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Taking out the Christmas trash

If you’re a ‘West Wing’ fan (like me and Peter Black) then you will undoubtedly have heard of “take out the trash day”. This is when a government releases loads of potentially embarrassing news in a barrage of documents, just as everyone is heading off on their holiday break. Labour were incensed last week at the publication of a total of 36 written ministerial statements and 424 government documents in one day - as if they had never pulled such stunts during their own term in office In case you’re interested, among the items that consequently didn’t make the headlines is how the Home Office has lost track of 10,000 asylum seekers. A spokesman described a reluctance to keep searching as it "

Is Help to Buy really helping?

Getting a financial step-up to purchase your own home sounds like a great idea. Yet there are those who would argue that assisted purchase schemes are simply building up problems for the future. Our national love affair with home ownership shows no signs of dwindling. Nowadays the trend is spurred by soaring rents as housing demand continues to outstrip supply. Years of missed targets when it comes to building new dwellings has pushed rental costs up by 36 per cent since 2008, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures. Meanwhile house prices fell slightly last month. Given these competing and sometimes confusing factors, I’m not surprised that politicians were lining up to co

Syria: a costly gesture?

I’ve never wanted to be an MP. Don’t get me wrong, I have huge respect for people who put themselves through the mill in order to become our representatives in Westminster. It’s just that I’ve spent enough time in council chambers to know that you can never please even some of the people let alone most of them. The Commons is also one of those places where people talk a lot more about the respect agenda than actually practice it. In that context, I’d say last week’s marathon debate over the bombing of Syria was remarkable in that it showed Parliament finally displaying a maturity all too often lacking during the yah-boo stuff we get during Prime Minister’s questions. I felt the majority of s

Council mergers: win some, lose more?

An amazing thing about politics is how often you can have a majority in favour of a concept yet no-one agrees on how to make it happen. In this instance I’m talking about local government reorganisation in Wales. Pretty much everyone now accepts that the current arrangement is a dog’s breakfast borne out of ill-considered expediency. Nevertheless political parties differ widely as to the solution. The only common ground between Plaid Cymru, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is that they have all rubbished plans by public services minister Leighton Andrews. Call me jaded, but beneath the calls for consensus and even local referendums, I detect crankiness over the lack of potential electoral

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