Category Archives: New Labour

Well Hung- The End.


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This is the last issue of Pluto 2010, it’s been emotional. And with this, comes my final opportunity to grace the pages of your student rag with some acquired opinion.


By the time this column goes to print, we will have seen the last of the first ever leaders’ debates and will be in the final week before the next General Election.


The question you know you should be asking yourself, according to the faces coming through your letterbox and the reporters trying wildly to gauge your opinion, is who will be making the big decisions when you’re… making the big decisions?


Despite prime-time TV banter, minority name-checking and #Iagreewithnick, according to the Poll of Polls Poll (yes, really), on 27th April, no one party has taken a decisive lead.


The Conservatives are coming out on top with 33 per cent of the vote, with the Lib Dems on 30 and Labour flagging on 28.


Although the Conservatives would win the public vote in this scenario, because of the peculiarities, for wont of a better word, of our ancient voting system, Labour would still gain more than 30 more seats (and 176 more than the Lib Dems despite getting two per cent fewer votes).


Because of this, a hung parliament is now 1/2 on bet365.com, if you put £2 on, you would only get £1 back. Plus your stake.


So who or what exactly will be hung?


The Liberal Democrats, assuming they gain the fewest seats of the three would naturally want to support the winning party, but who technically wins in a race like this?


A Lib/Lab coalition is easier to envision ideologically, but will be a union that spells the end of Gordon Brown, as Nick Clegg stipulated in offering his support.


But if Labour don’t win the public vote but still get the most seats overall, big questions should be raised about the fairness of the voting system. Anyone can see that coming second, or, by most polls estimations third, but winning isn’t right. Will this finally be the end of First-Past-The-Post?


While the Lib Dems have always been pro-electoral reform, because it doesn’t weight so heavily the big two, the Conservatives are fiercely against it. They want to win. If they don’t however, they will need others support.


A Lib/Con coalition is less natural, although many councils (Preston city for example) work, somewhat, on a Lib/Con cooperative. Conservatives are Euro and Reform-sceptics, but will concessions be made?


Even as late as 15th April, the day of the first debate, the Conservatives were gaining 40 per cent in some polls, enough to get that much needed majority. Shouldn’t they be doing better?


Reuters also reported, or bragged on Wednesday that ‘Conservatives rake in more election funds than rivals’, £2.2m, compared to just £150,000 for the Lib Dems and there has been Facebook advertising, banners and leaflets coming through your door quicker than they can cut down the trees.


We may yet see a progressive Conservative government take power.

This is a great time of endings and beginnings, at university, where you live, if you’re graduating, where you will work, maybe you’ve fallen in love and you’re thinking about starting and family… Yikes. And in or country as well.


Polls can only give an indication of what will happen on Election Day. The public, given the best information that has ever been available must now spend the next week making up their collective minds.


In the words of the great actor, Errol Flynn I would like to say ‘I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it’.


I imagine Gordon is wishing he could say the same.


The End.

Generation why?

First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

From the top positions in society… right across the board… the highest earners, the ones with money and power, those setting your wages (while cushioning their own), steering your department, leading from the top…

Old, often overweight, unattractive (save silver foxes like Lib Dem Chris Huhne) men.

The average age of an MP is 50, and for most big jobs- think chief exec- you’ve got to have enough “experience” to merit the six-figure salary. Well, you’ve probably got less skills than a GCSE in IT for those trusty powerpoints.

Only 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in 2005, and according to a report from the Electoral Commission last week, more than half of 18 to 24-year-olds are not currently registered to vote.

This will be the first general election I and around 3.5 million other people aged 18-23 will be able to vote in. So, before I sign guys, why should I pick you?

With duck houses, moats and an all-round gloomy financial situation, it is hard to place our trust in such a shady, oft incompetent bunch. Especially when the only thing we have in common with them is that we both wear clothes.

But the Question Time event hosted by the Student Left Network here at UCLan on 5th March was a refreshing change to being dictated to by the dictators.

So, on arguably the issue of the decade for young people, that of tuition fees, what did the three main parties have to say?

Possibly most interesting was the claim made by Mark Jewell from the Liberal Democrats that, if they were to gain power, they would scrap tuition fees within two terms.

Free fees often sounds outmoded, most students accept that they will leave university with a mountain of debt. So is this just an empty policy aimed at setting them apart?

Both Labour and the Conservatives said that this would mean that not everyone who wanted to would go to university, why squash people’s aspirations?

But, Mr Jewell backed up his party’s policy by saying that everyone should have the option, but better provision should be made for people wanting to go into other, wholly worthwhile professions that don’t require university education.

The North West of England makes the highest contribution to the UK’s manufacturing industry. Skilled jobs, but probably not skills best acquired in a classroom.

With less people going to uni, as in the old days of free education, fees could be covered by taxes, and only those who wanted and needed to go should go. Simples?

Mark Hendrick, the incumbent Labour MP spoke of the millions invested in education since New Labour came to power in 1997, aided by a sheet of education facts.

But he was challenged on the Labour party’s “arbitrary” goal of sending 50 per cent of young people to university. On the face of it, yes, you’d expect half of people to do this, but do they really need to? And, as Nerissa Warner-O’Neill for the Conservatives pointed out- what about the 51st person?

She also said the Conservatives would be waiting for the outcome of Labour’s higher education funding review. Which, without representation from the National Union of Students, the biggest union in the country representing young people, the advice is likely to be proceed with caps off.

As someone who has been to two universities, studying two different things, I can only say that first time around, I probably wasn’t prepared for what university would be like. But there wasn’t any talk of compulsory gap year volunteering, an idea that has been touted, but without an ingenious funding model, is unlikely to come from the public pocket, which already has a massive hole in it.

Maybe tuition fees will be your Iraq War. Maybe you’ve got an idea you can pitch to your MP. “Single issues” are the explanation for people not engaging with politics in the traditional party sense.

So not that Labour’s move from socialist to “New Right” and Cameron’s Conservative yet hoodie huggers have anything to do with it? Young people aren’t the only people that don’t vote.

Check out First Time Voters Question Time on the BBC or on IPlayer, hosted by mum and child-friendly Dermot O’Leary. The fact that ‘Adults’ Question Time isn’t speaking to people is a question in itself, and the cool, torn graphics are vaguely insulting to your intelligence.

But, ultimately, you have to do your research, see through the spin and make up your own mind.

Jordan the next PM?

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=2148


WELCOME, and welcome back from your barbecue summer. Pack your bikinis away, say goodbye to the sun, and sense the sarcasm.

No matter how much sun there was in June, we will only remember having to ditch our umbrellas after wind meeting rain, culminating in us looking stupid and getting soaked anyway.

In fact, July has been provisionally touted as the ‘wettest on record’.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Met Office was in the business of weather prediction, but alas, at this stage long-term prediction is just hopeful guessing.

If they’d have guessed correctly, weathermen might have become the new slebs, rolling out of nightclubs. You’d never have to take a coat ‘just in case’ with your new bwf (best weather friend). But as it stands, they are now about as trusted as bankers, politicians and journalists.

Big Brother has been axed, although there will be one more series. The ‘great social experiment’ of the 21st century has ended up a refuge for the mad and fame-hungry.

And the golden couple, the ‘British Brad and Jen’, Peter Andre and Katie “don’t call me Jordon” Price have called time on their marriage. But don’t worry if you still need your fix, Ms. Price’s next tell-all show, ‘What Katie did next’, has been almost uncomfortably quick out of the pipeline. I’m getting a little weary.

According to recent news you Freshers are the brightest and best bunch yet to take your places at university. Congratulations, and welcome again.

Unfortunately a recent report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development would have us believe you are all staggering half-cut to your desks with your illegitimate children in tow. Yes, you are the smartest stupidest group we’ve had yet.

A 97.5 per cent pass-rate, the 27th year on year increase has left everyone pointing the finger. The Government are hailing it as another success but even exam boards are admitting it’s a little bit unbelievable. The same happened last year and Labour made a botch-job of fixing it by introducing the… what was it that week… the Diploma. Is anyone elsebored of this?

According to Facebook, it seems you are. More than one million of you have joined the ‘I Hate being bored’ Facebook group, where you can trade your friends (who needs ‘em) gather balls if you’re lacking, or collect coins, although unfortunately they aren’t legal tender. All of which we are promised are ‘very addicting’.

Great games? Bad English.

For those of you looking for a new daily dose of drama, then the upcoming General Election might have the excitement you’re after.

Thanks to Lee Bradshaw, outgoing Campaigns Officer on the Student Affairs Committee, all Freshers moving into university accommodation this year will be entered on to the electoral roll. So no excuses! All you need to do now is pick a side.

The Conservatives have been touted to win, but, as New Labour struggled with its promise of ‘radical centre’ politics so too might Cameron’s cohort be dogged by their oxymoronof-a-slogan, to be ‘progressive Conservatives’.

Labour would need drastic action to win back public opinion, which could come in the form of a leadership challenge, most likely from Alan Johnson. But after 12 years of policy catastrophes, in everything from foreign affairs to economics, the lectorate have probably had enough.

Labour might even be so dramatically defeated that we could see the Liberal Democrats taking the opposition for the first time in their 21 years. The Lib Dems have seen their profile increase as Vince Cable has been spot-on on our troubled economy, but would they go into an election looking to win?

There are various fringe parties, from the Pirate Party, to the internet-selected Jury Party; the trusty Greens and Socialist Workers and even the British National Party and its dubious copy-cats springing up across the land.

Confusing, possibly. But do not fret. Pluto will be on-hand in the coming months to make sense of it all for you. But if what Katie is thinking of a career move into politics, my decision will be a little more easily made.

Picture commissioned exclusively for Pluto- by Ben Hill.

Gordon the Gopher

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First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

The Labour Party Conference began on Sunday, and with that, you rightly expect some Labour Party Bashing. But I would actually, first like to congratulate Gordon Brown.

Following talks at the G20 in Pittsburgh last week, he has made it part of his party’s promise to use new laws and unprecedented ministerial pressure to come down hard on banks that still give out big bonuses.

He will also give regulators powers to force banks to build up their cash reserves, rather than paying out massive cash rewards.

But, Gordon, I ask. WHY NOW???

It is almost a year since bankers hit the headlines, when Fred The Shred made his fall from grace and swift disappearance from the media’s watchful gaze ( apparently a genuine photograph of Sir Fred will fetch you a cool thirty grand. But the holiday to whichever exclusive island he, Tupak and Elvis are cohabiting… is priceless).

People were outraged. Bankers were hung. Windows were smashed. And where was he?

So now, after having time to think about it, as our PM is famed for doing a lot of, he has come up with policy that the man in the street could have told him, after falling out of Wetherspoons, with his opinion informed only by The Sun.

The conference hall at Brighton was reportedly deserted as even loyal Labour supporters showed he couldn’t tell them anything they hadn’t already raged about after reading it in the Mail. Damage done.

The hall was however, packed for the real star of the show, back (for the third time in the Cabinet) by popular demand (from some factions), unelected and unafraid, Lord Mandleson of Everything. Tony Blair once said that the Labour Party would only change when it “learned to love Peter Mandleson”. If that is what has happened, it is only because they can’t stand Gordon the Gopher any longer.

Labour has pitched itself on the side of the middle classes at the conference. As opposed to Cameron’s Crew who have only committed to tax cuts on inheritance. Because they know which side of the fancy cracker their caviar is on…

But middle-class unemployment has trebled since the recession began, hitting everyone from six-figure-salaried-executives to the 300,000 young people who graduated in 2009 into the ever shrinking professional jobs market.

And Labour’s response has been too little, too late. The Job Search Support Scheme for Newly Unemployed Professionals has been given just £3million, compared to the£5billion floating around in Job Centre Plus. And as middle-class workers opt for lower-paid jobs, there are fewer jobs for people down the chain.

From bankers, to Gurkhas, to the recession, it’s like Gordon has been shut in a bunker only to emerge with policy after after policy after everyone has already gone home. And for this, it seems Labour might be finished.

Switch off the lights in the conference hall on your way out will you Gordo?

G20 protest- Gee, what a showing, but will they take notice?

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=1765

What a decade! As New Labour staggers to its timely death, this could be the most telling week we, the people, have had since the demonstrations against the Iraq War. Hopefully this one will actually make a difference.

The emergency G20 summit is due to open today- yes, April Fool’s Day could not have been any more fitting- and people are pissed off!


Activists and even usual apathetics are coming together, putting their differences aside and sticking it straight to the man in what the Guardian termed a ‘rainbow alliance’.


Whether they’re campaigning against globalization, capitalism, or war, for measures to combat climate change or for justice, a band of somewhat unlikely bed fellows has taken shape.


Everyone from trade unions, student groups like People and Planet, our old friends the CND (campaign for nuclear disarmament) and so-called ‘radical academics’ are taking to the streets.


So apt that the summit, and therefore the protests, are taking place in London where we have seen the mighty, gluttonous financial system’s vital organs burst.


Workers in the capital, including those at MTV were told to “dress down” so they would not be mistaken for disbanded City workers and targeted by the angry mob. The Met said before Saturday, the first day of demonstrations, that they expected it to be ‘very violent’ but goaded that they were ‘up for it, and up to it’.


Would these threats encourage violence so the protesters would undermine their cause? Or were they a warning made to discourage peaceful campaigners from joining the national picket line? Either way, the threat didn’t work and the violence didn’t materialize.


Because we aren’t the criminals here.


People’s disdain for the once lauded bankers manifested itself in an attack on Sir (I use the term very loosely) Fred Goodwin’s swanky villa. Criminality isn’t the answer of course. But the government should be asking itself why people feel they have to resort to such tactics in what should be a representative democracy.


Responsibility was taken by the group ‘Bank bosses are criminals‘ and whilst police action hasn’t been taken against any bankers in this country, they are said to be pursuing the perpetrators of what is probably best described as a petty crime.


UKFI, the body created to handle the government’s stakes in nationalised banks, is ‘considering’ using its (our) 70% stake to vote against a motion justifying Fred the Shreds hefty pension package. Finally! Why are they not getting the picture?


A video emerged last week of Tory MEP (why did he have to be a Tory?) Daniel Hannan giving Gordon Brown a royal roasting. The camera flicked to a typically defiant Brown who appeared to snigger and then continue with his game of noughts and crosses.


But many of you will still be asking, of all the different avenues of showing our disgust is anyone really going to take any notice?


After all, until now, and even now, there appears to be an unspoken conspiracy.

Everyone knows that quantative easing, printing money, won’t really work. It will devalue our currency. Everyone knows that some, many, maybe even all of our politicians, across party lines, have been taking advantage of an imperfect system that could not prepare itself for crafty lawyers and their legal loopholes.


So maybe that’s why no one can wear the white suite of Martin Bell and come out against corruption. The government, the business leaders and the media.


But Barack Obama is a fresh face at the conference. Could the public outrage and peaceful protest, coupled with this brilliant man, be the key to a future full of truthful politicians, free from greed in a world with a clear view to tackling climate change, poverty and war?


Is this too much to ask? As always in the politics of the day, only time can tell.


Anyway, the next important date for your diary? If a vote of no confidence isn’t taken against Brown any sooner, it will be the next General Election in May 2010. Ten years into the millennium that promised so much.


Here, again, the people will have their say, and as Mr Hannan finished on last week, the voters: “can see what the markets have already seen; that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.”