Tony Benn: 'a giant of 20th century politics' - video | Politics
I have lived in Salford for 50 years. I raised my family here; this is where my roots are. Salford is a great city and we have a proud history. But there is a terrible and shameful secret that haunts our community, one that we have to be honest about and address. The Bank of Salford could start a revolution in local finance | Ian Stewart | Comment is free
Is Britain sleepwalking towards a European exit? | Politics | The Observer Slowly but surely, Britain is detaching itself from the European project, slipping into an EU membership category of its own, one marked "outlier nation". That, at least, was the impression left by statements emanating from a European Union summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on Friday, where the UK's reputation as the club's most awkward and unhappy member was underlined yet again. It is also the clear lesson from a landmark four-nation poll of attitudes to Europe carried out by Opinium in the UK, Germany, France and Poland and published by the Observer. The survey shows not only that British people regard the EU much more negatively than do citizens of other countries, but also that the citizens of other EU nations think Britain brings few benefits to the union. As a result, more people on the continent seem happy to see us leave than seem keen for us stay.
Migrants coming to the UK since the year 2000 have been less likely to receive benefits or use social housing than people already living in the country, according to a study that argues the new arrivals have made a net contribution of £25bn to public finances. People from European Economic Area countries have been the most likely to make a positive contribution, paying about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the 10 years from 2001 to 2011, according to the findings from University College London's migration research unit. Other immigrants paid about 2% more than they received. Recent immigrants were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than people native to the UK and 3% less likely to live in social housing, says the report written by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini. Migrants contribute £25bn to UK economy, study finds | UK news
'Out here, a cascade of bad news this week was ignored by the unhinged government benches. Report after report revealed mismanagement of just about everything.' Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images The madness of the Tory party defies belief. Forget banging on, these out-of-control crazies are in the grip of a brain fever, crushing themselves to death in a stampede for the Euro-exit . Top dogs fight over the bone of the leadership, but who in their right mind wants to lead this rabble? Amid Tory disarray, Labour's critical moment looms | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free
Within two years, almost 7.1m of the nation’s 13m youngsters will be in homes with incomes judged to be less than the minimum necessary for a decent standard of living, according to a new report. The figures, which emerged a week ahead of George Osborne’s Budget, suggest that an unwanted legacy of the Coalition’s squeeze on spending will be to leave more children living close to poverty. They coincide with a new survey for the Resolution Foundation think-tank, which found that almost seven in ten of people believe the Government does not understand the financial strains they face. The impact on children of the economic downturn and austerity measures was underlined by an analysis that concluded that the number of under-18s living in households below minimum income standards would increase by 690,000 between 2010 and 2015. Majority of British children will soon be growing up in families struggling 'below the breadline', Government warned - UK Politics - UK
The north of England: The great divide
The glossy newspaper supplements are out, the BBC (supposedly a hotbed of subversive lefties) is preparing wall-to-wall coverage, MPs are going on holiday for two weeks, the populace is ready to put out the flags and the picnic tables. In an orgy of deference, we are celebrating Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne. If any other country were paying homage to an unelected head of state in this way, while the living standards of the majority of the population fall and schools and hospitals struggle with diminishing resources, we would call it "the cult of the personality" and probably think about invading. According to a Guardian/ICM poll last week, the royal family is more popular than ever, with only 22% believing Britain would be better off without a monarchy, and as few as 10% preferring, on the Queen's death, an elected head of state rather than a King Charles or William. Forget the Queen's jubilee. Let's have a knees-up for the Magna Carta | Peter Wilby | Comment is free
LONDON — It is winter, the middle of December, and I find myself making an odd phone call. Pacing around my living room, I kick at the carpet as I dial the number. "Hello?" I say. "There's no time," the man on the other end of the line answers immediately. Mosquebusters - By Spike Johnson
Over the next two months the great domed interior of what used to be the British Museum’s reading room, where Marx researched Das Kapital and Bram Stoker (creator of Dracula) was a reader, is host to Hajj, a remarkable exhibition that celebrates the most sacred event in the Islamic calendar, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The exhibition seems more than a cultural event—a milestone, perhaps, in the public recognition and acceptance of Islam at the heart of British life. Conceived by British Museum director Neil MacGregor and the museum’s Islamic art curator Venetia Porter with assistance from the Saudi Arabian government, it is an unusual collaboration between a museum dedicated to secular learning and the current rulers of Islam’s holiest sites, who have lent many important works. Presiding over its opening in late January were Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, deputy Saudi foreign minister and son of the Saudi King, and Prince Charles—the heir to the British throne. Bringing Mecca to the British Museum by Malise Ruthven
Britain and the EU summit: Europe's great divorce
An amateur government The coalition is dysfunctional and unpopular, unsure what it wants to do © The Prime Minister’s Office For all the modish talk of modernisation, all too many of the bad headlines and public relations blunders that have beset the coalition have sprung from an old-fashioned, old-chums-all-together way of conducting the serious business of government. This amateurish culture is far from the purposeful professionalism of Margaret Thatcher’s days. A typical example was the ruination in 2010 of some perfectly sensible proposals to improve the management of the national asset of commercial forestry which ended up in an unmannerly row between the Forestry Commission and the National Trust on one side and the government on the other.
Britain and the EU: The Failure of a Forced Marriage - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International It was to be expected. And now it's official: The British have elected not to join the treaty governing Europe's new financial system. Prime Minister David Cameron refused.
Exit from comment view mode. Click to hide this space LONDON – At the just-concluded European Union summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron vented decades of accumulated resentment stemming from his country’s relationship with Europe. Europeans were appalled at how the last-minute injection of finicky points about bank regulation could stymie what was supposed to be a breakthrough agreement on the regulation of EU countries’ budgets. Cameron’s supporters in Britain cheered and portrayed him as a new Winston Churchill, standing up to the threat of a vicious continental tyrant. The British “Non” - Harold James - Project Syndicate
Following in Henry VIII's Footsteps? Would a new Act in Restraint of Appeals such as Henry VIII enacted against Rome in 1533 achieve a similar objective for Eurosceptics today of ‘repatriating powers’ from the EU? asks Stephen Cooper. 'The Pope suppressed by King Henry VIII', 1534, in a contemporary woodcut from Foxe's 'Actes and Monumentes'In the early 1530s Henry VIII had a considerable legal problem. Only the pope could grant him a divorce, but Clement VII was unwilling to do so. The case coincided with a widespread feeling in England, at least among proto-Protestants, that too many cases were being decided in Europe, which ought properly to be decided at home.
Here's something you definitely shouldn't do if you're even a tiny bit leftwing and suffer from high blood pressure: look at a document called the Forbes cost of living extremely well index. Forbes is an American business magazine, and its cost of living extremely well index is an annual survey of price trends for things popular at the very, very top end of the income distribution. The riveting thing about the CLEWI isn't the headline attached, because that tends to be the same every year. The headline news is usually that very expensive things have gone up at a rate higher than the rate of inflation – often by as much as double. Common sense leads us not to be surprised at that, since people who don't care what stuff costs will logically not mind too much if the cost of that stuff goes up. Why the super-rich love the UK | Society
It's been argued that inequalities in wealth in Britain greatly exceed inequalities in income, an injustice which a tax on the value of property would begin to address. And there seems no doubt at all that property, even now, is insanely overvalued. Very ordinary one-bedroom flats in very ordinary parts of London are 10, 15 times an average London salary. The "mansion tax" is quite misnamed. If the tax bites at property values of £1m, it will affect semi-detached Edwardian houses in Clapham. But the price of property needs to bear some kind of relationship to a normal income. Philip Hensher: Is it a castle – or is it just a source of capital? - Philip Hensher - Commentators
Maria's front door has a house number – 48 – screwed in to the wood and its own letterbox, but it isn't possible for a postman to get here to deliver anything. The healthcare assistant's home is a shed in the back garden of a shabbily converted bedsit property, only accessible via the main building and through the filthy, rubbish-strewn yard. Her thrifty landlord has recycled the front door from another property, but Maria likes it; she likes having her own entrance and her own privacy. On balance, she thinks the shed is a better place to live than the crowded HMO (house of multiple occupation) she was in before. It has electricity and a tiny kitchen which leads into a bathroom, but there's no hot water, so when she wants to wash she needs to boil two huge vats of water on the stove. Maria sleeps on a mattress on the floor, the furniture is broken, and the flat is heated only by a feeble electric radiator. The woman who lives in a shed: how London landlords are cashing in | Society
George Osborne's growth policy is turning British cities into Detroit UK | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free
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