- Will Croft elected Leader of the Conservative party
- South Pacific nations agree new alliance to counter China
- Budget 2016: Chancellor faces global slowdown
- Ministers embarrassed by ‘Legion’ leak
The Daily Mail
A middle-market tabloid newspaper. It is the UK's second biggest selling paper and is seen as the newspaper of choice for suburban middle England, expressing staunchly conservative editorial lines. Interestingly, it has a majority female readership.
General Election Endorsement 2010: Conservatives
General Election Endorsement 2014: Conservatives
For Britain's Sake Elect Cambel
The Conservative leadership election comes to a close very soon and while we would have liked to endorse Mr Calhoun he has sadly withdrawn. That means we must turn to the woman he endorsed. Mary Cambel has attempted, very admirably to provide a unifying platform for the Conservative Party to rally around, that is despite the noise caused by the controversies that have emerged during the whole leadership campaign. #BlueOnBlue didn't light up twitter for no reason after all.
Her two remaining competitors are certainly well intentioned and capable people, particularly Sir Jonathon Horncastle who hit upon some key issues with the EU as well as domestically. He has also provided an interesting series of policy ideas to MPs within the party that should he reach the final stage of the contest will endear him the many across the party. Despite this he lacks the willingness to really challenge the EU, beyond wanting to reach out to other governments, a strategy that will likely yield almost no substantial results.
Ms Carpenter is far too willing to pursue the worst excesses of Mr Cameron. While these views may have their place in the Conservative Party and in our political discourse overall, it is time for the Conservatives to go in a different direction. One which acknowledges the reality for many British people, that they want to have a say on their future and they want it soon. The prospect of having that say fades with Ms Carpenter and Sir Jonathon, who despite having their own critiques do not seem enthusiastic about taking on the Eurocrats that hold dominion over us.
Ms Cambel on the other hand has earned the endorsement of the only true eurosceptic in the contest and has committed to the best parts of the Coalition agreement. We wish she hadn't been cowed by the establishment on Grammar Schools, but as she grows into the role we remain assured she will face down the supine Liberal Democrats, who will fear annihilation more than coalition. She has committed to the reduction of non-EU migration, a decision that will protect our communities from the kind of rapid change and alienation that has been felt in many parts of the country.
With all this in mind, it simply must be Mary Cambel, otherwise Britain as we know and love it may forever be under the rule of Brussels and remain in limbo.
“Stalin: Stop sending people to kill me! We’ve already captured five of them, one with a bomb and another with a rifle… If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send another” - Tito
What was the point?
After just hours of strikes, the Government has folded and offered the FBU everything that they wanted in their pensions dispute with the government.
We won't be the only people in the country thinking - what was the point? If these concessions were so simple to make and the government was so willing to make them, why have we wasted so much taxpayers money resisting them and why have we allowed a vital public service to go on strike?
More importantly, where has the Tory Party's backbone gone?
We all know how this ends. It starts with what seem like reasonable demands that the government concedes to; but the next thing you know the dead are going unburied and the rubbish uncollected. The Conservatives were the party that brought militant trade unions to heel and now they're conceding to them left right and center. And to a union that is so radically socialist that it isn't even affiliated to Ari Suchet's Labour Party.
For now the firefighters are back at work and feeling very proud of themselves, but the government will surely have to show more mettle when their weak will leads to the council workers, the nurses, or even the police walking out. When that happens, let's hoe the unions' new best bud Croft is busy talking to the press rather than in the negotiating room.
Revealed: Now Cardigan says he'll vote LIB DEM!
Alex Cardigan, the resident Welsh TINO ("Tory in Name Only") who was recently suspended for refusing to endorse the Conservatives in local elections appears prepared to go a step further - and vote for the LIB DEMS in the upcoming European elections in Wales.
The Mail spoke to several sources who said that they had it confirmed by senior Liberal Democrat officials who had tried to persuade the MP to go public unsuccessfully. It is unclear whether, now he is suspended, he might put that support on the record.
If he does, Mr. Cardigan would confirm our worst fears about him and fully justify Dylan Macmillan's swift action to suspend him. His constituents voted for him on a manifesto promising a referendum and reform of the broken EU behemoth. If he then turns around and turns his back on his party in the European election fight for their lives, and votes for a party that wants a federal Europe, he should hang up that blue rosette for good - or have it hung up for him.
Richard Littlejohn: Don’t let Budget disaster distract you from Coalition’s open door to immigration
The Budget has exposed the crude incompetence with which Ari Suchet and her pet Liberal Democrats will pursue their ideological fanaticism. But that isn’t even the biggest thing the Government is doing that should worry you. The next disaster is just around the corner – and it’s an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The Home Secretary seems to prefer the term “undocumented”, but that is just fancy liberal talk for illegal. These are people that have subverted the laws of our country and even of the government’s beloved European Union to enter and work in this country illegally. Most of the time respectable employers don’t give them a second glance – leaving them unemployed, or in cash in hand jobs. The inevitable and regrettable result is that they more often than not become the criminals that terrorise our cities.
Juliet Manning seems to think the answer is to “document” these people – an amnesty. Nothing could be more dangerous for them or for our country. We don’t even know how many of these illegals there are – some estimates say there could be more than a million. That will be a million people who shouldn’t be here, who probably aren’t paying any tax, on the dole queue right away.
But the long-term consequences will be worse. Manning may as well be shoving a big projection on the white cliffs of Dover telling every Tom, Dick and Harry the world over that Britain’s borders are open. All you need to do is slip in, not leave then you’re meant to, wait a few years, and hey, presto! You’re a British citizen! Try the taxpayer funded healthcare and social security on your way in.
This isn’t hyperbole. Spain, Italy, other countries have all done this experiment. It has failed, just encouraging more and more illegal entries.
Manning of course is trying to pull at our heartstrings by appealing to some kind of Commonwealth fraternity. I am and will always be a Commonwealth man and proud of what Britain built from its Empire. But just because we colonised a third of the world doesn’t mean we should invite them to colonise Britain.
For once the Conservative Party has discovered some backbone and is opposing it. Backbench Labour MPs who have any spine or care for their working class constituents should do the same. If they don’t, this Budget will just be the tip of the iceberg for how wrong things could go for Britain.
Government bending to a vote on reform - why won’t they give us one on Europe?
If Dylan Macmillan has one thing going for him, it is that he’s shown real backbone and determination to hammer home his party’s vision of a more “active democracy.”
It was a vision articulated once by the Labour Party, which promised in its manifesto a referendum lock on major constitutional change. The pledge was included to satiate the eurosceptic minority on the backbenches and to reassure rebels like Bertie Wilson that voting reform could not be enacted on a whim.
The government abandoned that pledge almost immediately, and the anger their decision to try and force through the most radical reform of British politics for over a century without meaningful public consultation created has forced Ariadne Suchet against the wall.
Now, it seems likely that the government will accept calls for a referendum on at least some of the provisions of the Reform Bill.
It was always a bizarre and shortsighted tactic to attempt to ram the multifaceted reforms through in a single piece of legislation: a testament perhaps to the declining mental condition of the “slash and burn” method’s fiercest proponent, one Juliet Manning. But her more rational former colleagues are now beginning to see the light, and that light is shining a beacon on the fact that you cannot enact overwhelming constitutional change without the consent of the British people.
As this admission falls on exasperated ears amongst the political class, the Tories will do well to keep up the pressure and ask why such a referendum cannot be granted on leaving the EU.
Since the last referendum in 1975, huge swathes of authority and power have been ceded to the European Union without the approval of the people of the United Kingdom. When it became apparent that the European Constitution was to fail the test of public opinion, it was sneakily reincarnated as the Lisbon Treaty and hammered through without the people being awarded their chance to have a say.
The government claims that it is waiting for the opposition to put forward a plan for what EU exit might look like, but this is disingenuous at best. The Conservatives do not have at their behest the power of Whitehall to identify the way forwards: that is the responsibility of the coalition.
So the Express says: keep up the pressure, Dylan Macmillan, and force the government into a corner from which it cannot escape. If referendums are a valid means of approving constitutional change after all, then Labour and the Lib Dems must accept a referendum for the most prominent constitutional issue of all: the European Union.
Rt Hon. Juliet Manning MP, MSc (UCL)
MP for Luton South
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Minister for Defence
Lord High Chancellor
Muslim Extremism Threat in London Schools
Emergency inspections of private Muslim faith schools found pupils at risk of extremist views and radicalisation, according to Ofsted's chief inspector. Inspections of six schools in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, two primary and four secondary schools, conducted without notice, found excessively Islam-focussed teaching and pupils clueless about British life.
At one school, inspectors found pupils did not know the difference between Sharia law and British law. The curriculum at that school, Mazahirul Uloom School in Stepney, “focuses solely on Islamic themes”, according to the inspection report, with no art or music lessons. Pupils who were interviewed by inspectors said they believed it was wrong to learn about other religions and said “women stay at home and clean and look after the children”.
At other schools in the inspections, Ofsted discovered similarly narrow curriculums, finding school libraries with almost exclusively Arabic books, pupils learning to recite religious texts by memory and repetition, with other lessons also taking place in rote fashion, and religious studies lessons that only cover Islam. Inspectors found the schools to be failing to protect pupils against extreme views, with no checks on the suitability of external speakers. At one school, a teacher “identified extremist views in a student's writing but he did not share these concerns with leaders.”
The report said: "The narrowness of the curriculum means that students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, in particular their understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance, is underdeveloped."
Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, summarising the reports, said he was "extremely concerned about the large number of failings" in each of the six schools and was "not convinced" current managers were capable of making necessary improvements. "I believe that, in all six schools, pupils' physical and educational welfare is at serious risk," he wrote.
As well as teachers failing to properly monitoring students' educational progress, inspectors also discovered a lack of regard for the children's safety. They found schools where members of the public could access freely through the attached mosque, schools where children could disappear during the day without knowing where they go and schools where teachers were hired without background checks being done.
The Education Secretary, Graham Adiputera, a Liberal Democrat, said "We of course take these reports very seriously. Every student, no matter what school they attend, is entitled to a good and rounded education in a safe and tolerant learning environment."
The six private schools are all in Tower Hamlets, where the council is lead by Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First Party, who have been accused of alleged links with an Islamic extremist group and of alleged electoral fraud. The council said it had no jurisdiction over teaching and standards at independent faith schools and that its powers were limited to offering training and advice to schools. Independent schools, academies and free schools already have to adhere to the Independent School Standards, which demand that schools encourage pupils to "respect" British values.
THE POUND IN YOUR POCKET
A guest editorial by the Shadow Chancellor, Douglas Byrne MP
The Temple of Peace and Health in the city of Cardiff played host to the unveiling of the shadow budget - the official opposition for the first time unveiling our economic plans for the fiscal year 2015/16 before the government released their own. I’ve never been one for convention.
Decades of experience in the business world informed the decisions that I made in the “shadow budget,” which illustrates how rational, reasoned fiscal decision-making can create a stable, growing and secure economy.
The Conservative Party is in the process of a rebranding effort of sorts. It has become clear that in order to win the trust of the British people, we must go beyond the message of austerity and offer an economic and social agenda which places opportunity back into the hands of ordinary working people. The effort to engage with the people in the creation of a manifesto with choice and chance at its heart represents an Opportunity Agenda which will radically change working life in the United Kingdom.
Thus, when I came to sit down with Dylan Macmillan in a series of two-shirt meetings about our future economic plan - Dylan is not one to shy away from long, intense sessions without toilet breaks - it had already crystallised in our minds that we needed to produce a shadow budget which illustrated our commitment to sound finances and to deficit reduction, but which also gave something back to the ordinary people who have borne the brunt of Labour’s financial crisis and the subsequent recession.
The Labour / Liberal Democrat offer is clear: spending taxpayers’ money as if it is going out of fashion; throwing cash at the wall in the hope that some of it sticks. The government last year orchestrated a £13 billion capital spending bonanza, and put an end to three years of sensible deficit reduction by piling on more debt for future generations to pay back. The coalition ramped up taxes and broke virtually all of its own promises, and the results of their profligacy are clear: declining economic growth and rising inflation.
As Conservatives, it is our responsibility to think more prudently and to act with greater restraint. That is why, as an immediate ground rule, we have set the long-term aim of balancing public spending with tax revenues. This is a simple proposition: you cannot go on spending more than you earn indefinitely. In the long run, you must balance the books. This we will do, and by reducing the deficit to below 5% of GDP this year, the Conservative plan would see us on course to eliminate it completely within five years and begin paying back the bulk of the debts that we racked up under Labour’s last term in office.
Reducing the deficit inevitably entails making tough choices. For instance, I have announced that as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would cut the size of the civil service by 10% and begin shrinking the management bureaucracy of the NHS. I would freeze unemployment benefits in real terms, and implement nominal public sector pay increases in line with inflation. I would also cut foreign aid spending, recognising that charity starts at home and that Britain must set its own house in order before attending to the rest of the world.
But we are all in this economic hardship together, and that is why I have unveiled proposals to boost the income of the average working Briton by £800 a year. The Conservatives would cut the basic rate of income tax to just 15%, offering workers a real-terms pay increase of nearly 3%. The Conservatives would also abolish capital gains tax, making it easier for entrepreneurs and businesses to operate flexibly in an increasingly open economy. Within five years, we would fold national insurance contributions into income tax - simplifying the tax code and making it fairer. In the longer term, the Conservatives would phase out the employer’s element of NIC, eliminating what essentially represents a tax on jobs.
I have also proposed to cut corporation tax for small businesses by 4%, with a longer term aim to bring it down to just 12%. VAT would remain frozen for five years, and after that I would seek to reduce it. The beer duty would be cut by 4 pence in the pound and remain frozen at that level, helping to support the struggling pub industry.
There would, of course, be areas where taxes would rise. On cigarettes and on gambling the Conservatives would charge more, and the surcharge for high-polluting vehicles would increase. But overall, the Conservative tax plan would deliver a cut worth billions, helping hardworking Britons to keep more of their incomes and encouraging savings.
Sensible fiscal policies and responsible plannings enable us to commit to a £5 billion cash boost for the National Health Service, and boost the Home Office budget - which covers policing - by 2.3%. Overall, we would shave 0.7% off of public spending, cutting the deficit by £20 billion in a single year.
But our credible long-term plan means more savings for working people. Over five years, the Conservatives would abolish prescription charges, ending a tax on sickness, and continue to cut corporation tax leading to a resurgence in business growth and economic opportunity. In the long term, we would raise the income tax personal allowance to £15,000 and boost the minimum wage into line with the cost of living.
I also announced yesterday that the Conservatives would fold all benefits - except disability and sickness - into a single welfare package, operating in the form of a negative income tax for those on low incomes.
Under a Negative Income Tax, if a citizen earns nothing then the automatic NIT payment will be their entire income. As the individual earns more through work, the payment is gradually withdrawn until the citizen begins paying tax. The payment scheme is structured so that the claimant is always better off working more hours or taking higher wages than in their current position. These payments would be automatic for workers within the PAYE system.
The biggest welfare challenge future governments are likely to face is chronic in-work poverty, as globalisation and technological change lead to lower productivity and pay growth for some bottom and middle earners. This means that Britain’s current welfare system is outmoded and must be restructured to support low-wage workers throughout sustained periods of low-paid work, not just when they are out of employment altogether.
A simpler welfare mechanism like the Negative Income Tax could be integrated into the tax system, allowing the government to shut down the work and pensions component of the Department for Education & Employment, taking as many as 34,000 staff off the payrolls and saving up to £6 billion in administration costs.
But taxing and spending is only one component of the financial puzzle. So I am also today announcing fundamental reform of the financial services sector, to ensure that the mistakes of 2007/8 can never be repeated.
For as long as there have been banks, there have been recurring
banking and financial crises, intermittently spreading economic distress. Rather than solve the problem, the last round of regu- lation simply compounds the tried and failed remedies of previous rounds.
A financial crisis is, at its heart, a bank run. A bank run causes systematic damage when a bank lacks the underlying assets to fund their liabilities, that is, they lack capital. Banks get their money largely from sources that are prone to runs. And the government creates a moral hazard by guaranteeing deposits, meaning that people do not ensure banks are healthy before depositing money. Banks undertake risky behaviour, which then causes a cycle of crisis requiring ever-growing bailouts.
Banks should be more like other businesses, which get their money by selling stocks and long-term bonds, rather than risky liabilities like deposits and very short-term wholesale borrowing. Banks should be required to issue immense amounts of capital (and long-term debt) - so much that their remaining run-prone liabilities are never in question.
My Banking Act would offer banks a choice to either continue with the existing system that requires low levels of capital, or if a bank operates with a higher level of capital it can be exempt from swathes of regulation.
The history of UK banking prudential regulation is one of repeated failures. Prudential regulation fails because it is captured by the banks it seeks to regulate and because it presupposes ‘forward-looking’ abilities on the part of regulators that do not exist.
The current UK system of prudential regulation of banking is bound to fail for the same reasons as its predecessors have failed.
And so the best system is one of high minimum capital standards and strictly unlimited personal liability on the part of senior bankers. That is the system that the Conservatives, in a new Banking Act, would introduce.
The Conservative plan is not one of economic management; it is one of leadership. It is not a plan for continued sluggish growth, but for a great business revival. I am not content for Britain to be a middling country: I want it to be a beacon of global trade and industry; the centrepiece of a new, innovative, technologically-driven and increasingly globalised world. I want Britain to enjoy the most open, competitive economy in the world, driven by merit and ideas rather than corporate (or state) cronyism. My plan is to put £800 back in your pockets this year; and in every year that follows, my Opportunity Agenda would give you more money, more choice and more freedom in your lives.
The Chancellor has refused to endorse my plan, and is busily preparing his own socialist alternative. I live in hope that the Conservatives may return to government before it is too late to effect the profound change that Britons deserve.
AN EDUCATION REVOLUTION
A guest editorial from the Shadow First Secretary of State and Education Minister, Felicity Moore
If you’re a trade unionist, a staffer at the Department for Education & Employment or a committed socialist - and let’s not pretend that any of those characteristics are anything but mutually inexclusive to the most advanced degree - you won’t like much of what I have to say.
If you’re a government minister defending an antiquated and ineffective system on the grounds that change is too challenging, too difficult to manage, then you’ll be appalled by my proposals.
If you’re fearful of reform, of radical innovation, and of real, comprehensive change in our public services, as the wet and weary coalition of socialists - who believe in equal misery - and liberals - who believe in the freedom to do as you’re told - you’ll be outraged by the Conservative plan for education.
Already, the traditional party playbook of the ineffectual, nanny-state left has been wheeled out into battle. If you believe what the Prime Minister and her ilk tell you, I am proposing to privatise the education system and transform it into an archaic programme of borstals and shooting clubs, where the poor fag for the rich and the non-academic get left behind.
I don’t know what they’re so fearful of: that’s the system we already have.
If you’re a parent, answer me this: are you happy with your children’s education? Are you really content? Is this the best system in the world? Are our young people really able to compete with the kids of Hong Kong, of Singapore, of India? Are we really delivering our very best for them, and for their futures? I don’t think we are.
Dylan Macmillan brought me into the Shadow Cabinet to change things, and sometimes delivering change requires an iron fist inside an iron glove. You cannot make an omelette unless you’re prepared to set the eggs in line and check that none of them are past their sell-by date. Our education system today is a rotten egg; it floats in the miserable puddle of forlorn exclusion, lost ambition, and derogated competitive instinct. It is a system which treats children as statistics rather than as individuals, which forces every child down the same narrowing pathway of academic asphyxiation, and it is a system founded in the false premise that every young person wants to do - and can do - exactly the same things.
Politicians don’t often care about it - we all send our kids to private schools and opt out of the state system. But what about those kids who are born not into privilege, but into proud, stretched families who can’t afford to send their offspring to Eton, Harrow, Winchester or Ampleforth? They’re not getting a fair crack of the whip. They’re not getting the service they require, and should expect.
So I want to change education, and radically. I don’t want to privatise it or turn it into the elitist boot camp that the government claims would be the outcome of our policies. No: I want to deliver an education system which ably transforms aspiration into achievement, which instills a proud vision of opportunity in every teacher and every student, and which reforms our schools into specialised places of learning and development, rather than of lacklustre mollycoddling and counter-visionary mediocrity.
The Conservatives will establish a National Education Service, owned by the people and delivering for the people. Equivalent in scope and stature to the NHS, it will be the single binding entity to which all state schools subscribe, and by which they are measured. The NES will, as the NHS gives patients a free choice of GP, give students and parents a free choice of schools: no more will you be forced to send your child to the nearest institution. You will be liberated to subscribe to whichever school you choose; whichever school caters best for your child’s individual needs.
A National Education Service would subsume part of the functions of the Department for Education & Employment, and would replace the role of local education authorities as all schools were required to convert to academy status.
Naturally, the best schools will quickly be oversubscribed. But schools will be funded on a purely per-pupil basis; those that attract increasing numbers will be supported to expand, grow, and even take over other, less successful academies. Admissions will be in the hands of each individual school according to a strict NES protocol which requires that raw academic ability - the starting point of any individual child - is not an issue in deciding who attends which school. Instead, a child’s individual interests, ambitions and drive, combined with a lottery system to create a randomised shortlist of applicants in oversubscribed schools, will give every child - regardless of background - a fair bite of the apple. Schools will be assessed and measured not on raw academic outputs - the grades achieved by their students at the age of 16 - but on the progress that their students make from start to finish. Any school can easily choose to take in only the highest achievers and appear magnificent in the league tables; our system will ensure that schools are required to genuinely pursue dramatic progress for their pupils in order to achieve the most stellar ratings.
Secondary schools will be divided into two types. Grammar schools will be reinstated and redeveloped for those students who desire a traditional, rigorous, academic education; who intend to go on to study A Levels, and who intend to study a traditional subject at University or through Degree Apprenticeships. Technical Colleges will form their more progressive, modern, technically-focused counterparts, offering training in more technical and vocational skills for students who prefer that path. Students at such schools will study new Technical A Levels - or ‘T Levels’ - and will go on to study more practical subjects at University, through Degree Apprenticeships or by going straight into the world of work.
A funding formula will be developed to ensure that both types of school are of equal stature and standing, with the considerable capital investment required to facilitate subjects such as computer science, agricultural science, construction and manufacturing at Technical Colleges fully funded by the government.
As to which type of school a student will attend, there will be no return to the 11-Plus system of old. Instead, an individual child’s own interests, ambitions and aspirations will have primacy in determining which school they attend, in equal weighting to a simple psychometric test to determine if the student is more effective in traditional academic terms or in more technical, problem-solving skills. A student will be able to switch between each type of school at any time of their choosing between the ages of 11 and 14, when they will begin studying for their GCSEs. All students will study Mathematics and English: beyond that, they will have total freedom and total control over what they choose to learn, as facilitated by their schools, with the broad range of subjects depending upon whether they are a grammar school or a Technical College student.
The current, one-size-fits-all system, compared to the Conservative Alternative.
At present, around half of all students go on into further education, studying A Levels or at college. I want the new norm to be that virtually all students choose to do so, staying on in school to the age of 18 studying either A Levels, T Levels or an equivalent at college or via an apprenticeship scheme. By extending the bounds of choice in education, we can cater for all young people: from the academic to the practically-minded, from the fledgling authors to the burgeoning sportsmen and women; from those who naturally thrive in examination-based subjects to those who concentrate more effectively on practical, tangible projects - from the troublesome children with beleaguered family lives to the straight-laced and smiling.
Every child deserves a fair and equal chance at success; but you cannot create equal opportunity by expecting equal outcomes, and forcing every child to pursue the same route of traditional academic rigour when for so many, such a path is of little value or interest. We must evolve our national consciousness to understand that a career in construction, architecture, engineering or farming is as valuable, as fulfilling and as important as a career in business, politics or information technology. The artist and the actor are as noble as the author and the architect who designs the theatre; without all components in the skills puzzle, the portrait of Britain’s future simply does not fit together.
The teaching unions, and the government for whom they are paymasters, will of course baulk at this plan. Such institutions are, at the hearts, so very conservative (with a small c.) Any change is bad change; especially change which delivers freedom and choice - for when given the choice, young people might not choose that which is prescribed for them by the father-knows-best mandarins in Whitehall and their flinching counterparts across our increasingly left-field establishment.
But parents and students, I know, will feel empowered and invigorated by a system which gives them genuine choice, and which allows each individual to thrive in their own individual way. We each have our own dreams and aspirations; to guide our young people to the achievement and realisation of those dreams is the profound privilege of any teacher, and to support teachers in that noble mission will be my greatest honour should I become the Secretary of State.
Of course, whilst the Conservative revolution in education begins with schools, it does not and cannot end there.
Increasingly, in our society, there is a sense that University is the ‘default option.’ Young people feel pressured to attend, and perceive no alternative to another three years of classroom-based study. That is wrong, and it does a disservice to our young people who learn in so many different ways.
In the first instance, I want sponsored degrees, delivered in partnership with successful real-world enterprises, to become far more common. And I want four-year degrees, inclusive of a year’s placement in industry, to become the norm rather than the exception.
But I also want to see many, many more young people studying for and gaining degrees through Higher Apprenticeships, earning as they learn and being offered a job at the end of their studies. To that end, a Conservative government will invest in a radical reformation of higher education to deliver a system which offers extended choice and a parity of prestige between University and other, more practical alternatives.
My core belief is that it is not from whence one comes that matters, but where one is going. To that end, it is my plan to abolish student maintenance grants - which subsidise future high earners by providing some students with a free pot of money whilst others (who end up earning much the same) have to pay back more - and replace them entirely with a more comprehensive and generous system of low-interest loans. Nobody will pay back their loan until they are earning above the national average salary, and so it is nothing short of a disgraceful lie to claim that such a move will hamper the disadvantaged. Whether your parents were diplomats or unemployed charity shop volunteers, it is for you that a loan is offered and it is on the basis of your future success that it is paid back. I’m sorry to break it to you, kids: once you’ve got your degree and are earning 30 grand a year, you’re no longer ‘disadvantaged.’ You’ve worked your way up and out; you’ve levelled up; you’ve achieved; you’ve taken advantage of the opportunity you were offered; you’ve been helped to lift yourself up without the government pressing others down. As a Conservative, that is the kind of social justice in which I believe.
Of course, entering the world of work is not the end of one’s personal development. Increasingly, as the economy grows more open, more flexible and more competitive, and as our society begins to embrace more individualistic ways of working, people will begin to change careers far more often than has been the norm up to now. Workers need to be supported in learning new skills and in developing their abilities throughout working life.
So the Conservatives will introduce a tax-free Personal Development Fund for every working-age adult over the age of 21 in the country, allowing each individual to access up to £500 to be spent on accredited training courses each year. Employers will be required to grant up to five days per annum of special leave to facilitate this learning: and a Conservative government will ensure that lifelong learning is a core tenet of our education policy. Just as we will leave no child or young person behind, we will ensure that those left behind by Labour are allowed to achieve whatever they wish to as well.
Then, of course, we’ll cut income tax to 15%. We’ll slash business rates and corporation tax, bringing it down to historic lows for small businesses. We’ll eliminate capital gains tax and support start-ups and scale-ups by reducing the regulatory burden on self-starters and reducing the self-employed rate of National Insurance Contributions. So if you want to work for yourself, we’ll make it easier than ever to do so.
This is the Conservative Opportunity Agenda. A lot of people won’t like it. They’ll say it’s impractical, undoable; they’ll say it’s a lurch to the past. But it is not that. It is a big, bold step into the future: a step towards delivering a world-leading and world-beating education service. It is an expression of self-belief that we can define and forge the future rather than being mere passengers on the journey into it. It is a bright, optimistic, bold and radical agenda of reform: in short, it is exactly what the Conservatives stand for. If you value it, I hope you’ll vote for it.
A sad state of affairs in Westminster
The Official Secrets Act. Impeachment. Accusations of wrongdoing. Parliamentary privilege.
Sound familiar? It's about the only things that Members of Parliament have been talking about lately, after Conservative MP William Croft lobbed accusations against the Prime Minister for her invoking of the Official Secrets Act in a meeting she had with him, presumably to brief him on issues relating to national security and Pakistan.
The details have been hashed out over and over, with an investigation taking place and concluding, well, nothing. But the bigger issue is this: when are our elected officials going to talk about issues that actually matter? The economy. Quality of life. The cost of living. Climate change. These are the issues that matter to voters—and yet, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat... they're all obsessed with parliamentary gamesmanship.
Hung parliaments are always more fraught. There's an electricity in the air that makes every little issue seem much larger than it is because the government could be defeated at any moment. But unlike many other Parliamentary systems, the United Kingdom has measures in place under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act which prevent the immediate collapse of a government. Our Members of Parliament would do well to remember this and turn their attention to the issues of the day, not the latest hot topic that maybe has a tinge of scandal attached to it.
If our leaders don't want to focus on us, that is their choice. When voters are willing to turn to new parties like the Greens and UKIP to have their concerns heard, the three major parties would do well to remember about us. They ignore us—and the issues that matter—at their own peril.
Your friendly neighbourhood Canadian AV
Fair votes or a votes farce?
Having attempted to force STV upon the populace - despite the fierce opposition of Labour Party critics like Bertie Wilson and in violation of its own manifesto commitment to put any constitutional change before a referendum - the government will now, having been walked back from the precipice, seek to persuade voters at the ballot box that they should change the UK's voting system. Just five years ago, such a change was rejected resoundingly despite the weight of the political establishment falling down on to the motion for reform: and next Thursday, Britain must again reject what is a naked attempt to balkanise our democracy, cast away a system that has worked well for 300 years, eliminate stable government and send to Parliament only the least controversial, rather than the best-liked, candidates.
Under the present First-Past-The-Post voting system, the candidate with the most votes wins. Simple, easy, effective. If you want a Conservative MP, you can get one; if you want a Labour MP, you can get one. If you want an easier alternative to birth control, you can vote for a Lib Dem. The bottom line is that whoever a given constituency chooses to represent them is sent to Parliament. Every voter has just one vote of equal value, and every seat is represented by just one MP - a focal point for communities who are empowered to choose both a government and a local representative in one fell swoop.
Another key advantage of FPTP is that it leads, almost without exception, to clear winners and losers. Only thrice since 1945 has a general election under FPTP not resulted in a clear majority for one party. Such clear majorities enable a party, with its manifesto platform, to exercise an indisputable mandate and implement the policies which voters chose to endorse. Under STV, Hung Parliaments would become a permanent feature of our democracy, meaning that the horse trading and backroom deals that we have seen over the past six years would become the new norm. Coalitions would likely involve three, four or even five parties, sometimes with completely disparate aims and programmes. The consequence would be total legislative paralysis, with governments unable to achieve virtually anything, and rampant instability which would be bad for the pound, bad for the economy and bad for house prices.
The proposed Single Transferable Vote system is so complicated that it takes up three A4 pages of legalese to explain. It will make elections more complex, less transparent, and make the process of counting significantly slower. Instead of marking their preferred candidate with a simple cross, voters will rank candidates in order of preference - delivering a clear advantage to the political left, which boasts more options for voters to choose from as they relegate the Conservatives and UKIP to the bottom of the pile. Votes are then counted once, twice, three or four times depending upon how the preferences were allocated, with so-called "wasted votes" discounted and second, third or even fourth preferences helping to decide who is elected as your MP.
In addition, the system means that each constituency will send multiple MPs - as many as five - to the new House of Commons. The system, through its preferential ranking principle, supports the least controversial candidates - the most inoffensive - rather than the most popular and straightforward. It threatens to create an incredibly unstable Parliament, and will also result in gargantuan constituency sizes in which voters could have to travel for miles and miles to speak to one of their representatives. In large multi-member constituencies, ballot papers can get large and potentially confusing - and the system can be prone to what has been termed ‘donkey voting’, where voters vote for candidates in the order they appear on the ballot. In some constituencies, electoral stasis could make it impossible for swing voters to remove a candidate who has become unpopular; and by relying on a quota of support from other parties, candidates would be compelled to abandon the party line on key issues of contention, leading to a murky and unclear field in which there are few key differences between candidates and which a government, when eventually formed, can present almost no coherent policies.
STV will mean candidates fighting to be the least-worst option rather than the best. It will cannibalise our electoral system and make our democracy more opaque at a time when it badly needs transparency. Vote no to STV, and vote yes to fair votes - not a votes farce.
Labour Party Adviser
Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence Moderator