Speaking at church hustings

In the past few days I've spoken at a couple of church events organised to debate election issues.


On Wednesday last week I represented Labour at a hustings meeting run by a Christian organisation for people concerned about faith in public life.  Members of a church congregation (St Michael's Chester Square) joined us as well.  The questions were varied - they were on policy issues and also on how Christians should engage with politics.  It went ok I think.


On Sunday I was the Labour representative in a meeting in my own church, All Souls, Langham Place, after the evening service.  The event was on how Christians should think about voting and how they should think about politics.  It wasn't a hustings meeting as such, though the political reps on the platform were able to put across their party's position.  I guess there were over 200 people there.  It was a good event, with some good questions (eg how do I choose between party and candidate?  how do we decide what are the key issues?).  I was able to put in a plug for the Christian Socialist Movement too.


Stephen Beer, 27/04/2010

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More economic data

The economic data continues to come forth this week.  Yesterday we had unemployment data.  While the headline number (based on ILO criteria) rose, from 7.8% to 8.0%, the claimant count fell.  Looking at the survey data out there, the rise in the ILO figure looks like a blip against the trend.  We are still way away from the 10% unemployment some were forecasting last year.


Today we had public borrowing figures for March, which means we have the full figure for the fiscal year.  This is down on projections, which means that our fiscal position is a bit better than feared both in the 2009 budget and the pre budget report.  A further look at this issue is merited because the key point is that a bit more economic growth goes a long way to reducing the deficit compared to individual tax measures.  That's why Labour's focus on the recovery is so important.


Tomorrow we have the first estimates of UK GDP growth in the first quarter of this year.


Stephen Beer, 22/04/2010

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Labour gets boost from IMF bank tax proposals

The IMF has proposed two taxes on banks to help prevent the banking sector plunging us into another financial crisis of a scale that could bring down the world economy.  This is good news for Labour because in our manifesto we say we will lobby for a global banking levy.  Gordon Brown pushed the IMF to consider options for coordinated tax measures.


The IMF proposes a flat tax on all financial institutions which could be raised or lowered depending on risk.  The tax could form part of a country's tax revenue or be diverted to a special fund (this was an idea I proposed two years ago).  It also suggests a 'financial activities tax' be considered on supernormal profits and high pay.  The IMF also called for strong and coordinated regulation.


I've yet to work my way through the report but this seems a welcome step.  We shouldn't propose taxes for their own sake.  In this case, the nature of banks is such that they always generate instability and every few years the sector operates against the common good.  It is right and just that some form of compensation and insurance is paid for their 'licence to operate'.


Stephen Beer, 20/04/2010

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Meeting people in Warrington South

I spent this weekend in Warrington South, working with Labour's parliamentary candidate (and Christian Socialist Movement member) Nick Bent.  The Tories have been throwing money at this seat but I was surprised at the negative response to the Conservatives and to David Cameron on the doorstep.  Much comes down to a matter of trust, and also questions about whether Cameron and his team have a real idea of what life is like for most people.  The Leaders debate on Thursday seems to have got people more engaged with the election.  I also heard from people that they appreciated what Gordon Brown did to save the banking system and promote the recovery.  This was especially true where people were facing the threat of redundancy - they said they knew Gordon Brown was working to save jobs and did not want to risk those efforts.


Stephen Beer, 18/04/2010

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Leaders debate

I suppose this was a moment of political and television history - the first time in an election when we have had the leaders of the three main parties debate with each other.  It was a bit slow at first but warmed up as they began debating with each other as well as answering audience questions.  I suspect, as with the televising of parliament, that over time the rules will relax and conventions will develop.


It wasn't surprising that Nick Clegg did so well in the polling afterwards since people were aleady familiar with Gordon Brown and David Cameron.  Cameron probably disappointed his own side.  He did not come across as convincing and was not relaxed.  He was on the back foot at times because he would not match Labour's commitment to maintain spending on the police, on education, and on key health services.  Brown was the clear heavyweight, with the most gravitas of the three.


We mustn't forget this is one of three debates.  It might be the most important as it was the first one.  However the other two are unlikely to be complete repeats.  All candidates will learn from their experience.


Stephen Beer, 16/04/2010

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