Dr Sheila Lawlor, Politeia's Director, reflects on the growth of euroscepticism across Europe
We in the United Kingdom are not the only people to ‘bang on about Europe’ or so it seems. ‘Strong views by consumers’ across Europe and insufficient support forced the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner, Mr Dacian Ciolos to 'withdraw' his plan to ban olive oil jugs from restaurant tables.
That Mr Ciolos is unelected goes without saying and needless to say, he does not say it. Nor does he add that pressure is mounting across the EU against the grand projet, and greater distrust even in the founder countries, Germany, France and Italy. A recent EU ‘barometer’ of trust, showed popular mistrust had risen dramatically in the five years ending in 2012. In Italy it rose to 53 percent – from 28 percent. In Germany, the figures are also up to 58 per cent (from around 37 percent). And even in France things do not look rosy for the Euro project – with around 56 percent now eurosceptical (from 41 percent) euronews. (Source: EU, Barometer via http://eurone.ws/ZmyGwP )
As the National Audit Office gives the thumbs down to High Speed Two, Christian Wolmar explains that directing investment towards improving the existing network would bring greater benefit to more people.
Despite being an avid supporter and advocate for the railways, I have always been sceptical of HS2. The scheme to build a high speed line from London to Birmingham and then in a Y shape to Leeds and Manchester has always seemed to me to be rooted more in the desire to have a grand projet rather than any well-researched transport need.
The benefits in terms of jobs created have always seemed to be too nebulous, the costs (£32bn plus rolling stock) too high and the effect on the environment too damaging (not just in the Chilterns, but further north, too, as well as in London). I have pointed out all of this many times previously (see for example www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2013/01/hs-is-one-big-punt/) and so I was delighted that all my past arguments have been backed by the National Audit Office.
That's the message, says Sheila Lawlor, Politeia's Director
Last week’s council elections were a vote of no confidence in the three main parties at Westminster. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives were all losers, with their share of the vote down on last year by up to ten percent. Meanwhile, UKIP surged, with the new party touching on the Tories’ coat tails.
The main parties would be mad to see the surge in UKIP popularity, north, south, east and west, as anything but an expression of the quiet conservatism of the people of this country. So often, and increasingly so since 1997, this conservative instinct has been ignored – or treated with contempt. It has no place in the political climate created by Mr Blair and now embraced as common political currency.
Yet now we know.
Friday 26th April: Dr Gerard Lyons, Chief Economic Advisor to the Mayor of London, is cautiously optimistic about the economy, following the release of GDP figures for the first quarter of 2013.
News that the UK economy grew 0.3 per cent in the first quarter was welcome. It fits with my view that the economy is turning for the better, albeit slowly. And, by avoiding a triple dip recession, it may help change some of the narrative about the economy, which would be important for overall confidence.
In spite of this growth, the economy is still weak and thus it remains vulnerable to shocks, particularly ones that could emanate from the euro zone.
The economy is suffering from a lack of demand, a lack of lending and a lack of confidence. Thus macro-economic policy needs to remain supportive of growth.
The lack of demand is best addressed by consumer spending and that can only be achieved by getting more money into people's pockets and by giving them the confidence to spend. The recent increase in personal allowances to £9,440 will help, but with still sluggish wage growth it is vital that inflation is kept in check. Talking the pound up, not down, would be a start.
Friday 22nd March, 2013: Defending Christian minorities is not only right, but it's important for Britain's own security, warns Dr Robin Harris in a piece for Standpoint.
As Christian Communities mark Easter the world over, those in the Middle East face persecution and extinction. Dr Robin Harris explains in this month's Standpoint that one consequence of the instability across the Middle East has been the ruthless extermination of Christian communities.
More disturbing has been the failure of Government or Opposition parties to speak out or to challenge Arab leaders in the region to protect the Christians in their realms. Indeed, when Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, stated last year that Christianity 'is the most persecuted religion worldwide', the response was outrage. Christian minorities in the Middle East have been victims of war, revolution and instability: unless western leaders speak out in their defence, the consequences will not only continue to be deadly for Middle Eastern Christians themselves, but grave for the west.