News & Current Affairs

September 10, 2008

Narrow UK class gap, urges Harman

Narrow UK class gap, urges Harman

The class gap must be narrowed in an effort to improve people’s life chances, Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman has said.

She told the TUC annual conference that “equality matters more than ever” and “is necessary for individuals, a peaceful society and a strong economy”.

Ms Harman called for more “clarity of evidence” to suggest the government was making progress on the issue.

But the Conservatives accused her of re-opening the “class war”.

Union criticism

Ms Harman’s comments come after Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an interview with Monitor magazine that “social mobility has not improved in Britain as we would have wanted”.

They will be seen by many as an attempt by the government to rally the unions to Labour, after widespread criticism over the level of public sector pay and demands for a windfall tax on energy firms’ profits.

Ms Harman, who is also Commons leader and minister for women and equality, told delegates at the TUC conference in Brighton: “Equality matters more than ever and it is necessary for individuals, a peaceful society and a strong economy.

“We have made great progress on tackling inequality but we know that inequality doesn’t just come from your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. What overarches all of these is where you live, your family background, your wealth and social class.

“While we have helped millions of people over the last ten years through policies like Sure Start, tax credits and the national minimum wage, we want to do more.

“To advance equality through our public policy, we need clarity of evidence and focus on the gaps in society and how they have changed over the last 10 years.”

Ms Harman announced that the government’s National Equality Unit would be headed by Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics.

She said: “The robust evidence base that the panel will produce will help us properly target measures to address persisting equality gaps and build on the good work that we have already done.”

‘Sidling up’

Ms Harman accused the Conservatives of being “false friends of equality” and of “sidling up to the unions”.

For the Conservatives, shadow leader of the Commons Theresa May said: “I am astounded that Harriet Harman is dismissing the equality issues around race and gender.”

She added: “I also find it surprising that she should raise issues of social equality when she’s part of government that has been in power for over 11 years, presiding over a 900,000 growth in the number of people living in severe poverty and over a country that has the lowest social mobility in the developed world.

“Labour has made poverty more entrenched and returning to the class warfare rhetoric of 20 years ago is neither helpful nor realistic.”


Do you agree with Harriet Harman? Has your child suffered due to a class gap? Has your family benefited through policies like Sure Start or tax credits?

Send your comments

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August 26, 2008

Green tech in ‘Formula Zero’ race

Green tech in ‘Formula Zero’ race

Formula Zero karts

Delft University’s Greenchoice leads the newly established table

The world’s first international hydrogen-powered motorsport race was held in Rotterdam this weekend.

Dubbed the Formula Zero championship, the contest pitted teams from five countries against each other in a zero-emissions go-kart race.

Each team’s entry was powered by a commercial fuel cell that produces electricity from hydrogen.

A Dutch team won the endurance event, while a Spanish team clinched the award for fastest lap.

Peak power

Founded by Dutch motorsport enthusiasts Godert van Hardenbroek and Eelco Rietveld, Formula Zero is already recognized by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the world’s motor sport governing body.

The championship consisted of several events, with teams from the UK, US, the Netherlands, Spain, and Belgium competing for the top honour: zeroth place.

The events included a sprint race, won by a Spanish team called EuplatecH2 with a lap time of 36 seconds. In the endurance event, the Greenchoice Forze team from Delft University took the zeroth place on the podium.

Formula Zero kart

Formula Zero looks set to green up motorsport

That puts the Delft team on top in the standings. In third place was Imperial College London’s team Imperial Racing Green, who proved to have the most reliable entry if not eventually the fastest.

“In 10 years if the motorsport industry as a whole hasn’t engaged in zero or low emission principles, it probably won’t be around,” said Greg Offer, who headed up the Imperial team. “Teams that embrace this new technology early on will succeed, and those that don’t will fall by the wayside.”

Racing excitement won’t suffer, though; Dr. Offer says that fuel-cell powered vehicles don’t represent a compromise in performance over traditional petrol-fueled engines.

“With a combustion engine, you have to reach three or four thousand rev[olutions per minute] to get your peak power,” he says. “With an electric vehicle, it’s all there from standing, and they’re more efficient.”

It is expected that the class will grow to Formula Three standard and then full-size racing class as interest in green motoring escalates. The next event will be held in the US in March. In 2009 the Formula Zero championship will comprise four races.

August 12, 2008

Third gold for unstoppable Phelps

Third gold for unstoppable Phelps

Michael Phelps stormed to victory in the men’s 200m freestyle swimming, claiming his third gold medal and third world record of the Beijing Olympics.

Phelps, 23, finished nearly two seconds ahead of South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan in a time of one minute 42.96 seconds.

The American owned the previous record of 1:43.86 and now has a joint-record nine Olympics career golds.

Phelps’s compatriot Peter Vanderkaay took bronze, while Britain’s Robbie Renwick finished eighth.

“I just wanted to be out on my own which I had done by the 100 metres mark, that was my goal,” said Phelps, who led from start to finish.

“I was out in open water and I was in the middle, which makes it difficult for the other guys to see me.

“I knew Park would have a strong last 50 metres, so I had to keep my focus and concentration.”

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Phelps has already triumphed in the 400m individual medley and 4x100m freestyle relay and looks to be improving with each race.

The 200m freestyle has a medal which eluded him in Athens when he was a bronze medalist behind Australian Ian Thorpe.

“Phelps swam so fast,” said silver medalist Park. “It is my honor to compete with him.”

Phelps’s ninth career Olympic gold draws him level with Mark Spitz Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi and Larysa Latynina and keeps him on course to beat Spitz’s 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single Games.

Racing out of lane six, Phelps quickly surged into the lead and led by a full body length halfway through the second of four lengths.

Phelps will race for his fourth medal on Wednesday in the 200m butterfly, yet another event in which he holds the world record.

He advanced to the final as the fastest qualifier just moments after receiving his 200m freestyle gold medal.

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