Category Archives: blog news

David Willetts MP responds to Boris and baby boomers

This is not an attack on the baby-boomer generation;  it is instead an appeal to the better nature of the boomers – an appeal to Edmund Burke’s understanding that a nation is “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”

One of the highlights of my political career was when Boris Johnson put me on his list of ideal dinner party companions (a great opportunity to meet Aristotle and Scarlett Johansson), so I recognise that behind his brilliantly effervescent articles there is often a deep wisdom too. I paid careful attention, therefore, when on Monday he challenged the argument in my new book, The Pinch. My book argues that the baby boomers have ended up doing very well for ourselves but that we are dumping too heavy a burden on the generations after us.

Boris is ideally positioned to make the case for the baby boomers, roughly those born between 1945 and 1965. Our baby boom had two peaks. The first came in 1947 – those were the teenagers who shrieked for the Beatles and promenaded up Carnaby Street in their bellbottoms. The second peak, when we had more than a million born in one year, came in 1964 – those are the boomers whose formative years were framed by punk rock and the poll tax protests. Somehow I do not quite see Boris participating in those social movements but demographically he is at their epicentre. He was born in summer 1964, the very quarter when we had more babies born than in any other three months in the past 60 years.

Boris celebrates the extraordinary technological advances of the baby boomers. I do not deny this achievement and indeed recognise in the book that human creativity and enterprise can continue to raise living standards. But that leaves open a host of questions. Take his example of perhaps the greatest single benefit of this advance: the improvement in life expectancy. That is marvellous. But it has very different effects on different generations because of, for example, contracts to pay people pensions after a fixed chronological age. It makes those promises far more valuable than expected for those people who already have them and makes employers very reluctant to be caught out making such promises again. I estimate therefore that over half the nation’s pensions wealth belongs to the baby boomers. They are doing much better than those generations coming before or after.

Continue reading David Willetts MP responds to Boris and baby boomers

Boris on Question Time

Watch Question Time this Thursday 4th March on BBC 1 at 10.35pm

Question Time, the BBC’s premier political debate programme comes from Canary Wharf this week.  David Dimbleby will be joined in London by Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams, broadcaster Carol Vorderman, the novelist Will Self and the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis.

Question Time will be available on BBC iPlayer after transmission.

It will also be repeated on BBC Parliament on Sunday evening at 6pm.

The Prime Minister’s Behaviour

With apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford, let’s have another little song thanks to Dungeekin

New Labour’s legacy is money and blood,
Under them this country has been dragged through the mud,
The damage began with Grinning Tone,
Now the PM’s weak and it’s all gone wrong,

Continue reading The Prime Minister’s Behaviour

Gordon Brown and Alternative Voting

Downing Street has admitted “time is tight” to get laws for a referendum on scrapping Britain’s first past the post voting system through Parliament.  Gordon Brown wants to replace it with “alternative vote,” where candidates are ranked in order of preference.  The Prime Minister says this is a better way of choosing MPs but the Conservatives say the existing method is fair and “keeps extremists out”. 

To continue Boris’s theme of voting methods here is a latest offering from Dungeekin who thinks we should have a little song in honour of the debate:

  Continue reading Gordon Brown and Alternative Voting

Billy Bragg to withhold taxes in bank bonus row

Singer-songwriter and political activist says he is ‘no longer prepared to fund the excessive bonuses of RBS investment bankers’.  Read the story here.

Boris quote on the tax on bank bonuses:  “The Government is doing nothing more than fast-tracking the departure of this talent pool out of Britain”.

Here, with a satirical twist, is Dungeekin with his take on the situation – check him out @dungeekin

Continue reading Billy Bragg to withhold taxes in bank bonus row

The Challenge of Housing and Homelessness

Guest Blog by raincoaster – presenting a challenge

“The view is more beautiful now that it is mine.” Ran

hendrik-mobile-office
Hendrik Gets His Chair by AHA Media

I can be challenging. Boris knows it, Melissa knows it, the nation of Albania knows it, I know it, you know it (well you know now, don’t you?). So I’d like to put this inherent challengenosity (a raincoasterism) of mine to good use and dare your city to match or beat my city in something that really matters. Read on, if you think your humble burb has what it takes:

We all know this blog belongs to the Mayor of London (although detached it is still his in spirit), and before that was based out of the cosmopolitan megalopolis of Henley, but for a moment I’d like to divert your attention to my own town, indeed my own neighborhood. I’d like to introduce you to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.                                                        (More photos of Hendrik on his revolving chair here)

Queen of Hastings Street
Queen of Hastings Street

With an average life expectancy in the mid-forties (thanks to disease, addiction, and the interlocking social and physical problems arising from substandard- or no housing), the DTES (Downtown Eastside) has been an archetypal skid row since the days in the last century when lumber was, in fact, skidded in the mud down the street on its way to the sawmill because wagons were for the rich folk.

Now, after more than a century of struggling with the issue, I’m proud to say that Vancouver has eliminated homelessness.

Image by Peter Davies, From the Hope in Shadows collection, COPYRIGHT: Pivot Legal Society, 2009

Yes, Homelessness is Over!  Watch this amazing news story

Continue reading The Challenge of Housing and Homelessness

Jo Johnson is the Candidate for Orpington

Jo JohnsonBoris’s brother has just won the selection to stand in the safe Conservative seat of Orpington where the current MP, John Horam, is standing down.

Stanley, his father, recently described him as “taller and blonder than Boris” and he is the Financial Times’ South Asia bureau chief.  Based in New Delhi since January 2005, he leads the team of FT journalists that covers India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.  In addition to his coverage for the print edition, he writes a regular online column, Engaging India.

A graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, from which he received a first class degree in Modern History, he has worked for the FT since 1997. His first job on the newspaper was on the Lex Column, which he joined after a a stint as a corporate financier in the investment banking division of Deutsche Bank.

He completed an MBA at INSEAD in 2000 and served as an FT Paris correspondent from 2001-2004. He is co-author, with Martine Orange, of The Man who Tried to Buy the World: Jean-Marie Messier and the Rise and Fall of Vivendi Universal (Penguin, 2003).

Many congratulations Jo and we look forward to hearing more about you in the coming months ahead.

The Queen’s Speech 2009 (The Mikado)

Dungeekin provides a musical rendition on the Queen’s Speech this afternoon

Many of the original words are resonant today.

In a break from Tradition, this year saw Her Majesty the Queen deliver the speech at the State Opening of Parliament not in words, but instead in song:

As each year for the Government a speech one must propound,
One’s reading Labour’s list – one’s reading Labour’s list
One pretends to be a mouthpiece for a Leadership unsound,
And they never will be missed – they never will be missed,

One regrets that for Tradition’s sake one can’t just sit and laugh,
At the bare-faced cheek of Labour with their promises daft,
Their MP’s claiming second homes and cash for this and that,
And equating one to vermin, like one was not Royal but Rat,
One wishes one could just dissolve the House so they’d desist

But instead one sits upon one’s throne and reads out Labour’s list.

 

CHORUS.
She’s reading Labour’s list–She’s reading Labour’s list;
And they’ll none of ’em be missed–they’ll none of ’em be missed.

Continue reading The Queen’s Speech 2009 (The Mikado)

Green Spaces in London (and New York)

The Mayor believes parks and open spaces are key to the capital’s quality of life, and will invest over £220 in a new drive to improve London’s Great Outdoors – see the new Manifesto for Public Spaces unveiled on 16th November 2009.

Previously £6 million was spent in improving the quality and safety of London’s parks, funded from efficiency savings from the previous administration’s publicity budget with a high priority on clean, safe and attractive green spaces for all Londoners to enjoy.

The Help a London Park scheme was developed as part of his initiative to clean up and improve London’s rundown green spaces.  The scheme improved ten parks across London. Those who live or worked in London had the opportunity to choose which parks were to be improved. 

The Mayor announced the winner of his Premier Park award — a grant of £2 million. This is Burgess Park in the London Borough of Southwark.

London Open Squares weekend last June gave visitors a chance to explore hidden gardens in the city that many Londoners did not even know about. 

 Gotham Girl:  There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city — perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly.

I don’t know which came first – the song lyric or the nickname but New York definitely lives up to the moniker “the city that doesn’t sleep.” I love the fact that right outside my door is an inexhaustible supply of activities to engage in. London is like that too. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been there before – each visit offers a stunning variety of experiences to be had. Of course, each city has its own unique rhythm but both make me happy. I just love the hustle and bustle.

Still – there are some days when I find myself wishing for slightly less bustle. (Such as yesterday on the 6 local train going downtown. I’m not sure rush hour on mass transit is the best time for a strolling mariachi band but that’s another story for another day.) When I’m in the mood for a bit of mental “white space” or want to relax, I head to the park.

Which park? That’s the other beautiful thing about New York and London. There are so many parks to choose from.

London’s large green spaces (Green Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park to name but a few) are gorgeous and justifiably considered some of the finest urban parks in the world. I am always finding new things every time I visit. For example, I don’t know why it took me so long to find the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens – I only came across it three years ago – but as soon as I did, it became one of my favorite spots. It also reminds me very much of the Alice in Wonderland that sits nestled in a leafy spot next to the Central Park boat pond. I’ve also spent many happy hours visiting the Regent’s Park Zoo, watching the “lively exchange of views” at Speaker’s Corner and strolling across Hampstead Heath. These famous green spaces are not the only stars in the London park firmament however. There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city — perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly. Well, I come across them unexpectedly. I’m sure the people who live near them find them just where they expect to find them.

London’s vast landscape of “secret gardens” and mega-star parks is one of its most defining features and one that Londoners I know take tremendous pride in it. They are right to be proud. They have some of the most beautiful and best-known parks in the world right at their doorstep.

Continue reading Green Spaces in London (and New York)