Political parties, especially the Tories, have a morbid fascination with polls. They see the polls and the companies that produce them as some sort of Delphic Oracle. What interests me isn’t the Tory fascination with polling companies but their involvement in them, since polling companies are always at pains to tell the general public that they are politically neutral. Yet, as any qualitative researcher will tell you, it is not possible to be 100% objective and put one’s ideology or cultural baggage to one side. The researcher must act self-reflexively. Bourdieu and Wacquant discussed this at some length in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. The researcher must consider their own position. Yet this idea of self-reflexivity appears to have escaped the pollsters. I have discovered that a number of Tory MPs are being paid by polling companies and there is no indication why they are being paid.
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The ‘bedroom tax’ came one step closer to complete abolition today (5 September 2014), after the Tories were defeated in a House Of Commons vote.
Liberal Democrat and Labour MP’s joined forces to deal David Cameron one of his most humiliating defeats so far, by 306 votes to 231.
Under changes introduced by the government in 2013, social housing tenants are required to contribute toward their rent, if they are ‘under-occupying’ their home, through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they can receive. The exact deduction is dependent upon the number of ‘spare bedrooms’ in the property: 14% for one spare bedroom or a 25% deduction in Housing Benefit for two or more.
It’s only the second time the coalition partners have voted against each other and prompted calls for the pact to be broken up immediately. Tory MP accused the Liberal Democrats of being “devious and untrustworthy”, after the party initially voted in favour of the ‘bedroom tax’ when it was first introduced. He angrily declared that the coalition had “officially come to an end”.
Bringing forward the bill, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George said:
“We have had long enough to tell how these regulations have had an impact. It is quite clear that if we are to ensure that…the vulnerable are properly protected, the rules should be changed so that existing tenants are not penalised when they cannot move into smaller accommodation because this is not available in their locality.”
Virtually every Labour MP was present for today’s crucial vote, said the Shadow Defence Minister Vernon Coaker, and the victory will now path the way for the bill to move to the next stage. The BBC’s parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy said that there was a “fighting chance” the ‘bedroom tax’ could now be completely abolished, before the next general election.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has reiterated Labour’s pledge to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’, if the party wins an outright majority in next years general election.
“The Government should scrap the hated Bedroom Tax following the overwhelming vote by MPs against the cruel tax on bedrooms today”, she said.
“David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax has hit hundreds of thousands of people across the country causing misery, hardship and forcing families to rely on food banks. If the government won’t ditch the Bedroom Tax, then the next Labour government will.”
> Great that its happened… just a shame that the Lib Dems and Labour only find they had consciences when there’s a general election in the offing. Earlier action might have saved a lot of heartache for many people.
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 Sept 2014
Arts and cultural bodies across the North East could receive a fairer share of funding in future years, the people responsible for distributing cash have pledged.
Leaders of Arts Council England, which shares out lottery cash for the arts as well as funding directly from the Treasury, said they accepted there was an “imbalance” with London getting the lion’s share while the rest of the country loses out.
But they insisted the situation was improving, with more money going to regions outside London in recent years – and pledged that the trend would continue.
However, giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, the Arts Council also insisted that London organisations had to receive enough money to allow the city to maintain its position as the world’s cultural capital.
And MPs were also told by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that the arts are “generously funded outside London”.
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an inquiry into the work of the Arts Council.
That was in part prompted by a hard-hitting report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which warned that London receives £563.9m a year in culture funding from the Government and the Arts Council – or £68.98 per person – while the rest of the country gets £205.1m or just £4.57 per person.
The study also found that the North East had received £86.22 per head in arts lottery funding since 1995, while Londoners received £165.
The inquiry previously heard evidence from leaders of the North East Culture Partnership, who warned that cash-strapped arts organisations in the North East are spending time filling in grant applications instead of actually taking part in arts and cultural activities.
Speaking to the committee, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “You are quite right point to an imbalance.”
He said it should not be surprising that London received the most funding, but added: “We are addressing years of imbalance but we are addressing it carefully.”
London used to get 51% of funding while the rest of the country got 49% – but this had changed so that London now received 49%, he said.
“That trend should continue this summer.
“Those are very important parts of the work we are doing.”
One committee member, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, accused the Arts Council of indulging “London luvvies” by spending £347.4m on opera over five years and just £1.8m on brass bands.
> Oh lord, another regional sterotype – brass bands, whippits and flat caps !
Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey told him: “I do want us to increase the amount of money we are giving to brass bands because I think it’s a wonderful pastime”.
But Mr Vaizey played down suggestions of a funding gap, saying: “I think it is nuanced. I don’t want a headline saying it is unbalanced because as I say it is a more subtle picture.
“A lot of the organisations with London postcodes have national profiles and do national work.
“The picture is by no means as bleak as some people would wish to paint it. A great deal of funding has gone to arts organisations outside London and a lot of funding that is supposedly ‘London funding’ is in fact national funding.”
Mr Vaizey praised Gateshead Council for backing the Sage Gateshead concert venue and musical education centre as well as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and said he wanted other councils to follow suit.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 June 2014