Meanwhile, under the Tories, the vast majority of Parliamentary constituencies will receive less funding in 2020 – per pupil – than in 2015. Of the 17 constituencies that will get a raise, 13 are currently held by Conservatives – because the Tories are using the funding system to look after themselves, not your children. One constituency remains static. A further 515 constituencies will suffer savage Tory cuts under a continuing Conservative government.
Research has also shown that the academy system, started by Tony Blair and hugely expanded by the Conservatives, has put the fate of more than 100,000 pupils in the hands of a handful of extremely rich men who have a vast array of powers and little to no oversight from parents, teachers, pupils or local government – and run these schools in their own interests rather than those of the pupils.
These are the facts, and they make one thing clear:
If you love your children, you’ll vote Labour.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Angela Rayner: Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary was set to announce the policy.
Good – this is another common-sense policy from the Labour Party Conference.
Free Schools were nothing more than devices to funnel money away from the state education system – where it was needed – and into the hands of money-grubbing Tories.
They were built where they weren’t needed – or if they did appear where there was a genuine need, they took pupils from elsewhere and overlooked those who lived next door.
They employed unqualified amateurs as teachers and were rocked by scandal after scandal when they repeatedly failed to reach the academic standards required of them.
Under the Tories, Academies have been another method of dumping school pupils into the hands of private companies at the expense of achievement, and at huge cost to local authorities.
No wonder the UK’s education system is an international laughing-stock!
It’s time we went back to doing what works; time our own government stopped trying to undermine students solely because they don’t come from a moneyed background.
We know the nation’s rich has produced generations of imbeciles – Boris Johnson is a product of Eton and Oxford, and look at the state of him.
Now the UK needs the best brains it has, thanks to the monumental blunders of the generation of dimwits – but these have been stifled by the narrow-minded jealousy of the Johnsons of this country.
Labour’s plan will start to turn that situation around and bring intelligence back to education.
Labour would scrap free schools and bring academies under greater local democratic control as part of a plan to unwind Conservative education reforms that it says have created a legacy of “fragmentation and privatisation”.
The new policy will be unveiled by Angela Rayner at the Labour party conference on Monday, the first time that the shadow education secretary has presented her own structural reform plan in her two years in the job.
“The Tories’ academy system is simply not fit for purpose,” Rayner is expected to say. “Labour will end the forced conversion of local schools to academies, scrap the inefficient free school programme and instead focus on delivering what works to get the best results for pupils.”
Labour said that it would allow local authorities to build schools again and halt the free school programme, a flagship initiative of Michael Gove when he was education secretary under the coalition government.
A fire destroyed The Academy, Selsey in August 2016 [Image: Eddie Mitchell].
Despite the lessons of the Grenfell Tower disaster and the fact that its own school burnt down, an academy trust in southeast England has delayed a decision on whether to install a sprinkler system in the replacement.
The Kemnal Academies Trust, which manages 40 schools in six counties, says the Education Funding Agency, and the Government’s own Design in Fire Safety in Schools guidelines, “no longer include an expectation that most new school buildings will be fitted with them (sprinklers)”.
So the Trust says it has yet to decide whether to install sprinklers when a replacement is built for The Academy, Selsey – which was burnt to the ground in a huge blaze in August 2016.
The indecision has been revealed after another huge blaze gutted Grenfell Tower in Kensington, London, with 80 people confirmed dead. It was revealed afterwards that, despite repeated calls for sprinklers to be retrofitted in high-rise blocks by coroners and by fire and rescue services, government ministers did not compel social housing providers to do so.
Now we learn that government guidelines are endangering children at our schools as well.
Here’s the Chichester Observer‘s report:
The decision on whether to fit sprinklers in the new Academy Selsey school ‘has not yet been finalised’, the trust which runs it has said.
It follows BBC South Today reporting that TKAT had chosen not to fit a sprinkler system in the new school, which will be built on the site where a major fire destroyed the old secondary school in August 2016.
The school did not have a sprinkler system fitted, though a fire service spokesman said at the time there was no evidence to suggest it would have prevented the rapid spread of the flames.
However, Tony Morris, a retired former firefighter of 32 years, said: “Reports that the trust running the Selsey Academy do not intend to fit sprinklers in the rebuilt school are beyond belief.
“Professional advice and common sense say that sprinklers should be fitted, but TKAT say they won’t, because they are ‘not a requirement’.
“Well it is not a requirement to look for traffic before crossing the road, it is just a recommendation, but only a fool does not do so.”
The fire at the former Selsey Academy took place in August, when pupils were away enjoying their summer holidays. If another blaze were to break out in the replacement – or any other schools where sprinklers haven’t been fitted because government guidelines do not demand it – who’s to say it won’t happen during term time?
The potential death toll – of children – is horrifying.
Why are our government, local authorities and regulators still sleepwalking towards tragedy?
Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.
The message is: The UK is huge. Cameron is small. His Tory party is smaller still. They are not strong. He is not a leader.
David Cameron took to the stage and lied bare-faced to a no-doubt hand-picked audience of hired-handclaps in the finale of one of the most heavily stage-managed – read fake – Conservative Party conferences in history.
Not for the Tories, the open debate and honest disagreements of Labour! Even Boris Johnson’s dissent over tax credits was a cynical piece of attempted-press-manipulation (he voted in favour of the plan to cut tax credits a few weeks ago).
So Cameron mouthed a series of lies, platitudes and nonsenses similar to those of George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith on Monday and Tuesday.
“The British people are decent, sensible, reasonable, and they just want a government that supports the vulnerable, backs those who do the right thing and helps them get on in life. Good jobs; a decent home; better childcare; controlled immigration; lower taxes so there’s more money at the end of the month; an NHS that’s there for them, seven days a week; great schools; dignity in retirement,” he said – and that’s probably about right. But then he said: “That is what people want and that is what we will deliver.” A monstrous lie.
Attacks the vulnerable (look at tax credits if you like, or the row over the many deaths of incapacity benefits claimants that could have been avoided if Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith had wanted to);
Backs tax fraudsters (the HSBC scandal);
Offers poor, zero-hours-contract jobs;
Pushes the poor out of their homes (bedroom tax).
The UK has been rocked by huge paedophile scandals on Cameron’s watch;
The Conservatives have failed to control immigration;
Lower taxes mean fewer public services because the money isn’t there to pay for them. The main beneficiaries are the very rich;
The NHS is facing its biggest-ever crisis thanks to Tory mismanagement – which is all part of Cameron’s plan;
Our schools are being sold off to private companies who intend to profit from them – your child’s education is of secondary interest; and
The Tories are being encouraged to cut benefits for pensioners – who will either be dead by 2020 (because of the removal of their benefits?) or will have forgotten who robbed them.
So Cameron’s first claim about the joy of Conservative government was a tenfold lie. It’s impressive – for all the wrong reasons.
And he knows he’s on shaky ground now. A new power has risen in the Labour Party to challenge the basis on which Cameron’s policies are founded – and did exactly that, on the doorstep of the Tory conference, this week.
So Cameron attacked Jeremy Corbyn with all the venom he could muster: “Thousands of words have been written about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a ‘tragedy. No. A tragedy is nearly 3,000 people murdered one morning in New York.” He was saying that Jeremy Corbyn is soft on terrorists and unsympathetic to their victims. Another lie.
Jeremy Corbyn wanted Osama Bin Laden to face justice for his many crimes. He wanted the man to pay for all the deaths he caused, and he wanted the terrorist alive to provide details of his network of co-conspirators.
By attacking Corbyn’s stance, David Cameron was in fact saying that both he and the Conservative Party support the murder of Bin Laden, rather than his capture, and that they are glad Bin Laden’s co-conspirators were allowed to continue, in freedom – perhaps to form IS or Boko Haram.
But we all knew that Cameron is a liar.
So here’s a statement that he made in the belief that it is true (we have to assume he intended to lie with the others): “I’m starting the second half of my time in this job.”
For the good of the United Kingdom – and the wider world – we must work hard to turn that statement into a lie.
Cameron doesn’t deserve to be Prime Minister of Britain for the next five minutes, let alone the next five years.
But the only way to get him out is to attack him, on every level, at all times, and all together.
Expecting someone else to do the heavy lifting won’t be any good at all.
So why not start by reading Cameron’s speech – The Guardian has a transcript here – and then getting in touch with your local newspapers, MP, TV stations, and Cameron himself and raising any or all of the moments at which he lied to the nation.
Put them all on notice. We know they are not to be trusted.
Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?
If the Labour Party is to regain the confidence it has lost, it needs to re-state its identity with a core message of purpose – one that not only encapsulates what Labour is about, but also what it opposes.
That is what was missing from Labour’s general election campaign, and is as much a reason for Ed Miliband’s defeat as the Conservative campaign, which was not based on objective facts but on political spin.
In a nutshell, it is time to remind the voters and the public that Labour is the enabling party. This creates a clear contrast with the Conservatives – the party of restriction.
So, for example, with the National Health Service, Labour should support a service available to everyone – free. That means noprivateinvolvement. With the Tory privatisation in full swing, funds are being restricted and so are services. The NHS is now a postcode lottery, with care allocated on the basis of profitability. That’s not good enough; the privateers must be told to jog on.
Education must also be available to everybody, up to the level each person can achieve (or wants to). Again, this means there should be no charge for state-provided services. A state school system has no place for privately-owned ‘academies’ or ‘free schools’. These are Tory devices; the private sector will, by its nature, restrict access in order to extract a profit. It also means notuitionfees for students in further/higher education.
Labour should be helping anyone who wants to start a business, by ensuring there are as few obstacles in the way as possible; it must be the enabling party. That means, for example, a graded taxation system, with lower business rates and taxes for start-ups, progressing to a higher rate for medium-sized enterprises, and a highest rate for multinationals – who should be taxed on all takings made in the UK; no excuses.
Another part of the enabling agenda must be ensuring that people can pay a minimum price for things we cannot live without: Accommodation, services, utilities.
There is now an appalling shortage of appropriate housing for many people – mostly because the Tories sold off so many council houses and did not replace them. This is why the Tories were able to impose the Bedroom Tax on so many innocent people – a restrictive idea, intended to push people out of some areas and into others; shifting Labour voters out of places the Tories didn’t think they should have to share with the riff-raff, you see – a gerrymandering tactic to make those constituencies easier to win in elections. The solution is simple: Build council houses again.
When the utility companies – gas, water and electricity suppliers – were privatised, we were all promised that household bills would be kept down by more efficient private-sector business models and private investment. That has not happened. Instead, consumers have been held to ransom by a small cabal of corporations who have been able to charge rip-off prices. Remember the electricity price scandal of 2013? Who told those firms to quit their restrictive practices and cut bills? Labour. The enabling party. The fear of a Labour government imposing new rules in the consumer’s favour helped hold the greedy private bosses in check for a while, but now we have a Conservative government. How long do you think it will be before prices soar? This Writer reckons they’ll take the first opportunity. Even now, after Labour managed to secure price cuts, the poorest families still have to choose between heating and eating during the winter (the phrase has been used so often it is now a modern cliché). This must not be allowed to continue and the solution is clear: Re-nationalise. There are even two bonus factors in such a plan: Firstly, as many of these utilities are owned – or part-owned – by firms or governments based abroad, it will ensure that our bills pay people in the UK rather than boosting foreign economies at the expense of our own and, secondly, takings will help the UK Treasury balance the books.
There is at least one other privatised service that could also be re-nationalised: The railway system. Prices have rocketed while government subsidies have also soared, since the system was turned over to private hands in the early 1990s. This is madness; it is a huge drain on resources and must not be allowed to continue. We should re-nationalise and follow the example of Northern Ireland, where the service was never privatised and where any profit is ploughed into improvements, not profit.
Then there is our grocery bill, which keeps escalating. This is a particularly thorny subject as, for example, farmers are being ripped off by supermarkets over the price of milk, but the same corporations will happily send apples to the other side of the world and back, just to have them polished. It’s time to straighten out that system as well – although it will take a while.
So this is how Labour should frame its arguments from now on: Labour enables; the Tories restrict.
It should be stressed that the themes raised above are just starting-points which occurred to This Writer while considering the issue last night. The above is not an exhaustive list. Undoubtedly there are many more.
This Gary Baker cartoon illustrates the belief that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until it became a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK’s population with nobody to speak for them.
Watching a drama on DVD yesterday evening (yes, there is more to life than Vox Political), Yr Obdt Srvt was impressed by the very old idea of the partners in a married couple supporting each other – that behind every great man is a great woman, and vice versa.
It occurred to This Writer that perhaps the biggest problem with the Labour Party’s campaign – not just for the May election but over the last five years – has been the leadership’s insistent refusal to support the requirements of its grassroots campaigners.
So, for example, on the economy: We all know for a fact that the big crash of 2008 or thereabouts was caused by the profligacy of bankers, and not by any overspending on the part of the Labour government of the time. Economists say it, blogs like VP say it, and we all have the evidence to support the claim. So why the blazes didn’t the Labour Party say it? Instead they let the Conservative Party walk all over us with their speeches about “The mess that Labour left us”.
On austerity: We all know that fiscal austerity will never achieve the economic boom that George Osborne claimed for it. If you take money out of the economy, there is less money – not more. What the UK needed in 2010 was a programme of investment in creating jobs with decent wages for the people who make the economy work – ordinary people, not bankers, fatcat business executives and MPs. The money would then have trickled up through the economy, creating extra value as it went. Quantitative easing could have done some good if it had been used properly, but after the Bank of England created the new money it passed the cash to other banks, rather than putting it anywhere useful. The Conservative Party said austerity was the only way forward: “There is no alternative”. Why did Labour agree? Party bigwigs might protest that Labour’s austerity was less, but the simple fact is that the UK was never in any danger of bankruptcy and there was no need to balance the books in a hurry. There’s still no need for it. Austerity was just a way of taking money from those of us who need it and giving it to those who don’t.
On the national debt: The Tories have hammered home a message that their policies are cutting the national deficit and paying down the national debt. That message is a lie. The national debt has doubled since the Conservatives took over. Labour hardly mentioned that.
On benefits: Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘welfare reforms’ have cut a murderous swathe through the sick and the poor, with more than 10,000 deaths recorded in 11 months during 2011, among ESA claimants alone. Many have chosen to attack Labour for introducing ESA in the first place, and for employing Atos to carry out the brutal and nonsensical Work Capability Assessments, based on a bastardised version of the unproven ‘biopsychosocial’ model, that ruled so many people ineligible for a benefit they had funded throughout their working lives. Labour should have promised to scrap ESA and the Work Capability Assessment in favour of an alternative – possibly even a rational – system. But Labour continued to support the Work Capability Assessment, earning the hatred of the sick and disabled. Why? According to Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, it was because the party leadership was afraid of provoking the right-wing press. Well done, Labour! As a result, instead of tearing into Labour like rabid attack dogs, the right-wing media… tore into Labour like rabid attack dogs. This pitifully weak attitude made no difference at all and Labour would have earned more votes by promising to ditch a policy it should never have adopted.
On education: This Writer attended a hustings on education, here in Brecon and Radnorshire. It was attended by many local teachers and it was clear that they all wanted to hear someone say they would clear away the layers of bureaucracy and constant interference that interfere with their jobs, and allow them to get on with teaching our youngsters. Nobody said anything of the kind, including the Labour candidate. Meanwhile, Michael Gove’s pet project – the very expensive ‘Free Schools’, continues unabated, and state-owned schools continue to be turned into privately-run ‘academies’, with all their assets turned over to private companies for free. And what about the debate over what should be taught in our schools and colleges? With employers now merrily shirking any training responsibilities and taking on foreign workers because they know what to do, can our educational institutions not take up the slack and provide that training for British people, so we don’t need to import as many people from abroad?
On immigration and the European Union: Right wingers including Tories and Kippers (members and supporters of UKIP) have made many claims that immigrants are a threat to the UK and to our way of life. In fact, migrant workers are a net benefit to the country, contributing far more to the UK Treasury in taxes than they ever claim in benefits. Ah, but they’re occupying houses that could be taken by British people; they use our NHS and their children take up places in our schools – and it’s all Labour’s fault because Labour signed the treaty that let them in, according to the right-wing critics. In fact, the Conservative Party signed that treaty, in the early 1970s. Free movement between European Union countries has always been a condition of membership and was never a problem when the EU consisted of nations that were on a relatively equal economic standing. The problem arose when the poorer eastern European countries were admitted to the union and people from those countries took advantage of the rule to seek a better life in the more affluent West. The simple fact is that those nations should not have been allowed full Union membership until their economies had grown enough that people would not want to move here – that was a matter that EU officials failed to address, not the UK government. Labour’s response was to fall in line with the right-wingers and promise harsh immigration controls. People naturally asked why they should vote Labour if Labour was no different from the nasty Tories.
On the NHS: Labour promised to repeal the Health and Social Care Act, ending the creeping privatisation of the NHS – and then said that it would limit the profits of private firms working in the NHS. This is contradictory and confusing. People wanted to end NHS privatisation, not let it go on with limited profits!
On housing: Labour promised an increased home-building programme, but what people need right now are council houses – cheaply-rentable properties run on a not-for-profit basis by local authorities. They need this because there is an appalling shortage of appropriate housing for individuals and families of varying sizes, due to the Conservative ‘Right to Buy’ policies that started in the 1980s. Council houses were sold off to their tenants, who in turn sold them to private landlords, who rented them out for more money than councils ever demanded. Labour never offered to build council houses again. Instead, we were promised more expensive alternatives from the private sector that we didn’t – and don’t – want.
On privatisation: More than 70 per cent of the general public wanted energy firms re-nationalised when the controversy over bills arose in 2013. Labour should have promised at least to consider it. Labour did not. Labour is the party that should represent public ownership of utilities. The private water, electricity and gas companies have ripped off consumers with high rates that were never part of the offer when their shares were floated on the stock exchange. But Labour was happy to allow those firms to continue.
These are just a few reasons Labour let the people down. They arise from the disastrous philosophical reversal of the 1990s that changed the party from one that represents the people into one that exploits us instead. Now, right-wingers in the party like Peter Mandelson are claiming that Ed Miliband pulled Labour too far back to the Left; instead, they want Labour to push further into Tory territory, utterly abandoning its core voters.
That would be a tragedy – not only for the people of the UK, but also for Labour. We already have one Conservative Party; we don’t need another.
Labour must rid itself of the right-wingers in its ranks and return to its original values – before it is too late for all of us.
Or is it already too late, thanks to the dithering of the last five years?
‘U’ for effort: Why should parents vote ‘Labour’ if Tristram Hunt won’t repair the disastrous harm that Michael Gove has been inflicting on our school system – and our children’s future?
According to shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, Labour will not repeal Michael Gove’s major – useless – changes to the British school system if it wins the next election. In that case: Why vote Labour?
Gove has proved to be the stupidest education secretary of recent history. His divisive ‘Free Schools’ vanity project is a disaster that has increased costs for children who must get their education miles away when there is a school next door to them, while standards of teaching have plummetted at the new establishments – with unqualified teachers and calamitous Ofsted inspection reports.
Not only has he created appalling imbalances in the school system, but Gove has also de-stabilised his own department, bringing in unqualified ‘advisors’ to overrule seasoned civil servants on major decisions. The result has been wide-scale demoralisation, with many experts leaving the profession, their experience lost forever.
The agenda, as far as it is possible to see one, seems to be to maim the state education system so badly that it will be unable to compete with privately-run schools on any level, meaning the sons and daughters of the rich will be able to beat state school pupils to the choicest jobs.
Now, Tristram Hunt – whose political beliefs appear to be so amorphous that he could belong to any one of the major political parties – says he won’t sort out any of the problems Gove has been creating. He says that would be “tinkering”.
Many of Gove’s reforms “built on” Labour ideas, he told the BBC.
Those were bad ideas, Tristram. For a man who is supposed to be well-educated, you don’t seem to notice much, do you?
We currently have a system stuffed with so many kinds of school it must be impossible for parents to work out what’s best for their pupils, even if they have a decent choice available to them.
In practice, it seems, there is little difference between them as none seem capable of providing the education that people need. As a writer, I have seen the quality of written English nosedive over the past 30 years. Tristram Hunt will do nothing to change that. So why vote Labour?
Instead of having Free Schools, academies, grammar schools or whatever silly name people want to give them, why can’t we just have schools?
Hunt does put forward some useful ideas in his BBC interview but – having seen what he thinks of the Gove policies – it is hard to have faith that he can carry them out adequately.
He says the Free Schools policy has been wasteful in adding new places where there is already a surplus – and any new schools should be built where there is a shortage.
Also, Labour would put resources into technical and vocational education in a change from previous policy – which attempted to funnel half of school leavers into university, whether they deserved the extra education or not.
These are practical ideas, but if the system is not based on solid principles, they will not make any difference at all.
Mr Hunt is himself an educated man and must be made to see that his policies are ridiculous. He should receive a ‘U’ for effort and be made to take his exams again.
And, while Ed Miliband is putting people like this on his front bench, the question remains: Why vote Labour?
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Speaking with a forked tongue: The Education Secretary appears to have been exposed pushing double-standards into the school system. [Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire]
The Department for Education has been parading the success of “more demanding” rules for teacher trainees – less than 10 days after swearing blind that people did not need to have any qualifications at all.
The rules, introduced in September 2012, mean “only high-quality candidates with good levels of literacy and numeracy go on to train to be teachers. This will raise standards in schools,” a DfE spokesperson said.
The press release states that 98 per cent of candidates in the 2011-12 academic year passed skills tests in both literacy and numeracy, meaning they could progress to qualified teacher status – but after the new rules came in, the proportion of passes dropped to 88 per cent – and this after three attempts.
The remaining 12 per cent did not pass both skills tests, including almost three per cent who failed three times and may not progress to teacher training for at least two years.
This is, in fact very good news for school pupils. Yr Obdt Srvt is the son of a teacher and has been well aware of a drop in standards over the last 20 or 30 years – probably since Kenneth Baker was Education Secretary.
There was a big effort to get unemployed people to train as teachers and it was around that time that literacy went out the classroom window, with teachers being permitted to ignore spelling mistakes in pupils’ work (or at least, that’s how it seemed). Numeracy nosedived with an over-reliance on pocket calculators or other such mechanical devices, rather than exercising youngsters’ brains.
That’s not to say that all teachers gave up on their subjects, of course. Teaching is not just a job; for most of the profession it is a vocation – what they were born to do – and many of them carry out their duties with exceptional ability, passion and, let’s not beat around the bush, flair.
But we have also seen the results of lacklustre teaching. Running a blog, one tends to read an appalling amount of bad English in the comments that are submitted. They can’t all be ascribed to difficulties that are particular to the person writing the comment – some are certainly the result of indifferent schooling.
And we see it in the real world as well. People who are perfectly capable of expressing themselves verbally in clear, cogent ways collapse completely when asked to put it in writing.
So the announcement is to be welcomed.
The problem is that it comes hot on the heels of a huge controversy over the quality of teaching in Michael Gove’s pet project, the ‘Free Schools’ system.
Vox Political reported on October 20 that the Al-Madinah Free School, serving 400 Muslim pupils in Derby, received the lowest marks possible from inspectors – in every category. Inspectors railed against the fact that teachers were not trained. Two unqualified head teachers also quit jobs at other free schools after criticism.
Nick Clegg, climbing on the bandwagon as is his way, made a speech in which he said unqualified people should not be allowed to teach in state-funded schools: “Frankly it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers… I believe that we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.”
But the Department for Education hit back by claiming that head teachers of academies or Free Schools should have the freedom to employ untrained teachers, in the same way that private schools hire “the great linguists, scientists, engineers and other specialists they know can best teach and inspire their pupils”.
In the light of this statement, what are we to make of the latest announcement?
It seems that Mr Gove is trying to face in two directions at the same time. Doesn’t this make him two-faced? With Free Schools he seems determined to defend the employment of unqualified teachers, no matter how badly they wreck pupils’ education and future chances in life, but with the remaining state schools he seems equally determined to ensure that pupils have a higher standard of teacher, who has the qualification to prove it.
Or is it just that he wants to ensure that fewer people qualify to be teachers, leading to a shortage that would logically culminate in the employment of more unqualified people in the state sector?
Duplicity: The quality or state of being twofold or double.
What Britain Wants: Delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester were outnumbered three-to-one by the 50,000 demonstrators against the party’s austerity policies, who chanted “Out, Tory scum!”
Do rank-and-file Tories really believe their party’s “achievements” in taxation will propel it to victory in the next election?
To recap: The Coalition government has cut taxes to allow 13,000 income-millionaires an extra £100,000 each, but at the other end of the income scale, raising the tax threshold nominally gave the poorest in society an extra £600 per year – which has been completely wiped out by the rising cost of living and cuts in social security benefits. Most people in the UK earn less than the average wage so it is easy to conclude that many more people will be affected.
It might be a mouth-watering policy for the ‘have-yachts’ who now appear to comprise the majority of party membership after the mass defections and membership card-burning displays of recent months, but party leaders know that they need to keep that sort of thing quiet and woo the masses with a more attractive proposition.
They’re not stupid. They have learned a trick or two from David Cameron’s short-lived “detoxification” before they came back into public office, and they believe their “bait and switch” tactic is serving them well. They need a user-friendly “bait” to get the average citizens’ votes, after which they can “switch” back to the terrifying policies of oppression that we have tasted – yes, only tasted – over the last three years.
So Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardiantells us: “The high-speed rail link is to be rebranded ‘the north-south railway’ in an attempt to convince voters that the Tories want an economic recovery for all regions of the country.”
And Andrew Gimson on ConservativeHomestates: “There is a bit of window-dressing about cautions, which is meant to show that the Tories are tough on crime. And there is an irresponsible scheme to help people buy over-priced houses, which is meant to show that the party is on the side of people who do not have rich parents.
“If I were a floating voter, I think I would find these attempts to gain my support rather patronising,” he adds – and we can all agree with that.
Then he has to ruin it with: “Why can the party not rely on the substantial reforms being made in such fields as taxation, welfare, education and health?”
Simple answer: Because nobody wanted them.
We have already covered taxation in part. To the regressive changes in income tax that have helped the rich and attacked the poor, we should add the non-attempt to handle tax avoidance, which amounts to a few weasel words spoken for the benefit of the public while the ‘Big Four’ accountancy (and tax avoidance) firms continue to write the law on the subject, ensuring that their schemes – together with the people and firms on them – continue to avoid the attention of HM Revenue and Customs.
Is that fair? Do you think it will appeal to the poverty-stricken voter-on-the-street?
Welfare: George Osborne was set to unveil a new intensification of Workfare today (Monday), in which everyone who has been unemployed for more than two years will have to go on work placements in order to receive their benefits. This is, of course, utterly pointless. Such schemes ensure that fewer real jobs are available (why should an employer pay anyone a living wage when the government is supplying a steady stream of workers for free?) and have proved worse than useless at getting anyone into the few positions that remain. The announcement may cheer the Tory faithful but Andrew Gimson’s article suggests that these people are further out of touch than their MPs!
It is interesting that the new plan is not being unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, but by his rival. It seems that Smith really has been ‘Returned To Unit’ for the time being – perhaps because he has done more to re-toxify the Tory brand than most of the party’s other front-benchers put together!
It is, however, a sad example of the power of media censorship that people are more stirred up by his bedroom tax than they are about the fact that his Unum-inspired and Atos-driven work capability assessments for Employment and Support Allowance claimants have led to so many thousands of deaths – yes, deaths – that the government is refusing to release the fatality statistics.
Education: Michael Gove is working hard to dismantle state education, so schools may be run for profit, rather than to educate our children. He has distorted international statistics to make it seem that our performance had worsened when in fact it had improved – and got an official warning about it from the UK Statistics Authority. He lied about the advantages of schools becoming academies – all schools already control the length of the school day, teachers’ pay and the curriculum. His claim that autonomy would improve performance remains entirely unfounded – non-academy schools outperform them. His expensive Free Schools experiment is pointless if intended to improve education – in Sweden a similar experiment increased racial and social divisions while education standards dropped. American ‘Charter’ schools were also held up as examples of “extraordinary” change, but almost half showed no improvement and more than one-third worsened. Gove’s next stop, following the ‘Charter’ schools’ example, will be privatisation – schools-for-profit. Meanwhile, he intends to worsen academic achievement by promoting an outdated, learn-by-rote, system of teaching that is scorned by the other countries he says he admires, in favour of creativity. And he has undermined not only teacher morale and conditions, but also the morale of his own civil servants. Our children don’t even have the right to a qualified teacher any more. Now he wants performance-related-pay, rather than national pay awards – further undermining teachers and teaching standards.
And Tory policy on health has been the biggest betrayal of the lot: If David Cameron had any support at all in 2010, it was because he had promised to support the National Health Service in the then-upcoming time of austerity. He promised no top-down reorganisations of the NHS, even though he knew his then-health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, had been working on exactly that for many years. After worming his way into Number 10, they immediately embarked on the piecemeal privatisation of this country’s greatest asset, and this is now well under way, with contracts worth billions of pounds awarded to private companies for work that was previously carried out by the nationalised service, and a quarter of the commissioning groups – that we were told would be run by GPs and other health specialists – now run by the private accounting firm (also one of the Big Four and a subsidiary of Atos) KPMG.
Even their performance on the economy – which both Cameron and Osborne made the yardstick for determining this Parliament’s success – has been poor. The current upturn has nothing to do with Osborne’s policies and everything to do with the UK’s current position in the economic cycle – in short, things had to get better eventually.
This is why the Tories are gathering under the false slogan “For Hard-Working People”, rather than the more appropriate “For The Idle Rich” that Andrew Rawnsley suggests. The party’s leaders understand what their dwindling support base does not – that they need the masses to believe the Conservatives are on their side.
This is why they can only wheel out watered-down or repackaged policies that they hope will please the crowds – the party’s leaders understand that anything more solid will turn us away.
If you get the chance, have a good look at the speakers in this year’s conference. Every one of them will be terrified that their message isn’t strong enough or that the public will see through it – and remove their snouts from the trough in 2015.
The fact is, they had already blown it – long before they got anywhere near Manchester.
Access to work (allegedly): If you are also wondering why a group of people apparently having breakfast symbolises access to work for the disabled, you’re well on the way to the right level of scepticism about this scheme.
The government is launching a new scheme for the disabled, saying those on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies are to get “additional help” through the Access to Work programme.
After all the persecution of recent years, is it wrong of me to look askance at this?
Here’s the press release; what do YOU think?
“Disabled people will get more support to gain the skills and experience they need to get a job under changes to the government’s specialist disability employment scheme announced today (16 July 2013).
“Disabled people on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies will for the first time get additional help through the Access to Work scheme – which provides funding towards the extra costs disabled people face in work, such as travel costs, specially adapted equipment or support workers.
“Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey said: ‘Young disabled people tell me how difficult it can be to get a job without experience – and they want the same choice of training opportunities as everyone else to help them into work.
“‘We’re opening up Access to Work to do just that – so that more young disabled people can get a foothold in the jobs market, get their careers on track and achieve their full potential.’
Recent changes also mean that businesses with up to 49 employees will save up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund by no longer paying a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work.
“Disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business through the New Enterprise Allowance are also eligible for Access to Work funding. Access to Work has previously been called ‘the government’s best kept secret’ so to raise awareness of the changes, the government will continue its marketing campaign – targeted at young disabled people and people with mental health conditions.
“Last year the programme helped 30,000 disabled people keep or get employment. Research also shows that around half (45 per cent) of Access to Work customers would be out of work if they did not receive support through the scheme.”
The last paragraph should be ignored because it is a DWP statistic. Even if it was right when it left the statisticians, we cannot guarantee that there hasn’t been interference for politically-motivated purposes.
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