After Kids Company: the problem with charity

The closure of the Kids Company charity amid a flurry of allegations has raised much controversy; opinion is divided between support for its charismatic founder and former chief executive, Camilla Batmanghelidjh, and serious concern about the way in which the charity, dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in society, has operated. Batmanghelidjh was […]

Cameron does God

I am an atheist, although up to the age of 13 I was largely educated by priests (the two are probably connected).  I was brought up to a hot, sweet Anglo-Catholicism which I now utterly reject but which did mean that I absorbed an awful lot of scripture at an impressionable age. Sometimes it comes […]

Why gagging charities is consistent with the Big Society

Tomorrow, the The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill is due to receive its second reading as part of a rushed progress through Parliament.  Most of the charitable sector is in uproar over the possible consequences for charity campaigns –  for example the Guardian today carries a view from a leading human rights […]

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 […]

Austerity and the redefinition of citizenship

The imposition of austerity economics – often in conflict with democratic mandates – has obviously had profound economic effects; but it has also at heart a democratic issue.  Austerity has in many cases been imposed in the face of democratic mandates or by the installation of “technocratic” governments; but I believe that at heart it […]

One Nation Labour and the abandonment of politics

Like many others, I’ve found the concept of One Nation Labour elusive.  The term is deployed in almost every utterance from senior Labour politicians, but its meaning remains obscure.  Like everyone who has studied nineteenth-history politics, I’m familiar with the origin of the phrase One Nation in reference to Tory politics and Disraeli, and it […]

Tories are trashing their core supporters too

On the eve of the Tory Party conference, the anger among their opponents is very much – and rightly – focussed on the impact the coalition is having on the most vulnerable in society.  Unemployment, cuts in jobs and services, privatisation of the NHS, the bullying of the sick and disabled by Atos.  Single mothers […]

Combining income tax and National Insurance – simplification or ideology?

There is much speculation that in his Budget tomorrow, George Osborne will announce plans to merge income tax and National Insurance Contributions (NIC).  I have some real concerns about this.  On the one hand, to the individual in employment, it would appear that income tax and NIC could easily be merged into a single tax, […]

A party dying on its feet

Nearly thirty years ago, a politically-engaged student and president-elect of the Oxford University Liberals, I sat in a dingy hall in Llandudno with several hundred of my fellow party members and heard my then leader, David Steel, tell us to go back to our constituencies and prepare for government.  It was heady, inspiring – and […]

Big Society Blues

The problem for David Cameron is not that the the Big Society is controversial.  Cameron’s bigger problem is that it has become a joke.  It’s taken its place in the long list of initiatives in which British politicians have tried to reconnect with their electorate, and have merely ended up as objects of ridicule.  Remember […]