Tory election spending: MP admitted to police some claims were wrong | Politics | The Guardian

A Conservative MP admitted in a police interview that some of his election expenses were wrong but excused the errors on the grounds that he had no previous political experience, according to a report on how police handled the inquiry.

Johnny Mercer, Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View, was investigated by police after the general election in 2015 and a file was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It was decided, however, that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with any offence.

A Devon and Cornwall police report from the time states that Mercer had acknowledged during an interview that “some of his claims had been wrong” but had argued that they were minor, did not take him over election spending limits and that this was understandable given his lack of political experience.

The admission calls into question the Conservative party’s claim that “the local agents of Conservative candidates correctly declared all local spending in the 2015 general election”.

Source: The Guardian

Analysis: Marching entropy threatens ANC’s future | Daily Maverick

In a polity as fast-moving as ours, it can sometimes be difficult when to know that things actually have fundamentally changed. Sometimes, the yardsticks are easy – Thabo Mbeki lost to President Jacob Zuma at Polokwane, and we knew life would be different. Sometimes, they are unexpected, such as the ANC’s loss of three metros in the 2016 local elections. And sometimes, they come about as a result of unpredictable events, say, a memorial service. The marches on Friday were massive. The reaction of the ANC wa


Source:Daily Maverick

Whatever happened to compassionate Conservatism? | British Politics and Policy at LSE

Ahughs with David Cameron before her, Theresa May took office as Prime Minister offering a government for all, rather than for the ‘privileged few’. Hugh Bochel reflects on the fate of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ during the Coalition government, and asks if it provides any clues as to how the May government might address social policy.

Both before and following his election as leader, Cameron and his allies sought to portray the Conservative Party as different from how it had been widely perceived under his immediate predecessors. In particular, they suggested that on a variety of topics, particularly in relation to social issues, such as the NHS, inequality, social mobility and family structure, the Conservative Party would take a different approach. However, the extent of any new or different approach by the Conservatives and the Coalition government have been widely questioned.

One of the major challenges in seeking to understand ‘compassionate Conservatism’ is the range of broadly interchangeable terms that were used by leading Conservatives, their critics and commentators to describe such ideas, including ‘civic’, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ Conservatism. Here the term is used for those positions that implied an approach to social issues that differed from a primarily neo-liberal approach to economic and social policy and from Thatcherism, with proponents including David Willetts, Greg Clark, Jeremy Hunt, and even Iain Duncan Smith after his ‘epiphany’ in Glasgow. Critics, however, noted that while talking about social issues and policies in a different way, Cameron and his allies continued to promote ‘traditional’ Conservative views on subjects such as crime and families, and to emphasise taking responsibility from the state and giving it to individuals, families and communities, while following the financial crisis there was a rapid shift towards massive reductions in public spending.

Compassionate Conservatism in this period has frequently been seen as an electoral tool, which, with the combination of symbols and substance associated with it, was useful in the attempt by Cameron and others to ‘detoxify’ the Conservative Party, while also helping, both in opposition and in government, with critiques of Labour’s (and indeed the Liberal Democrats) position, and highlighting differences with Labour on the role and responsibilities of state, individuals, communities and society.

Source:  British Politics and Policy at LSE

“With a little help from my friends..”

Scrub that.

Not ” a little” but “a lot” of help from my friends.

When I wrote recently about my late wife’s struggles with mental health, and her final, nearly completed, suicide attempt a friend who had known us both well at that time, wrote to me, saying,

“ you coped with it I will never know!”

My response was

“how I coped with it” – one day at a time, and with a lot of help from my friends.

I wrote previously about what was (almost) the end of our difficulties together, but there was also the beginning. In some ways at least, this was almost more difficult, because it was all so new and unfamiliar terrain, and because the children were so much younger, aged just 18 months and three years.  I could not have come through that time without extensive support from both friends and family.

This support was crucial again, through all the crises during the marriage, and at its end. After the marriage finally broke down, there was the help of a support group for divorced people: I was at home one afternoon, when a stranger appeared at the door. She was the Polish mother of a daughter’s classmate, and instructed me, forcefully, “You come Divorce Workshop Group!” So I did – and found it immensely valuable, for the hard information I gained, and for the friendships formed.

Later, when I moved from to Johannesburg to Cape Town and finally came out to myself and then to others that I was indeed gay, again I found that simply meeting other gay men, and forming friendships with them, was helpful – as was my membership of a gay/lesbian support group, “Gasa Rand” (i.e., Gay Association of South Africa, Witwatersrand region). I joined their committee and introduced an adaptation of the tools used by the DWG, that I had found so helpful for divorced people in Cape Town. These proved to be equally successful, in supporting gay men and lesbians in Johannesburg.

Still later, after moving to London, I was faced with the challenge of coping with living once again as a single gay man, and attempting to reconcile the apparent contradictions in being both gay, and Catholic. During this time, the support, resources and regular LGBT-affirming worship services of what were then known as the “Soho Masses” were yet another lifeline.

More recently, in my journey with GIST, it’s been the GIST Support UK who have been invaluable, with the information on their website, the listserve email group, and their biannual conferences.  Conversely, during my major surgery last February to remove the tumour and with it my stomach, I was acutely conscious of the support and prayers of this GIST support group, but also of my LGBT friends in queer faith communities worldwide, as well as my local parish community.

I am now more conscious than ever, that in times of difficulty, I “get by with a little a lot of help from my friends,”

Nebraska court slams policy that banned gay foster parents | Nation |

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Supreme Court says a former state policy banning same-sex couples from serving as foster parents or adopting wards of the state was akin to hanging a “Whites Only” sign on a hiring-office door.

The court on Friday ruled that a judge’s 2015 ruling striking down the policy will stand.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples in 2013. A judge ruled in the couples’ favor, declaring as unconstitutional the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services policy.

The state’s high court rejected state attorneys’ arguments that Lancaster County District Judge John Colburn’s finding should be reversed because DHHS had quietly stopped enforcing the ban in 2012, making the matter moot.

Its ruling slammed the 1995 administrative policy, which remained on the agency’s website until February 2015, as evidence “that ‘heterosexuals only’ need apply to be foster parents.”

“It is legally indistinguishable from a sign reading ‘Whites Only’ on the hiring-office door,” Justice John Wright wrote.

Source: Nation |

A New Kairos Moment for South Africa – The Jesuit Institute South Africa

Two very different kinds of leadership. This is what we have seen dramatically highlighted through the events in our country over the past ten days.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius asks us to reflect on the opposing leadership strategies of Christ versus that of Lucifer. He paints a graphic and metaphoric picture of Lucifer seated in that great plain of Babylon, on a throne of fire and smoke, a horrible and fearsome figure. He uses three strategies to ensnare people: the desire for riches, the desire for honour or status and pride. Once they are hooked by any, or all of these, they will do whatever they need to in order to protect them, whether lies, corruption, theft or manipulation of people.

In the second image we are invited to imagine Christ standing in a great plain in a lowly beautiful and attractive spot. His strategy is the exact opposite: simplicity instead of riches, service instead of honour, and humility instead of pride.

In our political landscape we have seen both kinds of leadership clearly in the last week.

Source: The Jesuit Institute South Africa

Why more than 4,000 religious leaders are writing President Trump and Congress | America Magazine

A group of more than 4,000 religious sisters and clergy, including priests, brothers and deacons, sent a letter to every U.S. senator, member of Congress and President Donald Trump voicing support for the refugee resettlement program.

“Our nation has long prided itself on providing refugee families an opportunity to start a new life and the chance to contribute to the continued flourishing of our country. Now, when the need is so great, is not the time to waver in our commitment to this tradition of welcome,” said the letter dated on March 27 and released by the Franciscan Action Network in Washington.

Through executive action, Trump has sought to suspend the refugee resettlement program as part of a temporary travel ban affecting some majority-Muslim countries. Different federal judges have temporarily halted the ban, even after revisions were made to it, and asked for an extension in March to keep it from going into effect saying that it discriminates based on religion.

Even as the future of the executive order is decided, Catholic agencies and organizations that work with refugee resettlement or advocate for refugees, are bracing for what could happen should the ban be upheld.

Source: America Magazine

Our politics is trapped in a downward spiral: how to navigate out of the morass | British Politics and Policy at LSE

The public is losing faith in the political process – both in the UK and in many Western democracies. Politicians gather public support for promises they cannot realistically achieve, while many policies are developed and implemented in fundamentally flawed ways. Drawing on his insider experience, Nick Raynsford proposes three steps that would trigger meaningful change.

2016 has not been a good year for politics or politicians. Whether we are looking at the Trump candidacy in the USA, the tragic-comedy of the Brexit referendum, or the unrelenting horrors of Syria, again and again we come face to face with the uncomfortable truth that the public is rapidly losing faith in the political process as practiced in most Western democracies.  Hardly surprising then, if an increasing number are turning away from conventional politics, embracing ‘protest’ or ‘gesture’ parties or candidates, or using opportunities such as a referendum to send a message of disapproval to the ‘political elite’ in their ‘Westminster (or Washington) bubble’.

This response may be understandable at one level, but it is not a solution. On the contrary, the outcome will inevitably be greater public disaffection: as the ‘protest’ politicians predictably fail to deliver on pledges that were unrealistic (Syriza in Greece) or as ‘change’ policies (Brexit) unravel because of their inherent contradictions (“having your cake and eating it” as Boris Johnson memorably advocated). In the meantime, those who advocate ‘politics as usual’ compound the problem by failing to acknowledge the extent of public alienation, let alone coming up with effective solutions.

Source: British Politics and Policy at LSE

Universal Basic Income: A Case Against?

The concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), also known as a Citizen;s income, deserves serious consideration – and research. As John Kay notes at the end of his post,

As in other areas of policy, it is simply not the case that there are simple solutions to apparently difficult issues which policymakers have hitherto been too stupid or corrupt to implement.

This is a useful contribution to the debate, pointing out some of the flaws in the arguments presented by the advocates for UBI. Either it is simply unaffordable to UBI at a level appropriate for a decent standard of living – or it will remain necessary to supplement the minimal, affordable, level of UBI  for those people in extreme need with no additional income, thus eliminating “simplicity” as a core argument in its favour.

Here is the introduction to his analysis – read it in full:

The basics of basic income – John Kay

Basic income is a fashionable topic. A proposal to introduce one in Switzerland was put to a national referendum in 2016, although it was soundly defeated. Finland has recently introduced a modest experiment for 2,000 households. The current interest is mainly on the political left; for example, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination in 2016, and Britain’s John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor, have expressed enthusiasm for the concept of unconditional basic income. Benoit Hamon, the Socialist Party’s candidate for the French presidency, has made the proposal a principal plank in his platform. The Scottish National Party, which recently announced plans for a second independence referendum, is also strongly in favour. Basic income, at its roots, is a plan to replace all or most existing state benefits by a single payment, made unconditionally to all citizens (or perhaps residents) of a country. There are three principal strands of argument for such a proposal. The first deduces an entitlement to such income from some a priori moral principle. Such an assertion of rights goes back at least to Thomas Paine (1737-1809), and it has also attracted other philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell. More recently, the case has been put forward most vehemently by Philippe Van Parijs.

Source: The basics of basic income – John Kay

Analysis: A closer look at the ANC NWC’s statement reveals not so Zuma-friendly side | Daily Maverick

After four days of late-night announcements, angry press conferences, furious statements, and leaked speeches, it was time for the first major ANC structure to meet to discuss President Jacob Zuma, and the reaction to his factional reshuffle and removal of Pravin Gordhan from the Finance Ministry. In the end, the National Working Committee, surprising no one, simply resolved to “discuss” with Cosatu and the SACP their calls for Zuma to leave. At first glance it looks almost as if nothing has changed, that Zuma is still the MacDaddy of our politics, and the game goes on the same way as it has for many years. But look a little deeper, and it’s possible that the rules of the game have actually changed quite dramatically.


The ANC is nothing if not predictable. Zuma does something. There is righteous fury and furious anger. Society gets moving, people mutter darkly about Parliament passing a vote of no confidence. After a climax of press conferences, eventually a top ANC structure meets and glosses over it all.

Zuma stays on to giggle another day.

Source:  Daily Maverick