This article is from the August issue of Total Politics

Miliband must spell it out
I read with interest Jim Pickard’s analysis of Ed Miliband’s leadership (TP, June). It is clearer than ever that Miliband can be the next prime minister but questions remain over how he converts the soft poll leads Pickard mentions into a win in 2015.

To win, the younger Miliband must build a broad coalition of voters and recent Fabian Society analysis shows that he has made a strong start in this regard, as Labour is winning over the majority of alienated Liberal Democrat voters.

And while Miliband has been bold in challenging vested interests, he must be stronger in setting out his vision for Britain.

What that vision will be is still not certain. A Fabian pamphlet edited by Miliband’s PPS John Denham on the politics of the Miliband project may go some way to clarifying this.
Andrew Harrop
General secretary of the Fabian Society

A sobering thought
Your article on drinking at Westminster (TP, July) is especially relevant in light of the excellent Commons mental health debate on 14 June secured by Nicky Morgan MP and others.

MPs work long hours under great pressure. Some MPs will have a drink issue; and some have mental health issues. The combination of the two is particularly worrying, though not unusual.

It is important that MPs have access to confidential advice and support when they feel they need it, and that the stigma of mental illness is banished once and for all.
Simon Lawton-Smith
Head of policy, Mental Health Foundation

Opposing gay marriage
My excellent colleague Mike Freer (Inbox, TP, July) is concerned that MPs against the proposal to redefine marriage are not clearly setting out the reasons for our position.

So let me try and help by repeating my response to the consultation last month: “The foundation of the institution of marriage is the union of a man and woman.

“If the government removes this foundation it risks undermining the institution… The institution of marriage is woven into the institution of the established church and should not be unpicked… The evidence of this union of a man and woman is provided in law by consummation and in fact by the possibility of procreation... The proposal is both wrong and unnecessary.”

Thankfully the debate has moved on from the time last year when I and others were branded bigots and homophobes for opposing ‘gay marriage’.  Will Labour and the Lib Dems join the debate reflecting a public which is divided beyond party lines?
David Burrowes MP
Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate

How to care
Will Straw is right that childcare is vital for supporting maternal employment and boosting educational development (The Idea, TP, July).

Despite impressive public investment in childcare in recent decades, the private contribution of many families is still punishingly high and often unaffordable. Since demand is localised and volatile, childcare providers don’t get the revenue needed to offer more flexibility and invest in high-quality staff.

A more immediate solution, which is costless to government, would be SMF’s income-contingent childcare loans plan.

In addition to existing support, parents would be able to draw down financial support from government, which the main earner would subsequently repay through the tax system over a number of years. If parents don’t earn, they don’t pay. It’s a much more credible solution.
Ryan Shorthouse
Researcher, Social Market Foundation

Boot out the bookies
A recent Local Government Authority poll found that the vast majority of council officers believe that high numbers of – in particular – bookies, fast food outlets and strip clubs are negatively impacting on the economic growth of our high streets. Yet these concerns remain disappointingly unresolved in the government’s recent response to the Mary Portas high street review.

Over three-quarters of the public and 89 per cent of councillors would like to see councils being given ‘real localist’ powers to tackle these very real concerns.

What the LGA is calling for is changes to complicated ‘Article 4’ planning laws and the introduction of a new ‘super’ planning use class, in which councils can add business types which local people believe affect the vibrancy of their local high streets.

It cannot be right that clusters of betting shops, fast food outlets and strip clubs are resulting in a gamble with the future of our high streets.
Cllr Clyde Loakes
Vice chair, Local Government Association environment and housing board


Tags: Inbox, Issue 50, Letters, Readers' letters