In last week’s New Statesman, the magazine’s political editor, Mehdi Hasan, coined the ideal phrase for one of the least pleasant tendencies of the last government.
He wrote that the former immigration minister Phil Woolas, stripped of his parliamentary seat after an electoral court found that he told race-related lies about his Lib Dem opponent, embodied “the cynical, authoritarian populism of New Labour.”
Coincidentally, on the same day, Third Sector heard that the new government is going to repeal another example of that same tendency – the provision, railroaded through parliament last July in the face of widespread opposition and the unequivocal message from consultations, that the citizenship applications of migrants would be fast-tracked if they did voluntary work.
Ditching this measure is a sensible, principled decision. Giving people a specific material advantage from doing voluntary work is a perversion of the voluntary principle. It discriminates against those unable to volunteer and eats away at the foundations of altruism. Full marks to ministers on this one.
But why don’t they shout the decision from the rooftops? Are the spin doctors advising them to keep it quiet for fear of upsetting this or that constituency or faction? They should come out with it, loud and clear.