Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

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Listen up Cameron, speaking the truth wins elections

A year ago, most people were looking at George Osborne as the successor to David Cameron, should he unfortunately get run over by a bus. But since the ‘omnishambles‘ of the budget back in March and the fact he can’t make up his mind to be Chancellor or political strategist, his form has taken a downward trajectory. And quite frankly, I never saw Osborne as the next leader of the Conservative Party anyway as he is as vacuous as Cameron and once bitten, the membership would be very shy indeed.

The only true Tories in the Cabinet are Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove. IDS has worked tirelessly to fight the civil service tooth and nail to get his welfare reforms through parliament but he is yet to see any of his changes implemented – millions of people are still creaming billions off the state whilst sitting at home all day playing on their Xboxes, which you and I are paying for. For the Universal Benefit to become reality, a computer system probably more complicated than the failed NHS computer will be needed. And IT and Governments go together like oil and water.

But Michael Gove is in a different league. He is a Tory who is actually changing the education system in this country daily. Free schools, Academies and now serious policies to scrap GCSEs and replace them with O-Levels. He hasn’t gone around, unlike Yellow Peril universities secretary Vince Cable, saying it is the nasty, evil universities which are failing young people by not letting them in even if they can’t read and write. No, Michael Gove has laid the blame firmly at the doors of the primary and secondary schools and a culture of “competitive dumbing down” which was created by New Labour during their thirteen years of disastrous rules. Labour introduced “prizes for all”, “nobody can fail”. They introduced league tables which instead of improving schools forced them to dumb down and teach to the test. Schools were ably assisted in their league table ranking by corrupt exam boards who marketed their exam papers as easier than their competitors. They shout “choose us, we’ll ensure our questions are easier.” One question in science GCSE in fact asks: “What do you use to view stars? A telescope or a microscope.” I kid you not. When you see those screaming sixteen year old girls in the newpaper each August showing off their ten A*s and then universities and employers find they can’t string a sentence together or add up you now know why!

Blair and Brown deliberately allowed exams to get easier so they could say their education policies were succeeding. This not only fails employers, it fails the students themselves. If you have passed all your exams and then can’t even mentally calculate the right change for a customer this will hit the young person’s self-esteem very hard.

Blair set the target that 50% of all school-leavers must go to university. This was wrong and I refuse to mince my words like New Labour politicians did for thirteen years which led to a bankrupt nation, economically and intellectually: 50% of all school-leavers are not academically capable of going to university! Frankly, they aren’t clever enough as a result of their genetics – no level of social-engineering will fix that and why should we want to. I do not want to live in a country full of academic lefties. I want a broad spectrum of jobs and vocations for the next generation to go into. We need non-academic people probably MORE than academic people. That doesn’t mean they are inferior to more-academically gifted children. It means they have talents elsewhere – for instance in a trade like electrician or plumber, where they can expect to earn much more than a graduate does now with a devalued degree caused by the ludicrous imposition of the 50% target.

The above point was raised on BBC Question Time last night. Labour’s frontbencher Andy Burham almost agreed the 50% target was wrong. They probably knew it at the time but Labour are so obsessed in their false belief that the Conservative Party deliberately prevented people from certain socio-economic groups from going to university they thought it was right to dumb down the schools and exams systems to shoe-horn non-academic students into university, where the only thing they achieve is £10,000 worth of debt. That’s Labour economic policy all over: debt upon debt upon debt.

Back to Michael Gove. Along with IDS he is speaking the truth. And it grates against the beliefs of the socialist Nick Clegg and his party. Nick Clegg is your classic socialist, who once he had been privately educated, he couldn’t wait to pull the ladder up behind him. Socialists love to keep the masses under control with a sheep dipping, one size fits all education system. Lump everyone together and then no one gets above their station, eh? Well, that is morally wrong. Not every child is the same. We are all unique – that’s something that makes socialists sick. How can they command and control from on high if the plebs start to think for themselves and are encouraged to do so. No, they want to move children through an education system that fits the script and the targets not tailor-learning to the individual through different qualification streams which Michael Gove is proposing we go back to with ‘O’-Levels and CSEs.

This country’s education system is frankly a disgrace. Ever since New Labour got hold of it, we have slipped further down the global league tables of education attainment. These are the league tables which really matter as multi-national corporations look at them when deciding where to set up shop. Hmm, should a global engineering firm go to the UK where sixteen year olds leave school unable to fully read, write and add up or shall we go to Singapore where using calculators for basic arithmetic is unheard of?

Michael Gove gets it. The Conservative activists love it. If David Cameron doesn’t get behind him, it’s not only Clegg’s position he will need to worry about.


We want our Conservative Party back

The last couple of days have seen a flurry of commentators from the so-called centre-right press round on David Cameron and George Osborne as out-of-touch public schoolboys who have open contempt for the party they lead.

MPs and activists have grumbled for years that they were being sacrificed by David Cameron to demonstrate to the metropolitan chattering classes that the Conservative Party had “changed” and was no longer the “nasty party” it supposedly once was.

As Iain Martin said in his excellent piece for the Daily Telegraph yesterday, this “modernisation” of the Tory Party has been a “electoral and philosophical dead-end”. It has never been a successful ploy. Let me remind the Tory high command once again: the Conservative Party has not won a General Election since 1992!
And, as I have written before, it will not win the General Election in 2015 unless the leadership start to listen to its core supporters: the thousands of party members and its backbench MPs.

The Conservative side of the coalition has done some good things. Michael Gove is expertly executing the Government’s education policy with the introduction of free-schools with terms and conditions for teachers set by the school not by the Trotskyite local education authorities and Iain Duncan Smith has managed to do what even Thatcher could not achieve by getting the Welfare Reform Act on to the statute book, which, if implemented, will allow work to always pay more than benefits. These two reforms will help to reverse some of the enormous damage inflicted on Great Britain by Labour between 1997 and 2010.

But on the economy, the Government is failing to tackle the mess Gordon Brown left behind. We must go faster and deeper on public spending cuts to reduce the deficit not penalise hard-working people who will get us out of the mess we are in. Public spending is only being taken back to 2005 levels: it was those levels that gave us the biggest deficit in peace-time history and a national debt the size of Greece with only our higher GDP and the fact we are not in the Euro saving us from oblivion.

In the Budget on 21st March, George Osborne had the opportunity to help out the strivers and prudent pensioners who also just happen to be the people who vote Conservative. But instead the “modernisation” agenda took precedent and those very people who contribute so much in taxes, which are frittered away on benefits, non-existent global warming counter-measures and helping the Indians buy fighter jets through our international aid payments, were told to dig deep and give the Government even more of their cash.

The “granny tax”, whereby the personal allowance for pensioners will be frozen from next year, was a policy on a par with Gordon Brown’s doomed 10p tax band removal. Then VAT was whacked on to working people’s lunches with tepid warm pasties and sausage roles being levied with the tax. Do Cameron and Osborne have a political death-wish?

If it wasn’t bad enough that the traditional Tory voter was rubbished by Cameron and his inner circle to demonstrate at dinner parties with Guardian and BBC journalists how thoroughly modern they were, they now think it is a good idea to ignore the same voter now they are in power.

As the old saying goes, you reap what you sow. And so it came to pass when the last week turned into the Government’s week from political hell which started with the Budget and ended with the Conservative vote decreasing by 22% in the Bradford West by-election won by George Galloway.

Traditionally during these tricky weeks, the Government looks to their Party for help. When Cameron and Osborne looked out into Downing Street for assistance, none was forthcoming. Instead of running to their aid the backbench Tory MPs who are ignored by Cameron, whilst he schmoozes up to Nick Clegg, hit back. The centre-right press, who are rarely phoned up by Conservative ministers, went on collective attack, and the party activists started writing letters to the Daily Telegraph saying they were fed up of Cameron and his chums.

Every mainstream paper rubbished George Osborne’s budget, which was easy to do as every measure had been leaked before hand leaving the Chancellor to announce all the bad ideas in one go. And then Unite launched a foray into enemy territory by announcing fuel tanker drivers had voted to put industrial action in their armoury. They didn’t announce a strike but said they might strike at a time of their choosing – but seven days notice is required by law.

Cue the Tory arch-moderniser, Francis Maude. Ironically it was his very unmodern discourse which got him and the Government into trouble. Mr Maude responded to the “cash-for-Cameron” scandal by saying they were only “kitchen suppers” and then proceeded to advise the public they should fill up “their jerry can and store it in their garage”. It may well be Maude’s mouth which sealed the fate of Cameron and his cohorts at the next General Election.  Because it is class which might do for Cameron what sleaze did for Major. As a commentator on Radio 4’s PM said last week, we now know the layout of Maude’s house: he has a dining room but his house is so big he can instead eat his dinner in his kitchen.

In addition, most people in the UK do not have a garage as house prices are so high that relatively well-paid professionals like myself cannot afford to live anywhere other than a terraced row in a provincial town. Therefore, we a) don’t have a jerry can and b) I wouldn’t have anywhere safe to store it anyway.

Maude allowed the chitter-chatter I was used to hearing in the bars at Conservative Party conference to invade the discourse of Government communications to the nation. He has no idea how most people live in this country. This is not how the Conservative Party behaved and spoke when it was winning three elections in a row. People can say (and they do) what they like about Margaret Thatcher but she was from a humble background who knew what it was like to strive to ensure food was put on the table. Her father was a grocer and it was only by marrying wealthy oil man Denis Thatcher she was able to go into politics: she didn’t see it as her destiny unlike some of those occupying Number 10 and 11 Downing Street today. Thatcher never forgot her up-bringing and knew how families went out and worked hard, had to budget for the weekly shop and wanted Government to help them get on in life not hinder them – she knew because she too had to work hard to get on and up. It wasn’t handed to her on a supper plate.

People want a Government to first and foremost to provide the environment for a strong economy through tax and spend policies. Despite what the Guardianistas say they also want to feel proud of their country and our standing in the world. Most people in Britain are conservative with a small ‘c’. Blair knew this and did his best to paint a picture of a Government that understood this but still all the time Brown was stealthily raising taxes and creating an obese client state that was completely reliant on the Labour party to eat and live. Eventually they were rumbled and Labour were driven from office. But Cameron seems to not even care about pretending he understands the British people.

This Government is more interested in counter-measures for non-existent global warming rather than policies to tackle high energy prices. Cameron would rather see our defence forces cut back to the bone than cut international aid to India who then use it to buy French fighter jets.
The “modern” Conservative Party in Government hammers pensioners and workers trying to buy lunch but spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to legalise gay marriage. And to top it all off, a Conservative-led Government wants to bring in a law (actually an EU law) to allow the security services to see every email you send, every tweet you post and every website you visit. Not even Labour dared do that.

Many Conservative voters and Party activists were willing to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt when they wondered was he really one of them during the first five years of his Tory leadership, as long as he won us back power. But when he failed to do this in 2010, Cameron’s blatant dislike of the ordinary party member became more of a kick in the teeth. Despite Labour almost bankrupting the country, the Conservative Party could not win a majority. One reason for this was because David Cameron could not communicate a coherent message on Conservative core values, including patriotism, toughness on crime and a small state, and instead bumbled on about the incoherent big society. There was also another reason: Tory voters could not see a Tory Party to vote for and so stayed at home, which was borne out by the Conservative vote only increasing by 3%.

Back in 2010, the Tory voter was still loyal enough to the Conservative Party to not vote against them. But as we saw in Bradford West last Thursday, the tide has started to turn. George Galloway’s share of the vote (over 50%) and majority over Labour of 10,000 must mean Tories voted for him. Conservatives aren’t just staying at home, they are looking to fringe parties to give Cameron a bloody nose. This alone should deeply worry David Cameron and his liberal elite.

It’s as if the Conservative Party has been invaded and occupied by a foreign force and now we must wait for the uprising to begin. This could come sooner than we think and, as Rafael Behr said in his New Statesman article, when it does the end will be “sudden, unsentimental and brutal”.

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If the teaching unions are unhappy you know you’ve hit home

Michael Gove, who is probably one of only two true Tories in Cabinet – the other being Iain Duncan Smith – announced last week he was going to make it easier to sack bad teachers. As Education Secretary, Mr Gove has persistently pushed ahead with the Government’s Free Schools policy, which sets schools free from Local Education Authority control and allows parents and teachers to set up and run a school. Under Labour, Academies were introduced: schools funded by central government but freed of LEA control. There is no real difference between an academy and a free school apart from parents and teachers can initiate the creation of a brand new school if they deem their local state school is not doing a good enough job.

Michael Gove showed his Tory credentials again on Friday by announcing he was going to make it easier for headteachers to get rid of incompetent teachers. Instead of it taking a year to sack a poor performing teacher, the disciplinary process will be streamlined so the teacher who is damaging our children’s future by every word they utter and every action they take can be shown the door within eight to nine weeks, the length of a school term.

Cue howls of protest from the teaching unions: “You’re bullying us”; “It’s unfair to the vast majority of ‘hard working’ teachers”; “The children will suffer”. I think they protest too much M’lud. Most right-minded people know a sizeable number of our schools are riddled with poor performing teachers whom headteachers can’t sack, so great is the power of the teaching unions.

For many who enter the profession, becoming a teacher has been seen as a job for life because, with the heavily-unionised schools and a disciplinary process which is not worth the candle, it has been almost impossible to sack a failing teacher once they get on the payroll. This is more of a State-controlled school problem because the academies and free schools can set their own Terms & Conditions for the teaching staff rather than follow the national State T&Cs –  i.e. they can actually say to their employee they must be able to effectively teach their subject and must control their class whilst doing so, or we will dismiss you. Sounds fair enough but this is why bad teachers kick up such a fuss when their school looks likely to convert into an academy. When you hear them bleating on about how the children will suffer should the change take place, remember they don’t actually care about the children but rather their own skin.

Michael Gove said in an interview for the Daily Mail:

“You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or a underperforming midwife at your child’s birth.
Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom? Teachers themselves know if there’s a colleague who can’t keep control or keep the interest of their class, it affects the whole school.
Children themselves know they are being cheated. Ultimately we owe it to our children. They are in school for 190 days a year. Every moment they spend learning is precious. If a year goes by and they are not being stretched and excited, that blights their life.
We have got to think of what’s in the children’s interests first.”

Even former prime minister Tony Blair in an interview in Friday’s Times newspaper said he should have done more to remove teachers who weren’t up to the job and admitted the quality of teaching was a concern throughout his premiership. But as with most difficult domestic issues during his time in office, Blair talked a good fight but could never bring himself to pull the trigger.

Only 18 teachers have been struck off for incompetence by the General Teaching Council in the last 40 years, which proves the point that preventing bad teachers from blighting the future of our children has been almost impossible. There are undoubtedly some very good teachers in our schools but they are being dreadfully let down by some of their colleagues. Let’s hope Michael Gove’s rhetoric turns into reality so we can prevent more British children being condemned to the scrap heap.