Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Election Special

A coloured voting box

Did you vote yesterday ? You’re not alone !

I’ve decided I’m going to try and blog more often. Here’s my starter for 10 …

I’ve wrestled with my conscience about whether to vote in yesterday’s elections for Police Commissioners. It struck me right from the start that these elections would be marked by a mixture of total apathy, and by outright opposition. If I’d been keeping up to my blog I’d have been able to link to a previous post so that I could say “I told you so !”.

Well I didn’t keep up to my blog so I can’t, and I didn’t, but I could have.

It all seemed so obvious to me …

In the first instance,  the public simply don’t have the appetite for more ranks of elected officaldom. (As demonstrated by the widespread rejection of the option of having elected Mayors ). Democracy for the British people it would seem is about electing people with sufficient seniority to appoint other people that they choose on our behalf to do the donkey work for them.

And really, what’s wrong with that ?

I’m actually fine with that state of affairs.

Secondly – if you’re going to politicise any thing, then please do not make it the Police Force – it’s the last thing in the world that most people would want dominated by an elected official.

It feels very wrong in my own opinion – and also feels decidedly un-British. A bit like having a Sheriff in the Wild West.

I’m not actually sure where the idea came from – was it an issue in the general election ? If it was then I missed it. It seems we’ve had this wonderful idea dropped on us from on high – and unlike the idea of AV voting, and elected mayors, this time we weren’t given a choice of whether to accept this innovation to our democratic process – we were merely given the choice of who we wanted to do the job that had been invented.

Well I didn’t want anybody to do the job. OK – I’d prefer a Labour candidate. And I’d prefer any candidate that’s not part of a far right racist group. Really though – I’d prefer it if our time wasn’t wasted on this rubbish.

So what happened at the Ballot Boxes ?

Record low turnouts; very high numbers of spoiled ballots; and a high number of independents elected (it remains to be seen how many of them are well qualified ex-policemen, and how many are dangerous authoritarian nut cases – I’m hoping the former is the case).

We’ve also had the Electoral Commission announcing that it will launch an inquiry into the low turnouts, which they describe as “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

So what does David “I’m in touch” Cameron have to say ?

David Cameron speaking after the election : “It takes time to explain a new post”

Well according to the BBC David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected. (which begs the question of why he didn’t address that before polling day). When told that ‘Numerous areas have confirmed turnouts ranging from 13-20%.’ – he said

“It takes time to explain a new post,” and he predicted voting numbers would be “much higher next time round”

What was that Prime Minister ? Next time ? Next time ? – are you having us on ?

I’m sorry Mr Cameron but you’ll have to do better than that.

Cast your minds back about a year – when various unions took ballots regarding strike action to protest against Government plans for public sector pensions.

A well reported one was this : Unison members vote for pension strike  which Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude responded to by calling on Unison members not to go ahead with a strike.

“Today’s Unison ballot received a very low turnout – with less than a third of their members even voting – which shows there is extremely limited support for the kind of strike action their union leaders want,”

So what he was saying was that despite the technical legitimacy of the mandate for strike action by Unison, they should not take the action because there was no ‘popular’ mandate – no ‘moral’ mandate if you prefer.

This on a vote of members who’d chosen to join the union, members who would not be bound by the result of the ballot; and who voted 78% to 22% in favour on a 29% turnout.

This equates to around 22.5% of the total eligible to vote. Admittedly it’s hardly overwhelming.

It stacks up well though compared to the Conservatives’ share of total possible votes in the 2010 general election – 26% – slightly more than 1 in 4 of the electorate.

And it looks very much like a landslide in comparison with the victory for new Conservative PCC  Matthew Ellis in Staffordshire. Mr Ellis described his share of the vote as “a decent mandate” – yet on the meagre 11.63% turnout his share of the vote amounted to just 6% of the electorate.

Rt Hon David Cameron, MP, Conservative Party l...

“You’ve all done very, very well !”

Mr Cameron when 6% is a decent mandate, then we have a problem. The process of appointing these commissioners needs, at the very least, to be suspended pending further parliamentary debate. While no one seriously questions the technical legitimacy of these elections, it’s clear that there is very little support for the new proposed Police Commissioners- how ill any one gain by imposing this measure on the public ?

Elsewhere all the elections went pretty much as expected. Two Labour holds in Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth; from which precious little can be learned especially on the very low turnouts.

The turnout was more respectable in Corby where Labour’s Andy Sawford won with a large swing to Labour following semi-celeb Louise Mensch’s resignation recently.

It’s difficult to really divine what this means in national terms – it’s by no means an absolute death sentence for the Government – but it’s also still a pretty positive and healthy result for Labour.

What really struck me about the Corby by-election though was Louise Mensch staying

Louise Mensch MP, Corby and East Northamptonshire

Louise Mensch – It’s all about me ! (Photo credit: Stop Climate Chaos Coalition)

true to her media image by singularly failing to keep her gob shut.

Having ousted a Labour MP incumbent since 1997 at the 2010 general election, Louise handed a hard earned Conservative seat straight back to the opposition half way through the parliament. Perhaps she’d have thought today was a day to merely congratulate the victor, and offer some apology to the defeated Tory candidate.

Here’s what she said  :

Election result will not be a verdict on either Christine, or the Conservatives, but only on the decision I took to step down mid-term

Well get you Menschy !

Who the hell does she think she is ? Obviously she thinks she’s so important that the people of Corby will vote on no other issue other than her resignation – they won’t be bothered by the omnishambles of a Government, they won’t bother looking at what any of the candidates have to say – for any of the parties. No they’ll just be so furious at the loss of their darling Louise that they’ll take it out on her old party.

And with these words Louise once again illustrates that character trait running right through the Tory Party – the characteristically self-centred sense of superiority and elevated status which they feel is their entitlement. Perhaps if Louise had campaigned with Christine in Corby and told the pleb electorate to know their place and vote for who she told them to, then they might have won.

Finally we had the news of John Prescott failing in his bid to be elected as a Police Commissioner in Humberside. Conservative MP Robert Halfon exhorted to Twitter :

At least John Prescott didn’t get elected as Police Commissioner -#notalltoday’sTorynewsisbad

And yet even in this hashtag he is at least partially mistaken.

John Prescott’s defeat, was not achieved through the First Past the Post system. It was achieved through the AV system – that system that the country voted so overwhelmingly to reject, and which most of the Tory Party (including Robert Halfon) campaigned vigorously against – rejecting it as undemocratic.

English: John Prescott, British Labour politic...

A not so recent picture of John Prescott looking grumpy. The ones today were pretty much the same

On a first past the post vote, John Prescott would have been elected.

On a count of first preferences, winning candidate Matthew Grove’s 29,440 votes account for just 4% of the total electorate

Yet the Tories seem to be dancing in the street.

Do they even know what democracy means ?

Omnishambles !

Omnishambles !


November 16, 2012 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pantomime, Pasties and Election failures, some observations and a moan

Ed Miliband, British politician

Come on Ed Miliband - Surely you know what to do - don't you ?

This has been one of the weirdest 10 days or so in politics for some time, and pretty much all of the bad stuff has happened to the Tory led coalition government.

Pretty much.

The Budget was always going to be a toughie for George Osborne – but because everyone knew that, to an extent the disharmony arising from it was likely to have been discounted by the spin doctors in advance. So the Tory press were at the ready, ready to tell us  what a good job he’d done, protecting the most vulnerable in a time when nothing he did was going to please many people, but he’d done his best – blah blah …

It didn’t happen though.

He made a public relations catastrophe out of cutting the 50p tax rate (even though it’s deferred a year, even though it’s almost an article of faith for Tory rank & file, and even though it’s quite obviously been a hand grenade with a long fuse lobbed by Gordon Brown in the dying days of the Labour Government, designed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Tories).

Catastrophe number two – the Granny tax – minor adjustment leaving old people worse off – Most people didn’t really understand it – but the perception that the Tories value millionaires over poor pensioners (some pensioners are millionaires too by the way) did not go down well.

And of course Pasty-gate.  A relatively minor alignment of an anomaly in VAT – should have been able to have been broken in gently, should have gained fairly little attention, but no – it again emphasises the crass prioritisation of the needs of people who lunch at the Savoy Grill, over those who grab a snack from Greggs in their 30 minute lunch break, and then goes viral – helped in no small part by the laughably pathetic attempts to justify all their moves by the Tory spokespeople who were wheeled out. The arguments about who ate which pasty where, only serving to make the whole thing – and the whole government look more and more ridiculous, and by inference totally incompetent and unable to manage their own public image. The fact that probably the biggest losers as well will not be pasty-munchers, but the entrepreneurial owners of fast food sellers such as Greggs, was again not lost on the Tory press.

Then there’s the Dosh for Dinner with Dave debacle. There we are with the Tory treasurer caught in the act, pretty much with his metaphorical pants down. He knows the jig is up, and he walks, but it doesn’t stop the rest of the senior Tories (minus the PM of course who’s too scared to show his face) frantically trying to defend an undefendable position by doing what  ? Well by blaming Labour of course !

Oh yeah, this isn’t about selling your policies to the highest bidder, it’s about Labour getting all that money from the unions. Those big bad unions ruled by unaccountable despots who pay the Labour party to do what they want.

Well actually no it’s not, and the public for once aren’t falling for it, and to their credit neither are the normally sycophantic Tory press – Labour was formed by the Unions, donations to Labour are effectively the aggregation of the many thousands of large donations from working people which are passed to the party  – and they still add up to only a fraction of the sums handed to the Tories by their wide boy spiv friends.

Then comes the biggest own goal – Francis Maude,  who uses a strike ballot and an up-coming bank holiday as an excuse to panic the whole country into hoarding petrol. Despite the fact that there’s been no strike called, nothing to suggest an imminent strike, and it being very unlikely that one can be called before the holiday weekend.

Throw into that the fact that Unite are quietly and methodically inviting the employers to get in touch with Acas in order to mediate a settlement, and have published their ballot details – which are absolutely overwhelming and on a huge turn out, and the Government starts to look very foolish in deed.

So when in a hole, what do they do ?

Naturally they do what they’ve been trained to do : Blame the mess that Labour left.

Except this time it’s not being swallowed by anyone – even The Mail and The Telegraph are now openly criticising David Cameron and his chaotic management of what isn’t really any kind of crisis, but has turned into something that looks very much like one. The pantomime that’s ensued is reminiscent of the sleazy comic chaos of the worst parts of John Major’s government. A state of affairs that led in no small part to Labour’s landslide 1997 General Election victory under Tony Blair.

So a by-election in a safe North of England seat should be signed sealed and delivered at the end of all this stuff shouldn’t it ?

Well no.

It was George Galloway that won it – the same creepy egotist that sucked up to Saddam Hussein and Rula Lenska’s outstretched hand.

So how did that happen then ?

A shift in the Muslim vote? a misunderstanding of the depth of feeling over Afghanistan ? George’s brilliant oratory skills (please – it’s just not true)

Well I don’t really know – but what I do know is that it could only happen if Labour hadn’t royally messed up.

Respect ? Not from me !

When the Tories are in disarray & fools like George Galloway can still make a monkey out of Labour - it's time for some real leadership

What we have is a Government that is as unpopular as Thatcher’s  ever was,  as chaotic and sleazy as John Major’s government ever were. More than that though – where Margaret Thatcher’s unpopularity in some quarters was unbounded. It was matched by hero worhip in others. There’s no such mandate for David Cameron – he didn’t even manage an overall majority. Even the Tories don’t like him.

In contrast to Thatcher, The Cameron government sneaks in right wing ideological change in the guise of sorting out a fictitious “mess” left behind by Labour, or on a pretext of austerity. Margaret Thatcher didn’t do that – she said what she was going to do, and she went ahead and did it – to applause and boos in roughly equal measure.

In Dave Cameron’s pantomime though there are only boos – even his loyal Tory Press are now rounding on the Government incompetence.

Which makes it all the more worrying that Labour can’t hold on to a safe seat.

So at the end of this almost unprecedented period of British politics, I have unfortunately got to conclude that our leadership in the Labour Party is not delivering.

Ed Miliband – I will always be loyal to the party leader, and wish that the rest of the party would be too; but the Bradford West by election is one which Labour should and could have won. The conditions for victory could scarcely have been more favourable for the party.

So Ed, I think you really need to do something very dramatic now to inject momentum into the party’s fortunes. I don’t know what form that should take – but if we approach the General Election with the same kind of leadership that we approached the Bradford West by election , then we will probably lose it.

There are probably lots of lessons from the Bradford by-election – but one that is clear is this : However badly the Tories and Lib Dems mess up, and however un popular they are, it’s still no guarantee that Labour will benefit.

Please Ed. Get it sorted.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Child Benefit – What are the Tories up to ?

George Osborne MP, pictured speaking in 2009

Chancellor George Osborne

I woke yesterday morning to see Chancellor George Osborne on Breakfast TV announcing his plans to scrap child benefit for Higher Rate tax payers from 2013 – as detailed here BBC News – Child benefit cuts ‘tough but necessary’ say ministers

There’s been a lot of talk already about this (as one would imagine) – much of it focused on the anomaly of married couples earning just below the higher rate tax threshold being able to earn a combined income of over 80,000 without losing the benefit.

Personally I think that this is one anomaly that will be smoothed out – and not really worth getting uptight over. However there are a number of things that really puzzle me about this announcement.

What hits me straight-away is that although Mr Osborne repeatedly said that this move has got to be done urgently because things are so desperately bad, and if they had any choice they wouldn’t do it, but what with the state that Labour have left things in, we can’t afford to waste time, and we’re all on this together and I’m sorry but tough times call for tough solutions, and we’re all in this together, and it’s all Labour’s fault, but it’s really urgent, and we’re all in this together, yada yada yada …   Despite all this it’s not going to be introduced for three years. Three years ? If it was really urgent they could do this next week.

So it’s not really urgent then – it’s something that can wait three years.

But what intrigues me more is exactly why the Tories are trailing a cut which will primarily hit families with a single wage earner in the lower reaches of the higher rate tax bracket. Just the kind of people by the way, who would be likely Conservative voters.

Now there are those towards the left of the political spectrum who’d rationalise this quite easily – don’t give money to relatively wealthy people – give it to the genuinely poor who need it more

There are those on the right wing who’d defend it as well – don’t nanny us, make the state smaller and allow people to make their own way in life, without contributing to the welfare of others unless they choose to, and without resorting to ‘big state’ support.

In Britain though my feeling is that we have rather more people who don’t go with either of those views. We have rather a lot of people who are somewhere in the middle. People who don’t think there’s anything wrong with turning a profit, doing well in their chosen profession or business and becoming relatively well off, but who equally don’t have a problem with the state being structured in such a way as to help ordinary people – whatever their earnings – during the times when they need it the most – not just when they’re in desperate need, but also at strategic points in their life where they are relatively more in need of a little help.

When we think of “National Insurance” – we tend to think of it as insurance against the disaster of unemployment or disability. Insurance can provide for other less drastic eventualities though – and can be a way of providing for the future benefit of our families – and the nation’s families.

This is put fairly well (by a Conservative mind) in this article on Conservative Home : George Osborne’s child benefit cut shouldn’t be permanent – thetorydiary by Paul Goodman (who I confess I have not come across before – I believe he’s the former Tory MP for Wycombe).

I don’t think this measure naturally appeals to many in any political party right now – though perhaps some of the more extreme libertarians in the Tory party like it. It could conceivably drive a lot of middle income voters towards Labour.

It could of course be justified as an “emergency measure” – except as I said at the beginning – it’s not ! – We’ll wait three years for this.

So I really don’t what the Conservatives are up to with this – I am suspicious of the Conservative tactics. I don’t think they’ll ever implement this cut in its current form, and I worry about what they will actually do instead. I usually go for ‘cock up’ over ‘conspiracy’ every time – but this time I’m not so sure.

Just a thought !

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Disability, economy, Family, politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Labour funded by trades unions ? I wonder why ?

There’ve been a lot of slurs thrown about in the Tory blogosphere & press regarding the union “Unite”, and its funding of the Labour Party election campaign.

Who would have thought a trades union would give money to the Labour Party ?

Well anyone who’d studied the history of the Labour movement I guess.

The Labour Party was founded in the late 19th Century at the behest of …    that’s right – the Trades Union Congress – which was responding to calls from member unions, to provide a means to unite the efforts of all broadly socialist groups into a single entity to challenge more effectively as a force in parliamentary elections.

The Labour movement is an amalgam of many organisations and groups – of a fairly diverse range of political opinion, influenced for instance by the Temperance movement, Non-Conformist Christian groups, but all united by their dedication to democratic socialism. Many groups – for instance the Fabian Society are very clearly part of this movement – although it is not necessary to be part of the Labour Party to be part of the Fabians.

The Labour Party itself can clearly be seen to be a child of the trades union movement – and not the other way round. Not that it really matters – they arose out of the same schools of thought.

It follows that it’s only natural that a trades union should raise funds to elect a Labour Government. It’s not secret, it’s perfectly transparent, and it’s exactly what one would expect.

Personally I’m quite proud that the contributions of workers, working collectively, are used to fund the Labour Party.

I think it’s much more fitting than having a sugar daddy.

There’s more on this here Luke’s Blog: Shock, horror! Labour linked to unions! ; and here Bob Piper : An amazing discovery

March 16, 2010 Posted by | politics | , , , , | 3 Comments

Just where are The Telegraph coming from ?

Picked this up from twitter ( @gedrobinson RT @politicsofuk: Tories study plans for 20pc VAT #ukpolitics ) and felt I just had to comment straight away

The Telegraph is usually a pretty pro-Tory paper right ?

Well what about this one ? :  Tories study plans for 20pc VAT which ‘reveals’ that “The Conservatives are studying plans to increase VAT to 20 per cent if they win power at the next election”

Well that will go down brilliantly won’t it ? It will just turn voters on to the Tories by the thousand. Businesses will really enjoy changing VAT in May or June, after probably changing it in February as well, and it will really boost consumer confidence and make them want to go and spend money in the shops.

It will also proportionately tax the less well off more than wealthy as well – which is sure to go down well with the “Middle Britain” voters that the Tories are so keen to represent. Actually no it probably won’t go down so well with them. This remember from the party that usually says that it prefers minimal intervention from Government and a reduction in taxation. In fact I’d guess that this news would make quite a few people think twice about whether to vote Tory.

So who on earth in the Conservative party has thought up this little gift to Labour ? Well the telegraph says that “The proposal is being “very actively considered” at the highest level, according to senior shadow ministerial sources.”

Ah – so it’s not been officially discussed, and it’s not any body in particular – it’s sources – someone who knows someone, who knows someone, what said something about you-know-what, to you-know-who !

Most of the rest of the article is predictable anti-Government rhetoric – trying, as I highlighted in my blog last week Bailing out the banks & unemployment. to ride two horses at once. Blaming the Government for both raised unemployment, and for the borrowing which has helped avoid higher unemployment, (which if Friday’s headlines are to be trusted appears to be assisting the country towards an earlier than expected recovery from the recession).

However there’s some more odd bits towards the end :

We’re told that “The Conservative leader has also admitted that the introduction of road tolls and an end to tax credits for households earning more than £50,000 a year were among policies being considered” – so just to remind us who will lose out under a Tory government. Yep – it’s that Middle Britain group again. I’m not sure when he admitted that or who to – but presumably he did. Or maybe I am being too presumptuous because right at the end we’re told :

Last night, a Conservative spokesman said: “There are no plans for a VAT increase and there have been no discussions about it.”

Right. So panic over then. They’re not doing it at all. Not planning to. Not even talking about planning to. No.

So just how exactly does this little article help the Conservatives ?

It does make you think though :  if this is how they treat their friends, how do they treat their enemies ?

Update : Thanks to @labourmatters for this video of David Cameron and Gordon Brown discussing this very issue :

August 8, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Death of an adversary – a personal history !


When I was at school I was very into politics. Or I thought I was !

My views were a bit odd. I considered myself Liberal (this was in the late 70’s long before the Lib-Dems). In some ways I  was, but my views were stridently left wing. All in all a good mix for an aspiring politician finding his feet in life.

At the West Yorkshire grammar school I attended, there were few others in my 6th Form fired up about politics. There were several people into Rock Against Racism, and proudly wearing Anti Nazi League and “Who Seh ?” and “Go Deh !” badges, but to be honest the badges were the extent of it. People were as likely to wear Anarchist or Red Army Faction badges – with no understanding of what it meant. Neither had we yet twigged that the Socialist Worker Party was not really the benign opponent of the National Front we thought.

No – there were just 3 others : Firstly Yasin – the only Asian in school. He and I were active in promoting Anti Nazi League agendas, including unfair accusations against teachers which got us into trouble, he persuaded me to join the Young Liberals (seriously underwhelming) – before defecting to Labour when he got a chance to appear in a photo-shoot with Shirley Williams as a representative of the Asian Youth Movement ( I suspect another entryist group). I believe he’s now a wealthy city trader, with no political affiliation.

Next up – Adam : The son of a local Tory councillor and well known grumpy old git shop keeper, he distributed leaflets from nutcase far right groups. Despite generally being a very personable lad, he was racist, and blamed the world’s problems on “Paki’s” .

If I’m to cut him any slack, his home (above the shop) was on a street more or less cleared under slum clearance, then re-occupied by large numbers of poorly educated, and generally poverty stricken Asian families. This affected his Dad’s business – more so when the same people set up their own shops offering competition which had never previously existed.

Last I heard he lived in a large converted farmhouse in the South Midlands, no interest in politics, and his Dad’s shop is long since demolished.

Finally there was Andrew who didn’t appear to be political. didn’t distribute leaflets, campaign for anything or wear badges. He listened to Santana records because his friends did – he wasn’t fussed really. He looked smart in his Grammar School blazer, and smiled alot. People liked him. Me too.

As we approached the 1979 election though my opinion changed. I saw the election as my chance to start being a politician (yes I was that naive !) a rehearsal for my forthcoming days at University, when I would inevitably lead the vanguard of the revolution (for the Liberals – are you catching the inconsistencies ?). I campaigned vigorously amongst my fellow A-Level students who would all be voting for the first time. I liked to think that I had the better of the arguments.

Andrew was a funny one though. He was never swayed by my arguments, nor did he just ignore me, nor did he just take the p*** – he calmly countered with what I felt were totally unreasonable arguments, and a hurt look on his face.

Why should my taxes pay for people who can’t be bothered to work ?

Why should someone hardworking like me, have to pay higher taxes than someone who can’t be bothered to do anything but work in a factory ?

Some things were very odd : Why should I carry a Kidney Donor Card ? If I was in an accident the doctors would use my kidney to save someone who probably didn’t deserve it

He made my blood boil – but never lost his cool. Just looked wounded and hurt, like I was being unreasonable.

His clincher was this – He told everyone in the 6th Form that they should vote Conservative. Why ? because we are the elite who will get the elite jobs – it’s in our best interests to vote for our party.

On the 4th May 1979 I woke up to Margaret Thatcher as PM. The Liberals were wiped out, Labour decimated. This time there was a big majority – the see-saw politics of the 70’s was quite clearly over. Some 4 years later I spoke with a friend from school, now an unemployed graduate who told me “I voted Conservative because Andrew told me to. So did everybody else, I just liked him, and he seemed pretty intelligent. “. Of course he now seriously regretted it.

For my part I never really got over the disappointment of that year, and the subsequent collapse of left wing opposition which didn’t really recover until Labour’s 1997 victory – and it’s only in the last couple of months – 30 years later, that I’ve once again had the courage of my convictions to once again join a political party – The Labour Party.

Along the way I did make contact with Andrew, now living in a pleasant part of North Yorkshire, a member of the Conservatives, and married to a teacher working in a private school. As I was at the time the Head of an independent (charity run) special school, I couldn’t resist firing a few barbed comments about the teachers in private schools being largely unqualified, and under paid in relation to the state sector – not that those in my school were. I presumed my acid drops hit the mark, as I received no further comment.

Until a couple of weeks since. Out of the blue another friend from school got in touch via Facebook. We reminisced a little – and I was flattered that he expressed surprise that I hadn’t pursued a career in politics – since I was always so much into the Labour Party (which I wasn’t actually – but that’s how he remembered it). Inevitably we got to talking about Andrew.

Oh yes I see his wife about twice a year

Why don’t you see him.

Didn’t you know – he died of leukaemia about two years ago !

Once again my adversary had defeated me, but this time I felt no bitterness. Only sadness.

Andrew inadvertently taught me lots of things.

He taught me that I was naive and confused in 1979. He taught me that although all people get a vote, not all people care about how they use it – but all their votes count. He taught me that people don’t always go for the strongest argument. Sometimes they go for the nicest smile or the smartest blazer. He taught me that politics needs principles, but also needs the support of the unprincipled.

Most importantly of all he reminded me that we all have only one life – so we’d better do our best to make a good go of it first time round.

I’m sorry I was unkind to Andrew, he didn’t deserve it and I will miss him. He was a very worthy adversary.

I’ll still be voting Labour though !

August 8, 2009 Posted by | politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MP’s Expenses revelations – doing harm as well as good

I think it’s difficult to argue against the greater transparency that The Daily Telegraph’s revelations on MP’s expenses, and the publication today of expenses details by the Government, have brought and also will continue to bring. It seems clear that some MP’s were taking advantage of a very lax system.

There are downsides though. An MP’s basic salary is around £63,000 per year. A lot by many people’s standards, but for those working in Central London it’s certainly not a massive amount. Considerably less than most headteachers for example, in Inner London. They also have an unusual need to HAVE TO work in two different places. They need to work in their consituencies, and they need to work in Westminster. They also keep some of the strangest working hours known to mankind.

Bearing in mind that a Season Ticket by rail from around 40 miles from London costs around £4,000 and you start to realise that the expenses are going to be rather large however you do it – if they don’t have homes in two places they are going to need hotels – which may well cost more.

There’s also the hidden factor that many MP’s actually need a third home – because they are representing a consituency that they didn’t orginally live in – but are there because their party considers them worthy of a “safe” seat. I hear lots of people saying that this shouldn’t happen – and I can sympathise to a point – it’s nice to have someone local, but does that mean that a Labour Party activist from say Henley on Thames can never be Prime Minister ? or a Tory from Barnsley ? of course not – that would be ridiculous.

Last night I was fortunate to talk with a Conservative councillor – mainly about politics. I asked him casually if he’d considered standing for parliament, and was surprised at his answer. He had indeed considered this, and in fact had stood as a Conservative candidate more than once – losing narrowly each time. He’d now decided against it though – he felt that in the current climate, if he became an MP, due to the fact that he was not “independently wealthy”, then his family would be seriously disadvantaged financially.

Now bear in mind that this is a man who lives an a rather nice part of inner London, and may not be independently wealthy, but is certainly more independently wealthy than headteachers like me (in other words a sight more wealthy than most). His logistical difficulties would be less than those faced by most MPs.

Yet this issue alone has put him off standing again. And here’s someone who isn’t just being philosophical – he has a real chance of becoming an MP should he so wish, and he’s done his homework

This is a great shame.

Taken to it’s conclusions I can see a situation where only the rich and the foolish will endeavour to become MP’s. So I urge my readers to think about that before they go vilifying the next batch of MP’s to fall prey to the Telegraph.

June 18, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It might as well rain until September

When I saw this morning’s news regarding the Tory plans to change the SATs regime ( Tories propose school test reform ), in part by moving them from the end of the last term in primary to the beginning of the first term in secondary, I couldn’t help but wonder why this move of a few weeks in “working day” terms would be likely to be make much difference – but I didn’t really twig immediately what far reaching  implications this would have.

Paul Cotterill, the Labour councillor for Bickerstaffe Ward, West Lancashire, England obviously did twig though and I don’t think I can do much better than point to his excellent blog Conservative education policy: steal children’s golden summer (quoting also the article on “Conor’s Commentary” which covers much the same ground)

I’ve often thought as a teacher and headteacher that so much of what we teach children only scratches the surface of what they actually learn. The really important part of learning is what they actually do, and how they actually use and make sense of, the skills and knowledge that are imparted to them in the hallowed halls of academia.

In other words they tend to learn more in the holidays than they do sat behind a desk.

My happiest times as a child were spent playing out, playing  football, cricket, British Bulldogs, sailing down the beck in a tin bath, etc. , etc., whatever took our fancy.

The main and best opportunity for this was during the seemingly endless six week block in the Summer. I think I loved every second, and it’s been a key motivation for becoming a teacher as an adult.

Why on earth would we want to make our kids stay and swot for their SATS all Summer long unless we thoroughly misunderstood the nature of child development ?

Lest we forget also, our current regime of SATS was inherited from the Tories.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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