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0093  Make sure you have not missed the previous edition of LivePolitics  Check it out  
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Week 47
Friday 22 November

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Moving My Way




The countdown to London's congestion-charge launch is now accompanied by calls for tolling to be extended to the M25. These partial measures will all end in tears.  The only satisfactory solution is my scheme for a universal Daily Usage Charge.

Let me know what you think

Government Parties
a new political phenomenon

The penny has finally dropped.  The growing sense of distance between the Labour Party and the Government has long puzzled me - and I now I understand why. Tony Blair, having occupied the Labour nest, is set upon using the institutional structures of Labour - cuckoo-like - to create a new, and entirely different, form of Government Party...

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Is Gordon Brown using the top-up fee issue to define and stake out his leadership bid? Jonathan Freedland thinks so, writing on Wednesday in The Guardian..

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Limiting Limited Liability

Upon the collapse of ITV Digital its two promoters (parent companies Carlton and Granada) simply "walked away" and abandoned all the creditors of their own stricken subsidiary.  Now International Power, the parent of the collapsing UK power-generator TXU, has similarly "walked away" - abandoning creditors owed £2.78 billion

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Speaking in Brussels ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Prague, NATO Secretary General George Robertson was scathing about the military investment programmes of NATO members.  The problem, he claimed, was that NATO troops were not action-ready.  He paints a horrifying picture of military and political ineptitude.

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Workers’ Rights
not Union Rights

The assertion of "Union" rights is not a popular cause.  But the development of stronger systems of workers' rights strikes a chord with everyone. And as a socialist, I am more interested in workers’ rights than in union rights.

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Wonderful  Water

Good, positive news about solutions to impending water shortages in the Middle East - a little good news, for a change...    back to top

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Walwyn-Jones & Mendoza

This is the House of Lords case which decided last week - establishing that a statutory residential tenancy could be taken over as of right by the same-sex partner of a deceased statutory tenant.  Gay campaigners made much of the "precedent" - but that was much overstated...

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Homosexual Adoption
Liberal pitfalls

My daughter Katharine, who is an adviser and Policy Officer to the Children's Society, has been actively supporting the measure empowering gay and Lesbian couples to qualify as adoptive parents.  She took me to task this week for exaggerating the difficulties of such adoptions.  I certainly did not mean to imply that there were greater difficulties for homosexual couples than for heterosexual - merely that the law regulating all "unmarried cohabitation" was in disarray, and widely misunderstood. neither lawyers nor politicians have anything to be proud of, in this sector.  Labour should grasp the nettle of reform and create a new, properly-designed legal platform for all such civil relationships, creating a formal framework to perform the same legal functions as those of marriage - this is what I said.

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A nasty, vicious Bill

The full text of the Government's Criminal Justice Bill has now been published, and debated in the Lords. It is a nasty, autocratic, measure. It is designed to whittle away the shield which English law has traditionally thrown around "the accused", changing the balance of judicial procedure still further. For the accused - all accused - it would become much more difficult to contend with the natural autocracy of the Police and the prosecuting authorities.  The scales of justice would be changed irreversibly in favour of the "Prosecution".

The Bill would make our society a nastier, more vicious, more unjust place to live. As with many Government proposals, it contains many potential tactical "concessions", and only a truncated Bill will  reach the statute book.  But if passed in its present form, it would strengthen the State against the citizen, critically destabilise our system of criminal justice, give rein to communal prejudices of all kinds, and lead to the unjust punishment of many more innocent people. 

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Burning injustice

The Firefighters' dispute, running in parallel with the remuneration scandals of City remuneration, have triggered another orgy of public resentment over the injustice of personal rewards. These outbursts are a periodic feature of our media lives, never reaching any considered conclusion.  But in restraining the scandal of corporate greed and dishonesty, there is much that we could do.

thanks to BBC News for the blazing pic...

"New Localism"
is flawed

David Walker, writing in The Guardian on Wednesday is entirely right to challenge Labour's concept of localism.  But he reaches, the wrong conclusion, paradoxically reinforcing by, the case for the destructive over-centralisation which we are currently experiencing.  Like many denizens of the capital, I suspect he has simply missed the point. The problem is that Labour's version of localism is deeply flawed. True localism has nothing to do with "earned autonomy", whether conceived in No 10 or No 11 Downing Street.  It means being entitled to do what you wish to do, within however limited a compass.

Let me explain what I mean.

Don't top-up, pay up

Financial crisis stalks our universities. This issue poses a real challenge to your political judgment.  For on the one hand, it must be common ground that graduates benefit enormously, personally and financially, from the successful completion of higher education.  But that does not make it wise to present all future students with the prospect of a huge lifetime debt...

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Foundation Hospitals

This confused debate is leading nowhere.  Alan Milburn is bidding to pioneer an important new idea for the management of public services generally.  But he is wrong to limit the idea to a small number of Foundation Hospitals - he should apply the principle to all hospitals...

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