EU deal: Permanent austerity, permanent stagnation

David Cameron’s early morning exit from EU crisis negotiations exposed the most painful tensions around Britain’s relationship to Europe; and, alongside them, Cameron’s craven servitude to a City of London that now supplies over half the Conservative Party’s funding, in defence of whose interests his hissy fit was conducted. Cameron’s inept special pleading may, however, have inadvertently aided the rest of us. More

Here’s what the Portas review missed out

Originally posted at Left Foot Forward

Considering the dire straits our high streets currently find themselves in, Mary Portas’ review into their future made for surprisingly positive reading yesterday.

Establishing once and for all that thriving town centres are key to rebuilding our economy is a vital step in the right direction.

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Durban, a success? Only fools fight in a burning house

Over the past two weeks, climate policy wonks descended on Durban, a port city and popular South African tourist destination, to hash out what to do beyond 2012 when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end.

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Long live the Queen of Shops

Mary Portas was an inspired choice by the government to investigate the plight of high street shopping.

She combines the independence and the imagination to make a real impact when she reports, which she is due to do tomorrow. Whether her recommendations survive the encounter with Downing Street remain to be seen.

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A new kind of democracy in action

I spent a thrilling day in Leeds last Thursday, in the unfamiliar surroundings of the student’s union. Thrilling partly because the union had taken a couple of years to think out what they wanted their democracy to do and how to design it so it delivered what they wanted. Thrilling also because they had used my nef pamphlet, We, the People, in doing this.

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Bring on the EU reforms to financial services

It is a depressing thought that David Cameron has ridden into battle in Brussels in defence – of all things – of the conglomeration of short-termism, bonuses and economic corrosion represented by the City of London.

One of the few benefits to the UK economy of the euro crisis might have been that the European Commission would have stirred themselves into some kind of financial reform.

We have lived too long with a dysfunctional City, sucking up capital and talent that might have been used productively.

Sadly, we are going to carry on doing so.

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Making banks fit for purpose

The advent of ‘credit easing’, set out in the Chancellor’s autumn statement, was trumpeted as a huge innovation when he announced it at his own party conference two months ago.

We had been led to expect a more effective version of quantitative easing which was directed at new enterprise rather than pumping up the bonuses of our bankers.  What we actually got was interesting – but not nearly so exciting.  

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The lamps are going out all over Europe… if we let them

Researching Victorian Ireland over the last few days, and the campaign for home rule, I stumbled upon a fascinating document – the first petition for Irish home rule in May 1870.

What made it so revolutionary was that two thirds of the signatories were protestants and most of them – including my great-great-grandfather – were Conservatives.

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Cheap UK borrowing costs? It’s Gordon Brown we should be thanking, not austerity

The central plank of the coalition government’s economic strategy was made quite clear in the Chancellor’s autumn statement last week: austerity is needed to save Britain from the markets. Without strong measures to reduce public sector debt, interest rates on government bonds could be as high as Italy’s. We would lose our economic sovereignty and austerity would be imposed anyway, but not on our terms.

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Video: Gross Domestic Happiness

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