Government cowers in the face of the White Van Man (WVM)

In scrapping the proposed tax rise for the self-employed, Philip Hammond bottled an opportunity to get to grips with a changing labour market

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Philip Hammond’s announcement in last week’s budget that he would raise National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the self-employed was savaged from the start, seen in particular as an attack on male drivers of a certain vehicle of a certain colour.

“Hammond hits White Van Man,” declared the Metro the following morning, while the Sun screamed: “Spite Van Man”. Continue reading Government cowers in the face of the White Van Man (WVM)

Interview with Jon Lansman, Momentum founder

Back in January I interviewed Jon Lansman about his life and his political journey with the Labour left: from prominence in the 1980s to exile through the Blair years to Corbyn’s unexpected leadership win. 

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“The things I fucking do for socialism!”

This is what Jon Lansman exclaimed to Tom Watson on 15 June 2015, or at least, something similar. He can’t quite remember which word the expletive modified.

It was the deadline day for MPs to nominate candidates for the Labour leadership contest and Lansman was helping Jeremy Corbyn. Yet as a kidney donor he had an appointment to have a large sample of blood taken. Continue reading Interview with Jon Lansman, Momentum founder

Remainland grieves over Brexit

A public meeting about Brexit in Keir Starmer’s constituency highlights the country’s polarisation

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service, UK (8450776372)

This article was published on Backbench

St Pancras Church, consecrated in 1822, is renowned for its Greek Revival architecture, inspired by the Erechtheum and the Tower of the Winds, both on the Acropolis in Athens. The Tower of the Winds is said to be the first weather station in the world.

On Tuesday night it hosted people hoping for a different kind of European revival, which was an opportunity to gauge the political weather in this part of central London. Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras and Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, was holding a public meeting on Brexit. He was joined by Tulip Siddiq, MP for neighbouring constituency Hampstead and Kilburn, and Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council. Camden voted to stay by 75%: a Remain heartland. Continue reading Remainland grieves over Brexit

Alain Juppé: the cold, septuagenarian Conservative may be the best option For French progressives

Alain Juppé à Québec

This article was published in The Huffington Post

“I was the king in the family,” Alain Juppé claimed about his pampered upbringing. On a school trip to Lisbon, pleased to have escaped the family bubble, he was surprised to discover upon arriving that his overprotective parents had made the journey as well to check he was alright.

Now 71, Juppé is running to be the presidential nominee for the centre-right Republicans; he first became a minister over 30 years ago. He once declared that in French politics “only physical death counts, otherwise there is always the possibility of resurrection” and is the living proof of the statement’s veracity. Continue reading Alain Juppé: the cold, septuagenarian Conservative may be the best option For French progressives

Falling away

London Mar 15 2008 Stop the War protest AB 8

It is a pretty dire time to be on the centre-left in Britain. The Conservatives won an unexpected outright majority fifteen months ago. Labour was wiped out in Scotland at the hands of the SNP, which, however progressive it seems, is first and foremost about nationalism. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were reduced to just eight MPs. Continue reading Falling away

Book review: The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer

wellness-955796_1920.jpgFor anyone who has ever harboured doubts about the benefit of wearing a Fitbit or adopting the Paleo diet (where you only eat food eaten by early humans) this is the book for you. Carl Cederström and André Spicer explore the ‘wellness syndrome’. It has become a moral obligation, they argue, to constantly strive towards wellbeing. It is a never-ending task, leading to “anxiety, self-blame and guilt”.

The underlying philosophy of wellness programmes is that the individual has the power to overcome obstacles in their personal and professional life through thinking and acting differently. As examples in the book demonstrate, this is presented as the solution for challenges ranging from dealing with cancer to becoming rich. Continue reading Book review: The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer

What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.

Paris Shootings - The day after (22593744177)

“France is at war,” declared François Hollande, after last November’s attacks in Paris. Since then, he has had to declare it several more times. It is a strange sort of war. France fights not against a coherent, well-defined enemy, but against a pervasive ideology. The front line is now not just the streets of Paris but provincial cities and even the French countryside. Continue reading What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.