Saturday, 20 July 2013

Financial Times letter: The case for keeping Trident is far from settled

Published in the Saturday 20 July edition of the Financial Times and online.

The case for keeping Trident is far from settled

From Mr John Slinger.


One might be forgiven for thinking that by confidently asserting that “the argument for Trident is settled” (Editorial, July 17), you are seeking to obscure the fact that the opposite is true.

This supposedly robust argument is flawed on many levels. You state that Britain must retain the ability to inflict “unacceptable damage” on a potential aggressor and that “the possession of nuclear weapons is critical to the status of Britain and France ... and as members of the Security Council." Trident is a weapon of mass destruction designed to kill millions of civilians and as such it is inconceivable to imagine a British prime minister ever being justified in firing it. Our status as Europe’s pre-eminent military power, and our position at the fabled ‘top table’ of diplomacy, would be bolstered by reallocating the money saved by not replacing Trident on reversing the cuts to our conventional forces. After all conventional forces can, and sometimes must, be used in an increasingly dangerous world.

The public must be engaged in an open debate about this crucial issue and not told that the decision is a fait accompli. In January 2007, my father David Slinger organised a debate on the future of Trident. The main speakers were Michael Meacher MP and Bruce Kent from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament against Trident, and local MP for the Forest of Dean, Mark Harper (now Immigration Minister) and Dr Lee Willett, a defence and weapons analyst, in favour. In this Conservative-voting village, the hall was packed, a gripping, informative and passionately argued debate ensued and the outcome of the vote was 125 people voted against renewing Trident, 15 voted in favour of retaining it and 10 people abstained. Perhaps the argument for Trident is not as “settled” as your leader assumes.

John Slinger, Rugby, Warks, UK

Friday, 12 July 2013

Guardian letter: supporting Ed Miliband on trying primaries for selections

The following letter appears in The Guardian print edition, Saturday 13 July, and online here.


A primary solution to widening Labour Party democracy

We welcome Ed Miliband's bold speech setting out reforms to ensure that Labour politics is more open and that machine politics is consigned to history. Organisations like Pragmatic Radicalism, through its Top of the Policies events, are pioneering new ways to encourage the participation of the broadest possible range of people in Labour policy-making. We support Ed Miliband's view that Labour must "reach out to others outside our party" in order "to genuinely build a movement again", and agree that primaries may help this process. While no panacea, experimenting with primaries between now and the next election will show the British public that we are an outward-looking party that aspires to bring in a wider range of people as our candidates, not just a narrow elite.

John Slinger Chair, Pragmatic Radicalism
Cllr Mike Harris International officer, Pragmatic Radicalism
Jonathan Todd Vice-chair, Pragmatic Radicalism
Amanda Ramsay Vice-chair, Pragmatic Radicalism
John Mann MP
Gisela Stuart MP
Steve Reed MP
Jenny Chapman MP
Graham Jones MP
David Lammy MP
Ann Clwyd MP
John Woodcock MP
Kevin Barron MP
Lord Rogers of Riverside
Cllr Theo Blackwell London Borough of Camden
Cllr Simon Hogg London Borough of Wandsworth
Cllr Rachel Rogers Chair, Labour Group, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council
Robert Philpot Director, Progress
Joe Dancey Acting director, Progress
Peter Watt Former general secretary of the Labour Party
James Bloodworth Editor, Left Foot Forward
Hopi Sen Former head of campaigns, parliamentary Labour party
Cllr Mike Le-Surf Leader, Labour group, Brentwood Borough Council
Anthony Painter Author, Left without a future?
Cllr Stephen Cowan Leader, Labour group, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
David Goodhart
Jess Asato Labour PPC for Norwich North
Alex Smith Former Ed Miliband adviser/ Editor LabourList
Jonny Medland Secretary, Battersea Labour party
Atul Hatwal Editor, Labour Uncut
Lord Turnberg


Signed after publication (see above link to do so too)

Vijay Singh Riyait
Cllr Phil Jones
Maureen & Richard Ramsay
Rana Nisar
David Peters
Sam Dowling
Mark Hendrick MP
Jonathan Roberts - Parliamentary candidate, Thirsk and Malton 2010

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

My Guardian letter: Miliband understands that Labour will win by speaking for whole country. Trialling open primaries will help.

David Cameron has inadvertently given Ed Miliband an opportunity to remind voters that he is a strong leader who understands their expectation that parties should work in the interests of the entire country. To win the next election, Labour must focus on the concerns and aspirations of ordinary people, rather than internal party machinations. To help achieve this, it should try opening its parliamentary selections to the wider community, through open primaries.

John Slinger
Former member of Labour's national parliamentary panel

Read online.

NB: The Guardian edited my letter (perfectly reasonably). My original draft suggested safeguards to mitigate some suggested problems with open primaries, by saying:

'Suggested problems with this system could be mitigated by shortlisting powers being retained by constituency parties, and strict rules being established to limit both the amount of money and time that could be spent on contests'.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Letter in The Times: Democracy not served by paying MPs less than town hall bureaucrats

Available online here (£).

The Times 
Letters to the Editor 

Sir, Voters must consider carefully whether they want their MPs, whose job of representing constituents, holding the government and others to account, and scrutinising law is hugely important, to be paid less than the bureaucrats deciding their salaries.
Democracy and respect for the parliamentary process are not enhanced by insisting that MPs are paid less than a middle-ranking bureaucrat at a town council.
John Slinger 
Rugby, Warks

IPSA's mouth-wateringly high salaries point to a skewed debate about MPs' pay

The public ought to be aware that senior staff at IPSA itself are paid far in excess of an MP's salary of £66,396. IPSA Chair Sir Ian Kennedy is paid £182,000 pro rata (£700 per day). If MPs were to be paid this amount, it would equate to a 174% increase in pay, not the 10-15% being talked of. Other key staff are paid salaries of well over £100,000.

Looking at the salaries of other senior IPSA staff, as listed on this IPSA document, is also revealing.
  • Chief Exec of IPSA, Andrew McDonald is paid £105,000-£110,000. If MPs received a rise to that level it'd be 66% rise. 
  • Philip Mabe, 'Acting Director of Finance and Corporate Services' is paid £100,000-£105,000. Were MPs' pay to rise to this level, it would have risen by 58%
  • John Sills, who's listed as Director of Policy & Communications, is paid £85,000-£90,000. If MPs' pay reached this amount their salaries would have risen by 35.5%
Despite the moral crisis being whipped up by leading media commentators and government ministers (most of whom are paid far more than MPs), the public must consider very carefully whether they want their MPs, whose hugely important job of representing constituents, holding the government and others to account, and scrutinising law, should be paid considerably less than the bureaucrats making the recommendation about their salaries.

Democracy and respect for the parliamentary process are not enhanced by insisting that MPs are paid less than a middle-ranking bureaucrat at a town council. If you don't believe me about this last statement, just take a look at the pay on offer for people with job titles like 'Director of Business Strategy' (£90,000) or 'Executive Director, Adult Services and Public Health' (£118,884 to £129,201) at Guardian Jobs.



  • His rate of pay is listed as £700 per day (see IPSA's website here)
  • To calculate his approximate annual salary pro rata based upon the above document listing his daily rate as £700, use this salary calculator: Enter £182,000 and you'll see a £700 daily pay rate shown.