What to watch out for
Parliament may only be sitting for two days this week, with our MPs due on recess from tomorrow until next Monday, but despite the short working week there has already been plenty of blood spilt in the political amphitheatre – with the prospect of plenty more bloodletting in the week ahead.
To review the week that was, albeit briefly: battle commenced in the committee corridors yesterday with Margaret Hodge’s public accounts committee taking the sword to those global behemoths Starbucks, Google and Amazon over their alleged tax avoidance. The triumvirate faced aggressive and detailed questioning by a visibly riled set of MPs over their decisions to base their European businesses outside the UK in order to avoid paying full UK corporation tax. MPs have estimated that Amazon have paid a paltry 2.5 per cent corporation tax on their £309bn 2011 earnings, while Google paid 0.4 per cent on £2.4bn and Starbucks, unbelievable, paid nothing on their £365m. With MPs labelling the evidence laid down before them as ‘pathetic’ and ‘ridiculous’ with promise of enhanced regulation to come, all three high street names have seen their reputation take a severe knock in the eyes of an unsympathetic parliament, press and public.
Today a wounded Labour titan takes to the field on a series of backbench debates. David Miliband returns to the hallowed green benches with a debate on the economy of the north-east, with unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment, set to feature strongly. The north-east has the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 9.9 per cent of the economically active population, whilst Miliband’s South Shields constituency saw a shocking rise in youth unemployment of 210 per cent in 2011. Miliband, who chaired a report into the increasing plight of our nation’s youth earlier this year, will surely use his allotted time to turn the heads of a government who seemingly do not care about anyone living above the rolling Cotswolds.
As the old saying goes: the bloodier the battle, the more the crowd roars. But this seems anything but the case this Thursday as the campaigns for the newly created 41 police and crime commissioner elections limp to a close. Nearly 40 million people in England and Wales will have a chance to vote, not that you can detect any discernible enthusiasm amongst the electorate. The Electoral Reform Society anticipates a turnout of 18.5 per cent while the Home Office predicts just one in six will bother to vote. Nonetheless, Labour’s chances look good with victories across our heartlands and the prospect of picking up at least 26 out of the 41 new posts.
And to the last scene in the week-long spectacle: multiple by-elections across the battleground that is the UK electorate. No fewer than six by-elections are to be held in the weeks ahead, with the safe seats of Manchester Central and Cardiff South and Penarth on Thursday being usurped by the importance of a Labour victory in Corby and East Northamptonshire. A bellwether seat, which the party failed to gain in 1992, and hung onto grimly until 2010, a good showing by Labour’s Andy Sawford will hearten the party and show tangible evidence that a Labour is making inroads to Downing Street. Evidence will be provided too on whether Ed Miliband’s audacious ‘One Nation’ rhetoric can chime with the Tory-dwelling villages of the Northamptonshire countryside, and whether a humiliated Labour party machine has upped its game from the debacle of Bradford West.
In a short skirmish this week it is unlikely that any side will land the killer blow, though Labour certainly holds the knife. All the parliamentary elections should result in Labour victories, and comfortably so, but look out for leafy Warwickshire on election night – for if it turns red in the police and crime commissioners race we are truly in for a good night.
Bradford West, Cardiff South and Penarth, Corby, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Margaret Hodge, one nation Labour, Police and Crime Commissioners, taxation, unemployment, youth unemployment