PolLaw Express: 17th August edition.

Your daily dose of politics and the law. NI intrigued? Covered. UK focused? Sure. US-centric? You got it.

PolLaw Express blog photo

Welcome to the daily news round-up via my e-newspaper. Here are the top stories from today:

(We have quite the jam-packed day, so let’s get straight into it.)

Spotted, part one: This article from The New York Times, discussing whether ‘online journalism’ in an attempt to remain relevant, modern for so-called ‘target audiences’ and endure in a fast-paced market is actually sacrificing genuine and informative journalism for cheap ‘click bait’.

I follow a lot of newspapers on social media platforms, and I have found click bait to be an increasingly common trend. Some newspapers repost old articles from months ago in an attempt to appear on timelines, others post tweets deliberately written in ‘internet speak’ or exploiting old memes in a clear attempt to appear ultra modern for the average social media user.

Oh, please.

Click bait is boring, too obvious and rather pathetic – if you cannot clearly identity and target an audience with a well-researched and intelligent piece of journalism, then whisper it, but perhaps you should not be posting news pieces at all?

Spotted, part two: this article focusing on Facebook and its latest attempt of being everything to everyone.

This time, it has updated and revamped its ‘Notes’ section on a user’s page (that section is often left untouched, I know I for one never use(d)it) as it now seeks to attract bloggers et al to Facebook.

So, not only will people be continuing to post in detail about their nights out and their Starbucks coffee, but we can now be subjected to blog posts from our friends, too.


  1. Why most of the ‘Stop Corbyn’ schemes won’t work (via BBC News)
    ~ It’s that great conundrum, is it not? Tell people ‘don’t think of elephants’, so naturally they automatically think of elephants. The case in point right now is that there is a giant white-vest wearing elephant in the room, and senior Labour members do not know how best to deal with him as he comes ever closer to claiming the leadership crown. (Or military-style hat, seeing as the man himself would like to see the back of the monarchy in the UK.)

    This article discusses how many ‘stop Corbyn’ schemes – or to borrow the catchy Campbell slogan, ‘ABC – Anyone But Corbyn’ devised by those aiming to stop his victory will not work, whether it is through media criticism or circumnavigating contest regulations to exploit loopholes.

    Voters in the Labour leadership contest are given the chance to rank the standing candidates in order of preference. The first preferences are counted up, and the person with the fewest is eliminated from the contest – and the votes they received are given to whoever each person that voted for them rated as their second preference, and so on. If none of the candidates achieve 50% of the vote, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and their votes are given to whoever they put as their higher preference amongst the two remaining candidates.

    So based on current polling, it all comes down to attempting to predict whether those voting for Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper are more likely to put Corbyn as their next preference.

    The problem is, there is no decent publicly available evidence that either of them are.  There is also no arithmetic reason why non-Corbyn candidates withdrawing would prevent a Corbyn victory.

    The only way you can affect the number of votes Corbyn gets is by trying to second-guess the second preferences of people who vote for eliminated candidates. But, as the article demonstrates, there is still no obvious way to tactically out-vote Corbyn. Rather ironic for a candidate who only made the short-list at the last-minute, isn’t it?

    Spotted: this sarcastic gem of a line by article author Ed Brown:  ‘Crazy thought though it might be, you can happily vote for candidates on the basis of, y’know, how good you think they are.’


2. Labour  leadership contest: David Miliband backs Kendall (via BBC News)
~ His brother stole the leadership crown from under his nose, but now Miliband Senior seeks to influence another leadership contest by announcing his support for Liz Kendall.

NB. The irony. The Unions opted for Ed, to David’s expense. Given this, perhaps this is why David (a true Blairite) is supporting Kendall (another Blairite)? Corbyn has undoubtedly the majority of union support.

David Miliband wrote in The Guardian (once you translate the political theory and history lessons) of how a Corbyn victory would only succeed in taking the party ‘backwards’, and also warned that the ‘angry defiance’ of his campaign would lead only to electoral defeat.

He said he was backing Kendall  as leader, but she herself has acknowledged that she is trailing in the polls.

This comes as Andy Burnham said he would offer Corbyn a role in the party if he won the contest. He also said that only he could beat Corbyn and unite the party, whilst praising his opponent and saying he shared many of his views

But Yvette Cooper said Burnham should withdraw from the race if he was not prepared to oppose the left-winger.


3. UK inflation rate rises to 0.1% (via BBC News)
~ The UK’s inflation rate turned positive in July, with the Consumer Prices Index measure rising to 0.1% from June’s 0%.

According to the Office for National Statistics, this can be mainly attributed to a  smaller fall in the price of clothing. The Retail Prices Index measure of inflation was unchanged at 1%.

CPI has been almost flat for the past six months, having turned negative in April for the first time since 1960.

This follows on from the considerable speculation over when the Bank of England – which has a target inflation rate of 2% – might start to raise interest rates, triggered by comments made by the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. (You can read my blog post on this talk delivered by Mr Carney here.)

However, Mr Cameron has said it was ‘hard to envisage a rate rise this side of Christmas’.

This comes as a policy-maker from within the Bank of England has warned against waiting too long to actually raise interest rates, saying that this undermines the UK’s recovery.

Monetary Policy Committee member Ms Forbes said a rate hike took between one and two years to take full effect. As a result, rates would need to rise ‘well before’ inflation hit the Bank’s 2% target, she said.


4. BBC Trust chairwoman urges end to ‘political pressure’ (via BBC News)
~ The BBC/Government row has taken another turn.

The Chairwoman of the BBC Trust has stated her belief that politicians should stop pressurising the BBC and the public should have more of a say in its future.

Rona Fairhead, writing in The Indy, said that the BBC’s future must be ‘driven by evidence and fact, not by prejudice and not by vested interest’.

She also complains of MPs attempting to interfere in the broadcaster’s affairs.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said a debate is needed over whether the BBC should become more ‘precise’.

The corporation’s Royal Charter is up for renewal next year.

Ms Fairhead said the public wanted independent scrutiny and regulation of the BBC, but that they wanted this done by a separate body representing licence fee payers, not by politicians:

‘That independence has needed defending over decades, not just from governments but also from parliament, with a growing tendency in recent years for select committees to question BBC executives about detailed editorial decisions.’


5. Stormont research shows low income is top reason for food bank use (via BBC News)
~ Quite a sad story from my neck of the woods today.

Research from the Department for Social Development shows that people rely on foodbanks for reasons other than problems with benefits.

The Department’s research has found that 33% of people in Northern Ireland use them because they are on a low income. This is compared to the 18% who are waiting for social security payments.

Social development minister, Mervyn Storey has said: ‘It is a situation which none of us should be happy with’.

He went on to say that this is an issue which involves:

‘society – not just government – but collectively we need to take a strong look at why this is happening in Northern Ireland’.


6. Mark Regan: ‘There’s huge health inequality between Northern Ireland and England’ (via The Belfast Telegraph)
~ This is a Q and A article involving the CEO of South Belfast’s Kingsbridge Private Hospital and the development director of its parent company, the 3fivetwo Group.

There are some good comments and quotes in the article, but this is the one which stood out for me:

There is a serious inequality in terms of elective healthcare here in Northern Ireland versus that in England. However, we must remember how fortunate we are to have an NHS that offers life-saving emergency surgery immediately. When it comes to non-emergency or elective surgery – that is things such as hip replacements, spinal surgery, cataracts and so forth – we are way off the pace in terms of the time you wait.

Did you know that, in England, the target which is achieved in the most part is for you to have surgery within 18 weeks from the day the hospital gets your GP referral letter? In Northern Ireland, that same composite target is around 50 weeks, and we failed to meet any of the targets in the most recent Department of Health’s report in relation to waiting times.

When asked whether whether he believed that waiting times for inpatient and outpatient treatment have improved, Mr Regan commented:

No, absolutely not. In each of the last four quarterly reports from the Department of Health, the figures have been getting worse. There has been little or no change in the plan, and the NHS is not able to rapidly increase capacity the same way the private sector can. The problem is, the report will show numbers and graphs, not the faces of the hundreds of thousands who are affected by this. Real people.


To read these headlines and more besides, why not visit PolLaw Express?


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