This first sentence is in bold, so I had beter make it memorable. Boris Johnson would know what to say. Even if it was a mumbled stream of consciousness, odds are that it would still be noticeable, probably even funny. But there are signs that he is changing as a politician, as you will find in our cover interview. It is the second time Boris Johnson has appeared in Total Politics. He’s become a harder politician than when we first spoke to him in the summer of 2008, adept at placing himself at a distance from the Cameron/Osborne camp. Boris claims to not have “a cat’s chance in hell of becoming prime minister”. But as the most distinctive Tory since Margaret Thatcher, his words will do little to end speculation on his future. Catnip to many Conservatives and a two-wheeled, Toad of Toad Hall figure to the left, Boris has been in the job for close to three years now. He enviably occupies his own political space, with an opportunity to create eye-catching innovations (Boris bikes) and wildly ambitious transport plans (Boris Island) – his name resolutely attached to these ideas in the public’s mind. Despite this, Boris does find himself in a political middle ground. He can represent the City of London and cause waves by criticising the introduction of a 50p tax rate, but has no power over schooling or making trains run on time. Boris Island is way beyond his remit. Given the frustrations he voices in our interview, I’d be very surprised not to see him back in Westminster in the future. A word on the magazine’s design. You’ll notice we’ve updated it. There’s no change to what Total Politics is about. We want to feature as many politicians as possible each month from all parties, and cover Britain’s political life as fully as possible. This design allows us to do that even better. Plus there will be a new website at totalpolitics.com – with online features setting out the day’s agenda, unseen snippets from interviews, lists of all political blogs and hopefully even a laugh or two.
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4 | March 2011 | Total Politics
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© 2011 Biteback Media Limited Reproduction in whole or part of any article is prohibited without prior written consent. Articles written by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisation. ISSN 1757 - 0492 On the Cover Boris Johnson photographed exclusively for Total Politics by Alister Thorpe on 21 January 2011 at City Hall, London. Letters
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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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FORGET AV. IT’S ABOUT EUROPE People keep asking why a gobby columnist and shock jock like me has gone into politics. The answer is simple – never has there been such a divide between the Westminster Village, their mates in the ‘lamestream’ press and the people.
I can no longer stand on the sidelines as my country crashes and burns. I want my voice to be heard.
No issue highlights just how out of touch MPs are more than the question of our continued membership of the EU. Forget votes on AV, which most ordinary people think stands for Aston Villa. What people really want to vote on is whether we should continue to pay £48m a day to Brussels.
They want a say on whether Europe can dictate to us, the British, what our laws are, whether prisoners can vote and how we control our borders. And that’s just for starters. The political elite need to start listening to the people before the people start listening to more extremists like the EDL.
I’m not telling people how to vote but I am demanding a vote. Will you join me? Jon Gaunt Spokesman, EU Referendum Campaign
MORE TO DO ON CLIMATE CHANGE Chris Huhne ‘got’ climate change long before his new job – the challenge for him now is to deliver real cuts in emissions. His interview (TP, Feb) hits many of the right notes on insulating homes and renewable energy.
Less certain is the extent to which coalition policies will deliver. Like John Lewis, no DECC policy has been knowingly undersold – the Green New Deal is a “once-and-for-all refit that will make every home in Britain ready for a low-carbon future”, for example.
But when pressed, ministers shy away from detail. A empts to define a level of ambition for the new Energy Bill have been rebuﬀed in Parliament and indicators for councils’ emissions cuts have been scrapped.
If we are to get the investment in skills and products needed to improve every house in the UK, ministers must provide confidence their policies will deliver. On this there remains more to do. Martyn Williams Senior parliamentary campaigner, Friends of the Earth
MAKING WESTMINSTER WORK FOR WOMEN I was interested to read the candid account by Tessa Jowell of her time in government (TP, Feb), and of the particular pressures that can sometimes be faced by a woman in politics.
Her dedication to politics has survived undiminished and it’s this commitment, in her and past female politicians like Lady Thatcher, to making a diﬀerence to the world that I believe we need to encourage and nurture in future generations of women.
That’s why I joined with MPs from all parties to form the Women in Parliament APPG. Our aim is to encourage more women into politics by addressing some of the barriers that currently exist by changing parliamentary processes and structure where necessary.
This is not a ‘women-only’ club – to date seven men have signed up and I hope to encourage more to get involved. Mary Macleod MP for Brentford and Isleworth and chair of Women in Parliament APPG
MAKING SENSE OF THE BIG SOCIETY The Ipsos MORI polling data in Total Politics (TP, Feb) shows that a majority of people don’t think the big society will work in practice. This should come as no surprise. Despite the big society rhetoric, in reality, the cuts to local authority budgets are cu ing away the pillars upon which the good society is built. In Birmingham, the closure of the largest Citizens Advice Bureau as a result of the huge frontloaded cuts to local government is a foretaste of the coming onslaught on the voluntary sector. The closure means 45 staﬀ are to be made redundant along with 150 fully-trained volunteers. How does this match-up with the big society vision? The Labour Party has always been the party of community and solidarity. Labour didn’t always get it right in government but we know that good society and good government are partners, not opposites. Jack Dromey Shadow communities minister
COMMUNITIES NEED HELP The big society (TP, Feb), as articulated by David Cameron, builds on the growth in the third sector seen under the last Labour government, which supported social cohesion, community action and tackled inequality. All parties believe in wider community involvement, in local decision-making and that some services are best run by neighbourhood groups, as long as there is no self-interest. However there is a public perception that volunteer delivery has weakness and more needs to be done to support and build the confidence of citizens. The recent expert evidence to the Localism Bill commi ee showed that not all communities are able to help themselves. There also needs to be recognition that there is a place for publicly-run services. But, with a government that doesn’t believe in evidence-based decision-making and doesn’t do impact assessments, it is diﬃcult to know just where and how involvement in the big society will be most eﬀective, and where there will be gaps in provision. Alison Seabeck Shadow housing minister
POTENTIAL FOR RADICAL REFORM The big society is one of the government’s guiding principles. While the public may yet have to be convinced of its merits, it has the potential to be one of the most radical reforms to the structure of the state in recent history. Community budgets and neighbourhood planning, for example, could unleash a wave of innovation. Undoubtedly, there will be obstacles along the way, not least the capacity and funding for community groups and local enterprises to have more control over their local areas. Local government will be crucial to the big society, and giving councils more control of their funding streams will ensure that they are able to tailor their support specifically for the local communities they serve. Tom Shakespeare Director of policy and research at Localis
NEIGHBOURS, NOT BIG SOCIETY The big society is doomed to failure because the diﬀerence is not being made between ‘neighbourliness’ and ‘localism’. Neighbourliness is strongly influenced by the physical and social environment in which people live. For example, where traﬃc is very slow and children can play out, then parents keep an eye outside for each other’s children. Social capital increases.
Having council services delivered locally is completely diﬀerent to neighbourliness. No wonder 80 per cent of councils are not ge ing to grips with the big society agenda. It is expected is that neighbourhoods with (well documented) decreasing levels of social capital will provide increasing levels of volunteers and participation. It is the wrong way round. Discovering what environments create more neighbourliness will lead to more citizenship. Rob Wheway Children’s Play Advisory Service
Votes have been cast by readers of Total Politics magazine to choose the name of the first suite of seven feature suites at Corinthia Hotel London which opens on 2 April. The panel of Matthew Dixon, general manager of Corinthia Hotel London and Ben Duckworth, editor of Total Politics chose Sir Winston Churchill – a fitting ambassador for the hotel that is located at the heart of Westminster and just around the corner from where the eminent statesman led the country during World War II. The winner is Dr Amanjit Jhund who chose the name Churchill because: “It is quintessentially British and commemorates the 1942 award to Malta [where CHI Hotels & Resorts was founded] of the George Cross – a unique honour at the time and a link that lasts to this day on the flag of Malta.”
memorates the 1942 award to Malta [where CHI Hotels & Resorts was founded] of the George Cross – a unique honour at the time and