“Tough-minded, abrupt, likable, human: Martin McGuinness” The Guardian

Asked recently to pick just one great memory from my time with Tony in Downing Street, I went for the coming together of the Good Friday agreement that laid the foundations for peace in Northern Ireland. It was magical. A lot of that was about the collection of personalities from across politics that came together to make history – and Martin McGuinness was a big part of the success it became.

Those early talks with Sinn Féin after Labour came to power in 1997 were a risk for both sides. It was a risk for Labour politically, but it was in many ways a bigger risk for Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams.

Read more The Guardian

Public Policy and the Past: British social democracy in crisis

Most politics commentary is impoverished in two ways. It is geographically parochial and temporally anachronistic. It can see neither the big view nor the long view. It is obsessed with the latest rivalries, the newest personalities, the most novel ups and downs. So the Labour Party’s deep travails focus on the struggle between its MPs and leader. On the latest reshufflings within constituency parties or in the National Executive Committee. Whatever today’s latest bit of shouting involves.

But zoom back, and Labour is actually in the grip of an acute crisis within social democracy itself. And these apparently-insoluble dilemmas are not happening in Britain alone. The Greek Socialists were wiped out by that country’s financial crisis. The Dutch Labour Party took a tremendous beating last week. The French Socialists are about to lose the presidency, either to a charismatic centrist or to the far right. At its base, social democratic coalitions have always tried to reach out to everyone (above) – professional people, working people, the young, the old, men and women, all nations within a state – because social progress is thought to benefit everyone. More recently, this has increasingly come to mean finding the glue that will stick the instincts of liberal urban dwellers to more socially conservative voters in small and medium-sized towns. For a number of reasons – large-scale immigration, rapid cultural change, a yawning age gap in the attitudes of the generations, stagnating wages, you name it – those links are coming apart.  It may not be possible to hold them together for much longer.
wages, you name it – those links are coming apart.  It may not be possible to hold them together for much longer.

Source: Public Policy and the Past

“Self-employment: Who’s dodging the tax?”

Rick at Flip Chart Fairy Tales asks “Who’s dodging the tax?”

As I understand his post, the answer is – the employers, who can get away with taking on regular staff, but describing them as “self-employed”. That removes the obligation to pay national insurance charges, depriving HMRC of income, and also places the obligation on the worker, to pay their own expenses and “benefits” (such as sick leave).

The proposed changes in NIC did nothing to change that. There is tax avoidance here, but it’s by the employer, not the workers.

It should not be possible for businesses to hire people for what is effectively regular employment, but classify them as self-employed, to avoid paying tax and benefits. What is needed is not changes in tax rates, but tighter control over what constitutes “self-employment”.

Are lots of people going self-employed to avoid tax?

That suggestion comes through in the reporting of the widely expected increase in national insurance for the self-employed. The Independent, for example:

‘dramatic increase’ in number of people registering as self-employed to cut tax bill

And that was the general tone of the chancellor’s speech:

People should have choices about how they work, but those choices should not be driven primarily by differences in tax treatment.

Source: Flip Chart Fairy Tales

(See, for instance this graph in Rick’s post):

Second major 2015 Tory manifesto pledge dropped in a week | The Independent

The Conservatives have been accused of dropping a second manifesto pledge in the space of a week after ministers rowed back on plans to build hundreds of thousands of “starter homes” for first-time buyers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond sparked negative headlines after the Budget on Wednesday when he raised National Insurance for self-employed people, ditching a Conservative manifesto promise not to raise the tax.

But the Government has also now binned David Cameron’s flagship housing policy of building 200,000 starter homes at 20 per cent below market price, championed by the former Prime Minister just last year.

Source: The Independent

Unionists could make pact to keep blocking equal marriage in Northern Ireland · PinkNews

Arlene Foster and Roy Beggs (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Just days after Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party lost their veto power over same-sex marriage, another MLA has vowed to help them block it.

Assembly elections were held last week in Northern Ireland after the collapse of the previous government, with the anti-gay marriage DUP losing ground to Sinn Féin.

The DUP, which lost nearly all of its hefty majority, had previously used peace process powers known as ‘petitions of concern’ to block same-sex marriage.

Hopes of progress were raised over the weekend when the DUP won just 28 seats – two short of the 30 needed to pass a petition of concern by themselves.

However, it’s far from plain sailing, and unionists from two other parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and Traditional Unionist Voice, have vowed to prop up the DUP on the issue.

Source:  · PinkNews

“Restless Ulster may beat Scots to the exit” | The Times

It’s not a question of watching the wrong, Scottish, pot boil. The almost complete absence of reports in yesterday’s London-based “national” newspapers on the Northern Ireland election shows the capital is barely aware of what’s going on across the Irish Sea now the bombs aren’t going off.

England is clearly fed up with Scotland, dispatching a schoolmarmish Theresa May to inform the Scottish National Party that “politics is not a game”. Quite right: it is the pursuit of long-term objectives by whatever means are available in a democracy — just ask Nigel Farage.

Yet there is now a distinct possibility that the people of the six counties of Ulster could jump the queue to be the first out of the United Kingdom. In the EU referendum, 55.8% voted to remain.

Couldn’t a Celtic Euro-belt around nationalist England, comprising Scotland and all of the island of Ireland, keep everybody happy one day — except perhaps for a hostage Wales?

Source: The Times & The Sunday Times

Michael Gove’s Brexit committee says Theresa May must guarantee status of EU nationals living in UK | The Independent

Theresa May should act unilaterally and guarantee the status of three million EU nationals currently living in Britain, and not wait for reciprocal reassurance from Brussels, according to the parliamentary committee for exiting the EU.

A new report jointly authored by all members of the committee, which includes prominent Leave campaigner Michael Gove, says it would be ‘unconscionable’ to make EU nationals living in Britain wait up to two years for negotiations to find out on what basis they might be allowed to stay in the UK, or even be forced to leave.

Committee chairman Hilary Benn said they had been left under a “cloud of uncertainty” and did not want to be used as “bargaining chips” in the talks.

Source The Independent

Globalisation, Inequality and the “Widening Trust Gap”

The primary focus of an important article at Harvard Business Review is of course, “business”. However, all business operates inside a social context. The context for this analysis, is globalisation. This has been of immense value to richer people in the developed world, and to Asian and other developing world middle classes. One group that has not benefited particularly, and by falling back in relative terms, is the working class in Western developed countries. (This is very clearly shown in the frequently cited “elephant graph”

Source – Washington Examiner

Our global narrative of progress, the implicit case for embracing change in exchange for its fruits, is being increasingly called into question by economically marginalized groups and populist politicians across the globe. This narrative has rested on three propositions: that globalization is a major driver of growth and prosperity; that technological progress enriches our lives; and that shareholder returns reflect businesses’ contributions to societal progress.

Those who question the continued applicability of this narrative have a case. While globalization has increased aggregate prosperity and reduced inequality across nations, it has also created winners and losers within nations

Source: Harvard  Business Review

This uneven distribution of benefits has consequences, for those who have been left behind – and for both business, and for political conditions. In the UK, and the USA, we have seen the result in the rise of Donald Trump, and the June vote against the EU.  Elsewhere in Europe, there’s been a widely reported rise in support for populist parties.

This is sharply illustrated by what the HBR refers to as a “trust gap”.  HBR includes a graph that shows the widening of this trust gap between 2012 and 2016. Note that although it is the USA that has seen the most dramatic impact of this in electoral politics, the widening is even greater in the UK and in France.

Graphic: Harvard Business Review

Read more:

Tory £1bn inheritance tax cut ‘will worsen north-south divide’ | Money | The Guardian

Research shows plans to increase threshold at which tax is paid will overwhelmingly benefit rich families in south-east England

Rachel Reeves in her Leeds West constituency
Rachel Reeves in her Leeds West constituency, where just six properties were worth more than £650,000 in 2015-16. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

A £1bn Conservative inheritance tax cut will exacerbate the north-south divide, an MP has warned, as figures lay bare the winners and losers of a flagship government policy.

People inheriting homes in constituencies in London and south-east England will gain the lion’s share of the benefits from the tax cut, according to research commissioned by the Labour MP Rachel Reeves.

Of the 100 constituencies that will benefit the most, 96 are in London or the south-east and are mostly held by Tories, with 31 in and around London held by Labour.

Source:  The Guardian