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We need a reality check: facts and figures alone won’t stop Brexit | Nicky Hawkins

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/trump-administrationplay episode download
23 January, by Nicky Hawkins[ —]
Stats and studies are not enough. Progressives must realise that voters are won over by narratives, not numbers

With the Brexit debate still raging and a stream of bewildering news emanating from the Trump administration, progressives on both sides of the Atlantic are floundering, struggling to make sense of a world that was unthinkable just a couple of years ago.

Their failure to win over hearts and minds has been critical in shaping events in the last few years. Progressive campaigning efforts largely haven’t worked, and are still not working. Since the EU referendum, little has changed in the tone and tenor of the public conversation on Brexit. In the run-up to the vote, the remain campaign desperately tried to take to task the leave campaign’s claim that exiting the EU would free up £350m a week for the NHS. The urge to set the record straight, call out “fake news” and counter false information has not subsided since then.

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Oversharing has its perils, but telling all about my mother worked for me | John Sutherland

23 January, by John Sutherland[ —]
I don’t share Nigel Slater’s guilt about using my memoir to expose my mother’s faults. It made me feel better about things

Nigel Slater has professed guilty feelings to the Radio Times for “oversharing” about his stepmother. She is portrayed in Slater’s bestselling memoir-novel, Toast, and was played on screen by Helena Bonham Carter in a popular adaptation. A theatrical version is apparently on its way.

It’s an interesting choice of word. “Sharing” is what baring-the-breast participants do in 12-step meetings. It’s like the Catholic confessional – what you say doesn’t leave the box. Or, as the Alcoholics Anonymous chair says: “What’s said in the room stays in the room.”

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No big ideas will be coming from Theresa May – and her Tory enemies know it | Anne Perkins

23 January, by Anne Perkins[ —]
MPs pretend they’re trying to help the stricken prime minister, but in truth they are preparing the wicket to bowl her out

Theresa May’s unique quality as a politician is her capacity to endure. It is an unusual attribute, this soldiering-on thing. Modern politicians are like Icarus, bench-tested against the zillion-degree temperature of public opinion almost before they have found their way to their office. But May does not fit the mould of the modern politician. She has been an MP for 20 years. For nearly 19 of them, she kept her head down. Occasionally, she lifted off. Then she bumped discreetly back to earth.

Related: Theresa May told to 'raise her game' in Tory MP's outburst

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The Guardian view on NHS funding: no platform for Boris Johnson | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/sarah-wollastonplay episode download
23 January, by Editorial[ —]
The foreign secretary may be grandstanding, but there is a need for more money, invested in making healthcare sustainable

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has been parading in the headlines for a week now, mostly on matters that are no part of his departmental brief. In the 24 hours before today’s cabinet meeting, he and his allies were briefing that he would demand an extra £5bn a year for the NHS. It did not go to plan: slapped down by the prime minister, afterwards it was suggested he was told to stop briefing; in the end no figure was even mentioned. But then the intervention was about Mr Johnson’s ambition, not the NHS. He is playing politics with the health service to enhance his own standing. Nothing new there.

Yet he is right about two things. The state of the NHS is doing grave political harm to the Tories: that is borne out by every recent polling report. And there is an urgent need for more cash. The difficulty is that, across the UK, every part of the health service is under such pressure that when the Treasury does dole out a little extra, it ends up – as a report on sustainability from the National Audit Office showed last week – papering over the cracks instead of making the health system work better.

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The Guardian view on Murdoch’s Sky bid: just say no | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/karen-bradleyplay episode download
23 January, by Editorial[ —]
The Competition and Markets Authority is right to press pause on Rupert Murdoch’s bid for full control of Sky. But the deal should not be allowed full stop

The right decision on good grounds is welcome, even when it could have been made on better ones. That is the case with the competition regulator’s provisional block on Rupert Murdoch’s bid for full control of Sky. Karen Bradley, then culture secretary, said the deal gave rise to “non-fanciful concerns” about the commitment to meeting broadcasting standards in the UK when she referred it. But the Competition and Markets Authority did not believe the public interest was threatened in that respect, despite acknowledging serious issues: the phone-hacking scandal in the UK (which put paid to Mr Murdoch’s first bid in 2011) and the conduct of Fox News and its senior staff in the US.

Instead, it has warned against the acquisition of the remaining 69% of the broadcaster solely on the grounds of media plurality. Although this issue is not the whole cause for concern, it is enough. Ms Bradley’s successor, Matt Hancock, should embrace her courage and say no when the regulator completes its work and the matter returns to his department in late May. The Murdoch family’s impact on news consumption is already immense: its news outlets are watched, read or heard by nearly a third of the UK’s population. Gaining full control of Sky News would strengthen its influence and compound concerns about the way it uses it (remember Mr Murdoch’s reported complaint about the EU: “When I go to Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”)

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The parallel universe of Davos’s high priests | Letters

23 January, by Letters[ —]
As the World Economic Forum takes place, the world inequality crisis is spiralling out of control, say the UK chapter of the Fight Inequality Alliance. Plus letters from Derrick Joad, John Whitley and Lucy Craig

As Larry Elliott’s piece pointed out, world elites are meeting at Davos to make global decisions about humanity’s future (All might look rosy, but world’s billionaires are entering avalanche country, 22 January). Their rallying call, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, and the content of this 48th World Economic Forum present as a parallel universe for billions of ordinary people.

As the WEF takes place, the world faces an inequality crisis that is spiralling out of control. Across it we are seeing the gap between the richest and the rest of us reach unprecedented extremes. Our current economic system works for the elites rather than the people, affecting both our health and wellbeing, as billions live in poverty. Such inequality is also failing and threatening our planet.

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Office for Students is in its infancy | Letters

23 January, by Letters[ —]
The OfS will put the student interest at the heart of what it does, writes its chair, Michael Barber; while Sally Tomlinson recalls Barber’s words in 1995 with regard to Hackney Downs school

Andrew Adonis’s criticisms of the Office for Students – first on Twitter and then in the Guardian (Office for Students? It’s the Office Against Students and it is not going to last, 23 January) – are wide of the mark. We are three weeks old, and begin operations in earnest in April. We are building an organisation that will be a transformative and independent regulator of English higher education. The OfS will put the student interest – short, medium and long term – at the heart of what we do and we will ensure that students get a great education from a world-leading sector. Judge us on our record in the coming months and years, not on the prevailing political winds of the day.

We are creating a bold and ambitious regulatory framework, which will give us the powers to ensure that students from all backgrounds – whatever, wherever and however they study – are able to have a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.

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Prison service must be held to account | Letters

23 January, by Letters[ —]
The only way to halt the tide of prison deaths is to dramatically reduce the prison population, invest in community alternatives and transform the nature of prisons, write Deborah Coles, Joe Sim and Steve Tombs

The devastating report on Liverpool prison describes a broken institution (Liverpool prison has ‘worst conditions inspectors have seen’, 19 January). The squalid conditions and institutionalised degradation of prisoners is shocking. It also reveals the unofficial punishments used by staff, inadequate scrutiny of the high use of force, the treatment of black and minority ethnic prisoners, the dismissive attitude towards prisoners, the non-investigation of unexplained injuries and the lack of first-night supervision, so crucial in preventing self-inflicted deaths.

As with Nottingham prison, where the inspectorate found serious failures in safety, repeated in earlier reports, previous recommendations for improving the Liverpool regime have been effectively ignored. This raises issues about the lamentable complacency around accountability at all levels of the prison service and government and the lack of any oversight body to monitor and follow up on actions taken after prison inspections, investigations and inquests into prison deaths. What will it take to change this lack of accountability, particularly around deaths in custody? Utilising the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 would be a start. Not only is the prison system broken, so too are the current mechanisms for ensuring its accountability.

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Tenants pay for housing fiascos, from post-Grenfell bills to ‘self-financing’ | Letters

23 January, by Letters[ —]
Ruth London on the financial and health effects of removing cladding, and Martin Wicks on the lack of money to keep housing in decent condition. Plus, Graham Larkbey on the need for planning committees to stand up to developers

Your article (Recladding of risky towers barely begun, 23 January) notes that one council has “promised to pay tenants extra heating bills”. But Grenfell’s experience has taught everyone: beware of promises. Although many council-tenant residents whose cladding has been removed are getting discounts or vouchers to help with heating, these often go nowhere near meeting the costs in a now-uninsulated high-rise flat, where even 24/7 heating may not be sufficient to keep warm. Cold, damp and mould are affecting the health of whole families.

Like fire, cold is serious. It is especially lethal for residents who are elderly, disabled or ill. Last winter, over 11,000 people are estimated to have died because they could not heat their homes. These dual terrors were the subject of our 18 January public meeting, Dying from Fire, Dying from Cold: Housing Safety Post-Grenfell.

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