HAS politics ever been more undignified? America has certainly abdicated the moral high ground with an unedifying presidential campaign which reaches its supposed ‘climax’ tonight with the third and final TV debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Yet, on this side of the Atlantic, convincing political leadership is in short supply. Labour remains haunted by anti-Semitism allegations; Ukip is in totally disarray after finally getting its way over Brexit; the Lib Dems can’t come to terms with Britain voting to leave the EU; the Scottish Nationalists are guilty of crass opportunism and Theresa May is, despite her good intentions, stumbling from one controversy to another.
And, closer to home, the poisonous undertones to national politics have been self-evident in Batley & Spen at the by-election precipitated by the brutal killing of Jo Cox on June 16.
Even though the Tories and Lib Dems took the unprecedented step of not fielding candidates because they did not want to be seen to be exploiting a community’s grief after a much-loved MP died in the most tragic of circumstances, it has not stopped a plethora of right-wing extremists with vile views from exercising their democratic right to contest this seat.
In doing so, and in such an insensitive manner because of an inability to hold a constructive debate on immigration, they have driven the proverbial cart and horses through Jo Cox’s priceless #MoreInCommon maxim which did gain traction in the immediate aftermath of the young mother’s death, before politics – and the conduct of public debate – returned to normal. Democracy is too important to become a race to the bottom. Yet this is precisely what will happen unless there emerges a generation of dignified campaigners who can make principled arguments maturely without having to resort to the gutter politics of hatred. Where are they?
Dame in the dock over rewards for failure
AHEAD OF tomorrow’s Commons debate on former BHS owner Sir Philip Green, and whether he should be stripped of his knighthood, perhaps MPs – in the interests of fairness – should consider whether their new ‘reward for failure’ principle is also applicable to Louise Casey who was awarded a damehood in June for services to families and vulnerable people.
She’s the career public servant who, unerringly, has found herself indispensable to successive prime ministers after being appointed, in 2005, to head Tony Blair’s much-vaunted Respect agenda before becoming Victims Commissioner towards the end of Gordon Brown’s regime and then head of David Cameron’s Troubled Families programme, the well-meaning initiative launched in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 riots.
Yet, judging by the underwhelming conclusions of a new study, this latest project is one of the biggest ‘white elephants’ of the Cameron era. Set up with £448m of money to transform the lives of 120,000 of the most ‘troubled’ families, evidence from the scheme’s first phase suggests it has made a negligible impact when it comes to tackling addiction, truancy and anti-social behaviour, three issues which are the detrimental to the life chances of young people growing up in dysfunctional homes.
Despite this, there are already plans to expand the programme and increase its budget to £1bn by 2020. This should not happen until Ministers and MPs are satisfied that the scheme is delivering the intended results, starting with today’s inquisition of Dame Louise. Perhaps it would also help if the powers-that-be test the effectiveness of such strategies in the future, before nominating colleagues for awards which threaten to discredit the honours system still further.
RAILWAY stations are not just transport hubs. They’re now visitor destinations, whether it be the magnificent architecture of King’s Cross or the retail malls at the revamped Birmingham New Street pulling in the crowds.
Now the masterminds behind the acclaimed King’s Cross redevelopment in London have been tasked with redesigning Leeds Station – and not before a time. For a prestige city with global ambitions, the main concourse could not be more uninviting.
Let’s hope the designers come up with plan which puts Leeds on the map in more ways than one – while making sure that their plan maximises the number of services that stop at the station each day. This once-in-a-generation opportunity needs to be grasped so the city’s resurgence does not hit the buffers because of a lack of ambition.