Labour and Liberties

Ed Balls has recently stated in an interview that Labour had taken wrong decisions on civil liberties. In the interview with Andrew Marr, he described the efforts to pass laws allowing 90 days detention without trial as “a step too far”.

The change of position from Labour inevitably has political consequences. I think it’s fair to say that nobody would argue this is the sole reason Labour lost the election. Yet this seems a surprisingly reflective time for Labour. Some reflection was done during the leadership contest, as could only be expected, but now there seems to be a renewed emphasis on what Labour got wrong and what the party thinks should be corrected.

Labour is trying to shed an authoritarian image, but I suspect there is a lot more to it than civil liberties. Labour was also seen by some as bureaucratic and intervening needlessly – a perception that will be very difficult to change politically. To do so would almost certainly require policies to be proposed, which would in turn be playing their hand far too soon.

Student Protests of a Different Kind

Student protests are hardly anything new. Whilst I was at university, campus was regularly littered with posters and banners for various causes.

Arguably, this often diminished their effect. It was always easy to dismiss any demonstration as “just another protest”, accompanied by a few (and it was only a few) students keen to get involved not because they supported the cause, but because it was a protest.

This all becomes part of the image. Already sometimes portrayed as drunk and hedonistic, it’s fair to say the public haven’t had a huge amount of sympathy for students.

The protest in London against an increase in tuition fees was meant to be an exception.

The demonstration had already changed direction by the time the crowds arrived, with general protests against the coalitions cuts joining the march, adding weight to suggestions that those at Millbank weren’t just students protesting about fees.

Those who argue in favour of the aggressive demonstrators claim that the planned peaceful protest would be ineffective. Those who argue against them say that the violence damaged the NUS’s message. Either way, there certainly seem to be some very different ideas about how to get their message across effectively.

Does the NUS need a new approach? Can students be taken entirely seriously as a consequence of the protests, or do they need to do something a little different?


EDIT: Sorry, this was written before I spotted this article on the BBC. Looks like the NUS are trying to get directly involved in politics.

Silicon Valley in the UK?

David Cameron has revealed plans to transform part of London into the UK’s take on Silicon Valley, creating the East London “Tech City”.

The Wikipedia page currently has an enormous list of agreements that have been made to develop the area, with investment from the likes of Facebook or Google.

Whatever your views on whether or not this will be a success, if it does succeed things could get pretty interesting.

But it does raise one question: is this a bit of a gamble? The UK’s economy is mostly built on finance (I imagine this is why the government is loathe to tax banks too heavily), so it would be a bit of a stretch to suggest this would immediately transform the economy. Any tangible results will also take time to develop.

Assuming it has the potential to succeed, will politicians (and the media) have the political patience?

Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity

On Saturday, the comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington D.C. At the end of the day, Jon Stewart made a short ten minute speech about why he wanted to hold the rally – arguing that there was a spirit of cooperation in America where not everyone was portrayed as an extremist.

He argued that holding an opposing view shouldn’t be a reason to demonise somebody, summarising that “we live now in hard times, not end times”.

Stewart self-deprecatingly remarked that:

I know there are boundaries for a comedian-funny-talker-guy, and I’m sure I’ll find out tomorrow how I have violated them

Nevertheless, Stewart seems to have taken on a role as a serious political analyst, and the rally seems to have struck a chord with some people.

I’ve no idea what effect this will have in the long term. I’ve made predictions before, and that didn’t work very well, so I’ll try and resist the temptation. The only thing I will say is that I doubt it will affect the mid-term elections today. But if Jon Stewart’s ideas gather followers things could get quite interesting in American politics.