). Despite spending £125 million, David Cameron and Theresa May have somehow managed to preside over the worst election result in British history.

The absurdity of this has naturally dominated the airwaves and blogosphere. Are the results legitimate and can the new PCCs claim a democratic mandate? Why did the government insist on forcing through plans that seem so at odds with the public mood? And why was the money not spent on saving some of the 16,000 police jobs currently being cut?

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Tony Blair aiming for gold in Olympic revival

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 8th August, 2012.

Anyone who follows British politics could not have failed to notice the re-emergence of Tony Blair in recent months. He has hit the headlines for defending the Games, for speaking out on the West’s ignorance to Islamic extremism and for his take on the hysteria over bankers.

From the Sunday morning politics shows to bouncing around the Olympic Park faster than Usain Bolt, he’s literally popping up left, right and centre.

This is all part of a strategy for Blair to “re-engage” with British politics, developed by his new Director of Communications, Rachel Grant.

The timing is no accident. Blair and his team are acutely aware that the feel-good factor of the Olympics provides an invaluable opportunity to remind the public that it was his government that brought the Games to London in the first place.

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Blair Continues to Cast a Long Shadow over British Politics

Image source: The Guardian

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 25th July, 2012.

Following Parliament’s break-up for the summer recess, BBC Radio 4’s This Week in Westminster interviewed former Chancellor Lord Lawson to give the Conservative Party its end-of-year report card.

Lord Lawson added his name to the long list of figures calling for George Osborne to focus his attention on the Treasury and give up his role as chief Tory strategist. He also suggested that Cameron’s leadership style is one of the reasons behind the current uneasy relationship between the Conservative Parliamentary Party and its leader.

He remarked: “David Cameron has modelled himself very much on the Blair style (of long term premiership). I think that the Conservative backbenchers prefer the Thatcher style and I think that is an underlying reason for a certain tension.”

By sheer coincidence, the interview was aired on the eighteenth anniversary of Blair being elected leader of the Labour Party. Following the untimely death of the great John Smith, Blair became Leader of the Opposition on 21 July 1994.

Three general election victories later (and five years after he left Downing Street), Tony Blair’s influence continues to be felt across the political landscape. The current generation of politicians are defined, either favourably or unfavourably, against Blair.

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Politics and Technology – The Minefield of Social Media

Published in The Huffington Post on Friday, 6th January, 2012.

The furore over Diane Abbott’s reckless tweeting during the past 24 hours has once again thrust the relationship between politics and technology back into the spotlight.

Throughout modern history, innovations in the way that we communicate with each other have had a profound impact on way that politics is carried out. The emergence of the print media, the telegram, radio and television have all revolutionised the way that politicians operate.

Today, the internet and 24 hour news organisations mean they must always stay on message or risk finding themselves embroiled in controversy – as Diane Abbott, like many before her, has so spectacularly demonstrated.

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Ed Miliband’s new Shadow Government in full (October 2011)

Following the changes that Ed Miliband made to Labour’s Shadow Government on October 7th, below is a full list of the new Shadow government. The list includes Shadow Secretaries of State (underlined), with Shadow Ministers listed below.

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Ed Miliband needs to address Labour’s talent deficit and add steel to the Shadow Cabinet

What's ahead for Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet?

Since the last General Election many of the heavy weights that dominated the New Labour political landscape have left the frontline of British politics. David Miliband, Alistair Darling, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw and of course Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown all stood down from Ministerial positions. This exodus followed the departure of people like John Prescott and John Reid who stood down when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister in 2007. This provided a welcome opportunity for new blood to come through – but it also intensified a talent deficit that is apparent right across Westminster as Labour lost a great deal of its front bench talent and institutional memory. The sheer dominance of Blair and Brown over the last twenty years has stifled the development of top class politicians. As a result, Ed Miliband’s Cabinet over the last twelve months has had a mixed record and has been relatively lacklustre in holding the Conservative government to account.

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