Mr Brexit meets… Mr Brexit

Last week Donald Trump managed to leave hacks and commentariats confused when he took to Twitter to declare that he would soon be referred to as ‘MR BREXIT!’. While many interpreted this to mean that he would win an election against the odds — just as the Leave vote did in the referendum — Mr S was curious to learn that Trump is set to share a platform with the UK’s very own Mr Brexit.

Nigel Farage has told Sky News that he will be appear on stage with Donald Trump in the US tonight to discuss ‘The Brexit Story’. Given that Trump has regulary praised Britain’s decision to leave the EU, no doubt Farage can offer him some campaign advice for his own presidential bid. There is one small snag, however, as Hope Hicks, Trump’s campaign spokesperson, says she doubts there will be a joint appearance as ‘they don’t know each other’.

Mr S hopes that Farage has more luck with the Republican presidential nominee than Jeremy Corbyn had with Bernie Sanders, the one-time Democrat hopeful. After the Labour leader claimed that Sanders had sent him a message of support this week, Sanders’ team publicly denied this — claiming that he is staying out of UK politics.

The post Mr Brexit meets… Mr Brexit appeared first on Coffee House.

Why you shouldn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn

What follows is an appeal to Jeremy Corbyn supporters to think again. It’s from Chris, a Labour party member, who does not want to give his full name for fear of abuse. He has compiled a vast, but by no means exhaustive list of the moral and political failings of the Labour leader. He told me:

I’ve noticed that a few of my very clever, thoughtful, moderately left-wing friends were pro-Corbyn, which amazed me. What I discovered was that they knew almost no facts about him or his fellow travellers. I then noticed that any given critical article about Corbyn only listed one or two facts about him. Normal, good people, who aren’t political anoraks like me, don’t have time to read hundreds of articles on politics – they read a few articles and base the rest of their opinions on gut feeling and general trend of the headlines/social media. I decided to collate in one place the most striking, verifiable facts about Corbyn and the movement he represents.

They are well worth reading.


 

I write this as a passionate leftist and liberal. Below is a list of facts about Jeremy Corbyn which have not previously been collated in one place. The reader can make up their own mind, based on these facts. This list has been broken up into three sections: ‘Ethics’, ‘Leadership & Electability’, and ‘Social Media & Activists’.

Part One: Ethics

1.  Against peace in Ireland

During the 1980s and 1990s, Jeremy Corbyn supported the IRA and opposed the Northern Ireland peace process:

  • By voting against the peace process and the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Parliament, as he believed republican nationalists shouldn’t have to compromise (the evidence is here and here).
  • By attending and speaking at annual pro-IRA commemorations for terrorists between 1986 and 1992. The programme for one such event reads: ‘In this, the conclusive phase in the war to rid Ireland of the scourge of British imperialism…force of arms is the only method capable of bringing this about’.
  • By aligning with terrorists. Corbyn was general secretary of the editorial board of the hard-left journal Labour Briefing which supported IRA violence and explicitly backed the Brighton Hotel Bombing, which killed 5 people and maimed 31 others. In its December 1984 leader, the editorial board ‘disassociated itself’ from an article criticising the Brighton bombing, saying the criticism was a ‘serious political misjudgement’. The board said it ‘reaffirmed its support for, and solidarity with, the Irish republican movement’, and added that ‘the British only sit up and take notice when they are bombed into it’. Alongside its editorial, the board reprinted a speech by Gerry Adams describing the bombing as a ‘blow for democracy’. The same edition carried a reader’s letter praising the ‘audacity’ of the IRA attack and stating: ‘What do you call four dead Tories? A start.’ They had previously printed the following:

We refuse to parrot the ritual condemnation of ‘violence’ because we insist on placing responsibility where it lies…. Let our Iron Lady know this: those who live by the sword shall die by it. If she wants violence, then violence she will certainly get.

If Corbyn wanted to support a unified Ireland through peaceful means he could have supported the SDLP (Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party), which wanted to unify Ireland through a democratic process. Instead, Corbyn attended ‘Troops Out’ rallies where the SDLP were denounced as sell-outs. In 2015, on BBC Radio Ulster, Corbyn refused five times to specifically condemn IRA violence and terrorism. He hung up rather than answer the question. You can listen here.

Corbyn also appointed as his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who opposed the peace process as late as 1998 as it meant compromise. McDonnell also said (before, admittedly, later apologising):

It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands we now have a peace process.

It is worth remembering that the IRA bombed, shot, or beat to death 1,696 men, women and children, and of course did not achieve a united Ireland.

2. For the Iranian religious right

Jeremy Corbyn has been paid £20,000 to appear five times on the totalitarian Iranian regime’s propaganda channel, including even after the channel was banned in the UK for its role in filming the tortured forced-confession of Iranian liberal journalist Maziar Bahari. By hosting interviews, Corbyn gives the propaganda the ‘credibility’ of a Western politician. It’s fascinating to hear Iranian democracy campaigner Maziar Bahari’s own thoughts on Corbyn, who he describes as ‘a useful idiot’, and goes on to say:

People who present programmes for Press TV and get paid for it should be really ashamed of themselves — especially if they call themselves liberals and people who are interested in human rights.

The Iranian regime executes gay people, democracy activists, Kurds, and orders the rape of female prisoners. But Corbyn is happy to take their money and aid their propaganda campaign. Watch the end of this clip as Jeremy hosts a caller who describes the BBC as ‘Zionist liars’.

3. For anti-Semites

  • Jeremy Corbyn has praised and supported Raed Salah, an Islamist who has been accused of spreading the Blood Libel (an old antisemitic conspiracy that Jews use the blood of gentile children to make their bread). Salah has also been charged with inciting racial hatred and violence, and has claimed the Jews were behind 9/11. Corbyn has said: ‘Salah is a very honoured citizen’, ‘Salah’s is a voice that must be heard’, ‘Salah is far from a dangerous man’, and ‘I look forward to giving you tea on the terrace because you deserve it!’.
  • Corbyn wrote in defence of a vicar who suggested that 9/11 was an inside job by the Jews.
  • Corbyn invited Hamas and Hizbollah to Parliament and called them his ‘friends’. Bear in mind that Hamas’s Charter is explicitly genocidal – it makes it clear its supporters want to kill Jews and repeats Nazi conspiracy theories. Their founding Charter also rules out any peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestine problem. It says:

Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad.

Corbyn doesn’t invite extremist Zionists to parliament, only extremist anti-Semites.

4. For Putin

As his right-hand man, Corbyn appointed Seumas Milne, who has argued we should focus more on the positives of Stalin’s communist dictatorship. Milne was also part of the pro-Stalin and pro-Soviet fellow travellers of Fergus Nicholson’s wing of the British Communist Party (he was not an official member), and worked at the pro-Soviet paper Straight Left. Milne has also blamed Russia’s recent invasion of the Ukraine on the West, and has hosted a propaganda media conference for Vladimir Putin.

5. Against self-determination

Corbyn suggested that the Falkland Islands should be shared with Argentina, ignoring a referendum in which 99.8 per cent of the islanders voted to remain British.

 

Part Two: Electability and Leadership

Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly demonstrated he isn’t a viable leader. Here’s how:

  • Corbyn has shown he has little idea about how to handle the media. Even left-wing newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent have complained that the Corbyn team, through incompetency, release their press statements too late to give them full coverage the next day. One example was the announcement of an internal inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour party, wider coverage of which would have taken pressure off Corbyn and the Labour party. Instead, the announcement was made late on a Friday night – meaning the saga dragged on.
  • On national television, Jeremy Corbyn refused to back a shoot-to-kill policy if a Paris-style machine gun attack happened in London. He then changed his mind and backtracked a day later.
  • Corbyn’s botched attempt at a publicity stunt on a ‘ram-packed’ train was questioned by Virgin who released CCTV images showing the Labour leader appearing to walk past empty seats before he had filmed a video showing him sitting on the floor of a train carriage. Another image released by Virgin also showed Corbyn having later found a seat.
  • The following advisors and colleagues have resigned under Corbyn or disowned him in the last ten months, citing incompetence and his unelectability:
  1. Neale Coleman, the former aide to Ken Livingstone, resigned following the unexpected announcement of policies he had not be consulted on.
  2. Richard Murphy, the left wing tax specialist who was initially supportive of Corbyn, and whose policies the Labour leader took up, has now disowned him due to his failure to create a detailed plan. He said he had lost faith in Corbyn’s vision.
  3. David Blanchflower and Simon Wren-Lewis, left-wing economic advisors to Corbyn, have resigned, citing his lack of ability and electability.
  4. World famous left-wing economist Thomas Picketty has also resigned as Corbyn’s economic advisor, criticising his ‘weak’ EU campaign.
  5. The Labour MP Thangam Debonaire disowned Corbyn after saying the Labour leader hired and fired her while she was receiving cancer treatment – all without a single word. Her full, shocking account can be read here.
  6. The Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, who never publicly criticised Corbyn, and who voted with him on Syria, resigned as the Shadow Transport shadow, claiming Corbyn has repeatedly undermined herOh, and there’s also….
  7. The 172 Labour MPs, whose views range from centrist to centre-left to fully left-wing, who voted that they had no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership.

But these aren’t the only indications Corbyn isn’t up to the job:

  • Corbyn has the lowest public approval rating for an opposition leader after ten months since records began. An Ipsos Mori poll said Corbyn’s rating was -41, compared to -32 for Michael Foot at the same time during his doomed leadership.
  • Every large-scale study into why Labour lost the 2015 general election came to the same conclusion: Labour was not trusted on the economy. Corbyn’s response? To promise £500billion in spending but refuse to say where the money will come from.
  • Jeremy Corbyn also had a disastrous referendum campaign. Having been pro-Brexit for decades – voting against Common market membership in 1975, and against the Maastricht Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty as an MP – his ‘pro-Remain’ campaign was, at best, half-hearted. What’s more:
  1. Corbyn missed the first day of the Labour ‘Remain‘ campaign so he could attend an anti-nuclear weapons rally instead.
  2. Leaked emails show that during the EU referendum campaign, Labour party ‘Remain’ campaigners came to the conclusion that the Corbyn Team were deliberately sabotaging their efforts.
  3. A full 45 per cent of the millions of Labour voters weren’t aware that Labour was for ‘Remain’.
  4. Corbyn’s first actions after the referendum was to, unwisely, call for the immediate invoking of Article 50.

 

Part Three: Social Media & Activists

It cannot be emphasised enough that abusive Corbyn supporters only represent a vocal minority. However it is also clear that Labour wasn’t experiencing the problems of abuse and intimidation prior to the birth of this current movement. In the process of fact checking, it became apparent that some incidents of abuse may have been exaggerated in order to criticise the pro-Corbyn movement. However, it’s simply not possible to claim that the hundreds-upon-hundreds of separately documented incidents, abusive voicemails and phone calls, physical confrontations, police callouts and death threats are all exaggerations. Here are a list of just some of them:

  • Over 40 female MPs have written to Jeremy Corbyn pleading with him to try to curtail the abuse they receive from his supporters. It’s not clear what Jeremy Corbyn has actually done about this issue.
  • Across the country, Labour constituency meetings have been temporarily suspended by the NEC because of the levels of abuse and intimidation taking place at some of these gatherings.
  • Since challenging Corbyn’s leadership, Labour MP Angela Eagle has been called a ‘dyke’ at a constituency meeting, and has been told by police that, for now, she should not hold constituency surgeries because her safety cannot be guaranteed.
  • BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg has received abuse from Corbyn supporters, including being called a ‘whore’ and a ‘bitch’.
  • At the release of the Labour anti-Semitism report, Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was abused by a Corbyn supporter. Meanwhile, Corbyn apparently watched and said nothing.

Of course, there are many other facts to bear in mind when making your choice for Labour leader. It is up to each individual to vote with their conscience, but all of us must strive to vote based on the facts.

Yours sincerely,

CG (name anonymised to avoid harassment and abuse)

The post Why you shouldn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn appeared first on Coffee House.

An independent Scotland would now be bankrupt

This time two years ago, the United Kingdom stood on the brink of dissolution. The referendum on Scottish independence hung in the balance and momentum was with the nationalists. The optimism and energy of Alex Salmond’s campaign stood in admirable contrast to the shrill hysteria of Project Fear, the name given to a unionist campaign that churned out ever-less-credible warnings about what would happen after separation. The union was saved, but 45 per cent of Scots had voted to leave it. So the referendum had not closed the question, but left it wide open.

At the time, the North Sea oil sector was still in fairly good health. In the SNP’s economic manifesto for independence, it gave estimates of up to £7.9 billion a year for oil revenues. Then the oil price crashed — and oil revenues are now 99 per cent lower, at £60 million. This is no freak: America has mastered fracking and doesn’t need to import so much oil now, pushing the price of a barrel down from $110 to $45. This hasn’t hurt the UK economy because the stimulus from cheaper fuel generally balances out lower North Sea receipts. A country of 65 million can absorb such shocks. A separate Scotland simply could not.

Had the SNP achieved its stated ambition of ‘independence day’ in the spring of 2016, what would it be doing now? We don’t have to imagine. This week, the Scottish government published figures for its national finances. They show that the Scottish government spends £127 for every £100 it raises in tax — a ratio unequalled anywhere else in the developed world. It can do this because so much extra money is sent up from England. For every £100 spent per English head, £120 is spent on a Scottish one.

Greece, Italy, Albania — no country, no matter how economically distressed, has such a mismatch between state spending and tax collected. Scotland’s deficit — at 10.1 per cent of GDP — is now twice as big as the next-worst country (Japan). No independent country could afford to run a deficit of Scottish magnitude: to borrow on world markets, you need a semblance of fiscal respectability. Even to join the European Union, Scotland’s deficit would need to be below 3 per cent. So an independent Scotland would right now be facing a choice: state spending down by 15 per cent, taxes up by 19 per cent, or a combination of the two.

The cuts are certainly doable. The Scottish government machine is vast, and at times the whole enterprise looks like an attempt to recreate East Germany. Nicola Sturgeon could certainly propose a rapid slimming down of government, and say that this is a price worth paying for secession. But as her own government figures now make clear, she could not pretend that an independent Scotland could sustain current levels of largesse. She can forget about free university tuition and free personal care for the elderly.

The SNP’s case for separation has always rested on three pillars: that the black gold in the North Sea would transform the economy, that Scotland’s priorities are irreconcilably different from those of England, and that Scottish government always means better government. Each of these three pillars has now collapsed. The North Sea dream has ended: jobs and expertise have already shifted to the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. As to the second pillar, the British Social Attitudes survey, the largest of its kind, shows Scots growing ever closer to the English in their outlook to politics, culture and society.

And better government? The SNP has now had nine years to prove its theory that decisions taken by officials in Edinburgh are better when it comes to schools, hospitals, transport and the environment. But even Nicola Sturgeon cannot claim that the NHS is better in Scotland than in England. Or that Scotland’s state education system is more progressive than England’s. On the contrary, a poor Scottish teenager is now half as likely to get into university as a poor English one. The merging of regional police services into Police Scotland has been a disaster.

Now and again it is argued that the EU referendum has made Scotland more likely to vote for independence. While it’s true that only two in five Scots supported Brexit, this has hardly transformed the desire for independence. The basic economic reality is stark, and undeniable: an independent Scotland would be a Scotland embarking on the most ambitious austerity programme attempted by any western country in peacetime. There may well be a case for this. But as of this week, the SNP can no longer pretend that separation and sado-austerity would not come hand in hand.

And the case for the Union? North Sea oil revenue has all but vanished — but there has been no national hammerblow as a result. Instead, more Scots are in work than ever before. Scottish pensioner poverty is lower than ever before. Scottish household wealth is higher than ever before.

By being plugged into the larger economic network of the United Kingdom, Scots have not just been shielded from the oil slump, but have been able to achieve more than ever. The pooling of resources works. Scotland and England are now, more than ever, better together.

The post An independent Scotland would now be bankrupt appeared first on Coffee House.

Where has all the money gone, Nicola Sturgeon?

Just three years ago, the Scottish government enjoyed claiming that an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Perhaps even the sixth wealthiest, as measured by GDP per capita. Sometimes the claims made were a little more modest. Scotland might be only the 14th richest country on earth. But, however the figures were calculated and wherever Scotland was presumed to rank, one thing remained consistent: Scotland would be richer than the United Kingdom it would be leaving behind.

Well, you can’t make that case any longer. In truth, it wasn’t a case sensible people bought in the first place. It was too good to be true, too dependent upon time-sensitive statistical chicanery, to be entirely convincing. In like fashion, the suggestion an independent Scotland could spend more, borrow less and tax just the same insulted the electorate’s intelligence.

Of course Scotland could afford to be independent. But being rich enough to afford independence does not contradict the fact Scotland would be poorer than it would be as a part of the United Kingdom. Perhaps that’s a price worth paying, though it is worth noting that the SNP aren’t convinced the people are ready to pay it. And there really is no doubt any more. Today’s publication of the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland statistics (GERS) hammers another nail into the economic argument for independence.

Scotland, right now, has a fiscal deficit amounting to 9.5 per cent of GDP, more than twice the deficit figure for the UK as a whole. That amounts to almost £15bn or, to put it another way, almost 20 percent of government spending in Scotland. That’s more than is spent on education, transport and policing combined.

In 2015-16, Scotland raised £53.7bn but total public spending amounted to £68.6bn. That’s more than a fiscal gap, it’s a fiscal Marianas Trench. To put it into some international perspective, it’s a larger deficit than that run by any country in the EU.

Suddenly the promise of a second oil boom – much-trumpeted by the SNP during the independence referendum – seems a sardonic joke made at the expense of the Scottish people themselves. Oil revenues amounted to £60m last year. Or less than the cost of a hospital. Independence would have been an expensive business.

Ah, say the nationalists, but an independent Scotland would do things differently. Well, yes. It would have to. Deficits of nearly ten per cent of GDP can’t be sustained for more than a handful of years. Even the Greeks know that.

Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon said that, after Brexit, the UK ‘is no longer a safe haven’ for Scotland. That was an unfortunate but telling phrase all too redolent of Alex Salmond’s belief Scotland plays the role of a ‘surly lodger’ paying rent to the United Kingdom. A denial that it’s actually our house too and that the UK is no more a safe haven for Scotland than it is for Lancashire. It is, instead, a country that’s ours just as much as it belongs to any Devonian or Londoner (it’s just that we have another country too).

But if the UK is not a safe haven then, judged by the Scottish government’s own figures, a putatively-independent Scotland is a fiscal war-zone. Perhaps those figures are incomplete – the sterner kind of nationalist thinks so – but they are the best we have and are, again, produced by the Scottish government.

If independence was off the table this might not matter very much. But it’s not off the table. The SNP and the wider ‘Yes’ movement are preparing for another thrash at independence, perhaps at some point in this parliament. Civil servants are preparing a bill legislating for another referendum (though, technically, this is beyond the Scottish parliament’s legal competence) and Ms Sturgeon has promised further details when she outlines her latest programme for government later this autumn. (You may remember, wistfully, that education was going to be her top priority. But if you really believed that then you’re a sucker.)

True, Brexit has an impact. True, too, that we are not where we might like to be in a fiscal sense. But it takes some gall, some neck, some cheek, to complain bitterly about Westminster austerity while pursuing an agenda that guarantees the kind of austerity George Osborne never even dreamed of. Kilted austerity would be a brutal business.

All of which leaves Scottish politics in a strange and resentful place. The political argument for independence post-Brexit may be stronger than it was in 2014 but the economic argument for it is demonstrably worse. To the tune of about £1,600 a person per year. Could Scotland afford independence? Of course it could. But does it need it? The electorate decided it did not just two years ago. And there has been no dramatic shift in public opinion since then.

Last week Alex Bell, the SNP’s former head of policy, admitted that the White Paper on Independence, all 600 plus pages of it, had been drivel and suggested those responsible for it should hang their heads in shame and apologise for misleading the Scottish people. Only then, he theorised, could the SNP start again and make a new and better and more plausible and honest independence offer to the electorate.

But Scotland is a small-c conservative country. It has voted in three referendums in the last six years and has opted for the status quo on each occasion. An independence offer that promised blood, sweat, toil and tears might be a more honest prospectus but it’s not evident it’s one the people want to hear, far less embrace. Like Jack Nicholson, the SNP worry that the Scottish people ‘can’t handle the truth’. If they could there’d be no need to try and hide it.

Perhaps that will change. External events will have an impact and the political landscape may yet look very different in 2020, 2021 and 2022. But for now the question remains this: if the Scottish people were not prepared to embrace independence when it promised them additional wealth, why should they do so when it guarantees, at least for a while, undoubted impoverishment?

As Ms Sturgeon admitted this morning, the GERS figures present ‘a challenging picture for Scotland. True enough, but it’s a more challenging picture for the SNP.

Traditionally, the party has reacted to bad news by arguing that this simply demonstrates the fierce urgency of independence (good news, naturally, shows that independence would be a skoosh). Well, maybe. But the reverse also applies: good news (thin on the ground these days admittedly) shows there’s no great need for independence; bad news confirms that divorce, as the old slogan had it, is an expensive business. So why risk it? Why not, instead, muddle along?

That’s not, it is true, an inspirational hymn for Unionism to sing but it has the merit of being based upon real figures, not fantasy. Facts are stubborn chiels and some of them will not ding.

The post Where has all the money gone, Nicola Sturgeon? appeared first on Coffee House.

The burkini ban is a political ruse

Private Eye used to run a column called the ‘Neo-philes’, listing some of the endless cases of hacks saying ‘X is the new Y’ (‘This season green is the new black’ and so on). So let me put in an early entry for the return of any such column by announcing here that ‘The Burkini is the new Hizb ut-Tahrir’.

After 18 months of terrorist attacks across the continent, this summer French and now German politicians are falling over each other to call for a ban on a new Islamic swimwear garment called the ‘burkini’. This is nonsense piled on top of nonsense. Though I do not doubt he spent some time thinking about it, the inventor of Islam had very little to say about women’s beachwear. And in any case there is no reason why non-Islamic countries have to spend any time wondering over what Mohammed did or did not say. We have our own laws and traditions and can make or change them without any reference to the Quran or Hadith.

If it weren’t for the fact that we are now used to such distraction issues, the amount of attention poured on this burkini issue would be mystifying. But of course it fits into the modern European pattern of politicians and media getting caught up on essentially ephemeral, unimportant issues to do with Islam and European culture. And that is because the bigger issues go so entirely counter to the lies we keep telling ourselves about the wisdom or success of our policies of immigration and integration.

Personally, the question of the burkini lies exceptionally low down my list of concerns about the crises facing our continent. While the German government is talking about conscripting German citizens and also advising the population to stockpile essential supplies in preparation for a mass casualty terrorist attack, I would think it highly unlikely that even one life will be saved by banning the burkini.

And while there is a very strong security justification for banning the burka (for instance here, and here), the same cannot be said of the burkini. If someone tried to carry a Kalashnikov beneath a burka they would be – and have been – able to get away with it. The same principle applies considerably less in the case of the tight-fitting burkini. What is more, the burka covers the face while the burkini does not, thus ridding the burka argument of the apt, indeed vital, motorcycle helmet comparison.

But as I say, the Burkini is the new Hizb ut-Tahrir. Why? Because for years – under governments of left and right across Europe and as far away as Australia – any politician who wanted to sound tough about Islamic terrorism after an Islamic terrorist attack would announce that they were going to ban the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Tony Blair said it. David Cameron said it. Everyone said it. And nobody ever did anything about it. Perhaps politicians will be more successful in surmounting the huge and terrible issue that is the burkini. But like Hizb ut-Tahrir, it has already taken on the trappings of a placebo. It is simply, at present, the acceptable thing to raise in France or Germany if you want to sound tough on an issue that is presently getting far out away from their control.

We shall see whether the next terrorist attack in France or Germany comes from a lady on the beach wearing a burkini. Or whether the next terrorist attack does not, more likely come from allowing millions of people from Islamic cultures to enter your society unchecked and un-vetted and allow foreign (often allied) governments to pump money into these countries to teach the worst versions of an already not very peaceable religion.

The post The burkini ban is a political ruse appeared first on Coffee House.

Never mind the gap, what about working women who decide not to have children?

There’s nothing like the issue of the gender wage gap to get people going.

Research published yesterday by the Institute of Fiscal Studies revealed that women earn 18 per cent less than men on average. The IFS also found that the gap widens after women have children, raising the prospect that mothers are missing out on pay rises and promotions.

According to the Institute, the pay differential widens consistently for 12 years after a first child is born, by which point women receive 33 per cent less pay an hour than men. Although the IFS points out that is partly because women who return to work often do so in a part-time capacity.

Well, colour me surprised. Women returning to work part-time earn less than men? What will they think of next.

It’s deeply unpopular to say so, particularly as I am a working woman with personal experience of the male/female pay disparity, but I have no problem with the fairer sex earning less cash after childbirth – if they decide that five days a week is no longer for them. The vast majority of professional women I know who rejoined the rat race after having children either cut down on their hours or were allowed to work at least one day from home.

As someone who has no intention of having kids, I’m not entirely happy this situation; this special treatment for people who have made an active choice to change their lifestyle. It’s a bit like the way smokers are allowed endless time away from their desks for fag breaks while the rest of us have to keep on toiling.

I also know women who have deliberately taken a well-paying job because of the company’s generous maternity allowance, signing on the dotted line in the full knowledge that as soon as their contract permits, they’ll be off having babies ad infinitum.

I want to support mothers in the workplace, I really do. My sister is one of them. My mum was one of them. But it’s hard to do that when, oh, as a childless woman you’re not allowed time off during school holidays because women with families get priority.

A recent experience has further coloured my view. I run a small business with a handful of staff where every penny counts. When I hired a marketing manager, I was glad to appoint a woman, someone with a great CV who filled me with confidence. Less than three months into her role, she told me she was pregnant. After that, she pretty much downed tools. Then, a few weeks before giving birth, she announced she was leaving and never coming back. To say I was annoyed doesn’t begin to cover it.

It pains me to say it, but this has made me hesitate over replacing her with another woman of child-bearing age. I find it easier to work with women, I prefer working with women, but as a employer I’ve come to accept that it might not be the most prudent of options.

Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator

The post Never mind the gap, what about working women who decide not to have children? appeared first on Coffee House.

Why Corbyn could still come out on top from ‘traingate’

This morning Jeremy Corbyn has woken up to find his face plastered across the front pages of the Daily Mail and the Times following ‘traingate‘. After Corbyn appeared in a video calling for the railways to be re-nationalised while sitting on the floor of a ‘ram-packed’ Virgin train, the company hit back. On Tuesday, Richard Branson’s team released a press release and CCTV footage which appears to show that Corbyn did have a seat after all.

As the media feasted on the footage yesterday, Corbyn’s team first dismissed the claims as a ‘lie’ before offering an alternative account several hours later. Now with the spin machine firmly back in action, the Labour leader’s campaign manager appeared on Today to do an exercise in damage limitation.

While he admitted that Corbyn did have a seat in the end, Tarry went on to claim that the bigger issue at hand was actually Branson — the tax exile. Moving the debate away from the photo evidence, he said that it was ‘quite astonishing’ that a ‘tax exile of more than ten years’ decides to ‘lay into and make a political intervention on social media in a very public way’.

Of course what Tarry fails to acknowledge is that it was Corbyn who started it. Had social media savvy Corbyn not used the — now very questionable — seat situation to call for re-nationalisation, Branson would have had no need to intervene and defend his company’s reputation — and future.

However, Corbyn’s team are unlikely to be bothered by a little detail like this. Even as the CCTV footage was released with time stamps, true believers were quick to dispute train timetables and claim it was all a conspiracy. What’s more, by painting the situation as unjust — and Branson as a corporate businessman unfairly picking on the little guy — Corbyn’s campaign know they will be appealing to the party membership. This is why ‘traingate’ is unlikely to have much, if any, impact on the leadership election result — even if it does raise valid questions about Corbyn’s brand of ‘straight-talking, honest politics’.

 

The post Why Corbyn could still come out on top from ‘traingate’ appeared first on Coffee House.

Women must be free to wear the bikini – and the burkini

‘Let’s play a game. Yohji or Burkini?’ a friend and fellow fashion writer in Paris lazily suggested. We were sitting by Paris Plage, on deckchairs on the edge of the river Seine. Tourists, families, screaming infants and the usual Paris bobos, clad, this year, in impeccably chic austerity, with hardly a square centimetre of skin revealed, all mingle. Our conclusion was that it’s hard to tell the difference between conceptual designer Yohji Yamamoto’s latest outfits and the modest styles worn for religious reasons.

The burkini, designed in 2003 in Australia but barely known in France until recently, could also easily be worn by both fashion divas or the devout. Yet it has now become a subject of heated controversy. A battle of outraged commentators, each more expert than the next, has threatened the fall of the République all because of an article of swimwear worn by a handful of adventurous swimmers, who don’t want to reveal their entire body. It has culminated in a woman being forced to remove her burkini by armed guards on a beach in Nice. Hardly a symbol of French liberalism.

The debate around religious wear isn’t totally new: since the 1990s, the hijab has been a source of dispute in France. The founding principle of secularism has been difficult to align with France’s Muslim communities (five million strong, the largest in Europe). Whereas Germany and other countries in the EU preach tolerance for all faiths both in public and in private, France restricts religion to the private sphere. It means that public schools and other institutions, including shops, services, police stations – and apparently, beaches too— must forbid any kind of religious display or style, such as a turban, a headscarf or a crucifix.

The burkini is the latest garment to have failed the laïcité test.  Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet and Sisco on the island of Corsica, as well as several towns on the Côte d’Azur have all banned it. Other spots on the Atlantic coast have followed – even though no burkini has been spotted there so far. A special force has been assigned to stop and fine offenders, but fewer than a dozen have been caught across France. Why all the fuss? For some mayors, they see a link between radicalism, terrorism, the veil and now the burkini. The authorities in the region are still reeling from the shock of the massacre in Nice on 14 July, when a truck mowed down a crowd watching the fireworks of Bastille day, leaving 85 dead. A burkini ban is now in place in Nice. Judge Dominique Lemaître has said it is ‘in accordance with the first articles of the constitution,’ and that ‘the state of emergency and the recent Islamist attacks in Nice would indicate that wearing distinctive clothing on the beach other than the usual swimming costume is, in such a context, far more than a sign of religious observance.’

The burkini has morphed into a political symbol of radicalism and allegiance to Isis – even though none of the perpetrators of this year’s attacks in Paris or Nice were female or wearing a burkini. Those on the left, such as the socialist prime minister Manuel Valls, are now trying to support the ban by arguing that the burkini is a ‘political project founded on the enslavement of women’. Women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol has also claimed that its purpose is to ‘hide women’s bodies in order to better control them’.

In the country where ‘le topless’ or ‘le monokini’ – i.e. bare breasts – have been common on beaches for generations (and casually displayed in family albums), and men wear diminutive Speedos, showing too little skin is what really shocks the French. Going topless, on the contrary, is meant to be a sign of liberation and of national identity. Remember Delacroix ‘s representation of ‘Liberty leading the people’, breast bared, at once militant and maternal?

Ironically, this summer has also seen the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the bikini, which was launched in France in 1946 by engineer Louis Réard. Photos and examples of vintage bathing suits have been on display all summer at the Galerie Joseph-Froissart in the Marais district in Paris. Promotional posters of Ava Gardner in a two-piece swimming costume are plastered all over town. The summer show celebrates the quasi-naked female body in the public space as key to French culture and freedom. The right to bare almost all underpins the French concept of liberty. But the underlying tensions are far more complex than they seem.

‘This national celebration of the bikini is instrumental in reiterating an old, almost cliché notion of national Frenchness, as an act of protest against the radicalisation of Muslim youth,’ says Betül Yarar, a visiting professor of sociology from Gazi University currently at Paris 8, who specialises in body politics and popular culture. ‘Whether a bikini or a burka, women’s bodies are always symbols of political projects, aiming to represent modernity or tradition,’ she says.

Are the burkini and the bikini really the polar opposite of each other? Olivier Roy, a sociologist and specialist of the Muslim world, suggests that the burkini, which is barely thirteen years old, is in fact a sign of hyper-modernity and resistance. ‘The Islamic State would never agree to the burkini! It is a symbol of consumerism, of the West; it is an attempt by second generation North African minorities to bridge tradition and modernity via fashion,’ he said in a recent interview.

A comparable debate to the burkini vs bikini one began last April, when news arrived about ‘modest’ designs hitting the Western high street. According to Rossignol, it was bound to turn French Muslims into raging fundamentalists. Since then, it has become normal to conflate religion with terrorism and confuse fashion with fundamentalism. What of liberté, égalité, fraternité if it discriminates between those women who cover up and those who display flesh?

This leaves my bikini in a twist. Shouldn’t sexual freedom also mean the freedom to conceal? Fashion certainly seems to gave gone that way these days: the popularity of Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, and Lemaire’s chaste designs mark a return of clothing that covers more than imperfections. ‘In a hyper-sexualised environment with omnipresent pornography and sexual harassment, women are increasingly turning to clothing that will keep them safe when they come home late at night. Clothes reflect the daily reality of women’ says Laurence Vely, editor-in-chief of Marie-France magazine. French women famously wear black. But many Western women – like Muslim women – are increasingly embracing a more unisex, androgynous sense of style which has a similar effect to the burkini: it covers up the body and moves it away from an objectifying gaze. And whatever happened to women being free to wear whatever they want, be it a bikini or a burkini? The sight of a woman being forced to remove any item of clothing should shock any genuine liberal.

One key difference remains: As a white, middle-class woman, I can legally wear just about anything I please. I can cover my hair up, and my pale skin will reassure everyone that it is just a fashion statement; I can run around entirely sheathed in dark clothes and claim it’s Martin Margiela Spring-Summer 2017 in my impeccable Rive Gauche accent. But freedom cannot be given to some people and not others. If I am free to wear items of clothing that other women are forced to remove, we all lose some of our liberté.

Alice Pfeiffer is a Paris-based fashion reporter for Le Monde. She has also contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian, i-D and Vogue.

The post Women must be free to wear the bikini – and the burkini appeared first on Coffee House.

Property sales, first-time buyers, pensions and students

Investors took £5.7 billion out of UK-based stock market funds and a further £470 million from property funds last month in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, according to latest market figures.

The Guardian reports that statistics from data company Morningstar show that some of the money appears to have been redeployed to other types of UK funds specialising in assets regarded as less risky, such as corporate and government bonds.

In other Brexit news, Thisismoney reports that over half of households across the UK are concerned about the potential impact of Britain’s vote to leave the EU on their personal finances and jobs.

Nearly 27 per cent of Briton’s are worried that June’s Brexit vote could put their job at risk, according to a report from the Scottish Friendly and the Social Market Foundation. Meanwhile, levels of monthly disposable income climbed only 2.4 per cent in the last quarter, with the proportion of people spending more on housing costs up from 5.8 per cent to 7.1 per cent.

First-time buyers

With some predicting a fall in house prices following the EU referendum vote, many potential first-time buyers are poised to take advantage of the moment to get themselves on the first rung of the housing ladder. However they might be disappointed, with research from Moneyfacts.co.uk showing a number of 95 per cent loan-to-value (LTV) products disappearing from the market.

Charlotte Nelson, finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: ‘It’s disappointing news for first-time buyers that the number of 95 per cent LTV products has fallen by 16 per cent in just five months. It is particularly bruising when many hope that the predictions of cheaper houses would help them realise their dream sooner than expected.’

However, data released this morning by the Council of Mortgage Lenders shows that first-time buyers borrowed £3 billion in the second quarter of this year, up 3 per cent on the first quarter and 10 per cent compared to the second quarter last year. This equated to 10,800 loans, up 3 per cent quarter-on-quarter but down 1 per cent year-on-year.

Home-movers borrowed £2.5 billion, down 41 per cent on quarter one this year. This equated to 6,700 loans, down 37 per cent quarter-on-quarter and 18 per cent on quarter two 2015.

Cashless society

A new survey from Worldpay suggests that one third of consumers believe cash will become obsolete by 2020. With London busses rejecting cash in favour of contactless payments and Waitrose opening the first entirely cashless store this month, the cashless revolution is firmly under way, the firm says.

Today, more people are paying with card than with cash preferring an expanding range of quick and easy payment options rooted in technology, with half of British shoppers having used contactless to pay for goods at least once and 40 per cent saying they use it a few times a week.

Pensions

As the Government announces plans to communicate with 100,000 people at risk of completely missing out on the new state pension, the latest findings of the Aegon Readiness Report show the need to go much further in helping people understand the state pension. A total of 80 per cent of the UK population don’t know the number of years they need to make National Insurance contributions for to qualify for the full £155.65 a week state pension, and the majority (57 per cent) underestimate the number of qualifying years needed.

In other pensions news, representatives of 1,250 armed police officers who protect UK civil nuclear sites are challenging a rule forcing them to work beyond the age of 60.

While most UK police can retire at 60, Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers must work until 65 under a new law. But the Civil Nuclear Police Federation says it will be ‘physically impossible’ for officers in their mid-60s to protect the public from terrorism. It is taking its case to London’s High Court to try to get the rule changed.

Northern Rock

Thousands of Northern Rock customers will not benefit from the cut in interest rates because the private equity owners of their debts have not passed on the Bank of England’s cut earlier in the month, according to The Times.

The decision by Cerberus Capital Management, of the United States, contrasts with a slew of other mortgage providers that have cut borrowing costs since the Bank reduced the base rate on August 4. It may stir up fresh criticism of the sale of the nationalised loans to private equity players.

Students

New research has revealed that 87 per cent of undergraduates had to ask their parents for money on average five times per study year, asking for £457 each time, in order to help pay their rent and buy food.  

According to www.notgoingtouni.co.uk, when requesting money from their parents in order to get by, some undergraduates admitted to asking for more money than they really needed, and others admitted that they had enough in the first place but wouldn’t have had money to socialise if they didn’t ask for financial help.

The post Property sales, first-time buyers, pensions and students appeared first on Coffee House.

It’s been a year, Nicola Sturgeon. Where are your refugees?

This time last year, as images of refugees fleeing Syria dominated the news, a host of charitable figures offered to do their bit and take refugees into their home. Exasperated that David Cameron was not allowing enough refugees into Britain, Sir Bob Geldof, Yvette Cooper and Nicola Sturgeon were among those who publicly vowed to lead by example.

Since then, there appear to have hit a few stumbling blocks. For one, Yvette Cooper claimed — in an interview with Nick Ferrari — that we should listen to the Tory government as they have said that ‘they don’t want people to take them into their home’. Happily times may now be a’changing. The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has called for the ‘outpouring of sentiment’ shown towards Syrian refugees to be turned into real help. They have asked for people who want to foster a refugee child in their home to make themselves known as soon as possible.

So, one year on from their promises and with the need never greater, Mr S thought it best to check-in to see what progress the three have made. Have they got in touch with the Local Government Association?

Alas it turns out that Mr S must have been confused. When Yvette Cooper said that she would take a refugees into her home ‘if that’s what it took and that’s what was needed’, the former shadow Home Secretary wasn’t actually referring to child refugees. Her spokesman says that she never volunteered to be a foster parent as this is a full-time job that requires training. While they add that the bigger issue at hand is the ‘clear failure’ at government level to bring children to Britain safely, it’s unclear whether she is planning to take in an adult refugee. Presumably now Ed Balls, Cooper’s husband, is to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, he wouldn’t be around to help out.

Meanwhile Bob Geldof offered to house not one, not two, but three refugee families last July after branding the government’s response as an ‘absolute sickening disgrace’. However, when Mr S approached, he declined to make a public comment at this time regarding the refugee situation — though Steerpike is assured that refugees remain a cause close to his heart.

But what of the First Minister? While the Local Government Association represents councils in England and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon previously said she’d happily have a Syrian refugee stay in her home in Scotland. Although Sturgeon’s spokesman admits that she is yet to do so, they say this is simply because there has been no need to. It turns out that ‘it has so far been possible to house refugees without asking individuals or families to provide shelter’. Of course with a number of Syrian refugees who have been given sanctuary in Rothesay complaining that the area is ‘where people come to die’, Mr S suspects they wouldn’t say no to the offer of a stay in the beautiful Bute House, in Edinburgh.

So in short, it appears that of the three not one has taken in refugees nor do they have any current plans to do so.

The post It’s been a year, Nicola Sturgeon. Where are your refugees? appeared first on Coffee House.

Owen Smith makes a foolish pledge to block Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn’s embarrassing train row is a gilt-edged opportunity for his rival to try and make up ground in the party’s leadership contest. Instead, Owen Smith is more intent on alienating Labour voters by setting out how he wants to block Brexit. It’s a foolish move on Smith’s part. So why has he done it? It seems Smith’s only motivation is to try and snatch away a core group of Corbyn supporters who want Britain to stay in (after all, Corbyn said hours after the referendum that Article 50 should be triggered straight away). But the dim possibility of attempting to gain traction amongst sulking Remainers means Smith has taken his eye off a far bigger prize: the millions of Labour voters who did back Brexit.

The referendum was lost for the ‘Remain’ camp in the Labour heartlands of the north of England. Take Middlesbrough, for instance – a rock-solid Labour area which backed Brexit by a margin of 65 to 35 per cent. In Sunderland, also a Labour territory, it was 61 to 39 per cent for Leave. And it was a similar story in Gateshead, Darlington, Durham, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside, as well as Northumberland, which all backed Brexit. Whilst in Hartlepool, nearly seven in ten of the electorate wanted Britain out of the EU – a result which led a local Ukip councillor to say, possibly correctly, that Hartlepool was ‘no longer a Labour town’. But this Labour core who voted for Brexit wasn’t only isolated to this region of the north-east: across the UK, this YouGov poll showed a 24 per cent margin for ‘Leave’ amongst the poorest households – exactly the sort of target group Labour might, at least in the past, have hoped to consolidate its vote amongst.

Instead, Owen Smith’s insouciance to this important group is summed up when he vows to battle ‘tooth and nail’ to keep Britain in the EU. He goes on to call for a second referendum on whatever EU exit deal emerges from negotiations – describing it as offering Britain ‘more democracy, not less’. In reality, it’s nothing of the sort. Perhaps its worth Smith taking a look at the wording on the referendum ballot paper. The question given to voters? ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ There’s no mention of a second referendum – and 17.4million people voted to ‘Leave’ without knowing what Britain’s deal would look like. It’s time for Owen Smith to listen to them.

The post Owen Smith makes a foolish pledge to block Brexit appeared first on Coffee House.

How Donald Trump shacked up with the alt-right

When Donald Trump hired Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of the right-wing media site Breitbart, to head his campaign last week, Breitbart’s former editor Ben Shapiro declared, ‘The Breitbart alt-right just took over the GOP.’ Yet most of Trump’s supporters probably don’t even know what the alt-right is. It’s entirely plausible that Trump himself doesn’t know what it is. So what is the alt-right, and has it really taken over the GOP?

Shapiro’s worry might be overstated but it’s not unwarranted. For at least a year, a small army of online right-wing trolls – who refer to themselves as the ‘alt-right’ – has attacked anyone who dared challenge Trump. They use some of the most racist and anti-Semitic language imaginable. N-words (directed at blacks), K-words (directed at Jews) and Holocaust and gas chamber ‘jokes’ are commonplace. So are grand declarations about defending the White race’ – and White is almost always capitalised in the alt-right world. And they’re not just anti-minority, but anti-feminist, anti-egalitarian and anti-democracy. Fascist’ isn’t a pejorative but a debatable form of government to alt-righters and to many, a positive one.

Sounds extreme, right? Alt-righters don’t care. Extreme is what they do. Call an alt-righter ‘racist’ and they’ll quickly show you how hateful they can be. When alt-right cheerleader and Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos took to Twitter to lambast black Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, the alt-righters once again showed their true colours. Yiannopoulos bashed both her movie and her looks in a tweet – referring to her as a ‘black dude.’ His alt-right followers quickly followed suit with much worse. Many compared her to an ape. Yiannopoulos soon found himself permanently banned from Twitter and #FreeMilo began to trend. In response, Breitbart ran a story attacking Jones, pegged to what the site perceived to be her own ‘racist twitter history’.

Breitbart has offered up this kind of fare with increasing frequency in recent months. Under Bannon, the site has regularly published both pro-Trump and alt-right friendly stories which bash immigrants, Muslims and blacks. Bannon has even proclaimed Breitbart to be the ‘platform for the alt-right’. To what degree is the Trump campaign also a platform for the alt-right? In his Republican convention speech in Cleveland, Trump essentially tried to scare Americans into believing that immigrants, blacks and Muslims were coming to kill them through rising crime and terrorism. The only way to stop this madness was to vote for him, he said. It was an ominous speech.

Yet let’s not pretend this kind of fear-mongering began with Donald Trump. Ex-Bush officials and some neoconservative #NeverTrumpers may not like to admit this now, but the stoking of anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11 aided and abetted their Iraq War. Much of it came via mainstream talk radio and the conservative media. I don’t remember too many hawks being upset about it at the time. And much of it still does come from these sorts of places, including from some of Trump and Bannon’s harshest critics. Harsh language about illegal immigrants is something Trump often seems to be mimicking, rather than inventing. Long before Trump began talking about ‘law and order’ – leaving the racial implications of that phrase open to interpretation – it was a regular part of most Republicans’ stump speeches.

The alt-right movement seems to be capitalising on latent racism and xenophobia that existed long before Donald Trump decided to run for president. Is the characteristically non-ideological Trump simply corralling and amplifying some of the more divisive aspects of the Republican brand, as he understands it? Or is he intentionally pushing an alt-right agenda? How intentional is any of this?

I’ve only met Stephen Bannon a few times. I don’t know the man personally and certainly not as well as the ex-Breitbart employees who’ve been criticising him in the wake of his move to the Trump campaign. And based on my limited experience, he has always seemed more transfixed on taking on the political establishment, particularly Republicans, rather than raising a White Power fist.

Yet a piece for Mother Jones by Sarah Posner seems to indicate that Bannon may be consciously embracing the alt-right. While Trump’s new campaign chief denies that the alt-right is ‘inherently racist,’ he describes its ideology as ‘nationalist’ – though, as Posner adds – not necessarily white nationalist. He also likens the alt-right to European nationalist parties such as France’s National Front. ‘If you look at the identity movements over there in Europe, I think a lot of [them] are really ‘Polish identity’ or ‘German identity,’ not racial identity. It’s more identity toward a nation-state or their people as a nation,’ Bannon is quoted as saying in the piece.

When questions arise about the alt-right’s links to racism, Bannon is dismissive. ‘Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe. Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.’

This is deflection. As I observed after the Bannon-Trump news broke last week, the alt-right—primarily and integrally—is a racist movement. It’s not something they merely flirt with. It’s what they do. Racial antagonism is its function. The overwhelming majority of the alt-right’s members fall somewhere between believing Adolf Hitler had a point, or finding value in people who believe Hitler had a point. This seemingly hyperbolic statement is based on every observation or interaction I’ve had with anyone who identifies as alt-right. 

Is Bannon being naive in believing most alt-righters aren’t fully-grown bigots? Consciously or unconsciously, is Trump re-shaping the GOP into a European-style, white identity politics party? The alt-right is betting on it, whether Donald Trump gets it or not.

Jack Hunter is the editor of Rare Politics (Rare.us) and is the former New Media Director for U.S. Senator Rand Paul. 

The post How Donald Trump shacked up with the alt-right appeared first on Coffee House.

The SNP has played Scotland’s Catholic Church for a fool

In England and other places there can still be surprise when discussion of football in Scotland segues too smoothly into the discussion of religion. And vice versa. It can also get entangled with toxic politics too. The sectarian divide between Celtic and Rangers doesn’t need to be rehearsed, but the tribal hinterlands behind this ancient sporting rivalry point to the sad opposition between Loyalist and Republican, Royalist and Nationalist, Britain and Ireland, Catholic and Protestant. Some say it’s fading away, some say it isn’t, but there was a manifestation last week that it may be evolving – into something worse.

Celtic played the Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva in Glasgow on Wednesday in a pulsating European qualifier which the home team won 5-2. The game was overshadowed by hundreds of Celtic fans defying the authorities by waving Palestinian flags to goad the visiting Israeli supporters. Their hatred for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, was obvious. They would have been encouraged by edgy, lefty ‘celebs’ who urge the young, semi-educated fans to be radical daredevils like them; and by politicians like SNP MSP James Dornan who praised them on Twitter. As Professor Tom Gallagher says: ‘Hamas’s militancy against an alleged oppressor is celebrated just as the IRA’s terrorist operations in Ireland were defended by a vocal minority of Celtic fans a generation ago.’ These young fans don’t know much about Ireland’s troubles and even less about Hamas, with its corruption, its intolerance towards gays, and its backwards attitudes to women.

At one time the Catholic Church in Scotland would have been able to intervene among their flock (who make up the bulk of Celtic’s support) and knock some sense into their militant tendencies. That was certainly the case in previous decades and is one reason why Ulster’s violence did not transfer across the sea. But secularisation has brought distance between the Church and the ‘Celtic family’. ‘Cultural Catholics’ in Scotland are now prone to the flotsam and jetsam of any radical anti-establishment fury that happens to be on the current wind. Meanwhile the Catholic Church in Scotland has gradually lost its spiritual presence among Celtic fans, even though many of its functionaries seem to share their angry outlook on politics. So even if the Church had the will to guide the Celtic family away from its nationalist and militant rages it would now be powerless to do so.

The Church’s wooing of the SNP is largely to blame. It started when Cardinal Winning clashed with the then Labour Executive over their social liberalism. Winning and many of the other people in charge convinced themselves that the nationalists were going to be more onside on issues like abortion. There was absolutely no evidence that this would ever be the case, as the Catholic community are about to find out. Instead, they have been played for useful fools by Salmond et al, whose entryists have done the necessary spade work from within.

These days the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, a season ticket holder at Celtic Park, is effusive in his praise for the ruling SNP government. Immediately after the referendum he released an embarrassingly toadying statement praising Alex Salmond and then welcomed the new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with unprecedented over-eagerness. And in the 2014 vote, many of his clergy and church functionaries were publicly involved in supporting the separatist cause. There was little subtlety amongst them as – on social media, from the pulpits, in the classrooms – they linked their ‘social justice war’ tendencies and latent anglophobia with their new heroes in the SNP.

The links between the Scottish Catholic Church and the SNP have been obvious for a while. The Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, Peter Kearney was, in a previous job, the SNP’s political education and training officer, a parliamentary candidate and deputy leadership candidate for the party in 2000. His name reportedly appeared during the referendum as a press contact for former SNP leader and extreme leftist Jim Sillars, who was busy threatening Scottish business leaders with ‘a day of reckoning’ if they supported the ‘No’ side.

There is also a certain nonchalance in the way that the Church authorities have reacted to other appalling lapses in judgment by Catholic teachers in Glasgow. One teacher at St George’s Primary School invited former MSP Tommy Sheridan to talk about politics to the children, and later organised them into mounting their own kiddy-demo in the city against austerity. Another teacher, at St Mark’s Barrhead, tweeted comments supportive of the Provisional IRA and pictures of gun-toting terrorists, as well as selfies with Nicola Sturgeon. The local Church authorities tried their best to sweep this under the carpet, and excuses were made which passed the buck to the local state education officers. (Scotland has a unique, but increasingly tense arrangement, that allows Catholic schools to be run under local Council control.)  All subsequent approaches from media, anxious parents and the faithful were met with silence, in the hope that the issues would go away. Sometimes they do, but the reason it won’t wash in the long run is that many of the teachers in Glasgow’s Catholic schools now put their own identity politics before their faith.

Glasgow’s Herald reported recently that Scotland’s only national Catholic newspaper, the Scottish Catholic Observer, is in difficulty and likely to be sold off by its present London-based owners. This once vibrant publication, founded in 1885, is now a forlorn shadow of its former self, with sales down to dangerously low levels. Editorial and journalistic standards have slipped to an embarrassing and risible state. Its demise is symbolic of the trouble the Church is facing.

The Scottish Catholic Church is not in a good place. Some of its clergy and functionaries act more as partisan political cheerleaders than as dedicated pastors keen to strengthen its community in an increasingly secular era. Those of us who are a little more sceptical of the new cultishness engulfing the country look on in astonishment as our beloved Church gives the impression of being sidetracked from its historic mission. The Scottish Church had its faults prior to the rise of the SNP. But it has now become a useful ally for those who want to destabilise Scotland, and in doing so, has put the interests of its own flock in jeopardy.

Sir James MacMillan is a Scottish classical composer and conductor

The post The SNP has played Scotland’s Catholic Church for a fool appeared first on Coffee House.

Jeremy Corbyn’s CCTV concerns are put to bed

As the internet goes into meltdown over the news that Jeremy Corbyn may have had a seat after all when he filmed a video claiming he did not, it appears that the Labour leader hasn’t done much to help his cause.

While his campaign team claim that Virgin Train’s CCTV footage is a ‘lie’, Corbyn can at least take heart that the cameras appear to have been working. Back in 2012, he complained in Parliament about ‘inoperative’ CCTV cameras on the rail network, during a debate on funding for Transport for London:

‘We also do it from the point of view of station safety, because, in the days when not enough staff were at the stations and there were only, quite often, inoperative CCTV cameras inadequately guaranteeing the safety of passengers, the number of assaults went up and the number of passengers at night went down, and the number of people trying to drive in and out of London went up while the number of public transport users went down.’

Mr S is sure Corbyn will join Steerpike in breathing a sigh of relief that the CCTV camera situation has since improved.

The post Jeremy Corbyn’s CCTV concerns are put to bed appeared first on Coffee House.

Nicola Sturgeon resurrects Project Fear by claiming Brexit will cost Scotland billions

If you thought the Brexit vote marked the end of ‘Project Fear’, you’ll be saddened to know it’s back. This time it takes the form of a warning from Nicola Sturgeon about what leaving the EU might cost Scotland. The Scottish Government report into the ‘economic risk’ to the country of Brexit, on which Sturgeon’s prediction is based, doesn’t appear to be worth the paper its written on however. It puts the bill as between £1.7bn and £11.2bn – a range so huge as to render it virtually meaningless.

The report also suggests a similar, although thankfully, slightly smaller chasm in possible tax revenue, this time between £1.7bn and £3.7bn down after Brexit. It’s difficult to know where to start in picking the report to pieces: but that’s precisely the point of this sequel to Project Fear. Nicola Sturgeon said in the wake of the referendum that Scotland was being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the EU ‘against our will’ (despite nearly four in ten Scots voting for ‘Leave’). And she is using today’s report to try and extend that narrative; the maths which contribute to the report is by-the-by, it’s the headline announcement that matters. Here’s how she greeted the report today:

‘It is simply unacceptable that Scotland faces the prospect risk being dragged out of the EU against its will, and today’s paper shows the possibly massive costs that would entail, with all the wider repercussions that would be likely to ensue in terms of jobs, investment and long-term prosperity.’

Sturgeon might not like the comparison, but it’s certain George Osborne would be proud of a document like this. Firstly, the analysis attempts the impossible task of gazing way, way ahead into the future – as far away as 2030. As anyone who has followed the various travails of economists over the last few years (not least in the run-up to the referendum), predicting weeks into the future is difficult enough; the less said about trying to work out how the economy will be shaping up in more than 13 years’ time, the better.

The report borrows from Osborne’s Project Fear in more ways than that though. The former Chancellor tried to spook Brits in the run-up to the referendum by arguing Brexit would cost each family £4,300. Osborne compared his concoted figures for 2030 with the population figures from today – ignoring the fact the number of people in the UK is almost certain to rise considerably over the next few years. And the Scottish Government report – in suggesting Brexit could cost Scots anything between £2,100 and £300 each in the most favourable Brexit scenario (i.e. staying in the EEA) – does the same. So, whilst the economic prediction attempts to map out a picture of what will happen more than a decade in the future, the population estimate on which the breakdown cost is based are from last year – an almost exact replica of the model used in the widely discredited Treasury analysis published in the run-up to the referendum.

But it’s not only maths where the document falls down. The report is even politically loaded in the way its written. Instead of referring to the referendum outcome as a democratic decision, its painted alternatively as ‘the UK Government’s intention of taking the UK out of the EU (which) could.. have implications for Scotland’s future economic performance’. Forget the fact that 17million people in the UK backed Brexit, leaving the EU is just the fault of the Government, the document suggests.

If you just read this report, you’d also be forgiven for thinking the EU is the only market for Scottish goods. In reality, the UK remains the most likely destination for goods made in Scotland. As Alex Massie pointed out in his blog last month, access to the UK’s single market is much more important to Scotland than access to the EU’s.

As a different, more sober-than-today’s, report from the Scottish Government in 2014 also pointed out, rest of UK exports account for 64 per cent of all exports from Scotland, compared to around 40 per cent to the EU. And for the service sector, the UK remains much more crucial as a market than the EU does (accounting for £27bn worth of business, compared to £10.5bn internationally). Perhaps that’s why, last week, hotel giant Hilton said Brexit would have no impact at all on Scottish investment. But you won’t read any of that in today’s report. Instead this document is all about painting a one-sided and biased version of the doom and gloom facing Scotland after Brexit to try and give Sturgeon ammunition in her campaign. This is Project Fear, plain and simple. And it’s a sorry sight to witness it carrying on even after the referendum.

The post Nicola Sturgeon resurrects Project Fear by claiming Brexit will cost Scotland billions appeared first on Coffee House.

Virgin Trains accuse Corbyn of telling porkies over train video

Last week, a video of Jeremy Corbyn sitting in the hallway of a crowded train on the his way to a leadership debate went viral. The footage appeared to show the Labour leader sat on the floor for an entire three-hour train journey after he valiantly declared that it would be unfair for him to upgrade his ticket to first class — where there were seats — when others ‘might not be able to afford such a luxury’, concluding that ‘this is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers’.

However, not all passengers appear to face the problem every day — Jeremy Corbyn included. Virgin Trains have issued a press statement where they claim that despite the Labour leader’s claim of ‘ram-packed’ service, there were seats available when Jeremy Corbyn sat on the floor in the corridor:

CCTV

‘CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.’

Oh dear. How is Corbyn going to get himself out of this one? Presumably the Virgin Press Office is filled with Tories.

The post Virgin Trains accuse Corbyn of telling porkies over train video appeared first on Coffee House.

David Cameron’s larynx comes to his defence on childhood obesity

Theresa May was once seen as the continuity candidate to succeed David Cameron. However, since becoming Prime Minister she has gone on to sideline or backtrack many of Cameron and George Osborne’s pet projects. As well as delaying Hinkley Point and leaving the Northern Powerhouse’s future up in the air, she has provoked anger this week over the Government’s childhood obesity strategy.

While Cameron made clear that childhood obesity would be a flagship issue for his government — with Jeremy Hunt even promising to take draconian measures — May appears to take a different approach. In the report — pushed out in recess — May has scrapped plans to curb junk food advertising and created confusion over Osborne’s sugar tax now that it will no longer be a tax on consumers. What’s more with the Cabinet re-shuffle meaning the majority of the Cameroons are on the backbenches, there are few supporters around to protest the decisions.

Happily, some are still able to speak out. In today’s Times, Cameron’s former speechwriter Clare Foges — who earned the affectionate nickname ‘the Prime Minister’s larynx’ for her work assisting him with public speaking — has written a column urging the Prime Minister to become ‘Nanny Theresa’. In this, she argues that May ought to reconsider the government’s ‘much watered-down child obesity strategy’:

‘Instead of the big government stick we are to have more government nudge: more voluntary agreements with food companies, more hoping that advertisers will be responsible when marketing to children, more softly-softly catchy Coco Pops monkey. Excuse me, Mr Major Food Corporation, sir, would you mind ever so much volunteering to make less money?’

Foges goes on to say that May must realise that the mooted policies were ‘not socialist’ but ‘socially responsible’:

‘Sometimes it is the job of government to act as a countervailing force to the market when it is selling junk, preying on people’s appetites and doing harm. This is not socialist, it is socially responsible. To continue to be laissez faire is not some blow for personal freedom, it is weak. At the next tussle with lobbyists, let us hope Mrs May recalls her noble words on Downing Street and remembers whose side she is on.’

It seems that the Cameroons won’t let their policies be brushed away without a fight.

The post David Cameron’s larynx comes to his defence on childhood obesity appeared first on Coffee House.

Home-ownership is a healthy obsession, we just need to make it easier for people to buy

When I was a child a woman visited our home every Friday night. My mother gave her money fresh from my father’s pay packet and the woman, smiling, wrote in small neat handwriting in a little book. This was how my parents bought their modest terrace home in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

They never had the income or acumen to get a mortgage. They bought their home in a private arrangement from well-off sisters, one of whom was this kindly woman calling for their dues.

My parents were hand-to-mouth poor, but they felt better off than people in council houses living under the Town Hall diktat. At least they could paint their front door any colour – even if they could not afford the paint.

No doubt many council tenants in turn sneered at private renters who, in my part of the world, lived in slums.

These days, as more council homes are sold than built, my parents would probably have had to rent.

New figures from the National Housing Federation (NHF) show that private landlords are indirectly receiving £9 billion in housing benefit from the taxpayer, double the amount a decade ago. They confirm that the trend is driven by a steep rise in the number of poorer families forced to rent privately.

Renters include a soaring population of retirees. York University’s Professor Steve Wilcox has warned of  a ‘housing benefit ticking time-bomb’ with up to a third of 60-year-olds renting by 2040, many of whom will never have been homeowners.

A recent report by the think tank Resolution Foundation shows home-ownership at its lowest level for 30 years, 64 per cent, down from a high of 73 per cent in 2000.

Home-ownership has long been out of reach for many Londoners, but high prices mean it is an impossible dream for an increasing number of people in the rest of the country, especially Manchester, and other northern cities.

The characters of EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks couldn’t afford to rent, never mind buy, the homes they live in – a fact cleverly pointed out a while back by the NHF, which looked at homes in East London, Salford, the Yorkshire Dales and Chester, and the characters’ average wages as listed by the Office of National Statistics.

Our obsession with home-ownership can be traced to the 17th century, when jurist Sir Edward Coke established as common law the precept that ‘a man’s house is his castle and nobody could enter except by invitation’.

Later British Prime Minister William Pitt said a ‘castle’ could even be a cottage. He declared, poetically: ‘It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.’

Side by side with the desire to own a home was the stigma of renting. This arose partly because, until the late nineteenth century, only property owners could vote.

Until a few years ago there was a feeling that there was ‘something wrong’ if you did not buy. Rent was seen as money down the drain, better poured into the security of bricks and mortar.

But now borrowing to buy expensive homes has pushed many into debt, ruining lives and sabotaging the economy. There are mumblings that the British should end their obsession with home-ownership, rent and put by spare cash.

But I believe home-ownership is a healthy obsession, arising out of an aversion to the lack of independence and security in renting. We just need to find ways of making it possible for more people.

Renting has far more downsides than a mushrooming benefits bill.

Pro-renting pundits point to Germany and France, where people are happy to rent. But there renting is more regulated and pro-tenant. Here the sector is under-regulated. And rents can be so high that tenants have no money left to save or invest.

Better-off folk in well-appointed rentals owned by reputable landlords may extol the virtues of living debt-free with no worries about home maintenance. And if they have money they have more options if they face eviction.

But, for many, renting long-term is an expensive and precarious road to nowhere. You need roots to thrive.

Renter retirees are especially vulnerable. If given notice, they will have the emotional and physical upheaval of finding new homes at a vulnerable time of their life

And if you own your home at least you can indulge in DIY and keep a pet.

Home-ownership confers benefits of stability. Many politicians of all colours believe it helps people feel they have a stake in the country, literally and metaphorically.

And owning their own home gives people security and independence in older age, allowing them access to cash through downsizing or equity release.

The Thatcher Government’s Right-to-Buy scheme, which let council tenants buy their homes, could have given us a healthy housing market. But over-generous discounts meant valuable national assets were sold too cheaply.

The revenue raised was not ploughed into building more houses, as intended. And areas where council homes were not bought suffered urban blight, crime and misery.

Right-to-Buy fuelled property speculation, helping to turn the UK into a nation that saw houses as investments to make money from, not places to live in.

The housing market is broken. We need a massive multi-pronged push to fix it, including building affordable homes to buy, better controls on the rental sector, and more decent social housing. Oh, and maybe measures to reward people like the sisters in Leeds who sold a home to my parents.

Every home should be a castle to those who live inside.

Lynne Bateson is a freelance writer and journalist. She was a national newspaper financial editor and consumer columnist.

The post Home-ownership is a healthy obsession, we just need to make it easier for people to buy appeared first on Coffee House.

‘Honour thy son and thy daughter’ is the new secular commandment

Unseemly as the public blood-letting between stand-up comic Joshua Howie and his apparently less-than-absolutely-fabulous mother Lynne Franks undoubtedly is, it nonetheless sheds light on a powerful tension at the heart of many of the nation’s families. Because whatever you think about self-proclaimed ‘Golden parent’ Howie’s motivation for decrying his ‘awful parent’ mother (not very much if you ask me, but he does have a radio show to promote), a critical point remains at stake. Were Baby Boomers bad, selfish parents, as he claims, and are their successors better?

One thing everyone can agree on is that over the last forty years the position of children in society has changed dramatically. Four decades ago teachers could beat children with canes and with impunity – now we focus on ‘child-centred learning’. Away from the classroom and in the home, most of Europe has made it illegal for parents to smack their children. In the UK, the 2004 Children’s Act makes it illegal to smack yours except where it amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’.

Forty years ago children were barred from pubs. But head to a boozer at the weekend nowadays, and you’re likely to be mown down by a sugar-fuelled toddler – as his father looks beerily on – on their way to a dedicated children’s soft-play area. And not only has the status of children changed, but also what is expected of parents and parenthood has changed. It’s not just the classrooms that have become child-centred.

Forty years ago, mothers were advised to let their bottle-fed babies ‘scream it out’ at bedtime (‘Close the door, dear, pour yourself a gin and tonic and have a Rothmans’). Nowadays parenthood’s all about ‘feeding on demand’ and adjusting your day to suit your baby’s sleeping patterns. It’s ‘baby comes first’ not ‘mummy knows best’.

As Howie’s case illustrates, the 1980s was the era when the latchkey kid was born – thanks principally to the rise of the shoulder-padded career woman and also the single mother. These children were the subjects of an unparented social experiment; the first generation who were greeted by the television set rather than an adult when they got home from school. In the absence of the housewife, these children fended for themselves, unless there were relations to look after them, or if you were privileged, like Howie, nannies.

‘Mum was the epitome of the Eighties career woman; on the phone to the office within 20 minutes of my birth, she didn’t get off again until I was 16,’ Howie says of his PR guru mother, model for Jennifer Saunders’ Edina in Absolutely Fabulous.  ‘And during that time, where more than 20 nannies raised me, I have not one recollection of Mum ever playing with me or reading me a bedtime story.’

When did parents start reading their kids bedtime stories, I wonder? It didn’t happen in my day; there was a quick prayer instead. Now, however, it’s something that parents do, apparently daily. Another post-Boomer innovation perhaps? Just yesterday I saw my wife reading a bedtime story to our son Herbie. So something has changed, and everyone, including Lynne Franks, now knows it.

Not long ago my mother took out her mobile phone – and duly punched in the four digit security number.  It was 1910, which I happen to know is her mother’s birth year. On this impulse I checked my own phone and was required to tap in my own four-digit passcode: 2016 – my son’s birth year. Was it a coincidence, I wondered?

On reflection, I don’t think so: Baby Boomers were raised to march to the tune of the fifth commandment: ‘Honour thy father and thy mother.’ Generation X and the Millennials – those born from the mid-sixties onwards –  walk to a different tempo, one more in tune with our more godless times. ‘Honour thy son and thy daughter,’ is their cultural commandment. The parents can stuff it.

For further proof look at the care homes filled to the brim with old people that none of their children want to look after. And that’s because children are no longer there to serve the interests of their parents, as they were for the post-Victorian Boomer age, and even more so for their parents before them. Now children exist for themselves, not as psychological extensions of their immediate progenitors. Instead today’s parents, willingly, have placed themselves at the service of their children and not (in the broadest sense) the other way around.

This is baffling for many Boomers who doubtless think their children have gone gaga crazy and put the cart before the horse. For them society’s elevation of children has gone far too far. And who knows where this will lead? Time will tell. The next lot will let us know how they feel about us by approximately 2045.

The post ‘Honour thy son and thy daughter’ is the new secular commandment appeared first on Coffee House.

Wage gap, contactless cards, debt and motor insurance

Women who return to work part-time after having a baby continue to earn less than men for many years afterwards, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The wage gap between men and women becomes steadily wider in the years after babies are born, the IFS says. Women miss out on promotions and accrue less experience than men, which holds back their earning power, it adds. During the subsequent 12 years, the gap grows to 33 per cent of men’s hourly pay rates.

A second report from the Chartered Management Institute suggests men are more likely than women to have been promoted into senior roles last year.  Its analysis of more than 60,000 UK employees found that 14 per cent of men in management roles were promoted into higher positions, but only 10 per cent of women.

Contactless cards

The days of tapping in a pin code at the tills are numbered as contactless card readers spread across the country, with more tap-and-pay purchases occurring in the first six months of the year than all of 2015.

The Telegraph reports that shoppers spent £9.27 billion on 1.1 billion contactless payments between January and July, compared to £7.75 billion during last year, according to the UK Cards Association, a trade body. Last month, nearly one in five purchases made on a card used contactless readers, up from 7 per cent a year ago.

Meanwhile, the amount spent by Barclaycard customers using contactless technology has multiplied 2.7 times so far this year, as consumers make the most of the increase in the contactless limit, which went up from £20 to £30 in September 2015. 

The latest Barclaycard Contactless Spending Index, which monitors the shopping trends of millions of UK customers, finds that usage has leapt 173 per cent by value and 112 per cent by volume. 

Debt

Britain is facing a debt time bomb with more than 1.5 million households barely able to cover the interest payments on their personal loans, according to the TUC.

The Times reports that the problem has ballooned in the past three years as families have taken on £48 billion more non-mortgage debt while disposable incomes fell.

Rock bottom interest rates helped to relieve the pressure immediately after the financial crisis but 1.6 million households are today facing ‘extreme problem debt’, analysis of official data by the TUC found.

The trade union body is not alone in its concerns. The Bank of England has expressed worries about the level of household debt, which recently began rising as a proportion of disposable income for the first time since the recession in 2009.

In other debt news, new research for Debt Advisory Centre has found that 38 per cent of adults in the UK (18 million people) say they have been issued with a default in the last year due to late or missed mobile phone, utilities and credit card payments.

Airline claims

Passengers of easyJet and British Airways, and the UK’s biggest package holiday operators, could be charged £25 if they make a complaint about delays, cancellations or lost baggage that is subsequently not upheld, according to The Guardian.

The airlines, plus Thomson and Thomas Cook, have joined a dispute resolution service for tricky complaints that cannot be resolved by the companies themselves. But passengers who use this must pay if their case is unsuccessful.

Previously, the Civil Aviation Authority ran a free mediation service between travellers and airlines for passengers who were not satisfied with the resolution provided by the company. But under new aviation rules, airlines and package holiday providers have voluntarily agreed to be registered with the external Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme.

Motor insurance

Motorists involved in a crash that was not their fault are seeing their insurance premiums soar by up to 40 per cent, according to the Daily Mail.

An investigation by Which? has found that insurance companies are hammering accident victims with higher charges. One big insurer increased its quote by 39 per cent after a claim in which the driver was blameless. Others upped quotes by 33 per cent and 29 per cent for drivers in crashes that were not their fault.

Esure increased its premium by 15 per cent after a scratch was declared, even when a claim had not been made.

Driving tests

Nearly half of British drivers would fail their theory test if they had to re-take it after passing their driving test, according to new insight from MoneySuperMarket.

The price comparison site has created a bespoke online theory test, based on the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s official version, which has been taken by more than 30,000 people on MoneySuperMarket’s site since it went live on August 3. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the driving theory test.

Analysis of the results reveals a staggering 41 per cent of drivers would fail their test if they had to re-take it today. Only 10 per cent of participants secured top marks, while a fifth missed out marginally on the 86 per cent score required to pass, scoring 12 out of 15.

Help-to-buy ISA

A government-promoted savings account taken out by more than 500,000 aspiring first-time buyers has been dubbed a ‘sham’ that has betrayed young people hoping for their first step on the property ladder.

The help-to-buy ISA pays a 25 per cent government bonus of up to £3,000 towards a deposit. But it has emerged that this is not paid until a property sale is completed, and so cannot be used to the initial deposit demanded by mortgage lenders.

Labour MP David Lammy said: ‘Young people and all those saving in the hope of one day owning their own home have got every right to feel betrayed and conned by the Government.’

Supermarket sales

Summer sales of supermarket groceries rose by 0.3 per cent, with German discount chains Lidl and Aldi showing the largest gains in market share, according to industry data. Market researcher Kantar Worldpanel said the rise in the 12 weeks to 14 August was boosted by the warm weather.

Lidl and Aldi recorded sales growth of 12.2 per cent and 10.4 per cent respectively. Tesco was the best performer of the big four supermarkets, recording a sales drop of 0.4 per cent. Asda remained at the bottom, with sales down 5.5 per cent. Last week, Asda reported its worst quarterly performance on record.

AA

The AA is to offer fee-free mortgages to its breakdown cover customers.

Following a tie-up with the Bank of Ireland, which already supplies mortgages for the Post Office, the AA has launched a range of fixed-rate loans aimed at existing homeowners looking to move to their mortgage to a cheaper deal.

The company is initially offering five deals, all fixed for between two and five years. Borrowers will only be offered loans of up to 60 per cent of their home’s value, effectively ruling out most first-time buyers and many remortgagers. The rates on offer are between 2.08 per cent and 2.67 per cent.

The post Wage gap, contactless cards, debt and motor insurance appeared first on Coffee House.