Tories, blood plasma and altruism

The Government has sold a majority holding in Plasma Resources UK, the state-owned enterprise that forms the basis of Britain’s blood plasma supplies, to an American venture capitalist, Bain, for £230m.  While it is not clear whether this will affect the blood that is given by millions of donors across the UK, it has certainly […]

Delaying signing-on for a week: getting the facts

George Osborne’s 2013 spending review announced, among other things, a raft of measures branded as “supporting work”.  These include more regular signing-on, mandatory language training and, most notoriously of all, a seven-day delay before signing-on.  This package overall is claimed to save the exchequer £300m per year – £245m in 2015-16 coming from the seven-day […]

Labour, spending and benefits: how to miss that open goal

Forget the funeral: this has been an atrocious week for the Con Dem economic experiment.  First, the UK’s credit rating has been downgraded by another ratings agency, thus demonstrating that even against its own success criteria – Osborne has repeatedly stated that his aim was to maintain the UK’s AAA rating – Coalition Economics is […]

Thatcher: mythologies and legacies

The past week was inevitable. It was always going to be the case that when Margaret Thatcher died, there would be a torrent of Thatcherabilia in the media; much of it adulatory, some of it reopening the old wounds from the 1980s.  The State Funeral question had been well-trailed; it was always clear that the […]

Revisiting the poor law: The Coalition, Liam Byrne and the language of sanction

On a hill, overlooking the centre of Brighton, sits the vast Victorian bulk of Brighton General Hospital. Many Brighton residents will be unaware that it is the former Brighton workhouse – built in the 1860s at a huge cost of £40,000, to serve a town that is far smaller than it is today (the 1831 […]

Tough on Frosties, tough on the causes of Frosties?

A statement by Labour Health spokesman Andy Burnham to the effect that a ban on high-sugar and high-fat foods, including breakfast cereals like Frosties, should be investigated, has led to a tide of ridicule across cyberspace, along with some fairly predictable responses about the nanny state and political correctness gone mad.  It’s unfortunate that what […]

Nothing strange about the death of English liberalism

Reading Nick Clegg’s New Year message was a sad and sobering affair (leaving aside any impatience at the growing habit of politicians great and small issuing such messages).  It read as really little more than excuse-mongering and post-hoc rationalisation in defence of policies that appear to rub against the natural grain of the Liberal tradition; […]

Policing and democracy: why you should vote in the sham election nobody wants

In a few days’ time, electors all over England will go to the polls to select Police and Crime Commissioners.  All the signs are that the turnout will be very small indeed, and there is little evidence that participants have been able to generate any real enthusiasm. One of the reasons is that nobody really […]

The epic stupidity of Nick Clegg’s house deposit plan

As the Liberal Democrat conference gets under way in Brighton, Nick Clegg used an interview on the BBC to announce a plan to allow parents to borrow against their pension funds to allow their children to get the deposit needed to get them on to the housing ladder.  Clegg claimed that this was the politics […]

Railways, renationalisation and political risk

Recent announcements that rail fares will rise by up to 11% have produced a significant political reaction.  Formerly supine Tory MPs for commuting constituencies have been making subversive noises; on the left, the call for renationalisation has been strong. It’s difficult to argue with renationalisation in principle.  Privatisation has resulted in a hugely inefficient structure […]