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It's a funny old game is politics

July 11, 2017

 

Politics in the Westminster village is a funny old game – and it usually gets even more diverting in the run-up to the Summer Recess.

 

At present, the favourite pastime in the Commons has been ‘spot the stalking horse’. This coded reference goes back to the days of Margaret Thatcher when Swansea-born Michael Heseltine challenged the Iron Lady in a leadership fight and fatally damaged her authority.

 

Things are different this time of course. Theresa May barely commands a majority, let alone a mandate, and the grey suits know that casting adrift a flawed leader without crippling the party’s fragile control of parliament is virtually impossible.

 

And so the Brexit negotiations rumble on. Each day, what passes for UK objectives appear a little less achievable as domestic business interests demand a single-market arrangement and a continued supply of EU labour.

 

This situation led Lib Dem leadership hopeful Sir Vince Cable to opine over the weekend that Brexit might not even happen if things continue in this vein. That view led arch tory Eurosceptic Owen Patterson to insist that "a huge vote" still favoured leaving. All of which goes to show that post-truth politics is still out there.

 

Meanwhile it looks like Labour will be spending the summer break figuring out how to find the estimated £100bn needed to fulfil Jeremy Corbyn’s aim of scrapping current student debt.

 

Apparently the hugely popular policy is now basically an “ambition” due to some confusion over current funding plus the complicating factor that a up to a third of student debt is never repaid.

 

Even so, it seems the success of this proposed change has prompted Mrs May to make her own pitch for cross-party consensus in securing the "stronger, fairer Britain that we need."

 

I suspect that welfare charities will be lining up to highlight the inherent unfairness of the bedroom tax and associated ‘reforms’ that have happened on her party’s watch.

 

For example, those claiming employment support allowance have lost £30 a week since April. That’s despite evidence that a third of disabled people who were dependent on the allowance struggled to feed themselves even before this benefit was slashed.

 

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Powerless over planning?

 

The headline news is how Swansea Council can come to grips with its responsibilities in determining need versus desirability in terms of 17,000 new homes in the area.

 

It’s far from being a new problem but at least the Local Development Plan allows people to grasp the scale of proposed development before anything gets set in stone. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

 

Planning processes have changed greatly and much of what affects our lives now happens outside the council chamber. As such, the recent decision to limit shared student accommodation to 15% across the city is going to be a tough one to enforce - as deputy council leader Clive Lloyd points out.

 

It is planning appeals, not elected representatives, that will ultimately determine the future stability of communities. While people have banging the drum for devolution, local government has seen a swathe of its powers hived off. So much for progress.

 

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