“Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power.” You will find plenty to read on the topic of power in this issue. The above quote is by Michael Foot. Perhaps not the best example to follow to gain power, but as one of the finest orators in British politics, I’ll recommend his advice on this occasion. Our cover interview (p52) is with a man who has enjoyed enormous power and craves it again. Amber and Caroline talked to Ed Balls for so long that he was late for his meeting with the party leader. He will never shake off his stereotype as a political bruiser, but he can be excellent company and we get him to relax and open up on much that is political and personal. Balls’ claim that he and Yvette don’t talk politics is a little hard to believe but he certainly knows his Americana – a trait he shares with his bête noire, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. George Osborne is extensively profiled by Simon McGee on p48. The future of both men seems bound together as we weather a period of enormous financial insecurity. As the most respected strategists in their respective parties, Balls and Osborne are the real powers behind their leaders’ thrones. Osborne has been carefully placing allies around the cabinet table and in wider government. Simon digs out some lovely details on this hugely ambitious figure and we again hear of his ambitions for the top job. Elsewhere, we interview key backbenchers, Graham Brady (p44) and Tony Lloyd (p90), who are both understated but crucial conduits between the two sources of party power, the leadership and backbenchers. And our ever-popular history section enjoys the considerable presence of Cardinal Wolsey, who makes our modern-day power-brokers look amateurish. His rise and fall is documented on p78. Finally, no coverage of power would be complete without Niccolò Machiavelli. The latest biography on the Italian is reviewed by Tristram Hunt on p84. Power, both current and past, always makes compelling reading. I hope you enjoy our content of the strongest of political currencies.
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On the cover Ed Balls photographed exclusively for Total Politics by Ray Burmiston on 2 November 2011 in Parliament, London.
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I f y o u w o ul dli k e y o u r l e t t e r p r i n t e d,
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T o t al P oliticsreservestheri g h t t o e ditl e t t e r s.
Absolute security IPPR advocate a new system of income protection for those temporarily unemployed (TP, November). But is this a distraction? The biggest welfare problem is the failure to protect the incomes of the poorest (whether or not they are in work). Left and right continue to conspire to blame the poor for poverty − regardless of the fact that no economic system has removed unemployment and not everyone can work.
The poorest 10 per cent of households in the UK survive on average incomes of about £6,500 per year. £4,500 of this income come from benefits or pensions, but 47 per cent of gross income is paid back in taxes. It is hard to imagine a less generous system. We do not need new systems of income security for the middleearners; we need a system of absolute income security for everyone, one that lifts the poorest out of poverty. Dr Simon Duffy Director, The Centre for Welfare Reform Savings or Loans The IPPR’s suggestion for a National Salary Insurance (NSI) is an interesting concept and worthy of further attention. The NSI would have a similar effect to enrolling people in an unemployment savings scheme. Under NSI the difference would be that people would pay back a debt after an unemployment spell, rather than building up a savings buffer before it.
But the costs of the idea could be high. Highly employable people who are made temporarily unemployed are likely to have personal savings that they can draw on before resorting to the NSI scheme. This means that take-up would be skewed toward less employable people, increasing the credit risk and cost to the Exchequer. If the contributory benefit principle is a thing of the past, then individualising welfare may be a solution. But a savings scheme would be a neater and cheaper way of achieving the same end. Ian Mulheirn Director, Social Market Foundation Bribes don’t work Nic Dakin MP makes a strong case for keeping the Education Maintenance Allowance (TP, November). But this does not mean the coalition government was wrong to abolish EMA. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has argued (and Dakin concedes), 88 per cent of the £560m spent on EMA each year was deadweight cost – in other words, 88 per cent of recipients would have been in education anyway.
A major study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that EMA did not have much impact on outcomes for pupils, with GCSE results remaining by far the most important factor in determining post-16 attainment. There also remained a significant drop-out rate between the ages of 16 and 17, suggesting that even with EMA many pupils didn’t see enough reason to stay in school. The government rightly argues that there are better ways of spending over half a billion pounds of the education budget. Dale Bassett Research Director, Reform
Police generosity Andrew Hawkins’ piece (TP, November) was a welcome profile for the risky, yet little-known ‘revolution’ that will begin with the first elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs) across England and Wales on 15 November 2012.
But he was somewhat generous in declaring “the poll evidence about public expectations [of police commissioners] is mixed”. All the polling I’ve seen shows only 15 per cent of the public want solo police commissioners. Just 15 per cent think they will cut crime and 65 per cent would rather keep the current system that’s helped deliver lower crime and higher public confidence. Even the government’s own consultations about PCCs (unsurprisingly kept quiet until after the idea had received Royal Assent), revealed that a host of Conservative councils had serious concerns about the policy.
That said, a commissioner will be elected for each of 41 police force areas next November. So it’s incumbent on all of us to ensure that candidates are of sufficient calibre, understanding, integrity and quality so that the police will be held properly to account and the public’s exacting expectations not disappointed. Cllr Mark Burns-Williamson Chair, the Association of Police Authorities (APA) EU can’t be serious Like so many of our elected representatives, both George Eustice and Wayne David (TP, November) have failed to keep up with the changing views of their constituents on the UK’s membership of the EU. If our politicians were serious about wanting to negotiate a fairer deal, they would welcome a referendum, as the almost inevitably eurosceptic or anti-EU result would strengthen the prime minister’s negotiating hand. The EU would know that, if it didn’t make major concessions, it would be impossible for the PM to sell the package to the great British public.
The truth is that the public understands – as the politicians do not – that the UK would be better off out of the costly, corrupt and anti-democratic economic basket-case that the EU has become. There is a bright future for the United Kingdom – free of the EU, but trading with it – just like prosperous Switzerland and Norway. Simon Richards Director, Freedom Association Out of Africa Your article on Richard Bacon MP’s experience of volunteering in Tanzania (TP, November) shows how matching-up specialists with local organisations can bring real benefits to communities in the developing world. As part of VSO’s Parliamentary Volunteering Scheme, UK MPs and peers support our local partners to influence national policy and hold governments to account.
Similar successes were achieved by Jo Swinson MP, who worked to develop a campaign strategy that helped to secure the harmonisation of the Clean Energy Bill in Nigeria, and Angus MacNeil MP who helped secure an increase in Cambodian teachers’ pay by supporting NGO discussions with Cambodia’s education minister.
In our 50 years tackling poverty, VSO’s approach has changed. We have moved away from a focus on direct service delivery into strengthening systems, developing policies and building capacity.
It’s through this deeper, peoplefocused approach that VSO volunteers have helped support 26 million people in the last year. Brian Rockliffe Director, VSO UK
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