Jonn @NewStatesman – on the politics of “hard choices”


On George Osborne’s latest round of cuts, and the strange political euphemism of “hard choices”. 

Whenever politicians start talking about how tough they’re being, in fact, it’s like a flashing neon arrow pointing down the path of least resistance. If a policy actually requires guts, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to the fact, as that’ll just tip your voters off that someone’s about to get stiffed. Better, then, to reserve the label for making yourself feel big while doing exactly what you wanted to do anyway. 

You can read the rest here.


How to drain the poison from the MPs’ pay debate


I know, I know, we’re all sick to the back teeth of comment pieces arguing that MPs have their faces in the trough/aren’t really paid that well when you really look at the numbers, actually [delete according to taste and income]. But we have the same arguments every time this topic comes up, and I’m not sure our inability to talk sensibly about these things is conducive to good government. So here’s a couple of ideas on how we can drain this swamp before we all go mad and start bashing our heads against things.

You can find out what those ideas are here.

Jonn @NewStatesman: Who speaks for Europe?


Loads of people, apparently, they’re just bloody terrible at it. On the frustrating uselessness of Britain’s pro-European pressure groups:

I’m pro-European. I very much want to make that clear. 

I don’t just mean in this article: it’s something I increasingly want to make clear all the time. When I’m talking about politics; when I’m discussing my holidays; when someone tells me it’s my round – whatever the topic, I find myself compelled to tell people that, I know it’s flawed, I know it’s imperfect, but yes, I remain committed to the rather unlovely continental bureaucracy hanging around at the far end of the Eurostar. 

The reason I’m beset by this urge to tell all and sundry that I’m pro-European is simple: no one else seems to share it.

You can read the rest here.

Jonn @NewStatesman: Bits and bobs


A couple of recent political bits from over at the Statesman.

Back in March, I wrote this, on why Michael Gove’s tendency to dismiss everyone who disagrees with him as a bunch of cackling Trots is coming back to bite him. Starts thusly:

You know who I hate? Children. Little bastards, with their snot and their questions and their boundless curiosity about the world. You know what I’d do, if it were up to me? I’d thwart them. Seriously, I’d thwart the bloody lot of them. I’d deprive them of vital general knowledge, not teach them to add up or spell, and we’ll see who’s laughing then, eh?

You can read the rest here.

More recently, I wrote this, on why the Tories’ refusal to countenance even the slightest criticism of Margaret Thatcher are going to shaft them come 2015.

The Clause 4 moment that everyone was waiting for, the thing that would show that the party had really changed, was a proper assessment of its last government’s record: one that admitted that parts of the country had been lain waste, and showed that the new leadership had learnt from its predecessor’s mistakes. But David Cameron never did that. Until someone does, it’s hard to see how the party could ever win a majority.

If that isn’t enough to convince you (and why wouldn’t it be?), you can see my reasoning here.

Jonn @NewStatesman: The Gove Delusion


I don’t have any particular problem with Michael Gove. He’s set a goal and moved steadily towards it, so by the standards of this government, I suppose, he’s a superstar.

But I am utterly bemused by the bizarre way in which his rather modest achievements are constantly boosted by the Tory press. So, I wrote an essay for the New Statesman explaining why, if you actually know the first thing about education policy, he really isn’t all that:

Back in 2010, a bunch of councils took Michael Gove to court for his decision to snatch away money they’d been promised to rebuild their schools. He lost. The court couldn’t order the government to re-fund those projects (judicial reviews carry no such power). But Mr Justice Holman described the process as “so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power”, and demanded Gove reconsider.

To give you a hint of the gulf that’s grown up between Gove’s press and objective reality, here’s how the Spectator headlined the news: “Overall, a win for Gove.”

You can read the rest here.

Jonn @Londonist: London elects. (Reluctantly.)


Today, at last, is the day of London’s mayoral election. Lie back and think of England, it’ll all be over soon.

Anyway, to get you through the day, here are the various sickly recipes I’ve concocted for Londonist in recent weeks.

One Thursday morning in April, I spent a faintly surreal hour following Ken Livingstone round an old people’s home in Peckham. He talked about snakes.

In preparation for that one, I read his manifesto (yes, all of it) and wrote it up. After the event, his press team kindly deigned to answer some of the questions there hadn’t been time to ask.

For this still wondering how to vote, in every sense, here’s my guide to London’s constitution and electoral system.

And finally, a team effort: given both Ken and Bozza’s enviable reputation for gaffes, what would it take for one of them to finally rule themselves out? Here are some ideas.