Tuesday, 20 December 2011

LabourList publishes my article - All needn't be lost for Labour in the lost decade(s)

Published on LabourList here.

Labour can ensure that all needn’t be lost in the lost decade(s)

Much derided at the time, the phrase ‘squeezed middle’ became the Oxford English Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year 2011′. Having enabled Labour’s new leader to sculpt a narrative that the vaguely-defined ‘middle’ were bearing a disproportionate burden amidst the wreckage of the financial crisis, it no longer encapsulates what is turning out to be a deeper, more profound crisis than initially imagined. There now exists a ‘squeezed society’ and ‘squeezed economy’ likely to persist for years if not decades. Labour’s ideals, while important during the time of plenty, are now essential as we enter what may be a period of relative decline, both to ensure fairness and to map out new and better concept of a successful economy and society.
This is not doom-mongering, but hard-headed realism of the kind lacking since the financial crisis began, when the elite was unable to contemplate that the order it had built up was not only under threat, but might be swept away. What was initially described as little local difficulty at the Northern Rock was in reality Act One of a tragedy threatening the entire economy. At each stage of this escalating crisis, politicians played down the risks, drip-fed the truth and attempted to convince us they can lead us back to ‘normality’. Yet as with a train station display board which flashes up a delay of 10 minutes, before gradually revising it sharply upwards, though we fear that some unmentionable horror is being concealed, we crave the truth in order to plot a safe onward journey. We need to accept some of these hitherto unmentionable truths about our economy and society, in order to build a path to better economic future based on more than blind optimism.
Yet even as the pillars of its strategy crumble, the Government clings to the belief that ‘normality’ can be restored. What was to be a mild recession followed by strong growth has morphed into a deep recession followed by either a ‘double dip’ or a long period of stagnation. From the eye of the storm, our leaders are still at risk of mistaking an epoch-changing financial and economic crisis for a recession. ‘Normality’ is taking such a battering that the current generation may be the first since the 1950s unable hold out any hope of their children reaching or exceeding their standard of living and range of life-chances. This is hardly the utopia that politicians of all political hues promised would flow from free markets and globalisation. With IFS data showing that spendable incomes will not return to 2006 levels until 2016 it is not exaggeration to suggest this lost decade may become a lost generation and that a paradigm shift in our economy and society is underway. It is slowly dawning on the West that the boom years from the mid-1990s were sustained not by increasing efficiency or thrift, but by an explosion of debt, fuelled by vast international trade imbalances and the misguided view that growth could be eternal and risk mitigated through complex financial instruments. This masked the emperor’s new clothes – that our economy was incapable of sustaining the kind of growth rates necessary to sustain good public services, high levels of employment and high standards of living?
We must start adapting to a train station noticeboard now reading: ‘All trains to your destination cancelled…please seek alternative methods of transport.’ In short, it is not possible or even desirable to chart a route back to the status quo circa August 2007. Our alternative should be positive, heralding new and better ways of working, living and conducting business. Ed Miliband has started along this track but the rest of the party must embolden him to go further. Rather than accepting declining living standards as a latter-day ‘price worth paying’ of austerity, we must show how it is possible to ‘unsqueeze’ both the ‘middle’ and society itself, even without GDP growth. We must break the mindset of old: a worship of the totem of growth and a small ‘c’ conservative defence of the ossified structures of privilege and power in our economy and society. Labour must set out the radical policies which might ensure that the new economic paradigm is not one of rising inequality and unfairness, as it will surely be under the Conservatives. These straitened times require a more sophisticated and radical policy toolkit, moving beyond the ‘third way’ made possible by the falsely benign environment of ‘boom and growth’. The vested interests which stand in the way of the better society must now be challenged with pragmatic, radical policies rather than the obsequious mollycoddling deemed, perhaps understandably, to be necessary to achieve progressive outcomes in the past.
Housing provides a glimpse into the radical form that this new economy and society might take. The housing crisis is essentially caused by a lack of supply and resolution of the problem is inhibited by the vested interests of those who currently own property, who rent it out and who oppose the building of houses in their neighbourhoods. Yet if the Government built enough new houses to ensure a policy objective of markedly reduced prices, workers would find declining wages more manageable. This could be achieved by establishing new towns and cities built in carefully selected areas of the green belt as done post-war, funded by Citizens’ QE (detractors need only be reminded that £275bn has already been printed and resides in bank vaults being of no economic use at all) and a new tax on land value. The knock on effects would tackle other problems caused of low growth: fewer hours would need to be worked and parents could therefore share child-rearing.
We are potentially entering not merely a new economic paradigm but a period of profound crisis as a restive population realises the full extent of the continuing economic crisis and that them that things may never be the same again. To suggest that a dose of patrician Toryism can return the country to its former glory or that the received wisdom of the boom years merely needs tweaking is at best wishful thinking and at worst, dissembling. Labour must explain how this new economy and society will be reformed to work in the interests of the ordinary people rather than the elites whose wealth and influence has increased during the boom years and whose political allies would curtail steps to ensure a more equitable society in the future. The centre-left must begin the thinking necessary to navigate what was once regarded as a worst case scenario, but is now becoming a reality. All needn’t be lost in the lost decade(s).
John Slinger is a member of the Labour Party and Editor of Pragmatic Radicalism

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Rugby Labour's campaign against local ward closure features in media

A Rugby Labour Party campaign I helped organise against the closure of a local hospital ward (Birch Ward, Hospital of St Cross, Rugby) has featured extensively in the local media.

Rugby Observer newspaper, Thursday 1 December 2011:

Vice-Chair of Rugby Labour Party, Paul Castle's letter (headline: 'Trying to save ward') about our campaigning in Rugby town centre can be read here:

BBC Coventry & Warwickshire news (online) covered our campaign here:

Coverage in the Rugby Advertiser newspaper can be read here.

During this week I have also been interviewed three times by BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire and by Rugby FM.


Additional coverage of our pledge to continue closing despite the closure of Birch Ward:

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Over 1,000 signatures colllected by Rugby Labour against hospital ward closure

Yesterday, a campaign I've helped organise took to the streets of Rugby to fight the closure of Birch Ward at the Hospital of St Cross. Together we collected over 1,000 signatures in less than three hours for our petition demanding that the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust reverse its decision to close Birch Ward on Wednesday 30 November and commit to the long-term viability of the hospital.

Below is an update press release sent yesterday.

BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire interviewed me live yesterday after the 8.00am news (at 2h09m05s) - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00lng6y/Trish_Adudu_26_11_2011/ and the story appeared in news bulletins throughout the day - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00lng70/Malcolm_Boyden_on_BBC_CandW_26_11_2011/.



Rugby Labour Party members were out in force this morning in Rugby town centre collecting signatures for their petition against the closure of Birch Ward at the Hospital of St Cross, which is happening on 30 November.

They collected over 1,000 signatures from concerned members of the Rugby community in just three hours, indicating the strength of feeling in the town about this cut to local services.

The signatures will be delivered to Andy Hardy, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

Said local Rugby Labour Party member John Slinger:

"Rugby Labour members today stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Rugby against the closure of Birch Ward at the Hospital of St Cross. That we collected over 1,000 signatures in just three hours shows that the community is deeply concerned about the closure of Birch Ward and wishes to see a long-term future for St Cross Hospital."

For more information, please contact John Slinger -  johnslinger1@gmail.com.
More information at www.rugbylabour.org
Twitter @Rugby_Labour

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Sign Rugby Labour's online petition to protect St Cross Hospital

Sign the online petition here.

I'll be joining Rugby Labour members on Saturday in Rugby town centre to ask for support for our petition. Here is a press release we issued today to local media. I was interviewed about this by BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.


Rugby Labour launch campaign in town centre as Birch Ward closure approaches

· Public to be asked to sign petition calling for reversal of decision to close Birch Ward
· Party demands confirmation of long-term commitment to St Cross Hospital
· Activists in Town Centre on Saturday 26 November from 10.00am - 1.00pm

Rugby Labour members will be in Rugby's streets from 10.00am - 1.00pm on Saturday 26 November asking people to sign a petition calling on University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW) to reverse its decision to close Birch Ward at the Hospital of St Cross from 30 November. Rugby's Labour councillors have already taken the political lead by demanding that the Chief Executive of UHCW carries out a full consultation on any changes to services in Rugby.

Paul Castle, Vice-Chair of Rugby Constituency Labour Party said:

“We in Rugby Labour Party share the deep concern of the community about the closure of Birch Ward. We’ll be on the streets asking the public to support our petition calling for the decision to be reversed and for a commitment from the NHS Trust to the long-term viability of the hospital. The entire town is worried that this decision is just the thin end of the wedge, but it’s the vulnerable, those reliant on transport and older people who would suffer most if services at St Cross were threatened once again. The people of Rugby must unite against this reckless policy.”

Notes to editors:

1) The campaigning will start at or around the Clock Tower at 10.00am.
2) For further information please see www.rugbylabour.org
3) The petition reads:
"We the undersigned wish to protect the future of St. Cross Hospital and the services it provides to the local community. We condemn the decision of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust to close Birch Ward at the Hospital of St. Cross and petition that this decision be reversed and the long-term future of the hospital be unconditionally confirmed."
4) For more information please contact John Slinger at johnslinger1@gmail.com.

My letter to Rugby Observer (paper) on youth unemployment and Rugby Labour's forthcoming campaign on Labour's PLAN FOR JOBS AND GROWTH

The Rugby Observer have published my letter today on the devastating youth unemployment statistics (youth unemployment has doubled in Rugby in only 9 months) and how Labour in Rugby will be campaigning on the Five Point Plan for Jobs and Growth.



Labour leader Ed Miliband told students at South Warwickshire College’s Power Academy this week that youth unemployment in Rugby has doubled in the last nine months. This a shocking indictment of the Plan A for Austerity being pursued by the Government, with Mark Pawsey's support.

Even as unemployment this week rises to 2.62 million, the Government and its Lib Dem lackeys remain dogmatically focused on austerity at the expense of a Plan B - policies to stimulate growth. There is an alternative. During their visit to Rugby, Ed Miliband and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna discussed Labour's five-point Plan for Jobs and Growth with students. It includes a temporary reversal of the Government's VAT rise, giving a much-needed £450 boost for a couple with children and respite for Rugby's struggling high streets. It also proposes a bank bonus tax which to pay for a youth jobs fund, helping 54,400 18-24-year-olds on the dole in the West Midlands get back into work and build up to 1,900 new homes. There would be help for local businesses too - 170,000 small firms in the West Midlands would get a one year national insurance tax break if they take on extra workers. 

Rugby Labour members will be campaigning on this in town centre and elsewhere in the coming weeks, setting out a positive and credible alternative to the policies of this Government that are squandering the huge potential of the people of Rugby and the wider nation.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger
Labour member and former Rugby Borough Council candidate

Letter to my local MP about illiberal anti-LBGT law in Russia

Mark Pawsey MP
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr Pawsey,

I have just added my voice to a campaign run by human rights activists in Russia who are campaigning about a law being introduced by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin's party that would make any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues illegal. 

The bill would criminalise any book, article or speech about sexual identity and gender orientation, labeling it "homosexual propaganda". This is outrageous and totally incompatible with genuine notions of liberal democracy. 

I would greatly appreciate your views on this matter and to know if you will raise this issue with the Foreign Office. I hope that the British Government is making the strongest possible representations to the Russian Government about this appallingly illiberal policy. I hope you agree with me that every effort must be made to oppose discrimination against gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people, both here and abroad.

You can find out more about this issue at allout.org/russia_silenced.

Thank you for taking the time to look into this issue.

Yours sincerely,
John Slinger

PS you do not need to reply in the post. An email would suffice and would save paper and your office their time. However, I would appreciate a copy of any reply you obtain from the Foreign Office (by email).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Financial Times publishes my letter on democracy regarding German foreign minister's article


The first paragraph of Guido Westerwelle’s article (“Germany is not for turning on how to save the euro”, November 18) concludes that “despite the EU’s most strenuous efforts, it has not yet won back the confidence of financial markets”. This one sentence is very revealing, for nowhere in the German foreign minister’s analysis of the crisis is there any reference to the people.

Placing the interests of the markets above those of the people is how we got into this mess. Repeating this pattern as the solution to the crisis is doomed to failure and is an insult to the notion of democracy as “rule of the people”.

John Slinger

You can read the letter in the Financial Times here (£).

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Guardian publishes my letter on e-petitions and Parliament

The Guardian have published my letter:

A solution to Natascha Engel's concern about public disillusionment with the e-petition system would be for all votes in the Commons arising from an e-petition to be un-whipped. To allow MPs a free vote based on their conscience would enhance public respect for MPs and the broader political system and would make it far harder for governments to ignore the will of parliament on matters of concern to voters. The fact that, from time to time, unpalatable issues such as the death penalty would arise is a necessary function of the operation of democracy, and should be welcomed for the much needed greater responsibility and status it would accord our elected representatives.

John Slinger
Editor, Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour's New Generation

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rugby Advertiser (newspaper) publishes my letter on Labour's Plan For Jobs

On 3 November, The Rugby Advertiser newspaper published one of my letters (co-written by the Vice Chair of Rugby Constituency Labour Party, Paul Castle) on Labour's Plan For Jobs.

There is an alternative


Cemex’s threat to leave Rugby because of the Government’s tax policy and soaring energy bills is a timely reminder that disastrous economic policies at the national level can have a devastating effect locally. Hard-working voters are waking up to the gap between rhetoric from this Cabinet of millionaires and the reality of their disastrous economic policies. Mr Osborne lectured us that “we’re all in this together” yet only last week we read that FTSE-100 directors have awarded themselves an average pay rise of 49% despite pay freezes for average workers and sky-high inflation. The Government, propped up by its Lib Dem support act, trumpets its ‘pupil premium’ but university applications are down after the trebling of tuition fees and UCASadmit the system favours the rich at private schools. Osborne’s arrogant claim that cuts would make Britain a “safe haven” rings hollow with growth flat-lining and the country about to dip back into recession. 

And as local enforcers of the Government’s Plan A for Austerity, Conservative councillors at the Borough and County level, aided and abetted by the serially loyal Mark Pawsey, are making cuts to the police, youth services and social care, affecting those who are most vulnerable and had nothing to do with the causes of the economic crisis. There is an alternative. Last week, Labour set out a Five Point Plan for Jobs, which includes a VAT cut, tax breaks for small firms and a bank bonus tax to pay for new affordable homes and guaranteed jobs for young people. Rugby Labour will be campaigning on this in coming weeks, setting out a positive alternative on the economy. While the Tories and their lackeys believe in balance sheets at all levels, Labour believes in people, families, jobs and the society in which we live.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger – Labour Party member and former RBC candidate
Paul Castle - Vice-Chair, Rugby Constituency Labour Party

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Times publishes my letter on making e-petition votes in the Commons FREE VOTES not whipped votes

Sir, You report Peter Bone, MP, as saying that “if there had been a free vote tonight this motion would have been carried.” Bone had previously praised the Prime Minister for having brought in the system whereby public e-petitions signed by 100,000 people are debated in the House of Commons.

Perhaps now is the time to ensure that all debates which flow from e-petitions must be resolved by a free vote. Such a move would go some way to restoring public faith in politicians.

John Slinger
Rugby, Warks

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Guardian publishes my letter on the Pragmatic Radicalism fringe - not all fringes are boring and irrelevant

Martin Kettle writes that conference delegates are "increasingly squeezed into passivity on the fringe". Had he attended Pragmatic Radicalism's fringe, he would have witnessed a refreshing alternative. At "Top of the Policies", 20 speakers presented vibrant policy ideas in two minutes, followed by two minutes of quick-fire questioning by the audience and followed by a ballot. Speakers included a former political secretary to Tony Blair, two MPs, one former cabinet minister, PPCs, former MPs, journalists, bloggers and, most importantly, "ordinary activists". The format was a great leveller, respecting not status or achievements past or present but the quality of the idea and the way it was presented.
This fringe showed that Labour is fizzing with the energy and ideas to help map a route to more progressive Britain. Ben Bradshaw even tweeted from the event: "Best fringe attended for years great mix of fun and serious ideas from #lab11 new generation and some old." The challenge for Labour will be to make pitches to voters which are similarly engaging, address their concerns and show vision.


The Times publishes my suggesting idea of 'state Etons' to diminish the power of private schools

We cannot abolish private schools, because we are a free country, but we must lessen their grip on the higher echelons of power
Sir, Patrick Tobin (letter, Oct 7) states that the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference will have “spluttered” on hearing Eton-educated David Cameron “denouncing” them for practising “educational apartheid”. Both the HMC members and Mr Cameron are being disingenuous. Mr Tobin may try to get private schools such as his off the hook by laying the blame for this “apartheid” on “political diktat”, yet the very existence of a class of schools which offer their excellent service solely on the basis of the wealth of parents, must necessarily create a divide with schools that provide education for all, based on a child’s universal need for and right to a quality education. Perhaps what is needed, in order to overcome the “Berlin wall” that Anthony Seldon refers to in his letter, is “State Etons” which will offer pupils the very same quality of education currently reserved for the offspring of the rich.
We cannot abolish private schools, because we are a free country, but we must do all we can to lessen their relentless grip on the higher echelons of power in the UK, as evidenced by numerous reports, including those by Alan Milburn and the Sutton Trust.
John Slinger

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Sunday Times publishes my letter on QE

Out of print

The £50 billion of quantitative easing (QE) you referred to (“Bank poised to print £50bn”, News, last week) comes on top of a previous £200 billion showered on banks that have actually hoarded the money to restore their balance sheets, showing that QE is little more than Orwellian doublespeak.

The money has not been “printed” and is therefore not being spent in an economically productive way by ordinary people doing ordinary jobs or running businesses.

John Slinger, Editor of Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour’s New Generation, Rugby, Warwickshire

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/regulars/lettersandemails/article793746.ece#next (£)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Citizens' QE is needed to get money into the 'real' economy

Last month, The Guardian published a letter of mine calling for Citizens' Quantitative Easing. There has never been more of a need for this policy than now. Instead of piling more electronic money into the coffers of banks, which resolutely refuse to lend it on, or cutting taxes (which loses the Government revenue), simply printing money and giving it to the people in the form of vouchers which can only be spent locally and through SMEs or traders will give a much needed boost to the REAL economy. It's been done in Taiwan. It can be done here. It should be done here.

When I hear on the radio this morning that "£75bn is being created, given to the banks in the hope that / to encourage banks to lend a little more or with lower interest rates, into the real economy" I am angry. So we give them £75bn and then only "hope" they'll do what is essential. This is crazy. How many other sectors would get such largesse on the off-chance they'll do what is required in the national interest? My scheme gives £200 each at cost of £9.6bn. The next round of QE is equivalent to £4500 each. This is, to coin a phrase, 'crazy money'. It's just electrons in computers in the final analysis, so why not put these electrons to good use in the real economy rather than shower it on the people who got us into the mess in the first place, ad infinitum?

Based on Question Time last night, when one audience member advocated something like Citizens' QE, I suspect that the people are getting more and more bewildered at how £75bn can be magicked from thin air, but their local NHS centre is cut, or their youth centre which cost £200k per year, is closed. Seems like monetary activism is reserved for the large banks and the City while the rest of us are expected to make do with Cameron's "can-do optimism".

People won't buy this for much longer. Not least when we go into recession again or the banks, yet again, need re-capitalising and Osborne comes to taxpayers for another bailout. It is simply politically unacceptable and there will be political and social consequences which are not pretty.

I suspect we are in the calm before the storm. The defenders of the status quo have a lot more explaining to do to ordinary people to show them how this 'system' works in their interests.

The Guardian publishes my letter comparing Cameron and Churchill's "can-do optimism" - Churhill USED the state to win WW2

Churchill applied "can-do optimism" to fighting the second world war. He also deployed the state – factories were requisitioned, food rationed, soldiers conscripted, infrastructure built etc. Optimism, while helpful, is not enough. If the ordinary and vulnerable in society have nothing but the patronising "can-do" spirit of a cabinet of millionaires to help them through this economic turmoil, they will soon start listening to Ed Miliband's call for a "new bargain".

John Slinger
Editor, Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour's New Generation

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Rugby Observer print my letter on cuts to youth services

The Rugby Observer

Youngsters hit by cuts

I HAVE learned a homework club being run in Rugby by Norris McKenzie has closed following a cut in its funding made by the county council.
Given the rioting we as a nation saw in August, it is a disgrace our young people must bear the brunt of the cuts to services being made by the Conservative-led Government and Conservative-run councils in Warwickshire and Rugby Borough.
Services such as this homework club are just the kind of 'Big Society' initiative the Government likes to trumpet, and yet as the young people of Rugby are discovering, it is often little more than empty rhetoric.
Under this Government we have record youth unemployment, the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and no plan for economic growth. Our young people deserve more and only Labour, locally and nationally, can offer them a better future.

John Slinger
Labour Party member and former RBC election candidate

Friday, 16 September 2011

Letter to Rugby Observer on need for Citizens' Quantitative Easing

Copy of my letter to the Rugby Observer (not published)


As we contemplate the publication of the Independent Commission on Banking this week, we should reflect on the double-whammy suffered by 'ordinary' people. Despite the financial crisis not having been of their making, they are both being required to fund the bailouts through and also suffer the most as a result of the cuts to services and tax rises. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (which is respected by the Government) says in its study today, living standards for families will be down 10% and the poorest will suffer most from the austerity measures brought in by George Osborne.    

Throughout all this, the Government has shown a willingness to offer largesse to the banking sector. In addition to huge taxpayer-funded bailouts, the Government, via the Bank of England, has printed £200bn through Quantitative Easing. This was done, we are told, to encourage them to lend into the 'real' economy. They are not doing so. What is required now is not more of the same, but what I've termed Citizens' Quantitative Easing, which directly benefits ordinary people, doing ordinary jobs, creating real and socially productive economic activity. Citizens' QE, could comprise the issuing of a £200 voucher to all over the age of 18 which would be time-limited; non-transferable; non-cashable by the recipient; and limited to the purchase of certain goods and importantly, services from SMEs rather than large corporations. 

The money used to cash the vouchers would be created, or 'printed' by the Government, and as such would not require further borrowing. On ONS population figures, such system would cost £9.6bn - small change compared with the hundreds of billions of taxpayers' money already spent propping up the banks. Critics will argue that such a move would be inflationary. It is more likely that the powers that be do not want to let the cat out of the bag that the kind of state intervention done in an instant for the City can actually be replicated on behalf of ordinary citizens. Were such news to leak out, who knows what citizens might demand.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger (Labour Party member and Editor of Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour's New

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Guardian publishes my letter calling for Citizens' Quantitative Easing

The Guardian today publishes my letter calling for Citizens' Quantitative Easing. The letter was in response to Simon Jenkins' column.

The idea of Citizens' QE will be the idea I present (in 2 mins) at the Pragmatic Radicalism Labour Party fringe event on Monday 26 September.


Simon Jenkins says correctly that the objective should be "people spending, shops ordering, factories reopening and services employing"; and a voucher scheme for leisure spending, as tried in the Far East, warrants support. In addition to huge bank bailouts, the Bank of Englandhas printed £200bn through quantitative easing. This was done, we are told, to encourage the banks to lend to the real economy. They are not doing so.

What is required now is not more of the same, but citizens' quantitative easing, which would directly benefit ordinary people doing ordinary jobs, creating real and socially productive economic activity. Citizens' QE could comprise the issuing of a £200 voucher to everyone over the age of 18 which would be time-limited, non-transferable, non-cashable by the recipient and limited to the purchase of certain goods and services from small- and medium-sized enterprises, rather than large corporations. The money used to back the vouchers would be printed by the government and would not require further borrowing. Such a system would cost £9.6bn – small change compared with the hundreds of billions of taxpayers' money already spent propping up the banks. State intervention done in an instant for the City can be replicated on behalf of ordinary citizens. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Will the real David Cameron please stand up - the 'Hug-a-Hoodie' speech (2006) re-visited

It's interesting revisiting Cameron's  'Hug-a-Hoodie' speech from 2006 in the context of the recent riots. 

There are some interesting pearls of wisdom contained therein...

That film is set in my own neighbourhood in London - North Kensington, Ladbroke Grove, Harrow Road.
It's a very different Notting Hill from the one you see in Richard Curtis films.
Is he trying to imply that the comfortable street in which he used to live before moving to Downing Street was akin to the deprived areas nearby? Was that street full of £1million-plus houses actually a 'hood, or a ghetto?

Kidulthood is not really about bad kids.
Even the villain is clearly suffering from neglect and the absence of love.
The characters are simply children in circumstances none of us would want to grow up in.
Their reaction to those circumstances is not good.
But it is natural.
Crime, drugs, underage sex - this behaviour is wrong, but simply blaming the kids who get involved in it doesn't really get us much further.
It is what the culture around them encourages.
Cameron seems to be suggesting that criminality is "natural" if you grow up in certain circumstances. He also suggests it is down to "culture".

He goes on to say...

Of course, not everyone who grows up in a deprived neighbourhood turns to crime - just as not everyone who grows up in a rich neighbourhood stays on the straight and narrow.
Individuals are responsible for their actions - and every individual has the choice between doing right and doing wrong.
But there are connections between circumstances and behaviour.
The last sentence is revealing...It could have come straight out of an Ed Miliband speech.

So when you see a child walking down the road, hoodie up, head down, moody, swaggering, dominating the pavement - think what has brought that child to that moment.
If the first thing we have to do is understand what's gone wrong, the second thing is to realise that putting things right is not just about law enforcement.
It's about the quality of the work we do with young people.
It's about relationships.
It's about trust.
Above all, it's about emotion and emotional development.
Again...more out of central casting for the social liberal...

If the police stand for sanctions and penalties, you stand for love.
And not a soppy love! I don't see anyone soppy here.
But it is about relationships.
It is about emotional security.
It is about love.
Oh how the tune changes when 'events, dear boy, events' get in the way...
"It is about love" - did he really say that?...

It all leads me to conclude that Tony Blair really did have it right when he added into Labour's 1997 Manifesto: 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.'  It is wrong to over-emphasise either side of this equation. The recent debate about the response of the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband falls too easily into the trap of suggesting that either man is over-emphasising either the 'causes' or the 'crime' element.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Riots - let's keep things in perspective and remember Blair's mantra: tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime

Out of a UK population of 62,260,000, approximately 2,275 people have so far been arrested for rioting (note arrested, not charged or even convicted).

This is equivalent to 0.0036% of the British population.

Assuming (a big assumption) that the majority of rioters were aged 14-29, the figures change to:

13,324,000 - population in 2011 of 14-29 year-olds in UK.

Therefore, arrested rioters form 0.017% of 14-29 year-olds.

As a nation, we are understandably in the midst of national soul-searching about the causes of the riots. Jonathan Todd's article in LabourUncut should be required reading for our political class at this time. As he ably points out, neither right nor left has a monopoly on wisdom and the events of last week were a national tragedy requiring a national response.

The post-riot process of analysis of what went wrong at the macro and micro level is legitimate, necessary and can help us tackle both the criminality on display and some of the deep-rooted cultural, social and economic problems which have been allowed to fester in the UK. These problems are not confined to deprived areas, indeed it is insulting to the vast majority of people living in deprived areas to insinuate that simply living in such an area somehow leads inexorably to looting.

The UK has many deep-seated problems which successive generations of politicians and yes, ordinary citizens, have failed to tackle. These include (in no particular order), include but are not limited to: inequality of opportunity in education, the breakdown of the family unit, poor parenting, ineffective challenging of violent tendencies of boys from an early age, an unequal society, rampant consumerism, lack of a sense of community, lack of time for people to commit to their own communities, lack of youth resources, poor job prospects, economic short-termism, etc.

All this and more must, and is, being considered by our political leaders, including David Cameron and Ed Miliband. However, we shouldn't forget that the vast majority of Britons did not riot last week. The vast majority of young people did not riot last week. As with general criminal activity, what was displayed last week, was the ability of a minority to impinge upon the rights of the majority.

Again, as with general crime, we must not tolerate this and must do all we can to prevent it. A previous Prime Minister had a phrase which encapsulated what must be done - "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". Substitute 'riots' for 'crime' and we can move beyond the predictable criticism of the post-rioting analysis of both left-wing and right-wing politicians. To talk of 'causes' doesn't excuse the criminality. However, to imply that what we witnessed last week was mere criminality, is fatuous.

Readers may also recall that the PM mentioned above, Tony Blair, was castigated for having attempted to tackle the very criminal and anti-social behaviour we saw last week. He attempted this with ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) and through his 'Respect' agenda. He was, of course, pilloried from left and right for doing so. To some extent, his agenda failed. He and his government were not able to fully tackle crime and the causes of crime. But they tried. We in the Labour Party must take up the baton now.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Headlines you don't want to read if you're a Tory, Pt.III

Cameron attacked over ‘broken promise’ after fall in NHS budget

in The Times here (£)

Oops, there goes the key plank of their detoxification strategy...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My letter on policing published in The Times

My letter on policing published in The Times today:

Sir, The resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson will sadly not be the panacea he and many others hope for. The Met seems to have problems throughout the ranks. Many examples of poor performance at the lower ranks are compounded by flawed managerial and leadership decisions, as shown by the phone-hacking case.

Stronger, more intelligent leadership is now required, and this could be achieved via an “officer corps” of university-educated officers. The Armed Forces have officer corps and in virtually all other parts of working life, a degree is a prerequisite. It is time to drag the Police Service into the modern age.

John Slinger

It can be read here (PAY WALL)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pragmatic Radicalism pamphlet launched this evening

The pamphlet I've edited with the able help of Jonathan Todd, is launching tonight at an event in the House of Commons featuring Ed Miliband's adviser Lord Wood and Shadow Minister Luciana Berger.

More details at www.pragmaticradicalism.com.

Anyone who wants to come along, please email me at john.slinger@pragmaticradicalism.co.uk. It's in Committee Room 21 at 6.30-8.00pm.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Headlines you don't want to see if you're in No 10 - part III

David Cameron is in the sewer because of his News International friends

By the Chief Political Commentator of The Daily Telegraph, Peter Oborne, no less. Oborne writes today:

The series of disgusting revelations concerning his friends and associates from Rupert Murdoch’s News International has permanently and irrevocably damaged his reputation.

The killer blows come here:

Until now it has been easy to argue that Mr Cameron was properly grounded with a decent set of values. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make that assertion any longer. He has made not one, but a long succession of chronic personal misjudgments.

He should never have employed Andy Coulson, the News of the World editor, as his director of communications. He should never have cultivated Rupert Murdoch. And – the worst mistake of all – he should never have allowed himself to become a close friend of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of the media giant News International, whose departure from that company in shame and disgrace can only be a matter of time.

Monday, 4 July 2011

It's official, artificial intelligence kind of likes Ed Miliband but not Dave Cameron and mistook Nick Clegg for country music!

I was tipped off about clever artificial intelligence online robot, Cleverbot today. You can talk to it, and it replies using a database of people's previous answers - or as I prefer to believe, it actually is the world's first truly artificial intelligence. The reason I believe it actually is a new form of life, is it's uncanny knowledge of the UK political scene. It even seems unsure of who Ed Miliband is, seemingly confirming the recent poll showing that 23% of respondents confused Ed with brother David. Cleverbot also mistook Nick Clegg for "country music", which is an easy mistake to make.

Here is my exchanges with Cleverbot this evening:

Do you like Ed Miliband?

I don't understand.

Do you like the leader of the Labour Party?

Kind of.

Do you like David Cameron?

Not really.

Do you like Nick Clegg?

No. I don't like country music.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

New pamphlet from Labour's New Generation - website now live

I'm editing a new pamphlet - Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour's New Generation.  The website is now live - http://www.pragmaticradicalism.co.uk/.  Please take a look and get involved in the debate.

You can also follow this on Twitter #PragRad

You can join the Facebook group here.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Headlines you don't want to read if you're a Tory - Pt 2

This from The Sun...ouch...just when they thought they'd saved at least a shred of their reputation as being tough on law and order, out creeps more news of how fiscal tightening means weakening of our sentencing...

Ken Clarke...the paedophiles’ pal

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Headlines you don't want to see if you're a Tory (and a few, on occasion, you do want to see if you're Labour

This is the first of a series of posts pointing to headlines in the national British press that I believe, as a casual and slightly-informed observer, will be regarded with world-weary abhorence in the press office at Number 10.  Given that I'm entirely biased (in a non-mean-spirited way) in favour of Labour and against the Tories, I shall add in some gems which will be greeted with glee in the Labour press office.

Here we go:
Today's headline is from The Times (paywall):

Key reform stalled as No 10 gets the jitters

Or this on the front page of The Daily Telegraph:

Milburn: NHS reforms are 'car crash'

And one nice one from The Guardian for Labour:

Miliband puts Cameron under pressure over coalition plans to cut cancer patients' benefits

Monday, 6 June 2011

Shock news bulletin: students ARE deterred from university by higher fees

David Willetts MP, Universities Minister, said the following in November 2010:

"Our proposals are progressive, because they help to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to go to university..."

Yet we read today in The Times (pay wall)that:

"Tens of thousands of young people are expected to abandon plans to go to university, put off by higher fees and an ailing, graduate job market.  Vice-Chancallors are preparing for a collapse in the number of applications next year."

I am sure I am not alone in thinking that it was entirely predictable that young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, would be deterred from going to university by £9,000 fees. 

We must remind the Government at all opportunities that their policies are making Britain less meritocratic.  Going to university, for those who are suitably qualified, should be a right, not a privilege.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Phew, I'm not English - Naughtie's DNA journey shows it's still alright to be anti-English on the Today Programme


I just heard some baffling comments from James Naughtie, the Scottish presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. He was talking with a geneticist who has analysed his DNA to see where he is 'from' genetically. The banter with fellow presenter, John Humphrys (a Welshman) was good-humoured, but it revealed to me how making jokes about Englishness, or the English by a non-English person, is seemingly totally acceptable, while even good-humoured mocking of this kind about black people, or Jewish people, or Chinese, for example, would rightly be deemed outrageous by most people.

If I recall correctly, Naughtie said, on hearing that his ancestors left England for Scotland some 500 years ago - "that's long enough". Humphrys can be heard shouting "he's English".

He then quipped to his Welsh presenting colleague: "at least I'm not Welsh".

He also said, perplexingly, "at least I'm not a black goat from Brittany" [ie implicating that Humphrys was], to which JH said something like, "steady on, I'll have to get the Commission For Racial Equality on"...

Can you imagine if you replaced the word "Welsh, or English", with African or Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Irish or Chinese...? I know I'm conflating ethnicity with religion here, but you get my drift. If it would be wrong, for instance, for a Jewish presenter to joke about his relief at not being a Muslim, or for a white person to express relief about not having genetic links to Africa, then it should not be acceptable for Jim Naughtie to make the kind of statements he did this morning.

This was followed, bizarrely, by an interview with a social anthropoligist, who has written a book about what defines 'Englishness". The interview was basically a run-down of the English stereotype, including the fact that to be English, you must suffer 'alienation' and use the word "typical" whenever faced with a problem.  
Can you imagine English and Irish presenters of a Scottish-based radio programme joking about their relief at not being Scottish, before interviewing a social anthropologist about Scottish cultural stereotyes?  No, nor can I.

With Scottish nationalism on the rise and a sense that people on this island are increasingly defining themselves in narrow terms, we must guard against idle banter about ethnic identity which can set the cultural backdrop for much more sinister forces.  I don't like stereotypes, and feel uncomfortable with outward shows of nationalism and triumphalism - perhaps it's because I was born in England...

Monday, 30 May 2011

New Facebook Group - Stop Scapegoating Sharon Shoesmith

My good friend Haydn Brookes and I have just set up a Facebook group - Stop Scapegoating Sharon Shoesmith.  It is hardly the most popular cause, but we feel it is an important one nonetheless.  The tawdry way in which the media (including the BBC) have connived at creating a moral panic around the case of Baby Peter's tragic death and have whipped up hatred of Sharon Shoesmith, prompting our political class to dance to their tune, is a shameful and shocking indictment of mdern politics.

The Facebook group is here.

Our views can be read here:

This group is for people who feel that Sharon Shoesmith has been scapegoated, first by the media and then, in large part because of the media, by the political class.

Rather than analyse what it is about British society that spawns the kind of people who would so abuse children in their care, the British media would rather turn its fire on the social work profession, and in this case, Sharon Shoesmith, who was head of Haringey Social Services at the time of the death of baby Peter.
Rather than analyse whether or not Governments of all political pursuasion have adequately funded social services in the UK, the media would rather attack social workers.

Politicians are beholden to the tabloid press when it whips up campaigns of hate against individuals and both of our major parties are providing a case study in 'decison by tabloid'.

It is to be expected that tabloids would act like this. However, the BBC is shamefully dancing to their tune, despite being an allegedly unbiased and impartial, dispassionate observer.

Look at the BBC News Online coverage, with its headline from Ms Shoesmith's Today Programme interview which takes one phrase she uttered, that she "does not do blame", under intense, persistent questioning by a surprisingly tabloid John Humphrys, took it out of context and gave the impression that she is a cold, uncaring, irresponsible person who is seeking to evade all responsibility. See the coverage here.

Humphrys' interview on Saturday's Today Programme is here.

is a low point for both his career, for the Today Programme and for the BBC's editorial policy, for they clearly all had an agenda and it was to extract from Ms Shoesmith some kind of comment about blame. Either she said she was to blame - RESULT - or she said she wasn't to blame (she did though, accept responsibility) - again...RESULT! She sought to set out the context of a large number of child deaths in similar circumstances both before and after Baby Peter. But Humphrys resolutely sought to prevent her doing this.

It seems the BBC does not want to risk the wrath of the tabloids, or to be een by that fraternity of being 'pro-social workers'.

People who share the above sentiments should communicate with Ms Shoesmith and let her know that the entire country is not against her and has not villified her.

What kind of a message does the way she has been treated by both politicians and the media give to young graduates considering entering what must be one of the most challenging, under-rewarded and thankless professions in the country? When you are over-zealous you are 'stealing children from their parents.' When you give parents the benefit of the doubt, and something terrible happens, you become public enemy number one. And your paymasters, the Government, are all too keen to take their cues from Fleet Street.

I am not a social worker. I do not believe (although I cannot know) that Haringey Social Services was blameless in the case of Baby Peter, but the treatment of Ms Shoesmith has a very nasty whiff about it.

Milibands choose same wedding reasons as Mr & Mrs Slinger

Tanya and I were delighted to see that newlyweds Ed and Justine Miliband chose the same readings for their wedding as we did.  An extract from Captain Corelli's Mandolin and I Carry Your Heart With Me, a poem by the American writer e e cummings.

I fully expect Ed to now sign up to my entire political agenda, including the immediate creation of a Citizens' Assembly instead of the House of Lords (to be selected by lot, as with jury service) and action to create a genuine meritocracy in which the wealth of your parents have no impact at all on your life chances.
And I expect to read that his favourite band is Depeche Mode.
And....[shut up now John - Editor!]

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

'Soft on crime' is a dangerous tag for a Tory-led Government

If I were a Tory strategist (not Lib Dem, because of course the Party traditionally rejoices in being 'liberal' on law and order) I would be very, very worried at the lee-way being granted to Ken Clarke.  He is single-handedly destroying the Conservatives' reputation for being a (not the, thanks to Tony Blair and Labour Home Secretaries) party of law and order. 

Ceding such ground is a very dangerous move for the Government.  Ordinary people, for good reason, regard sentencing and indeed the criminal justice system in its entirety, as too soft on criminals and too disinterested in both the rights and treatment of victims and the sensibilities of the vast majority of people who obey the law.

Being tough on crime is not right wing, it is simply the sensible policy for a party which is serious about wishing to win the trust of the people and ultimately, gain their support to become the next Government.  We must start addressing more of the people's concerns and move our line of sight far away from our rather unattractive navels.  We must start listening and we must remember that our core Labour values are highly relevant at this time, not least on crime.

If I were a Tory strategist, I would be quaking in my bones about these headlines.  This is an opportunity for Labour and one that we must seize. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Leading financial columnist slams the Tory-Lib Dem lie on the financial crisis

Anyone in any need for an alternative view of the financial crisis that doesn't subscribe to the pernicious, misleading narrative so successfully created by messrs Osborne, Cameron and Clegg - that all our economic woes are Labour's fault, please read this illuminating column by one of the most respected financial journalists - the London Evening Standard's Anthony Hilton http://www..co.uk/markets/article-23949717-its-pure-folly-to-blame-the-unforeseen.do.

His last paragraph is telling. He reminds us that the 10% fall in GDP, the unemployment, the lost businesses, the bankruptcies, the depression, the hundreds of thousands of young people cast on the scrap heap - all are unnecessary, all were avoidable and all were NOT the fault of Labour's decisions in office. I concur with Hilton, elements of the financial sector were to blame and yes, they have got off lightly. We are paying the price for their greed. Next time they come begging for bailouts the people will not roll over so pliantly.

Friday, 13 May 2011

The Guardian publishes my letter on private schools, privilege and university education

Published in The Guardian here.

You write that "David Cameron insisted that the proposal would not create privileged access to universities for rich students" and quote him as saying "university access is about being able to learn, not about being able to pay" (David Willetts on back foot in cash-for-places row, 10 May). Surely this is disingenuous, as rich students (or, to be more accurate, the children of rich parents) have privileged access to universities already by virtue of attending fee-paying schools.

Why is the principle contained in Cameron's quote applied only to university education? The answer is that tackling the true inequities of Britain's school system, beyond tinkering at the edges, is off limits for all political parties, for it is in the fee-paying sector where the dominance of the wealthy throughout our society takes root.

Yet until this occurs, meritocracy will remain a pipe dream and the potential of millions of children will be squandered. 

John Slinger


Thursday, 12 May 2011

My letter on private schools and privilege is published in The Guardian today

Published in The Guardian here.


You write that "David Cameron insisted that the proposal would not create privileged access to universities for rich students" and quote him as saying "university access is about being able to learn, not about being able to pay" (David Willetts on back foot in cash-for-places row, 10 May). Surely this is disingenuous, as rich students (or, to be more accurate, the children of rich parents) have privileged access to universities already by virtue of attending fee-paying schools.

Why is the principle contained in Cameron's quote applied only to university education? The answer is that tackling the true inequities of Britain's school system, beyond tinkering at the edges, is off limits for all political parties, for it is in the fee-paying sector where the dominance of the wealthy throughout our society takes root.

Yet until this occurs, meritocracy will remain a pipe dream and the potential of millions of children will be squandered.

John Slinger