I wake to the news of the Conservative party’s latest blunder BBC News – Tories criticised over teenage pregnancy figure error
In a nutshell, the Tories have published a 20 page report, which contains a statistic for teenage pregnancy in the 10 most deprived areas of Britain. The figure is based on Government statistics showing 54 pregnancies per 1000 people.
This is expressed as a per-centage : 54%
To those of us lucky enough to have had a state education, and not learned our Mathematics at Eton, it’s clear that this should be 5.4%
A mere error with a decimal point says a Conservative spokesman
“It makes no difference at all to the conclusions of a wide-ranging report which shows that Labour have consistently let down the poorest in Britain.”
Well it really should Mr Cameron !
As it stands the publication makes a claim that there has been an 800% rise in teenage pregnancies in those areas; when in fact – according to the figures on which they have based their maths, and presumably accept, there has been a fall of 10%.
I really should make a huge difference.
This will be covered all over the net today so I’m not going to spend time dissecting this.
It does remind me though of the Tories’ propensity for shooting themselves in the foot whenever they get the opportunity to make political headway. Long may it last.
I just hope they don’t get the chance to make this kind of error in Government.
That’s why I’m voting Labour !
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s so called ‘withering’ attack (perhaps withered might be more apt) on Gordon Brown over MPs’ expenses (see my post yesterday : Cameron is losing it ) today the top Tory launches a poster campaign (OK these days poster campaigns tend to just get wheeled round on the side of a lorry for a while – but they get a lot of press coverage).
Just feast your eyes on this :
It’s difficult to count all the ways in which this so spectacularly fails to hit home. Let me try though :
1. Health Secretary Andy Burnham has categorically denied any plan to introduce such a tax :
“The Guardian’s story suggests a £20,000 flat levy and I am not currently considering that as a lead option for reform,” he said.
“That figure was used in the green paper last year, but I do not believe a flat levy of that kind would be the right way to go. So I can say to you very categorically today that is not what we are considering.”
(Source : Brown’s ‘death tax’ denied )
2. He denied it after the Guardian article which he refers to (Inheritance levy to fund social care being considered by ministers) but before the poster was unveiled – The Tories knew it was a lie before it even hit the streets - so they’ll be accused of lying, and also not knowing what the Government’s plans are.
3. The Conservatives are in no position to draw attention to plans on inheritance tax. My post in November Just who would benefit from Cameron’s Tax cuts ? drew attention to Labour’s position re. the Conservatives’ plans pointing out that only those with estates of more than £700,000 would benefit from those plans.
4. Not only does drawing attention to Inheritance Tax reveal the unfairness of their own plans, it also reminds the public of one of David Cameron’s more spectacular trashings in PMQ’s by Gordon Brown – when GB came out with the taunt that
‘Cameron and Osborne “will know by name” almost all of the people who will benefit from these measures – and adding “Is this what the Conservatives mean when they say ‘we’re all in this together?’
5. The poster comes on the back of the Tories’ previous disastrous own goal poster which showed an airbrushed David Cameron, and launched a whole cottage industry of edited versions of the poster – it’s hardly likely to suffer a better fate – replacing as it does, the smooth forehead of David Cameron with the smooth stone slab of a grave stone. Will it be a good swap we wonder ? – I’d imagine there’ll be alternative versions of this on the net before midnight – perhaps here : http://www.mydavidcameron.com/ . Expect Zombies !
6. The phrase “death tax” is lifted straight out of the vocabulary of right wing American politicians – and specifically conjures up the ‘Death Panels’ talked of by right wing American politician Sarah Palin – a figure of ridicule in the UK. The expression was used in attacks on President Barack Obama’s plans to introduce universal health care in the USA, and alongside criticism of the UK’s National Health Service – this serves to remind the UK public, not just of the opposition by some Tories to the very idea of the NHS – but specifically of the maverick extremist Daniel Hannan, who claimed that the NHS was a “60 Year Mistake” on American TV , who stands by his pronouncements, and who has not been reprimanded in any way by David Cameron, despite his claims to support the NHS. ( See my post Daniel Hannan’s outpourings on the NHS – Will Cameron slap him down ? ) – raising fears of both the Tories’ lack of commitment to the NHS, and David Cameron’s inability to control the lunatic fringe (or is it the mainstream ?) of his party.
The whole Daniel Hannan episode of course sparked the massive #WeLoveTheNHS Twitter campaign, massively embarassing for the Conservatives, and which perhaps can be seen as a turning point in the fortunes of Gordon Brown’s government.
7. And finally … It’s just not all that funny. Surely they can do better than this.
So once again I say that David Cameron is losing it – losing the plot, losing the argument – and increasingly he’s losing the election campaign.
UPDATE : 1st September 2010 – I’ve noticed an unusually large number of hits today on this blog entry I posted on February 5th 2010 – Doubtless due to increased interested in William Hague following the resignation of special advisor Christopher Myers.
Well I don’t have masses of repect for Mr Hague – but I have more than some in the blogosphere. If you’re looking to dig the dirt on William I suggest you look elsewhere – I’m not that kind of blogger !
Seen a few pics about of William Hague this week, I bet some of you remember him as Tory Tot in 1977. Some of you will remember him wearing a baseball cap. Some will remember him boasting of drinking 14 pints of beer a day in his teens. Yet more may remember as Conservative Party leader.
Unfortunately for William I think some of you may have forgotten about him . Well shame on you because he’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and unofficial Deputy to Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, and everyone should know that.
So here’s my pictorial tribute to fellow Yorkshireman The Right Honourable William Hague MP. Of course the Conservative Party has changed beyond all recognition since he was leader. Or so I’m told.
[ UPDATE : This article now re-posted at House of Twits : Front Bench Blogs Many thanks ! ]
Sorry but I just can not resist posting this about David Cameron’s reported meeting with the radical nursing group Nurses for Reform
It is reported in the Telegraph : David Cameron meets NHS privatisation campaigners , with the by line : “ David Cameron has met a health care pressure group that advocates full privatisation of the National Health Service – a meeting that could infuriate doctors and nurses.” ; that he met with the group two weeks ago.
Certainly the group themselves are full of this – the article David Cameron seeks policy ideas from NFR appears on their website, and neither do they make any bones about their support for dismantling the National Health Service, in this article on the Adam Smith Institute website The micro-politics of hospital privatisation .
It’s on their own site though that I spot the most flabbergasting statements About Nurses for Reform
“NFR rejects bland egalitarianism in favour of competition. And it believes in people – not politics.”
All of which leads me to believe that Mr Cameron has once again been upstaged by the right wing of his party – and this time it’s not recognised fringe mavericks like Daniel Hannan doing the NHS down – no this time it’s cuddly Dave himself, in what I would guess will prove to be a huge embarrassment to the Conservative party.
Of course I’m not alone in thinking that, the Telegraph article itself does point out similar concerns :
“His decision to meet the radical group, which calls the NHS a “dystopian, Soviet-style calamity”, will be seen as foolhardy after the painstaking efforts he has made to reassure voters that the NHS is safe in Tory hands. The meeting risks reigniting the row which exploded four months ago when Mr Cameron was forced to distance himself from a leading Tory MEP who suggested that the NHS was a “mistake”. “
The Telegraph remember, is rather more well disposed towards the Conservative party than I am. The article also says …
“the meeting is bound to be exploited by Labour ministers in the run-up to the election. Nurses For Reform, by its own admission, is the most extreme pressure group calling for NHS privatisation in Britain. On its website it denounces the NHS as a “Soviet” organisation which must be dismantled.”
(This image is contained on the Nurses for Reform website – it may not embed correctly – please visit the site at http://www.nursesforreformblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Cameron-300×225.jpg to see the original in context )
I couldn’t resist blogging on this latest bit of festive fun from our friends at the Daily Mail : ‘Season’s Greetings’ from David Cameron as Tories Christmas cards ‘pander to politically correct brigade’
Political Correctness gone mad I call it !!!
The new stock of cards is apparently sold out by the way.
I never cease to wonder at The Mail – if this is how they treat their friends it’s no wonder they’re so unfair to their enemies.
PS – The one with the phone box is not offensive in any way – but it is seriously naff !
I nearly forgot – one of the trails for other articles on The Mail website was for this tasteful Christian story about Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe malfunction. Have a look : Sarah Jessica Parker suffers a wardrobe malfunction as flimsy dress is caught by the wind , and marvel at how in the space of a couple of webpage inches and a single click, The Mail can go from criticising their favourite right wing party for “preferring generic winter scenes and pictures of robins to pictures of Jesus and the Three Kings. “, to clearly demonstrating their preference for pictures of outlined female breasts and genitalia to pictures of Mary, Joseph and the Inn Keeper.
I write this seeing news of the opinions polls to be published in the Sunday press being trailed on Saturday night – as has become traditional
There’s plenty of Tory triumphalism about – and who wouldn’t be ? 45% with a clear 19% between them and Labour 19% Tory lead in News of the World/ ICM poll would produce Commons majority of 170. And if the public were supposedly tired of the traditional 2 parties, then there’s no relief at all for the likely benefactors from that disillusionment – the Lib-Dems – who appear to have gone into meltdown.
This seems odd to me though. Last June, at the time of the European elections, it was difficult to find anyone outside the ranks of Labour diehards, to say they would vote Labour – the opinion polls as I recall (& I haven’t checked back – maybe someone would like to) reflected this, and the results at the ballot box did too.
It hasn’t been the same this last couple of weeks though – the conversations I hear on the train, in the staff room, just around and about – have been saying things like what a pillock Andrew Marr was asking Gordon Brown about pain killers.
Things like how much more inspired Gordon Brown was at the Labour party conference than they thought he was.
And when the Conservatives started their conference the floodgates opened and everybody – but everybody – I’ve talked to or overheard talking seems to be worrying about what the conservatives will do if they get elected, going on about how bad it was under Margaret Thatcher, and wondering how we could do anything to avoid it. I really have sensed a big change in the general mood.
The polls though don’t seem to show this – exactly the opposite in fact. Which bewilders me. So much in fact that I really don’t believe them.
OK – I’m a Labour supporter, and I admit that it’s hard to stomach bad news, I concede also that there’s always an element of wishful thinking in judging the political mood of the nation. It just doesn’t feel right though – I’ve been around a while and seen polls and governments come and go. The latest poll results feel very out of kilter with what’s happening.
But could Poll results be rigged ? Is it feasible ? Despite my low opinion of some of the news outlets – particularly the Murdoch empire, and the Mail – I’ve always more or less had trust in them not to fake opinion polls.
I just wonder that’s all.
To come back though to those staff room conversations worrying about the Tories, I’ve found it very interesting to hear what people have to say. Particularly as they’ve not been politics geeks like me – or like the people who are likely to read this (sorry but that’s what we are !). Most people have precious little interest in politics until they have to be interested – but those people are the ones whose votes will determine the next Government.
These people seem to be saying that they don’t want the Tories back. They don’t necessarily want Labour either though – although a commonly held opinion seems to be “better the devil you know” . It seems rather that people are instead saying – we want something new and different.
My school site manager put it best I felt (a little paraphrasing here – I can’t remember it verbatim) :
“The government system we have now is the same one we had when Disraeli and all them geezers were around. We’re all walking round with iPhones & lap tops, and they’re calling each other names sitting in an old building. We’ve got all this technology, and we stick with a system that’s hundreds of years old, and involves folding up pieces of paper and sticking it in a tin. The only time I ever use a pencil is when I vote. I don’t want to do this anymore – I want something new and better”
I think there are lessons to be learned from that. I think Labour would do well to heed them. Actually I think all the parties would – I just hope that Labour does it first.
I blogged some months back that David Cameron was making the running on the issue of disability
, an important and potentially vote winning area for all parties, which I have a professional interest in.
I somehow missed however, this speech in July at a Research Autism conference. (and which is now being linked to albeit circuitously via Conservative Home (don’t ask me for the exact link – it’s buried in there somewhere – sorry !)
I’d like to look at this more fully in due course, but at the moment I’d say that it’s a strong speech addressing many of the concerns and worries of families with disabled children, and he deserves credit for that.
He misses the mark subtly though in his suggestions for responses – and I’m disappointed that Labour have not, to my knowledge, spoken up on these issues to demonstrate a still stronger concern for people with disabilities than David Cameron does.
He’s getting an easy ride, on what should be natural Labour territory – good for him – but we can, I hope, do better.
More to follow …
The Mail’s a strange paper. It seems to me as a Labour voter to be an extreme right wing publication. Supporting the Tories whatever the reasoning and presenting a warped, misleading and dangerous view of the news.
I do hear Tories though, complaining that it’s dangerously left wing !
The article above is a classic. It basically says that Daniel Hannan and Alan Duncan are in trouble with David Cameron for speaking the truth, in their claims about the NHS and MP’s salary & expenses. In reality though they’re in trouble not for speaking the truth – but for speaking their mind – not quite the same thing. you know what though – if I were writing the article in a way that did the Conservatives down, that’s a distinction I’d deliberately blur – and I think it’s deliberate on the author Peter Hitchen’s part as well.
This article isn’t quite pro-Labour though – because he does actually say that he agrees with Hannan – so the article is simultaneously : publicising disagreement within the Conservative party, urging Cameron to do something more drastic about Daniel Hannan AND Alan Duncan, and finally agreeing with Daniel Hannan.
I make that riding at least three horses at once.
I think if anything this has to be interpreted as something of a “make things difficult for David Cameron” piece. Although why a Tory supporting paper should want to wade into the party’s biggest asset is beyond my comprehension – but what does a rabid left winger like me know ?
Always remember though that although they may have an interest in securing the Tories into power, at the end of the day, their stock in trade is not politics but journalism, and the more outrageous we feel their articles are, the more prompted to blog about them we become, the more they’ll be satisfied that they’re doing their job and selling papers.
Still don’t know how they sleep at night though !
(PS – Sort of puts me in mind of my comments on Polly Toynbee around the time of the Euro Elections : Polly Toynbee – is she saying sorry to GB ? )
I don’t often agree with the Conservatives – but this time I did – I’m writing this in the hope that it will stimulate a little thought and perhaps encourage Labour to make it plain that they are every bit as committed to these issues as David Cameron.
I felt that David Cameron’s article outlining his position with regard to provision for children with disabilities for the Independent on Thursday was a very important one.
Of course I would do – I’ve spent my whole career working in special schools – but I feel that the article has far wider importance – and signals an attempt to place the politics of disability centre stage, as we approach a general election.
If so then he has made a very good start. He rings most of the bells which families of disabled children, and those working with those children want to hear.
He also has a personal interest through his own personal experience as parent of his child Ivan who sadly died recently. The authenticity with which he relates that experience will certainly ring true with many parents and carers. I applaud his article – and hope that it kicks off a wider debate about the issues which he raises.
What I’d like to do is to look briefly at each of the 5 areas which he raises, and state how and why I’d like to go further :
Lesson 1 : The importance of early intervention and help : The next Conservative government is going to increase radically the number of health visitors
It’s hard to disagree with this – but I’d go further – we also need therapeutic input – Physios, OT’s, Psychologists and Speech & Language therapists as well.
David quite rightly tells us of the trauma which parents suffer on finding out that their children are disabled. Much of the help provided, will need to be as much for parents as for their children.
There’s no mention of who will pay for this radical increase in health visitor numbers – but I for one will not be picking holes in his suggestion.
Lesson 2 : Life for parents of disabled children is complicated enough : a crack team of medical experts – doctor, nurse, physio – [should] act as a one-stop-shop to assess families and get them the help they need.
Well he’s absolutely right about the complications – the politics of statements, about who does what, which number to ring for what service, who pays for which piece of equipment. It’s ridiculous – parents should be able to access one point of contact to deal with all of their issues. My own feeling (and I freely admit to my bias) is that this should be via the schools.
I do like the idea of a “crack team” – and I certainly endorse the “one-stop shop”. I’d caution against seeing disability as a primarily medical issue though. Some disabilities can be of course, but many are educational, psychological, and sociological in nature and the professional input most needed is often not a doctor or nurse at all. In fact a side effect of viewing disabilities as a medical issue, is that it can encourage the view that the disabled person is “ill” – and the corollary that they can be “cured” – which almost by definition is unlikely to be the case.
I’d suggest actually that in many cases these “crack teams” already exist, which is not to say they can’t be improved. One suggestion I would certainly like to see is the re-introduction of specifically trained teachers in the education of children with special educational needs.
I wonder how many people reading this think that teachers in Special Schools for example, had specialist training in order to teach there ? Well some do of course (me for one) – but the last courses leading to qualified teacher status, and specialising in “Special Needs Education” closed their doors in 1989. Most teachers in special schools are mainstream trained teachers with no prior specialist training. I think it’s time we did something about that.
Lesson 3 : we’ve got to make it easier for parents to get the right education for children with disabilities we’re going to stop the closure of special schools and give parents more information and greater choice
If I could change one thing in the world of special education it would be the way in which disputes are settled with respect to special educational needs provision. I could write a book about it – and I’ll blog another time about the specific frustrations of securing out of placements in the specialist independent sector – but briefly here’s the problem :
The local authority has the responsibility to meet the needs of a child with a statement of special educational needs. The statement is a relatively complex legal document (especially if you’ve never seen one before – which most parents haven’t) – which is drawn up by the local authority. It has to be agreed by the parents, and reviewed annually, and any dispute can ultimately be decided by a Special Needs Tribunal under the auspices of SENDIST.
Problems are usually sorted before that – but sometimes not. It can be a tough situation though.
I wouldn’t wish an educational tribunal on my worst enemy. They are heavy going even for seasoned professionals. For parents with no experience of taking on the great and the good, and worried about their children’s future they can be daunting in the extreme.
Like David Cameron, I want this situation to be improved and I suggest the following :
- SENDIST tribunals to be replaced with a non-adversarial arbitration and conciliation services, which provides a free advisory service to parents – and if necessary to local authorities.
- The removal from local authorities of the financial burden of funding non-maintained and independent special school places. This funding to be handled by regional bodies, drawing an averaged amount from LA budgets, allowing LA’s to reach decisions on suitability of placements on a purely needs driven basis.
The thinking behind the closure of special schools is a complex and philosophical one. I’m certainly encouraged that David Cameron appears to be in favour of a special school provision – but do remember : Most children with special educational needs, can and should be educated in main stream schools.
As of course they are. Some would do better in special schools though – but the nuances of where we draw the lines, how we decide who is placed where, though tiny in the national picture, are huge life changing decisions for some young people and their families. It is an area that certainly would benefit from further public debate.
I’d like to see :-
- A national review of LA policies on special school versus mainstream special needs provision, basing outcomes not on ideology, but as far as practicable on the choices of young people and their families, and the needs of individuals not populations.
Lesson 4 : Like all other carers, parents need a break.
Respite care is such a massive need for families with disabled children. It must become a major priority. Like David I feel that the voluntary sector will undoubtedly be key agents in addressing this need – but let’s not undervalue it – and if funds are needed they should be allocated.
Lesson 5 : “Here is the total budget for you or your child, you choose how it’s broken down.”
This is of course already happening for some –but not for others. I love this approach because it’s radical and progressive – in some respects extremely right wing, in others extremely left wing – it doesn’t matter. It’s an idea that is about enabling the most powerless, vulnerable, and disenfranchised people in society to make directly the decisions that will improve their lives and give them control over what happens to them. Get on the case Labour – and tell the world what we’re doing towards this !
If I was to offer a few words of caution, they would be to look at who really makes the decisions in the end – is it the parents, the person with the disabilities – or is it someone else ? Parent’s don’t always choose the things for their children that their children would choose for themselves. If you’re an able bodied teenager you tend to find that out and make yourself heard and make your choices accordingly. If you’re a severely disabled teenager you might not be able to make your feelings heard quite so easily.
In a similar way parents of disabled children are not necessarily skilled in managing the responsibilities of spending delegated budgets to meet their children’s needs – and may need help.
I hope I’ve given a brief hint of how I feel about these issues – and that it may stimulate a little debate elsewhere – hopefully within the Labour party – about these important issues. I’ve tried not get bogged down in detail – but if this article is a little on the long side it’s because I could literally write a book on each of these 5 “lessons” – they really do mean an awful lot, to an awful lot of people – who are still a tiny minority within our society.
I’d like to finish by drawing attention to a sixth area that David Cameron hasn’t covered : Our provision for children with disabilities is strong, but could be stronger. Yes – but many of them will need our services for their entire lives though, and there is a reality that provision beyond school age is no where near as intense in terms of either quality of frequency as that which they receive as children. I think this is a problem.
I’ll leave that one for people to think about.
This piece on “The Independent” website by David Cameron today (The five lessons I learned as the father of a disabled child) will resonate very powerfully with professionals working with disabled children, and with the parents of those children. Most of those people will agree with every word of it, and even those who don’t will agree with much of it.
I feel strongly that this is a powerful electoral battleground that the Conservatives are opening up, and hope sincerely that Labour responds in kind quickly and sensibly
I’m headteacher of a special school – and I’ll certainly be blogging on this in the next few days. Watch this space
For anyone who thinks David Cameron is cynically exploiting the sympathy value of his dead disabled son for a few votes – think again ! He has a well known history of championing the rights of people with learning difficulties in particular, not least in Oxfordshire where his constituency lies, and is one of only two politicians ever to have approached me as a head teacher to ask my opinion (long before he was leader by the way). The other was a certain Mr John Bercow – who I personally feel has a lot in common with David Cameron, and can’t understand what the Tories have against him. But what does a raving Socialist like me know !