Friday 28th February: This week's battle over benefit reform shows that Britain's welfare state needs more than the tough love being dished out by Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. The left broke ranks as Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale told Ed Milliband that Labour should be far tougher on benefits reform. Politics that allow endless benefits spending is 'too comfortable, too easy for people on the Left', he said. 'Where's the money going to come from? I know people who won't work and should work'. Meanwhile, George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, took the bishops of England to task for playing left– right politics with benefit reform when they implied the 'safety net' of the welfare state was now lacking and politicians were morally to blame for the ills suffered by the poor as a result. Factors other than the cuts were at play, said Dr Carey: dysfunctional communities had problems more complex than could be reflected by simplistic moral judgements.
The Chancellor has spoken in Hong Kong of the fragility of Britain's recovery: Here Dr Gerard Lyons, Chief Economic Adviser to the London Mayor explains the course needed for the long term.
Friday 21st February: The Chancellor gave a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong this week and touched on a number of themes: the strong relationship between Britain and Hong Kong; collaboration between Britain and China on financial services; how Britain is attracting more inward investment than other European economies; and the issues facing the G20 ahead of their meeting in Sydney.
Friday 21st February: This week's reports indicate that high death rates in Welsh hospitals were covered up and demands to investigate ignored. They show, says Dr Tony Hockley, Director of the Policy Analysis Centre, that inspection and regulation are no substitute for giving patients power, including through the funding regime.
The latest revelations of another NHS ‘cover up’ of unexpectedly hospital death rates serves to highlight the extent of producer capture within our health service. Six Welsh hospitals, with high death rates, were brought to the attention of Chris Jones, the Welsh NHS Medical Director, by his English counterpart Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS England medical director, who was alerted by Anne Clywyd MP.
Friday 14th February: Politicians should concentrate on their domestic duties and leave charity to the generosity of the people, says John Marenbon.
Politicians very often prefer a rousing cause than to tackle the intractable problems of the day. But it has become far harder to find causes on which to take a moral line without appearing ridiculous or worse still, hypocritical.
The Foreign Secretary must, therefore, have turned with some relief from his fellow men to wildlife this week. In particular, he seized on the plight of tigers and elephants, hunted for their fur or tusks. Indeed there is hardly a voter who will not rally to the defence of such endangered species, especially when it is made clear that this sort of hunting and trafficking is the work of organized criminal gangs. In pledging the UK to combat such trade through the law, its own and international, Mr Hague is therefore acting properly.
Friday 7th February, Dr Sheila Lawlor writes: Lord Smith, a former Labour minister and head of the Environment Agency, faced calls from flooded householders today to resign. Since he refuses to do so, the government will have to weigh carefully the option of dismissing him. Although public outrage may demand his dismissal, it would come at a political cost, as the recent furore over his fellow Labour quangocrat Baroness Morgan shows.
Baroness Morgan chairs the official school inspection body, OFSTED, but she will not be reappointed when her contract runs out this autumn. In life outside politics and education, there would be nothing particularly newsworthy about appointing a new chairman after the expiry of their predecessor’s tenure, to bring a ‘new perspective’ as Michael Gove proposed. However, education and politics belong to a world apart.