Resuscitating Greek myths

4432808605_43e7400304_nNick Clegg has a rather extraordinary post at the Telegraph today.

The second half of the post is pretty standard: the Libdems are less spendthrift than Labour and less ideologically anti-state than the Conservatives. Split the difference and aim for the sensible centre.

But in order to grab the opportunity to reiterate this message he has to find a hook to hang it on. And the hook that he – or, presumably, someone in his team – chose was the Greek election.

He makes some comparisons between Greece and the UK in 2010 when the current UK coalition was formed. In doing so he resuscitates some myths about the state of the UK economy and, therefore, makes some implausible claims about the role of the Libdems in government. [Read more…]

Social housing futures

[First posted at the SPS blog: Comment and Analysis, 21/01/15]

The housing problems facing the UK are multifaceted. They include the failure to build sufficient new dwellings to keep pace with population growth; significant market volatility; problems of affordability for both owners and renters; and problems of insecurity in the private rented sector.

The Coalition government has been quite strong on rhetoric and has announced a succession of new policies and initiatives. In the social housing sector these have included changes to subsidy, tenancy security, regulation, and rent levels. The Coalition has had rather less success in bringing affordable, secure accommodation within reach of a greater proportion of households. Indeed, housing circumstances have become more precarious for many.

In the run up to the General Election, the Chartered Institute of Housing has published a series of policy essays looking at various aspects of the housing challenge and the policy responses not only in housing, but also in related areas such as welfare reform.

In the most recent essay in the series I have provided a perspective on the future of social housing, focusing on housing associations in England. The essay covers four broad areas: the squeeze; looking beyond housing; narratives; and marginal voices. [Read more…]

Charlie’s angles

For days I have been thinking about writing something on last week’s atrocities in Paris, starting at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and ending with seventeen dead. But I have already read many, many news reports and opinion pieces that have approached the issue from all sorts of directions.

I’m not sure I have a huge amount to add. Except to say that much of the commentary demonstrates the challenges inherent in cross-cultural interpretation. There are considerable risks in interpreting the sort of satire that Charlie Hebdo produced from outside of its milieu – risks of getting the interpretation hopelessly wrong because all the allusions, undertones and implications are missed. Paul’s analogy with the way we make sense of the Alf Garnett character makes the point effectively to a UK audience; at least to a UK audience of a certain age.

Horror and incomprehension at inexcusable acts of violence has been followed by the stirring sight of hundreds of thousands – indeed milliions – of people joining marches and vigils under the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie”.* For many that was no doubt primarily a statement of solidarity – no one should die for drawing a few lines on a page. For many it was no doubt an endorsement of core practices and rights – liberty and free expression – that has been imperilled by these violent attacks. [Read more…]

Economists and their politics

Several econ bloggers have had things to say over recent days about the distinctions between mainstream and heterodox economics. It’s a discussion topic that carries a cast iron guarantee of raising the blood pressure of everyone involved. It’s one I’ve blogged about several times previously, but not for a while.

The proximate cause for this debate springing back to life, in the UK at least, was the broadcast of a Radio 4 programme about economics education which some mainstream economists (notably Tony Yates) felt was hopelessly one-sided in its support for heterodoxy, without giving those working from a mainstream perspective the space to respond.

But the discussion has taken a bit of a novel turn. Several of the recent contributions have focused on politics. The starting point is the argument that heterodox economists adopt the stance they do in relation to the mainstream because their sympathies lie on the political left, whereas they perceive mainstream economics as supporting a right wing agenda, now including large doses of austerity. [Read more…]

Senior Lib Dems talk coalition …

… and I’m not sure the messaging quite hits the spot.

Today’s Telegraph contains a piece entitled Vote Libdem for another Coalition, Nick Clegg says. On closer inspection it turns out that the article is based on the advanced briefing. But, nonetheless, the statements attributed to Clegg in the article seem to be framed rather unwisely.

It is surely true that a coalition government is one of the likely outcomes of the General Election. It is also the case that a coalition in which Liberal Democrats are involved, alongside either Labour or the Conservatives, is likely to have a more desirable policy platform than either party governing alone, for the sorts of reasons Clegg alludes to.

But the idea of voting Liberal Democrat if you want a coalition doesn’t make much sense. Whether this is precisely what the briefings, or Clegg, actually said or meant is no doubt open to debate. But, whatever was said, it opened up sufficient space to be construed in this way. [Read more…]

The Q#4 quintet plus

Here are the five posts on this blog that recorded the most hits between October and December 2014:

  1. Social housing transformations (27th Oct)
  2. The Universal Credit fiasco (30th Nov)
  3. Uncertain terrain: Issues and challenges facing housing associations (11th May 2013)
  4. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July 2013)
  5. Defining the challenge of UK housing policy (30th Oct)

So during this quarter a couple of hardy perennials featured prominently again.

[Read more…]

My top ten posts of 2014

TOP10I’m not 100% sure I can decide what sort of year 2014 has been for this blog – good, bad or indifferent. The overall level of traffic has been the same as 2013, give or take a few hundred hits. I’m grateful to everyone who takes the time to read what I post.

The pattern of traffic has been bit different this year to that of previous years. Nothing I posted this year sank without trace, but, on the other hand, nothing really took off. Most posts did okay (by the standards of this blog!).

The statistics for the year are rather dominated by a couple of posts originally published in 2013. They both recorded more than three times the hits of anything I published in 2014. I’m glad that they have found a broader audience, but I’m not entirely sure they stand out from a lot of the other stuff I’ve written. I’ve no idea whether the longer a blog continues the more likely it is to find greatest hits from the back catalogue continuing to attract substantial traffic, but that certainly seems to be happening here.

The blog again spent all year in the teads (previously ebuzzing) monthly ranking of the top 100 politics blogs. Such rankings are not to be taken too seriously, but I guess being in the top 100 is better than not being there! Thanks to everyone who thought one of my posts was worth retweeting, liking or linking to.

Thanks also to those who crossposted my posts to other group blogs and to all those who took the time to comment on one of my posts during the year.

Here, then, in reverse order, are my top ten most popular posts of 2014: [Read more…]

King speaks

Mervyn King’s stint on the Today programme yesterday was curious. It was much anticipated in some quarters. The reality then proved to be less revelatory than some might have hoped. I’m not sure what people were expecting – after years of buttoned-up discretion it was unlikely he was suddenly going to let all hang out. But some of the interpretation of King’s comments has been intriguingly partisan.

We are now only too familiar with the Coalition’s inclination to pin the blame for the financial crisis of 2007-08 on the last Labour government.  But asked directly yesterday whether he thought Labour were to blame he stated:

I am not going to talk about individual parties’ culpability because I think the real problem was a shared intellectual view right across the entire political spectrum and shared across the financial markets that things were going pretty well.

There were imbalances – we knew things were unsustainable – but it was not entirely obvious where it would come unstuck – and I think that is something everyone shared, and the right thing is to make it better for the future.

This has been interpreted in some quarters – notable by the Guardian – as King shifting his position and exonerating Labour. [Read more…]

Green on yellow sniping

Concept of war or fighting. Lemon and lime against each otherYesterday’s Telegraph carried a piece about the rise of the Green Party, largely at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. It opens:

Nick Clegg has “betrayed” his voters and traditional sandal-wearing Lib Dems are switching to the Green party across the country, the party’s leader has said.

Natalie Bennett said that the only people left in Mr Clegg’s party are “right wing Liberal Democrats” and their traditional supporters voters are choosing the Green party because they do not want to make the “mistake” of 2010 again.

Bennett subsequently elaborates upon the point: [Read more…]

Podcasts caught during 2014

I was listening to the Guardian Tech Weekly podcast last night while everyone else was watching the Christmas Dr Who. The first item discussed whether, with the rise of Serial in particular, podcasting was one of the tech and social media highlights of 2014. The conclusion was that podcasting continues to grow in popularity, but there was nothing particularly notable about 2014.

But 2014 very much was the year when I started listening to podcasts in a big way. In part that was because I started making my own, very intermittent, podcast and was interested in what was possible and how others do it. But it is also because I don’t really watch broadcast TV or listen to the radio, apart from the occasional news programme, although I do catch up with a few things on iplayer and the like. I mostly get information from broadsheet newspapers and online sources. Now I increasingly consume political commentary via podcasts.

Of course, there’s more to life – and the world of podcasting – that politics. I also listen now and again to popular science programmes and quite a bit of comedy and general nonsense. [Read more…]