It is a dark time for people who believe in centre left politics, and it could get a whole lot darker.

Across Europe and America, the centre left is either out of political power or is under pressure from radical or authoritarian forces. The elderly crave for a world that has gone, the young are unemployed or running up debts from university or renting their accommodation. Forgive the generalisations. I know this is not true of everyone but I am trying to identify why the centre left is under pressure.

Some look to reactionary forces represented by UKIP in Britain, the Front National in France or The Donald in America. When people find that Brexit doesn’t deliver “yesterday”, the immigration crisis doesn’t go away or it proves impossible to expel 11 million illegals from the USA, what will they do? Give centre left politics another chance? That is unlikely. The anger levels already high (watch any Trump rally) will look for even more authoritarian solutions.

All the while this European and American anger is being goaded by terrorists who see the spiral of action and reaction working beautifully. That is why the sight of French police surrounding a Muslim lady wearing a burkini is so serious. That will be playing well in Raqqa.

The centre left is particularly in trouble in the UK. The Labour Party will be unelectable for a long time but the moderate MPs still show few signs of realising their predicament. Their continuing antagonism to Liberal Democrats and Greens seems absurd in the desperate situation they find themselves in.

However there is a shaft of light. This weekend sees the publication of a book with the title “The Alternative: Towards a New Progressive Politics”. Its editors are Liberal Democrat Chris Bowers, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. The two women are amongst the most able of their generation and the fact that they have come together to chart a possible way forward for progressive politics is a start.

It remains possible that the Brexit negotiations will not be concluded before 2020. It is essential that all the political forces who believe that we should stay in the EU are lined up to make the 2020 election, in effect, a second referendum. The SNP, Lib Dems, Greens and hopefully a New Democrats Party must ally together. It won’t be easy to do but the work should start at this autumn’s conferences.


We all congratulate our athletes on their magnificent achievements in Rio. We must also congratulate Manchester on moving with characteristic speed to host the victory parade when the London mayor seemed uncertain.

But when the champagne corks have popped for the last time we need to look at the strategy that has developed of investing millions in elite athletes whilst neglecting school sport.

One of the most stupid things the Coalition government did in its early days was to scrap funding for the Schools Sports Partnerships which had the potential to do a great deal to foster participation and fitness for all.

We need to see resources put in at school and community level so there is less reliance on volunteers, more paid staff, more indoor facilities, an end to selling off playing fields for development and more time in the curriculum for physical education.

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