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The United Kingdom, Israel, and the United States would be foolish to rule out an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report this week is expected to reveal that Iran has an active nuclear weapons programme and is close to achieving it’s goals.

Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom have all suggested in recent weeks that that a military strike on Iran cannot be ruled out. Russia and China have both voiced opposition to the IAEA report, fearing that Iran will respond negatively and accelerate it’s programme in self defense.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran has said that the contents of the IAEA report are “fabrications”.

For several years, the IAEA has warned of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and in the past Israel and the United States have applied sanctions to the regime to slow their nuclear weapons programme. Israel and the United States have, according to. There have been fears about “undisclosed nuclear activities involving military related organisations”, including research into the process required to enable the initiation of a nuclear chain reaction.

So – What are the option? Unless Iran backs down, which is unlikely, it seems that the alternatives are further economic sanctions, which tend to hit those that are not responsible for them, or it is military action, potentially along the lines of the Operation Opera strikes that the Israelis conducted against Iraq’s nuclear facilitites.

One thing is clear – Iran can not be permitted a nuclear bomb. A country which has nuclear weapons, like North Korea, but in the heart of one of the worlds oldest conflicts would produce a human disaster on a scale not seen since the 2nd World War.

Military action may distasteful, but it may be the only way to stop a belligerent Iran from developing atomic weapons. Proactive counter-proliferation has been the best mechanism for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons since the Cold War.

Tony Blair, speaking on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks said:

If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability it would destabilise the region very, very badly.

 

Once they have a nuclear bomb, it is too late to do anything about it.

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Tony Blair pays tribute to Philip Gould, “a constant advocate for the British people”

Credit/Office of Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

Philip was such a huge part of the renaissance of the Labour Party. To me he was my guide and mentor, a wise head, a brilliant mind, and a total rock when a storm was raging.

“He became indispensable. He was always a constant advocate for the British people, their hopes and anxieties. So his political contribution was immense.

“But then as his illness gripped him, he became something more. In facing death, he grew emotionally and spiritually into this remarkable witness to life’s meaning and purpose. No one who saw him in those last months was unchanged by him. And the bond between him and his wonderful family was a joy to see.

“I feel very proud and privileged to have known him and to have been his friend.”

Alistair Campbell has also written a moving tribute to Philip Gould.

RIP

The Challenges for the Left.

We are exactly one year away from an American General Election that may see Barack Obama ousted as President of the United States. It is unlikely, but it is possible. There are no left-wing parties in Government in major western democracies outside of America and Australia. The last significant left-wing Government in Western Europe, that of Spain will almost surely fall in their National Elections on the 20th November two weeks from today.

The challenges for the Left in the West are immense. In recent years the Left has taken what could be generously described as an electoral hammering, and this is a trend that is unlikely to falter in the wake of the financial crisis. This crisis has undoubtedly been the biggest single challenge to face the Left since the rise of Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US.

In Greece, a Socialist Government is trying as hard as it possibly can to destroy the Eurozone. By putting the question of the next bailout to a plebiscite, it is likely that Greece will reject austerity and bailouts from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will cease. Greece will become bankrupt, and will leave the Euro. Italy, which has the second highest debt:GDP ratio in Europe (around 120%) will almost surely follow. The Italian Government is planning €47bn of cuts before 2013, when the next elections are scheduled. Meanwhile, the assortment of left wing parties in Italy embark on large anti-austerity protests and marches.

Meanwhile, what could charitably be called the “organised Left” in Britain, the Occupy London Protests are sitting outside St Paul’s Cathedral engaged in “protest”. It pains me to use that expression for what they are doing. Polling has shown that their general aims are supported by only 20% of people whilst 46% are opposed. Clearly, the 99% that the OccupyLSX protests claim to represent aren’t very keen on the idea. Ed Miliband, writing in the Observer has expressed sympathy with the protesters.

In short, words fail me at the state of the Left in Europe.

However. There is hope.

In France, the victor of the Parti Socialiste primary elections, Francois Hollande, has the best chance of any in Europe of forming a left-wing Government. It is not a finished matter. The unpopularity of the incumbent President, Nicholas Sarkozy, will not be enough to persuade the French People to elect their first left-wing government since 1988. The relative popularity of the French National Front, and their leader Marine Le Pen, are polling around 20%. The moderate Hollande also faces opposition from the hard-Left.

If the election were held today, Hollande would win 39 per cent of votes, up eight percentage points from three weeks ago, whilst Sarkozy would have 24 per cent, up three points according to French pollster LH2.

A squeeze from both the far-Right, with le Pen pushing an anti-Corporatist, anti-EU, anti-bank agenda, and from the hard-Left whose candidate polled a respectable 17% in the PS Primary. Hollande faces a tough test to make it through to the 2nd round of the election, and then beat Sarkozy or le Pen.

He must build the broadest possible coalition to defeat Sarkozy.

Francois Hollande represents the best chance that the Left have to regain a foothold in Europe.

To be successful once again, the Left must emulate the great left-wing leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries. We should look to the Blair’s, and the Obama’s for the future of the Left. Where people’s personal finances are in danger, they will look to the Conservative alternative for a smaller state, lower taxes and fiscal credibility.

The Left should not forget that fact.

Fiscal credibility, in an age of no money for the Left to spend will be more important than ever. The State must be made more efficient, and will inevitably have to become smaller in some areas. We should set out a strict deficit reduction programme to regain the Nation’s economic trust. Francois Hollande has committed himself and his Party to reduce France’s deficit to less than 3% of GDP. We should do the same. We should set out a vision for the future, and a plan for growth in the new economy.

But. And it is a but. We should remember our achievements in Government. We introduced the National Minimum Wage. We gave record investment to schools and hospitals, and achieved record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.We are not in the financial position that we are in because we employed too many teachers and nurses. We cut crime of all types by 32%. We devolved power to Scotland and Wales.

More importantly, we found peace in Northern Ireland. People had been searching for 400 years, and the Labour Party found it.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apologise for our mistakes. We should say sorry. We should then say “but”. We are not sorry for our achievements in Government. We should not be sorry for our successes.

We can, should, and must do it again.

The 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto said this on the EU:

The European Union has evolved significantly since the last public vote
on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain committed to an in/out referendum

Remember this?

We will scrap unfair university tuition fees so everyone has the chance to get a degree, regardless of their parents’ income

Do they ever keep their promises?

Tim Montgomerie has produced a list of 10 facts that should cause every Conservative to worry. It’s really quite good and it shows the huge amount of work that is still required by the Conservative Party to move them to a position where they can win elections. It also can provide a great deal of comfort to Labour supporters when they see the scale of the task before the Conservatives:

Read the background to this: http://conho.me/pO5tux

In Defence of Stephen Twigg

Stephen Twigg, Labour's new Shadow Secretary of State for Education

 

Stephen Twigg, who has replaced Andy Burnham as Shadow Secretary of State for Education told the Liberpool Daily Post that:

On free schools, I am saying that we need to apply a set of tests, that we are not going to take an absolute policy of opposing them.

The tests should be: will the school raise standards for pupils and parents, will it contribute to a narrowing of the achievement gap between rich and poor and what is the wider impact of that school?

This statement has kicked up quite a fuss about Labour reversing their previous position on Free Schools. I, for one, think that these comments are very sensible when considered in the light that Labour will inherit any number of Free Schools when we win re-election.

The tests that Stephen Twigg outlines are not based upon ideological doctrine in the same way that Michael Gove’s belief in the Free Schools ideal is, but is based upon sound logic and consideration of the needs, and opinions, of parents and school teachers.

Indeed, asking the above tests of the whole Free Schools project shows a subtle, but important distinction when compared against Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy – Free Schools will now be judged as a whole, rather than individual cases. The tests that he lays out will ensure that the project is providing a quality service for the consumers of the service, i.e school children and parents.

By enusring that the Free Schools project provides help for poorer children and the wider community, Labour will provide a Progressive alternative to the Government’s program of introducing profit making into the British education system.

The former Shadow Secratary State for Education, Andy Burnham attacked the Conservative-led Government’s free school proposals as being a:

Free-for all, where good schools can be destabilised and where teachers can be employed without teaching qualifications.

In some cases this is true. Evidence has shown that this can be true.

However, by assesing the benefits of Free Schools as a whole, rather than indavidually, and ensuring that the projects can be shown to contribute to society by narrowing the ‘education gap’, and ensuring that schoolchildren receive the highest standard of education possible, Labour’s support for the Free School concept could provide a template for future schools projects by a new Labour Government.

Labour would be unwise to oppose a project that is here to stay. We should instead seek to improve and refine the model for the benefit of future generations. 

 

The 50p tax rate does not work.

320,000 people, or the top 1% of earners pay half of their over £150,000 income to the Treasury. Many of these people are wealthy enough that they can afford measures to legally avoid tax, or even take their bank accounts offshore.

The 50p rate of tax does not work for two reasons.

Firstly, if as the IFS reports, the top rate of tax is causing a £500m net loss to the UK Treasury.

Tax payers money, and money from those earning less than a tenth of the top rate threshold, is spent on enforcing the 50p rate of tax.

That is a potential half a billion pound loss to the Treasury.

£500m that could be spent on teachers, doctors and nurses. Money that could be spent on Sure Start, Building Schools for the Future, or a cut in VAT to help hard working families.

Secondly – The other 99% of people aspire to be part of that 1%.The 50p rate of tax is a disincentive to those who seek to grow their small business, create jobs and train young people.

Cutting the top rate of tax would stimulate growth amongst wealth creators in Britain. Profit can be a powerful motivator, and a potent tool for helping the poorest in society especially where both owner and worker receive a fair deal.

In 1997, the New Labour manifesto pledged that: “There will be no increase in the basic or top rates of income tax”.

This is a pledge that should be made by Labour once again.

By saying that Labour would not raise income tax once again, we would avoid the gesture politics that plagued the Party in the 1980s.

Other measures which are economically efficient, and raise more money for the Treasury should instead be considered. An increase in inheritance tax, combined with an increase of the threshold or a land value tax which cannot be avoided. Both of these measures would ensure that Britain remains competitive in the global economy.

Liberal Democrat President, Tim Farron said this to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham:

“Are we all in this together? Well, not if we give tax cuts to the rich!

“At a time when 90% of the country is struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, giving a 10p tax cut to those who need it the least, would not just be economically witless, it would be morally repugnant.

“Now of course, all income tax is temporary!

“Income tax was introduced as a temporary measure in 1798 during the Napoleonic wars.

“So my solemn promise to you is that we will get rid of this temporary measure, as soon as we stop falling out with the French.”

Supporting symbolic measures such as the 50p rate, which are economically inefficient and harm the UK economy is a shared by many in the Labour Party, and it is in some ways appealing.

It is not realistic.

If Labour is to prove, as in 1997, that we understand aspiration and are serious about promoting growth and jobs, and providing opportunities for all in society, we should pledge to abolish the 50p rate of tax.