Archive for the 'Guest Contribution' Category


What sort of future do we want?

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

The events of the last three weeks aren’t ones many of us are likely to forget. It started with footage of a senseless murder taking place in real-time: a man pleading for his life and crying for his mother as the life is gradually squeezed out of him by a police officer whilst the pleas of by-standers are ignored. The fact the Minneapolis police initially put out a statement that glossed over this, whilst the union president stood-up for the officers involved, meant it cut no ice when they were all fired the day after: it struck us as a system that was rotten from the top-down. That the use of disproportionate force by the US police was a feature, not a bug, and that any officer unlucky enough to find themselves accused or in the dock would be treated with leniency, whilst those they arrested would be treated with anything but.

It also didn’t escape everyone’s attention that only three weeks earlier hundreds of demonstrators, several openly armed and of a somewhat different complexion, stormed the Michigan statehouse and were met with a more indulgent response from law enforcement.

This offends against almost everything we hold dear in terms of justice and fairness. And it continues today: you don’t have to look very far to find videos (even of events in the last few days) of US police continuing to use disproportionate force on protestors, journalists and ordinary citizens who just happen to be in their way. The USA has some serious issues.

The problems of the UK (yet alone the rest of the world) are not those of the USA. Not even close. Nevertheless it’s hard to ignore how strongly so many people around the world feel about this, and it’s shone a spotlight on what many feel is a lingering unfairness in how black people are treated right across the West. We’ve clearly missed something here. So, how can we all understand what that is and work together to build a better future where all feel included?

It’s here I part company with some of the protestors, or perhaps I should say the protest leaders in particular. That’s because I’m worried some of their actions might move us away from building a society that is colour blind to one that is colour obsessed, and frustrate understanding rather than building it.

Of course, people need to be heard. Protests are a legitimate form of expression, particularly when many have been arguing for action for years but little has been taken. However, we should always pause to reflect when, in shock at a heinous crime; we reflexively slip into condoning acts of violence in protest against it and, in a highly-emotionally charged atmosphere, go along with sweeping generalisations that present simple solutions to complex problems.

You can see some of these generalisations being made along racial lines. There’s a tone of culpability of white people everywhere on the one hand and, on the other, a reflexive co-opting of all non-white people behind all of the political objectives of the Black Lives Matters movement. However, is it really that simple?

Even a cursory look at the BLM website shows their beliefs – in addition to the laudable one of racial equality – include dismantling capitalism, imperialism (by which I assume western foreign policy is the main feature, given there’s hardly any formal empire still left) the nuclear family and favouring open borders for all. Clearly, there’s a consistency of both black (and white, for that matter) people who agree with this. But there’s also one that would not: many Afro-Caribbean and African people are deeply christian and would object strongly to that message on the family. Still more might think capitalism was a great tool for wealth creation, but feel that not all opportunities were fairly open to them. Yet we’ve seen in recent weeks prominent non-white people who do not agree with all of this being dismissed with words like “gaslighting” or “racial gatekeeper”. For some white people the message has been even simpler: “you’re either with the racists, or against them” and you must “educate yourself” because “it’s not the job of non-white people to explain racism to white people”.

And, of course it’s not. However, I’m not sure who’s saying it is. But in a liberal society speech is what we use instead of violence to be heard. If there’s no dialogue you can’t be heard and, if you can’t be heard, you can’t be understood. If you can’t be understood you risk further alienation and division and, ultimately, further violence. A cynic might wonder how much of that is because in real-life increased and freer interracial dialogue might give out a more complex message on politics than what’s in their literature, where they’d far prefer it to be adopted wholesale unquestioned.

Are we sure that the countries that have made good progress in racial equality over the last 30-40 years are the most racist in the world, that all our institutions are racist and our society is structurally racist? Or is it (as I thought, and I was clearly wrong) that we were almost there, but I hadn’t paid sufficient attention to the fact that 15-25% of people still harbour some form of racial prejudice, that this affects black people in particular, that that’s not good enough, and there’s more to do? That there are problems and injustices and we should focus relentlessly on eliminating these, but keep things in a sense of proportion and recognise that both people and societies are complex?

We should talk to one another. We should reject those who say we should not. We should pick up the phone and speak to a greater diversity of people (in all forms) as opposed to those who look and think just like ourselves. We all have different experiences and it’s important for them to be shared and understood. We need a lot more listening, understanding, dialogue and forgiveness. We need far less dictation, violence, judgement, and condemnation. Because without the former there will be no progress. “The fight” may never end. We might continue to present society as riddled with bigotry and find reasons to condemn it forevermore as we see the fight as somehow virtuous in and of itself and a demonstration of what good people we are by echoing the sentiments of the moment. But the effect of that might not be a colour-blind peaceful future. It risks being one that’s colour-obsessed, which could take us in all sorts of unpredictable directions.

Few of us are motivated by conflict. We derive meaning in our lives from our relationships, those we love, family, friends, neighbours, and communities, our achievements, pride in what we’ve built together, and our sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. We all live in the same society, and we all want the best future for ourselves and our children. We want to be appreciated, respected, to do the right thing and to have fun.

So, it’s time we all found a way to get along. To do that we need to ditch some of the politics and take the time to listen and understand each other, understand better but accept the past, and take positive and constructive action to build a great society that binds us together and we can all be proud of in the future.

That is going to be hard work. But real progress always is. Casino Royale

Casino Royale is a long standing PBer and tweets as CasinoRoyalePB


Reporting from the front Lyme

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

From the PBer who could be an MP in 17 days time

As regular readers will know, I am the Conservative candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme, a seat that has been Labour for a century and has not elected a Conservative since 1880. However I am now facing a majority of just 30, in a seat that voted around 63% to Leave. That’s the official Borough figure – Professor Chris Hanretty has the constituency a touch lower at 61.6% but observers who were at the referendum count disagree with that adjustment!

In truth no-one knows what that majority of 30 should have been, after an epic cock-up by the local authority disenfranchised approximately 1000 residents, but that’s another story. Therefore Paul Farrelly’s mandate for the last Parliament was very questionable (through no fault of his own, I should stress). Paul himself maintained a very strong personal pro-Remain stance throughout that Parliament.

What follows is my experience of the campaign so far – I have been as open as possible, and although my account necessarily reflects the Conservative perspective it is an accurate account of how I have found things on the doorstep.


Both main parties ended up selecting their candidates for this constituency fairly late in the day. I was selected on 24th September and the Labour candidate was not selected until after the campaign had effectively begun, on 1st November.

These extra five-and-a-half weeks have been very helpful: although I didn’t know exactly when the election would be I immediately reduced my work hours and started campaigning. It also helped immensely to be a local candidate [I work in Stoke and co-own a business in Newcastle] who already knew and got on with the councillors in the local party. I had also already campaigned here in the 2018 local elections.


The minutiae of designing literature, organising direct mail campaigns and setting up delivery networks does not make the news but in marginal seats like Newcastle it is vital. I have been helped by having an excellent volunteer agent, and also support from CCHQ.

As we approach the final couple of weeks of the campaign I have reached every household once, the vast majority of those who vote at least twice and many of the crucial undecided target voters multiple times.

The Doorstep

Three issues have come up more than any other. 1. Brexit

You know that your messaging is cutting through when you hear voters quoting it back at you, unprompted. “Get Brexit Done” is a very appealing message, not only to Leavers but also to many Remainers. Although I won’t deny that there are some ex-Conservative voters we have lost over Brexit, this is (currently) more than outweighed by Labour switchers. I have had any number of first-time Conservative voters, including a 79-year-old ex-miner in Knutton and a 78-year-old ex shop steward in Bradwell.

Having not been an MP is also an advantage. I have had a number of canvasses where a resident has started by saying they weren’t going to vote at all, because “what’s the point, they’ve ignored us” – but I have often been able to talk such people round, agreeing with them that the last Parliament has been a rabble that has sought to frustrate the referendum result. And voters aren’t stupid: they don’t blame Boris for missing the 31st October deadline.

go here 2. Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Corbyn really is going down terribly in seats like my own. The Conservative database has a coding system for recording canvassing data (“Strong Conservative”, “Brexit/Conservative waverer” etc.) but I have joked to fellow candidates that we need a new code of “Not Labour” based on the number of times I have heard that.

Clearly, just like point 1 above, this is also borne out by national polling. In 2017 the same people probably didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn much but they didn’t really believe he could win. This time they are much more aware that he really could be Prime Minister, and they don’t like the sound of that one bit.

Tramadol Buying 3. Newcastle town centre

The third issue is the sense of pride people feel in their town and borough, and their fear that it is losing what has made it special. This follows the decline of shopping in the town after the national high-profile insolvencies of established names, and also a well-loved market that is not as vibrant as it once was. This Borough is known by the soubriquet “Loyal And Ancient” and has a Mayor dating back to at least 1318. Newcastle has also been returning MPs to Westminster since 1354, so there is a huge amount of civic pride in the town’s history (aided and abetted by the friendly rivalry with our upstart noisy neighbours in Stoke-on-Trent!)

Towns across the country have suffered from both internet and out-of-town shopping, and also the unintended consequence of the increase in university numbers (students leaving to study elsewhere and never coming back to their hometown).

So the Government’s recent focus on towns, which I have written about before on this site, is exactly the right message for seats like mine. The Stronger Towns and Future High Streets funds are very saleable policies, both in my literature and on the doorstep, but more than that there is a sense that we are recognising the importance of a sense of place and community to people.

Being a candidate

Being a candidate in a marginal seat is extraordinarily hard work, and I salute my fellow candidates, of all parties, who are doing so. You spend most days on the doorstep (in pretty rubbish weather!) and then come home to vast numbers of emails – some personal, but many auto-generated by campaign websites. You also have to manage your social media and organise the nuts and bolts of action days, meeting points and leaflet delivery networks. And at least half of such candidates end up losing…


Last time the seat was extremely polarised, with a result of Lab 48 Con 48 LD 4. I would expect the Lib Dems to double their score, and we now have a Brexit Party candidate (UKIP stood aside in 2017) and a Green as well.

The Brexit guy may keep his deposit, but not much more: I have rarely found direct support for the Brexit Party on the doorstep, but a number of surveys (earlier in the campaign) would come back marked 10/10 Conservative but also 8/10 Brexit Party. I interpret this as Leave voters holding my feet to the fire! I have found one or two Greens on the doorstep but their biggest source of votes will be at Keele University.

Turning to the red-blue battle, I am cautiously optimistic that we may see a “Con Gain” in the early hours of December 13th. But I remember the 2017 campaign and so I will be taking nothing for granted. I really enjoy the direct contact of canvassing and listening to people’s concerns, and I will be doing as much as I can in the final fortnight.

Aaron Bell

Aaron is a long-term contributor to Political Betting, posting under the username Tissue_Price.


Endgame. The death of the referendum mandate draws near

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Leavers have an apparently compelling pair of arguments. Certainly, those arguments completely satisfy them. First, they argue that everyone agreed that the referendum result would be implemented. Secondly, they argue that the wording on the ballot paper was clear, and that all that is required is for Britain to leave the EU. So, what’s the hold-up?

It would be churlish to take issue with these arguments. So let me be that churl. For those two arguments are mutually contradictory. The first depends on an assumption that one has to look beyond the legal form. The second depends on an assumption that only the legal form matters. Now Brexiters from the Prime Minister down have been keen to have their cake and eat it, but this is a bit much. Some consistency is required.

There are two options. Either you take the view that only the legal form matters, in which case you have to accept that the referendum was advisory only. Or you take the view that you have to look in each case what was substantively being determined. You can’t pick and mix.

As a matter of practicality, it seems pretty clear to me that you have to look at the substance. So you can’t really argue that the referendum result was advisory only: everyone was expecting that whatever was decided was to be implemented.

So what was decided? The wording of the ballot paper is clearly very important to determining this. It is, however, fanciful to divorce that entirely from the campaign that led to it. Vote Leave set out a detailed prospectus of what the public could expect from Brexit, a prospectus that formed the basis of speech after speech. It denounced suggestions that Britain might not reach a deal and might experience disruption as Project Fear. Its position was summed up, as described in the tweet above, as “we hold all the cards”. Britain would be able to prepare, it would not rush and its access to the free trade area would obviously be unimpaired. 

These were not off-the-cuff remarks. Vote Leave’s papers took the same approach. It stated: “There is a free trade zone stretching all the way from Iceland to the Russian border.  We will still be part of it after we vote Leave.”  In the same document, it stated: “Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step – we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.” It gave a timetable: “It will be possible to negotiate a new settlement with the EU by the next general election in May 2020. Indeed, Vote Leave went as far as saying: “The best way to get a better deal for Britain and Europe is to vote to leave. This will force the politicians to renegotiate a new friendly deal.

By any measure, things have not turned out as Michael Gove or Vote Leave foretold. As October starts, no deal is in sight and the government is adamant that Britain should leave the EU by 31 October, deal or no deal, do or die. Note, we have not reached the target date of May 2020 mentioned in Vote Leave’s own literature. It is very hard to reconcile the assertion that taking back control would be a careful change, that the best way of getting a better deal was to vote to leave or that Britain would still be part of the free trade zone with no deal Brexit. This version of Leave does not remotely match the prospectus.

(You will note that Michael Gove has been in government since June 2017 and has at no point murmured any dissent from the path that the government has set on Brexit. So he can’t have been too unhappy with the approach the government took implementing the Leave project he presided over. Indeed, not even the most zealous Leavers started agitating about the course of negotiations until the summer of 2018. So the cry you occasionally hear now that it was about the execution of the negotiations is hard to give much credence.) When a company floats on the Stock Exchange, the directors of the company to be floated are rightly subject to stringent requirements. They must issue a prospectus. The prospectus must contain the information necessary for investors to make an informed assessment of the assets and liabilities, financial position, profits and losses and prospects of the company, as well as the rights attaching to the securities being offered. This information must be presented in a way that is comprehensible and easy to analyse. If they fail to give an accurate picture, they can be subject to swingeing penalties.

click here If the same approach were taken to politicians, the Vote Leave crew would be bricking themselves. Optimistic claim after optimistic claim has turned out to be unsubstantiated. If the same failure in the verification process had taken place in a float, the directors would have been facing huge financial liability and potentially even a spell in chokey. I’m not at all clear why politicians are given greater leeway. The harm they can potentially do is even greater.

source site That’s all well and good but what is the remedy so far as we, the investors in the country’s future, are concerned? In law, when damage has been done by an untrue statement, the court does not attempt to compensate on the basis that the untrue statement was true. Rather, the aim of the court is to put the victim back in the position that he or she would have been in had they been given the correct information.

What would the nation’s decision have been in June 2016 if it had been given an honest prospectus by Vote Leave? You will find few takers for the idea that the country would have voted for a no-deal Brexit in June 2016. So the idea that the referendum substantially decided that the country was accepting the prospect of a no-deal Brexit can be dismissed.

What this means is that if a deal cannot be reached, the referendum’s mandate expires. That does not by itself give a mandate to revoke the Article 50 notice but it does mean that before Britain leaves on a no-deal basis, a fresh mandate is required from the public. There are two ways this can be achieved: through a general election or through a referendum. Take your pick, Leavers, because one of these is required as a matter of democracy.

Alastair Meeks


Changing the Prime Minister might be the only way

Monday, September 9th, 2019

One thing the existing House of Commons can agree on (it can’t on anything else) is that it doesn’t want No Deal. It’s now voted several times to this effect and, in fact, it’s as determined to prevent No Deal as the Government is to deliver Brexit by 31st October at all costs. It has been trying to do everything it can to stop it: delaying a General Election, challenging the proroguing of Parliament, and, now, passing the Hillary Benn Bill into law.

Equally, the present Government is equally clear it will test this law to the extremes – everything short of breaking the law. There have even been suggestions of invoking the Civil Contingencies Act over the weekend. It might also yet find allies within the EU on scuppering yet another delay, including President Macron. The House of Commons therefore has no reason to trust the present administration that it will honour their wishes.

However, two things remain true: this current Government doesn’t have a majority (or anything close) for its policy and, whilst Parliament will be prorogued on Thursday, it will come back on 14th October. The Queen will then make her speech and – usually – there will be six days of debate assigned to each policy area within it followed by a vote in the Commons on whether to accept it. The European Council meeting takes place right in the middle of this: on 17th and 18th October.

If by this date there is no deal agreed or no extension secured to Brexit (either by obfuscation by the Government or through European Council exasperation or a mixture of both) then the House of Commons is staring into the abyss. They will be out of options, except one: to strip control from the Executive, and form an alternative administration. That administration will be left with two choices: to either pass whatever is on the table from the EU, at that stage, or to revoke A50.

Whether this occurs through some procedural chicanery facilitated by the Speaker during the Queen’s Speech debates (which I don’t rule out) or shortly after will be interesting to see but matters will come to a head during the week commencing Monday 21st October, which will be Parliament’s last chance and a matter of days away from the Article 50 termination date.

There has been lots of focus recently on the FTPA and that a Vote of No Confidence leads to an early general election after fourteen days if no alternative government is formed that the House of Commons subsequently resolves it has confidence in. However, it can happen much faster than that. In this scenario, I expect it would happen inside 24 hours.

It’s my view that the House of Commons would baulk at an outright Revoke, and will be painfully aware of the consequences of doing so, but would want the next ‘least bad’ option. Something that can kicks and mitigates the impact. Parliament would want to ensure the European Parliament had several days to ratify at their end (indeed it’s currently not planning to sit from 28th to 31st October) and, if needs be, prepare any additional emergency legislation in the UK to convert it into law.

There would also be many MPs who’d either baulk at voting for Jeremy Corbyn as PM (why take the risk of his disorganisation and equivocation at this late stage?) or by having “voted for Brexit” on their records, so the majority required to pass the Withdrawal Agreement in my view would drop. I’d expect abstentions from the Liberals Democrats and SNP at the very least. But we’d need someone who could both do the job and carry 280 to 290 MPs in the Commons with.

I think a Conservative (or ex-Conservative) would be an obvious choice. The opposition would love to split the party further, make it own Brexit (at an Executive level) and it’s clear that with the personal animosity many possess toward Boris Johnson, this may influence their choices too. There are also several Conservatives currently on the backbenches who might be sufficiently altruistic to sacrifice themselves in the national interest where they sense the game might be up anyway.

Ken Clarke is flavour of the month but my view is that Jeremy Hunt represents a good choice. If he could command a temporary Government of National Unity to pass the WA there’d be no better way to mitigate Brexit, spite Boris and damage the Conservatives all in one. Hunt would take it in my view because he’ll be very nervous about his Surrey South West seat post No Deal and would relish being the saviour – few people give up the chance to become Prime Minister and lead.

Get Tramadol Online Uk He is currently available at 66/1 with Ladbrokes and William Hill, where I might have him down more at 15/1 or even 12/1. I’m on.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale is a long standing PBer and tweets as CasinoRoyalePB


Michael Gove – the case against

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

From a PBer teacher who remembers when Gove was EdSec

Michael Gove has many admirers – most notably, several on this forum, including a former Labour MP and a number of Conservative and UKIP voters. He is an experienced minister, having held office for nine years (one of them outside the cabinet). He is able, articulate, polite, and from a very modest background. He is well connected in the media, has a remarkable imagination and drive, and stands out, frankly, for all those reasons among the dross the Tories have for reasons best known to themselves put forward as leadership contenders.

Yet he still should not be Conservative leader and by extension PM. Here’s why.

The background.

In 2010 I voted Conservative for good, positive reasons. I wanted to see Brown removed for his chronic economic mismanagement. I wanted to see New Labour, a party unfit for government, ejected from office. But I also wanted to see Michael Gove become education secretary.

That may come as a shock to many people. But my reasoning was based on what he said. He said he wanted to get rid of local authority control. He was fully committed to the education brief – under Labour, that could only be said of Estelle Morris and to a lesser extent Alan Johnson.

The others were all ambitious careerists, many not very good, who did what would get them a good headline in the Mail. He said he wanted teachers to be free to teach. He said he wanted intelligent people to be teachers (it may come as a shock to some on these boards that intellectuals are intensely disliked in the teaching profession, something that has caused me much trouble over the years).

He promised an overhaul of the exam system, which was tired and based to a great degree on Marxist shibboleths from the 1970s. And he promised reform in school finances which hinted he would finally get rid of the odious PFI.

All of this was good. If followed through on, it would be very good. But here’s the snag. I judge people by what they do, not what they say. And Gove’s delivery fell far short of his rhetoric. For brevity’s sake, I will confine myself to two examples.

Multi-Academy trusts.

Get rid of the dead hand of LEAs by all means. I never liked them or rated them. But the cure was worse than the disease. For instead of making schools answerable to parents through boards of governors – as he should have done – Gove instead dreamed up the horror of MATs.

The idea was that these would be schools coming together under sponsorship from an outside agency or a top-quality school to improve. So far, so good. Nobody who had worked in Bristol under the old system, which was essentially a sinecure for failed bureaucrats rather than a system devoted to educating children, could deny it needed a decent burial.

But MATs are worse by far than LEAs were. Essentially, an organisation comes in. They come in to a situation where OFSTED give a school a 4. Then they sack the Head. They then run a failing school, and pocket large sums of money for doing so. They make no changes and appoint only young, very cheap staff, preferably NQTs, to replace the capable staff who leave in an enormous hurry when they see what’s coming. They then announce they can’t help any more, and disappear, leaving some other poor sod to clear up the mess.

One school of my acquaintance has been through this process a staggering five times. You will be amazed to hear it hasn’t improved. I could (but for legal reasons won’t) name two other trusts – one in Bristol and one in the West Midlands – which have quite blatantly robbed schools blind and then left them to rot.

What did MATs achieve? The answer is a nice gravy train for Gove’s friends. One school in southern Staffordshire (not mine) became an MAT six months ago. It is an MAT of one (bizarrely) but the Head decided to rebrand himself the Chief Executive and double his salary to just under £250k. That pay rise would pay for five teachers. Imagine all schools are doing this (and many of them are).

Does this explain why funding per pupil has halved in the last nine years even as overall education spending has risen? Not wholly – rising pupil numbers are an issue too – but it doesn’t exactly help. And, of course, it means failing schools are not actually being sorted out so much as asset stripped.

Exam reform.

This was the killer punch of Gove’s reforms. To be blunt, there was a serious need to make changes to GCSEs and A-levels. As I note above they were stale and based on discredited ideas. Gove rightly identified them as not rigorous enough, and that far too much teaching to the test was going on. But having identified the problem his solution was worse.

Because, out of fear his reforms would be reversed, he brought them in too fast and ignoring all advice from teachers and academics as to how to proceed. One friend of mine (a professor at a university in Wales) advising on the History curriculum resigned from the advisory board in a fury and threatened to sue if her name was ever mentioned in connection with the changes, because her advice was persistently ignored in favour of Gove’s and Cummings’ pet projects.

Ultimately, in most subjects the content was improved – dramatically so in my fields of History and RS, merely noticeably so in others like Music. But the grading criteria, created by OFQUAL, was a disaster that we are still unraveling. Particularly egregious was the mistake that saw them get the History criteria backwards, meaning it had to be reissued after the exams had been written rendering all History GCSE grades last year effectively meaningless.

But I was bewildered by the Music grades. A 6 required creativity, a 7 imagination, and an 8 flair. Arguably, those could be synonyms. In a-levels, the results have been far more serious. It is now so difficult to do mathematics that very few are doing it. I cannot understand the point of a qualification so hard that nobody attempts it. Surely it is better to have an easier course with a decent and rigorous spread of marking to show how well individuals have done?

In History, by contrast, content has been reduced and there is a much greater emphasis on blind source work. This is based on the misguided belief this is exactly what Historians do when sitting in the National Archives or the German Bundesarchiv. It isn’t, but the plea for straightforward analytical essays was ignored. This is why my friend resigned. Even coursework (and for geography, fieldwork) would have been abandoned had Cambridge not threatened to disregard A-levels and rely wholly on their own exams if Gove went down that path. The whole exercise was rendered pointless anyway by the decision to keep pass marks approximately similar, meaning the new grades were no more demanding than the old.


To this I have no easy answers, but such answers as I can give explain my view in the header. Gove said he would take on the vested interests holding back education. He identified these basically as teachers, as most people who are ignorant of education (yes, Richard Tyndall, I’m thinking of you there) tend to do. Certainly he drove through his changes with zero input from the sector. Indeed, Amanda Spielmann, at whose door many of the failures of the exam system must be laid, held it to be a badge of honour that she drove these changes through ‘in the teeth of sector opposition.’

But the much bigger vested interest in education are civil servants and quangocrats (Spielmann herself being an especially grim example). And here Gove absolutely sold out. He claims otherwise, meaning he is either very stupid and was completely fooled, or very dishonest and pretending he wasn’t house trained by some of the most useless failures in the land. Essentially, education is now more centralised in Whitehall than it has ever been.

MATs answer only to the DfE, who have in every teachers’ view far too cosy a relationship with them. OFSTED – which in Gove’s time, led by Wilshaw, was  a bastion of independence while being far from a champion of teachers – has fallen into the hands of these bureaucrats.

I have no hesitation in characterising Spielmann as the worst of them, and I still wonder what Nicky Morgan was thinking when in the face of all reason she appointed this total failure to lead such an important organisation with the predictable result that OFSTED is now as discredited as OFQUAL. Moreover, he did it in such a way as to infuriate, humiliate and alienate those who would otherwise have been his staunchest supporters – teachers.


For his failures as education secretary – and I could have listed a dozen – Gove should have been quietly dropped from public office. Indeed, his demotion in 2014, which marked my return to PB after a three year absence, was probably to try and detoxify education as an issue (which failed spectacularly when the even more useless Nicky Morgan was appointed instead).

But I am concerned here with what it reveals. Gove, for all his strengths, has tunnel vision, a reluctance to listen to experts who have the temerity to disagree with him and an over-reliance on ill-informed and low-grade civil servants who clearly run rings round him, possibly without him realising. This incidentally explains why he did OK at Justice and hasn’t bombed at environment – the quality of the workforce is a whole lot better in those departments than at Education.

His education reforms were not merely failures – they actually had pretty much the opposite effect of what was intended. Instead of parents being in charge of schools, civil servants and even shadier characters are. Instead of rigorous exams showing who is able and who isn’t we have disastrous guesswork, courses in vital subjects that nobody attempts and criteria drawn up in the teeth of expert advice.

And that, ultimately is why he should not be Prime Minister. We need a healer, somebody who will consider all views sensibly and come to a reasoned judgement. Gove is a dogmatist who will do what he wants regardless of the facts. Even allowing for my disappointment and disillusion, and for the weakness of the field, he should be a lay.

Yet the ultimate irony is, in the selectorate for this contest, his reforms are seen as a success, because the average age of Tory members means too many see these disasters only at one or two removes and hear only his incorrect soundbites. So his very failure may be a reason for him to be seen as a possible PM – and a possible catastrophe in a general election even against Jezbollah.

Y Doethur

Y Doethur is Head of History at a school in South Staffordshire and workplace rep for the NASUWT. He has worked in four schools in England and Wales as well as lecturing in two universities and published extensively on twentieth century British history. All views expressed are his own, but in this case are common to most teachers. 


The next generation: the best outside bet for the Tory crown?

Monday, April 15th, 2019

To win the Conservative leadership – and quite probably the office of Prime Minister – the successful candidate is assumed to need three things.

Ordering Tramadol Online Illegal 1) Sufficient support to get into the final two

A third of MPs (105) would guarantee this. In practice around 80-90 is likely to be enough, but going into the final two a long way behind, as Andrea Leadsom did (199 – 84) could prove a problem. Ideally a candidate would be able to reach across the Remain-Leave split and attract backing from both camps: despite the turbulent times and vitriol there is still a desire to pull the party back together. Theresa May did this as a Remainer; click here Michael Gove looks best placed to do this from the other side.

However, it is this hurdle that is likely to be insurmountable for Buying Tramadol From India Boris Johnson, and of course go Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has already said he’s not standing. The same probably applies to assorted other Brexiteers such as Geoffrey Cox, David Davis and Order Tramadol From India Priti Patel.

Buying Tramadol Online Dominic Raab is the most interesting proposition here: if the ERG intend to run a “primary” he might very well be their candidate, but that could prove a double-edged sword.

2) Sufficient popularity with the membership who vote on that final two

I would take the surveys of ConHome and others with a pinch of salt as they tend to capture the most engaged members, and those who are most motivated to respond at any given time. I would also treat Leave.EU’s claims of infiltration with considerable caution – clearly some ex-UKIP members have joined (many of them are ex-ex-Conservative as well!) but – in my experience – they are a small minority.

But nevertheless the membership is clearly more Eurosceptic than ever and that would make this hurdle insurmountable for the likes of Tramadol Online Echeck Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond – which is why they are more likely to trade influence amongst MPs than run themselves.

The membership may be willing to consider Remainers who have embraced Brexit (as with May), but that may be subject to the UK having actually left. This is clearly the strategy of front-runners like Jeremy Hunt and follow site Sajid Javid.

follow site 3) Sufficient Cabinet experience

Historically, only those occupying the other three great Offices of State (Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary) have ascended directly to Prime Minister, which is further good news for Javid and Hunt. Michael Gove could be considered papabile on this basis too, given his three Cabinet roles and Parliamentary role as a Government spokesman, such as in the No Confidence debate.

It is, however, this third assumption that I would like to challenge here. Remember that Andrea Leadsom made the final two after less than a year in Cabinet, and of course we now have plenty of other recent examples of inexperienced candidates coming forward, both domestically (Corbyn) and transatlantically (Obama and Trump). These candidacies have also been very profitable betting propositions…


Order Cheap Tramadol Online The three “classes” of Tory MP

The Tramadol Purchase Fedex 313 Conservative MPs can be split into approximate thirds. The most experienced get link 109 of them all served in Opposition. The next 106 were first elected on 6th May 2010: many of these are mentioned above and a number of others ( watch Matt Hancock, follow site Penny Mordaunt Rory Stewart, Liz Truss) are also potential credible runners.

However I would like to focus on the 98 MPs elected in 2014 or later. Collectively they are naturally a younger group, though as varied as ever in their politics. Many of the 2015 class might have expected promotion after the 2017 General Election, only to find that Mrs May’s lack of room for manoeuvre delayed their career progression.

Three possible “new generation” candidates

Amongst this group there are three clear potential candidates who have impressed both me and the markets: click Tom Tugendhat, Johnny Mercer and James Cleverly. All of them have military service in their background, and in the interests of disclosure I should say that I have backed them all at various times (though to different stakes).

Tugendhat himself has made the case I am making – that the party should consider a leader from his generation – in an article for the Spectator last September. He saw off Crispin Blunt to assume the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, in a sign of the power of younger MPs. However, as a Remainer he is likely to fall foul of point (2) above and indeed ruled himself out last week (though Betfair is slightly sceptical about that!) His influence would be a very welcome support for whoever does end up representing the “new generation”.

Mercer is very well regarded by the rank-and-file membership (though he too voted Remain) and has been speaking at a number of Associations across the country. However I think he is quite likely to fall foul of point (1): though his ability to communicate directly with the public is admired amongst his colleagues, he frequently criticises the party to a degree that may make it difficult for them to support him, even if they agree with his analysis. In some ways he is the mirror image of Heidi Allen: they both have an anti-politics approach which goes down well with the wider public, but both have described their decision to join the Party in very transactional terms, which leads members to question their loyalty to the institution.

Which brings me to my pick,  Purchase Tramadol Cod Shipping James Cleverly. A former member of the London Assembly, where he served as leader of the Conservative group, he has most recently been Deputy Chairman of the Party, and has now been promoted to ministerial office in DExEU. He also campaigned for and voted Leave in the referendum. Cleverly has frequently been a media spokesman for the party and his willingness to take on the opposition in the largely hostile environment of Twitter also goes down very well with activists. My judgement is that he is best placed amongst this new generation to clear the twin hurdles of Parliamentary and membership support.

Clearly at prices between 25/1 and 50/1 this is a speculative bet, and any leadership bid that he does make might be seen as speculative too: maybe as much about making a point as expecting to win. The front-rank Cabinet ministers are still the most likely winners. But in today’s febrile environment things can change rapidly, and those not as associated with the past can have a substantial advantage.

Aaron Bell

Aaron works in the betting industry and is a long-standing contributor to, posting under the username Tissue_Price. He stood for the Conservatives in Don Valley at the General Election in 2017.


Rendering unto Caesar

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Picture credit: Rights Info

At a recent IQ² debate on Brexit, Ian Paisley Jr MP, explained why the DUP was so against the backstop. He was a British citizen entitled to the same rights as all British citizens. This brought the inevitable retort from a certain Jess Phillips about Northern Irish women and gays not having the same rights as other British citizens.

Paisley’s answer smoothly placed the blame elsewhere: Westminster had devolved certain social matters to Stormont and therefore accepted that in respect of those matters British citizens in NI might enjoy different (i.e. fewer) rights than their fellow citizens on the mainland.

The audience’s reaction showed that many did not accept the idea that there could be such a derogation from fundamental rights, devolution or not, for British citizens. Why should a citizen’s rights be contingent on geography? A fundamental right which a British person can only exercise if they live in Barrow rather than Belfast is, some might say, a nonsense.  Well, no doubt the courts will have to opine on this before long.  But for the moment, under devolution, this is the position.

So we come to Parkfield School, Birmingham where Muslim parents have successfully lobbied to stop their children being taught about LGBTQ issues on the grounds that this is incompatible with Islam (though this has been carefully wrapped up as concerns about age appropriateness), the parents presenting themselves and their children as victims of a bullying secular state.

But let’s be blunt.  These parents – and Orthodox Jewish and other Christian parents – are not really bothered about the age at which this is taught or about how it is taught.  They don’t want it taught at all, let alone by a gay teacher, because they believe that their religion should trump all other considerations.

Regardless of the fact that homosexuality and gay marriage are lawful, some religious people consider that this fact and its implications, and even gay people, should be kept away from them and their children.  They claim that this interferes with their rights, even though nothing is preventing them teaching their children the tenets of their religion, when really they object to their views being challenged by other facts and viewpoints being presented.

This is a curious view to take of education whose essence, surely, is to teach children what they cannot learn at home, to introduce them to a world of ideas and knowledge far beyond the confines of family.

They may be British citizens but their religious identity – at least in this regard – is more important. They too are seeking devolution but not via devolved parliaments on the basis of geography but on the basis of religion and as determined by the demands of the most organised and determined group. And, unsurprisingly, such demands always involve reducing people’s rights and freedoms; it is never about giving them additional ones.

Well, if it’s good enough for NI why shouldn’t it be good enough for groups in Birmingham or Bradford or Stamford Hill?

That this question even arises is a measure of Britain’s failure over recent decades to understand that the growth of credal communities with strongly held beliefs at odds with Western values/laws and customs requires more than cliched paeans of praise for diversity and tolerance.

Britain congratulates itself on repealing Section 28 while allowing a far more insidious version of the same thing to spread, through indifference, cowardice and fear.

In a democracy, the key unit is the individual, votes are individual, rights are individual. Individuals are free to choose how they live; their choices should be freely made. Laws are made in Parliament and apply equally to all. If the principle is conceded that someone’s religion or race or any other self-chosen characteristic should exempt a person or group from the rights and obligations others are under, then the principle of equality under the law is damaged, perhaps fatally.

Making rights dependant on group identity devolves power to self-appointed community leaders, usually male, and in a capricious way, often with actual violence (or the threat of it). It means that there are hierarchies of British citizens: those able to exercise all their rights and those whose rights are subordinate to the group they belong to, without them having any say in whether they want this to happen.

It is a form of religious coercive control, sanctioned by the state. It leads to people – usually women, children, gays, atheists, anyone who does not conform to that group’s expectations – being deprived of what they are legally entitled to.  It tends to lead to isolated, enclosed, inward-looking communities, where integration is harder and which can make some of its members prey to extremism. (We were warned of this in 1984 but did not listen.) It can lead to “othering” those who are different, misunderstanding and hatred. This, after all, was the soil in which the DUP was nurtured.

It is a style of governing which is more reminiscent of Britain’s approach to its colonies, mediating with its separate groups of subjects through selected intermediaries, than with a grown-up 21stcentury democracy. It results in a society seemingly determined to root out discrimination and bigotry while oblivious to the fact that allowing religious diktats to determine people’s rights usually results in increased bigotry and discrimination against minorities and the most vulnerable, whether in their own communities or outside. It means that children are deprived of knowledge and help and opportunities which others can take for granted, purely because of where they live or where their ancestors came from.

And it is this last point which is often overlooked: some of those children in Birmingham or in Belfast will be gay or will want to have a life that is different to what their parents expect or want of them or want to question the received opinions around them. They may feel uncertain, isolated, maybe frightened, unsure of who they can confide in. They may be bullied, feel trapped; they may be made to feel wrong for being what they are.

They may want help but not know how to get it; they may feel guilty for not being as their parents expect, for not accepting the life laid out for them; they may have divided loyalties which they are unable to handle or reconcile. They may also be subject to physical harm or threats of it. (In some cases, girls have been murdered for being too Western, for wanting the same life as their friends. Gay men have been forced into marriage with unwilling brides.)

It is immensely cruel to leave children and young people in such a position because we are not willing to say clearly – and enforce – the boundaries beyond which religion cannot intrude, the circumstances in which it must yield to the state. Parents should not be able to withdraw children from any lessons, be they PHSE or music or science or about other religions.  Gays should be free to marry wherever they live.  Women should be able to determine their fertility regardless of their location.

Britain is no longer a country where religion determines law. There are countries where this is the case.  But not here. People are free to believe what they want; they are free to teach their children about their beliefs.  But this freedom does not – and should not – entitle them to deprive their children of knowledge and education and opportunities.

It does not entitle or excuse or justify abuse or cruelty or the infliction of harm. It does not entitle them to deprive others of their rights as citizens. It does not entitle them to demand tolerance for their own rights while denying the rights of or discriminating against others because their justification is religious rather than simple prejudice. 

Bullies are still bullies even if they wear religious garb or claim the privileges of parenthood or of legal powers granted to them. We should not be shy about saying so and about standing up to them.  The right to practise one’s religion, to raise one’s children how one wants are freedoms to be cherished, not weapons to be abused or used against others. It is long past the time this was made clear. 



At this critical time a look at matters of Confidence in the political arena

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

In both senses of the word, confidence lies at the heart of politics. It is certainly the preference of this habitual voyeur of Westminster life. Yet the concept has been distorted beyond recognition by the stresses of Brexit.

Brexit positions cut across most parties, and MPs are clearly torn between their loyalties to their party, their electorate, their local members, the nation, the referendum result, and their consciences. But it is hard not to be cynical about how a number of them have voted.

Tramadol Buy Uk confidence n. 1. The feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.

On January 16th 2019, the House voted by 325 to 306 against a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government. Yet the day before, a huge chunk of those 325 (including the DUP) had voted against the Government’s central policy and purpose, namely the Withdrawal Agreement, when that went down to its historic 230-vote defeat. In previous times a vote of that magnitude would have been framed as a matter of confidence in the government itself, and thus treated with the seriousness it deserved.

It is clear from subsequent developments that a number of MPs could have accepted the deal but preferred not to vote for it. This may have been in the reasonable hope that they could get closer to their own position. Indeed the EU did provide some further legal assurances as a result.

However my overriding impression from both MV1 and MV2 is that these MPs – most of the ERG and many Labour MPs sitting in Leave seats – wanted the deal to pass (eventually) but without getting their own hands dirty by actually voting for it themselves. This is a failure of salesmanship on the part of the PM and a failure of whipping, but it’s also a failure of those MPs to face up to their own responsibilities.

watch confidence n. 2. The telling of private matters or secrets with mutual trust.

Another casualty of Brexit is this second sense of confidence. To be fair, leaks and briefings have always been integral to politics, but in recent times Cabinet has been practically live-blogged by lobby journalists, as have meetings of the PLP and the 1922 Committee. And Labour’s deputy leader attempted to set up a parallel complaints process, because of his lack of trust in their General Secretary. The EU has also been prone to leaking sensitive details of the negotiating process.

When leaders cannot trust a wider group to keep confidences, then they retreat into their bunkers. This heightens the risk both of groupthink and also PR disasters: the lack of an outside perspective leads them to choose words or actions which can cause unnecessary offence. This in turn makes securing trust from those outside their parties even harder.

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” – Vince Lombardi

It would be foolish to deny that Theresa May and her team could have managed the Brexit process better. Notably, she ought to have sold her deal much more assertively, and made a virtue of the all-UK nature of the backstop (a genuine negotiating win) rather than apologising for it. Given the structural difficulties of negotiating under Article 50 – perhaps something she and others ought to have been more upfront about – I think the deal itself is pretty reasonable.

But many of the criticisms of Theresa May are themselves cynical. To quote Danny Finkelstein in Tuesday’s Times: “they are all easy to say now, while not having been practical to do at the time. Even Labour was against a soft Brexit for a year or two after the referendum. And none of them were advanced by the hard Leavers. Those who argue that Mrs May’s departure is necessary if they or their friends are to back the deal are the same people who supported, indeed urged, her hard line.

We have now ended up in a position where Theresa May appears to have no confidence in the nation’s MPs, and the feeling is clearly reciprocated. The Speaker has clearly lost the confidence of a substantial proportion of the House: enough that he ought to be considering his position too. And the fact that our exit has been allowed to go this close to the wire has damaged the confidence of the country at large in our political processes.

Whichever outcome we get will polarise the electorate still further, with a sizeable minority likely to feel that something has been stolen from them. There is going to be a lot of work – for the next Prime Minister, but also for everyone involved in politics – to restore confidence in the system.

Aaron Bell

Aaron works in the betting industry and is a long-standing contributor to, posting under the username Tissue_Price. He stood for the Conservatives in Don Valley at the General Election in 2017.