Universal Credit: chronicle of a death fortold

This blog post was first published on Nov 11, 2010, in reaction to the Universal Credit ‘White Paper’. It’s normal to say “I hate to say it ….”. I don’t hate to say it – I was right.

Welfare Reform: it’s the implementation, stupid

It has entered popular mythology that in the 1992 US Presidential election Bill Clinton’s adviser James Carville hung a notice over Clinton’s desk that said “it’s the economy, stupid”. (It didn’t quite happen like that, but it’s close enough.) Continue reading

The Soft Brexit Solution Struggling to get out?

There is a majority in Parliament – in both Houses – for some form the ‘soft’ Brexit. The question is, can it get out?

Let’s be clear – the Brexiteers are right about one thing: the majority of MPs stood on manifestos committing us to leaving the EU. But they did not commit themselves to any old Brexit Theresa May and David Davis decide we’ll get. Labour’s manifesto was ambiguous and many individual candidates entered their own local caveats.

The majority in the House of Commons would probably now vote for something like this:

We formally leave the EU in April 2019.

We agree an “interim” deal to remain in the EEA or EFTA (or both) and the customs union pending further negotiations.

Such a deal could satisfy soft Leavers and Remainers. For now. Continue reading

Grenfell: How to investigate what happened

[Republished with permission from politics.co.uk]

——

Andrew Blackie was an Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) operations inspector from 2007 to 2017. Here he outlines various options for how to investigate what took place at Grenfell.

By Andrew Blackie

There has been a lot of discussion about how the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire should proceed in the wake of the tragedy. Every day that debate becomes more politicised. In order to come to a sound judgement on it, it’s worth taking a look at the various models on offer, so that we can assess them for speed, purpose and independence.

Disaster investigations in the UK depend on what sort of incident it was. Some are done with the intention of prosecution or determining liability, others are purely for learning and others are a hybrid. Continue reading

Passport to Remain – how would the UK process residency rights for 3 million EU27 nationals?

[see important Update at bottom]

Settling the position of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU is at the top of the agenda for the Brexit talks that have just started. Good.

Let’s assume, as everyone seems to be saying, that a generous settlement is reached which allows all of them to stay where they are now if they want to.

If that does happen then the UK would need to come up with a process to grant them the right to remain and documents – preferably simple – that would show they had such a right.

It needs to do it quickly – assuming this part of the negotiations is settled by say October that will give the UK about 18 months to process this. Remember, as soon as we withdraw from the EU in April 2019 three million EU27 residents of the UK would legally have no right to be here.

So how could it be done? Continue reading

Grenfell Tower

Municipal Dreams

For almost four decades, we have been taught to see public spending as a bad thing; ruthless economising as a virtue.  We have come to know the price of everything and the value of nothing…and have ended with the funeral pyre of Grenfell Tower. 

Three days after the night of Wednesday 14 June, I still haven’t written anything about Grenfell Tower.  I’ve been trying to process the tragedy emotionally and intellectually. Even the pronoun jars.  This is – or should be – all about the pain and anger felt by the victims of the tower block fire. Those feelings are shared by many but have been appropriated by a few to fit their existing worldviews, to serve pre-existing agenda. In the meantime, it seems every journalist has become an expert, every pundit has their opinion.

Grenfell nowI do know a bit about social housing but I’m certainly not an expert on…

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Why did Grenfell Happen? It’s probably simple, and complicated.

[Now with very important comment about the privatised Building Research Establishment – see below]

There are two answers to the above question – one simple and one much more complex. We don’t know the full answers to either yet, but we know more or less what the questions and areas of uncertainty are. Continue reading

Grenfell – we need an ‘Air Accident’ type investigation, now

The utterly appalling sight of our fellow citizens being burnt alive, trapped in a tall building, naturally fills all of us with deep sorrow, and for many anger.

How could this happen? Could it happen again?

There are two sort of questions that need examining. The first, and by far the most urgent, is how did this happen in the technical, proximate cause, sense? How could a tower block that’s stood for 4-5 decades suddenly turn into such towering disaster?

Immediate ‘Air Accident Investigation Branch’ type investigation? Continue reading