The EU Referendum and its Aftermath

It is important to set out that I am and have been staunchly remain for a long time. I always felt that it was important for Britain to have its trade deals with the European Union and that it was important for Britain to be involved in the decision making of Europe. I also believed that the rights of the people had been much better protected with that advent of the European Union and that historically we had seen a much better union politically since the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community back in 1951. I am aware of the fact that people has differing opinions to me and saw that the European Union is too bureaucratic, that it was perceived as not democratic enough and that it was perceived that British sovereignty had been eroded. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Friday morning, when I saw the result, was sense of disappointment to me. I had this lingering feeling in the back of my head for a couple of weeks that it would be leave and although this proved to be true, it still left me deflated. This was a jump into the unknown. For the few people who were saying that we were going back to how it was before ‘Europe bossed us around’, I’m afraid the world has changed. Globalisation has happened. The initial shock to the markets and the value of the pound was a sign of this. The risk with Britain’s future that was being taken was the initial disappointment to me.

There are a couple of things that come across with referenda. Firstly, it is clearly a way of getting public legitimacy for a decision to be made by government. The general public have turned out to vote and the majority have voted leave. Vote leave won, plain and simple. In the areas where leave dominated, there was a higher turnout. They were more committed to the cause. Secondly, it is a way of settling a dispute within government. David Cameron had to offer this as a referendum to maintain the support of his party within a coalition and to help gain the Conservatives a majority in the 2015 General Election. I can’t blame him for this. It was a smart and necessary tactic in order for him to remain in power….except for when it backfires on him. Thirdly, the Prime Minister called a referendum on an issue that he did not want to change. That is a very difficult campaign to pull off. To state that you do not want to change anything when cuts are being made to public services, unemployment is still rising and people do not feel that they have the way of life they want is a very tricky trick to pull and he failed. Students are taught that in direct democracies, people tend to act emotionally than rationally and if you are struggling, you are going to want to bring about change. Now there have been calls for another referendum and a petition has had numerous signatures (although started by a leave campaigner and being looked at in terms of issues with some of the signatures) shows support for this. The belief is that the majority was not big enough on the turnout. Now I don’t think another referendum should happen, mainly because I don’t think the result or turnout will change that much and will therefore be a waste of time. Everyone is entitled to express their opinions though. Remainers are still raw from the result and need to have that outlet to express their views. Can we not forget as well that it was a leave campaigner who started the petition because he feared leave would lose and Nigel Farage called for another referendum if the result was similar but to leave. It’s kind of hypocritical for some on the leave side to criticise the remain side for doing the same.

I looked at three sets of results that has particular importance to me. The North-East where I was born and my identity is, Cumbria where I was brought up and Birmingham where I live right now. All three voted leave. To be fair I was expecting Cumbria to vote leave and I had heard that Birmingham was likely to vote leave as well. What I was not expecting was that areas in the North East would have a wider margin for leave than the other two. This honestly surprised me and I am not sure why. I have not lived in the North East for a very long time but still have a lot of family up there. It is, however, very difficult for me to say why people voted the way they did. I think people were just fed up about the same continuation of issues that they were facing and were looking for change. I do know that the North East Local Enterprise Partnership states that the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme was giving around £445 million in funding to help development in these areas. I’m not sure how much of this came across in the campaigning for remain – how much the EU was giving to individual areas.

It’s the chaos that has happened in the days after the referendum that has intrigued me the most. David Cameron’s resignation. To be fair, it wasn’t really a surprise. He put it all on the line and lost. He couldn’t be in a position of leading the negotiations and the country after this loss. The effect of this is that basically the Conservative members will choose the next Prime Minister. Initially it was thought it would be Boris vs Gove vs Theresa May but it seems as if Gove has thrown his weight behind Boris. Many people are expecting Boris to win it easily but I don’t think it will be that easy for him. The Conservative leadership election has the MPs whittle down the candidate shortlist to a one on one contest before the party membership votes. I still think Boris will win (the thought of a Boris and Trump world leadership team fills me with dread) but think there is a group within the party that will make it difficult. There may be a division that may be developing (Anna Soubry seems outspoken already). Also, Theresa May has done very well to stay under the radar despite being remain – she seems to have come out without being tarnished. The other thing is has David Cameron said that he will resign as an MP? That could be an interesting factor on the backbenches….

Which kind of brings me to the negotiations and promises. The Conservative leader is likely to be chosen in October. I can understand the need for proper thought. I also think that the new leader will feel that they need a new mandate from the public to act on their behalf, which will mean a new election in Nov/Dec. So negotiations and the trigger of Article 50 are not likely to happen until at least January 2017. 2 years of negotiations will mean we are not leaving until 2019. Now the EU has already stated that it feels negotiations need to start sooner rather than later. I can understand this. The uncertainty will have an impact upon them as much as it will have an impact upon us. It would also mean that they are not focusing on the business that they have to focus on. However, surely the UK needs to have the right person negotiating, and as PM kept insisting on Monday, the next Prime Minister will do that. Now it depends on what happens in the negotiations. This is the unknown. Firstly, a lot was promised in the campaign from people that were not in a position at the time to follow through on the act. Now is the time to judge them on this. Farage has already said that the £350 million promised (on the side of that bus) by the official leave group would go to the NHS. Granted Farage was never part of that group but I know a lot of people where that was a key issue. You would have thought that Boris would have learnt from his old enemy Nick Clegg not to stand next to a promise he can’t keep. There is also the Dan Hannan statement that leaving the EU will not lead to dramatic cuts to immigration. Again this is a key issue people voted on. Now Farage and Hannan can’t be held to account by the British public as they have just campaigned to get rid of their jobs but it may have an impact on leading Conservatives. The issue in the negotiations is that we don’t know how they will go. We don’t know exactly what the British government will negotiate – Boris Johnson has stated that he wants to remain part of the single market and there seems to be a suggestion of freedom of movement – and we do not know what line the EU will take. Will they punish to send a message? Will they get as much as they can that will help them? Will they aim to try and build a strong relationship with the UK? The examples that have happened before have seen concessions from the countries making a deal with the EU so we may lose sovereignty, we may lose immigration control and we may lose some trade rights. It’s going to be a long negotiation period….

The instant reaction was the hit to the economy, which to be honest was to be expected. The pound fell to its lowest value in 31 years. Shares in banks, house builders and airlines have been hit. The FTSE has fallen. Financial services have already looked at exporting jobs abroad. Inflation looks set to rise on imports. The loss of the AAA credit rating. Basically there has been a panic because we are in a risk situation. To be fair, it seems that the government and the Bank of England have put in some back up plans that may stop the system crashing so much but it just seems whether that is enough. There seemed to be a slow in the decline on Friday when Mark Carney came out and made a speech offering reassurance and also a plan of what should happen. George Osborne has come out today and spoken of calm and that there will be no emergency budget. The economy is the crucial thing in this. This is one of the key things having an impact upon families in Britain and it is important that it is managed carefully. The government needs to make sure that it is involved in this. We also need to make sure that we strike up trade deals that are beneficial to us. The issue is whether we are now at the back of line in regards to negotiations, especially in the circumstance of the USA and the EU. Now there were several key issues with the TTIP negotiations (loss of privacy, privatisation of NHS, power to the bankers) so that may not seem a great loss. However, trade agreements do need to be negotiated, otherwise confidence will drop. The one thing that needs to be mentioned is that if people want a trade deal with the EU without freedom of movement – Only Canada has this but they do not have free trade of services. That needs freedom of movement. Britain needs that.

Labour are in disarray. The implosion that is happening right now has just been waiting to happen. As I write this, Corbyn is starting to lose the ‘soft left’ of the party. Admittedly, Corbyn did seem lacklustre in the campaign and the impression really was that he did not seem convinced by his own viewpoint but I’m not sure how much this coup d’état is actually going to succeed. Last year’s Labour leadership election proved that it is not the MPs that support Corbyn anyway, it’s the ordinary party faithful. That’s what gave him the huge mandate in 2015. I’m not sure how much that has changed in the course of a year and if there is another leadership election, with Corbyn insisting that he will stand, I have a funny feeling that he will get re-elected. Judging from what has happened in London tonight, I think Corbyn is safe in his position. A thought just to scare the traditional Labour voters – in the past 42 years, only one Labour leader has been elected as Prime Minister. That is of course Tony Blair. I’m not saying that moving completely back to the ‘Third Way’ is completely the answer but at the same time, I don’t think that Corbyn is either. Personally, I can’t see that Labour winning an election with him as leader. It might take another election defeat to see this. The problem is that if the main opposition isn’t up to scratch, how much can Parliament keep the government in check?

The other thing that seems to be happening is that Labour seems to be losing their traditional working class support. Some of the elections in these traditional areas have been seeing a rise in UKIP support, and this was arguably one of the contributing factors for the 2015 General Election. The EU referendum seems to demonstrate a continuing movement away from Labour. It does not help that the Labour Party are giving off an impression of being divided amongst themselves. It is hard for the voters to believe a party is representing them when they are divided. They do not seem to be unified in helping the working class/lower middle class in a time of austerity and hardship where it is clear that people are struggling. The balancing act of support is not there. There seems to have been a disconnect between the party and their supporters and it looks like UKIP are going to pick up the spoils. Unless the party does something to rectify this, I could potentially see UKIP picking up some MPs in these areas (although I’m not exactly sure how this will transfer to votes in a General Election – After all, safe seats are very important).

Can the Liberal Democrats tap into the gap being left by the Labour Party? They are still in a rebuilding position after the disaster that was the 2015 General Election and they were the most prominent pro-European Union party in recent years. They also only have 8 MPs. However, I see this as an opportunity for them to take a position and possibly readjust their position. It is hard for them to be divided between 8 MPs but it could help to develop new campaigns and policies whilst sticking to the traditional Liberal ideas. The onus here will be on Tim Farron. This will be a long process and he needs to stick it out, demonstrating the leadership qualities necessary.

Personally, I believe that Scotland has every right to call for an independence referendum; the terms have changed from 2014. I remember that one of the campaigns against independence were that Scotland would not be in the EU if they were separate. That is different now. Scotland has overwhelmingly voted that they wanted to remain within the European Union. If a referendum were to take place and there has been a change of opinion, then that could be part of the negotiation process. The debate however is whether the remain votes is a simple transference to an independent idea. It is whether that is enough to change some peoples’ opinions. The impression is that Nicola Sturgeon will use the threat of a referendum to be involved in negotiations and get the best deal for the Scottish. Wales, as a whole, does not seem to have any issue with the leave vote having a majority leave. Northern Ireland is a lot trickier and there are a lot of historical elements to that debate that must be taken into account.

Now there are two key issues. Firstly young people. My students were angry on Friday. They were livid. They felt that their future had been taken away. The key thing was that they were not allowed to vote. Now before we get anywhere with this, I am aware that there is a campaign to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote as many issues affect them. I have also seen many people criticise young people for having a self-centred attitude and only thinking six months ahead and that they should be thankful to people for having life experience to make decisions for them. I’m sorry but I’ve seen people my age, people my parents age who only think short term and have self-centred attitudes. I have also met many wonderful young people, not necessarily History and Politics students, who are passionate about what is going on and how it should be changed. I am of the opinion that 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote but know that it is not likely to happen. One of the key statements that comes out of my lessons is that “Politicians don’t listen to us”. My response is always the same – “Of course they don’t. Young people don’t vote”. There has been a lot going around about the Young vs Old debate, as well as certain poll statistics on how they voted, and although that is a part of it, it is not everything. Yet again, the 18-24 age bracket is the one that has turned out least to vote. Yet again, politicians have not done a good enough job appealing to the young. This time this has impacted the Remain campaign. It happens in every election and therefore politicians/Governments, who want to be re-elected don’t listen to them as they feel they don’t need to. There needs to be a change. Young people need to start voting. They need to start getting involved. They need to be a part of the process and it needs to be a two way process.

Which brings me to the shocking scenes of the intolerant. I have seen so many things through Facebook, Twitter and You Tube that have shocked me to my core. I saw a “stop immigration, start repatriation” protest in Newcastle. I saw cards posted through the letterboxes of people telling them to leave. I’ve heard about people being ridiculed in the street. I heard about people born in Britain being told to “go home”. What happened?!?!? All these acts are disgusting and quite frankly are not British values. This is not what I think of when I think of Britain. The danger is the rhetoric that has been used in campaigning, which has been very angry and very much based on fear. This is something that Angela Merkel has alluded to. The politicians have not helped and the campaigns definitely have not helped. The actions of a minority the past couple of days have seen this. This is not acceptable and it must be stopped. Politicians of all parties need to take a stand and say that this is not right. The authorities need to take a stand and stop this racism and xenophobia. If we truly are a United Kingdom, we need to put a stop to this right now. Otherwise we come out of the European Union as a country that is divisive and ugly.

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The Haphazard House of Lords Reform

So a 338  vote majority on whether to reform the House of Lords, making it partly elected, but only with a concession to scrap the narrow timetabling of the debates. Even with this everyone is saying that this bill is dead in the water due to that concession as well as the 91 Conservative MPs that rebelled against it (all of whom could have been predicted to have done this).

Reform of the House of Lords has been a long-held idea, especially within the Liberal Democrats. I remember being taught during my A-Levels whether there should be an elected House of Lords and I am still teaching it myself 10 years later. The positives seem self-explanatory. The idea of electing the House of Lords makes them more representative of the public and can therefore be held to account on bills and issues that they are involved in within the Houses of Parliament. Ultimately it would also seem an attempt to open up accessibility to the House of Lords (or whatever it would be called) to a wider range of people who electorally earn their position rather than just to the rich who donate money to the three main political parties. By making the system more democratic, law of averages would suggest that you make the system better….

…but is that true. It all seems to be in the detail of how this bill will be drawn up. Firstly 15 year terms are a joke. That’s not increasing accountability – If somebody does something wrong or contentious in their first year, how many people are going to remember it by the fifteenth? Either this needs to be reduced down ideally to five-seven or the power of recall would need to be built into it. Secondly, if there are some that are elected as well as some that aren’t some will be held to account whilst others will not. This will only cause more issues in terms of the inner workings of the system- either it has to be fully elected or not elected. A partly elected system simply is full of holes. Looking also at the fact that some of these ‘Lords’ will be representative of the people, surely they should have similar power levels to the House of Commons, which will be in the same position. Even if a redrawing of powers is not immediate, there will surely be a demand for more powers for the House of Lords to suggest that it needs these to be more representative of the people. If powers are changed, the House of Commons and Lords will turn in to a power struggle. Where will the PM come from? Where do Ministers come from? How will this impact on the numbers and make up of government? One key term that we look at in American Politics is ‘Gridlock’, where bills get stuck in the American Law Making procedure and very few are passed. This could be down to the fact that the Senate and the House of Representatives are both elected, both representative of the people and both similar powers. Surely this would be the way that the British chambers would go.

The big issue however is one of time. It’s the same thing when my pupils ask whether we will ever get rid of the monarchy, and my answer is always no. This is because of the time that it has been in existence. The longer that things are in existence for, the less likely that people will want to change them. It is the old cliché “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There is a reason why the Conservatives are called this. They are conservative- they want limited change. Everybody living in the UK today has had the House of Lords in the current form (albeit with difference in types of peers) and most people will have had no issue with it. Why would people want to change something that they don’t have an issue with? Most people have more pressing issues that interest them.

David Cameron has been embarrassed. Even as I’m writing this watching Prime Minister’s Question Time, and boy is he rattled – lashing out and trying to protect his position desperately, he is struggling. The fact that he is unable to control his own party let alone the coalition in terms of rebellions shows his poor qualities as leader. He is a desperate man at the head of a sinking ship that is seeing a mutiny from the right-wing of his own party. Nick Clegg has on the other hand become delusional. He saw this as a giant success for the Liberal Democrats and has stated so to his own party. He need the Labour Party to help and even that was waiving the timetabling element of the bill. There is a very real chance that this bill will be filibustered to death or changed far away from the desires of the Liberal Democrats. He should have learned not to count his chickens before they hatched after the Alternative Vote referendum. By coming out with comments like this, he is simply diminishing his credibility further.

In terms of my own opinion, I feel that the House of Lords does need reforming. I don’t think it has enough power in scrutinising the House of Commons and holding MPs to account. This is needed to make sure that we have a fully checked and balanced system. The catch 22 of this is that there will be a conflict of power between the two houses. I believe that is always going to be the main issue with House of Lords reform and something that will be judged closely. What currently is going through Parliament is haphazard and unlikely to succeed however.

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Giving Cities More Powers- Yay or Nay?

Today it has been speculated that six cities in the United Kingdom (Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol and Sheffield) will be given more money over a £1.5 billion investment fund that they will be able to control rather tha having to lobby London for the money. This will also seemingly give these cities a greater control over the things that they do with this money, therefore making them more powerful.

Firstly, these cities could do with some extra money to use to develop these areas, especially in terms of the economy and boosting the rate of employment. After all that is what this new idea is seemingly a return for. Personally speaking I would love to see both Birmingham and Newcastle develop and become greater cities not only within the UK but within Europe and the world. The beauty of this fund is that it is seemingly going to cut the red tape that is needed for City Councils to get these funds. That means that projects and new businesses can be started up quicker with little blocking or involvement for the national government. This creates more freedom and power for the local council to implement policies that they know, through their experience, will help the local area and more importantly help the people in these areas that desperately need the assistance.

However, this is not the first time that new powers have been attempted to be bestowed on these cities. In May, we had the referendums for elected mayors in some of these cities and all but one rejected it out right. This elected mayor, although it was never clear was going to be designed to be the leader of the Council, accountable to the people independently of the Council and control more of the finances of the City. Now to me that sounds a lot like what the Coalition are trying to introduce in terms of this policy except the directly elected mayor, which they clearly see as the major sticking point. All I will say is that politicians need to make it clear to the public what exactly is going to happen, how much power the council will have and the jurisdiction that they will cover. One of the problems with the elected mayor referendums was that people did not know their powers and what they would be able to do. This means it needs to be clearer – although this time there won’t be a referendum.

My other issue is why are only these cities the only ones receiving it. I understand that they are the big cities, but there are many others in Britain where this funding could make a lot of difference. Again from personal experience, Carlisle, Sunderland and Wolverhampton are places where this money, and easy access to it, could do a lot of good. There are many projects that could be set up that could be used to improve areas and help the people of these areas. So I find it hard to believe why more areas will not be involved in this and am wondering if this will be a trial for rolling it out further (although do we have the money??). I am glad to see that it is not limited to the South of England and that the north gets some fair treatment on these schemes for a change.

Overall, I think this could be a very good idea from the Coalition (..you can not comprehend how difficult that was for me to say…) as it will help boost local areas and put control of money into the hands of people who actually understand the area and have a knowledge of the issues. It will also remove a lot of the bureaucracy of this issue, which is something that plagues the development of local politics. All I hope, especially in Birmingham, is that the Councillors use the money wisely to develop projects to help the less fortunate and to boost employment as they are the key things that need to be tackled. I hope that they can do this without interference from the national government as insinuated. I also hope that they can be held accountable for their actions as well…

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Cameron – Leader of the Party, Leader of the Coalition or Leader of the Country?

The flip-flopping this weekend of David Cameron regarding an in/out referendum on the European Union is a been there, done that situation. We’ve heard about referendums before on Europe, most notably regarding a European Union Constitution under the Labour Party. We’ve even had an in/out referendum one time before in 1975 (one of only two national referendums) and the public voted to stay in the European Economic Community at the time. Times have changed. The European Union has developed and become a far more political beast than it ever was planned to be when the European Coal and Steel Community was created. It has a far bigger political role and the development of the Euro zone and the Euro as a currency has brought many countries closer together. Personally I believe that we are too invested within the European Union and it would cause a much bigger negative impact to pull out of it. The European Union can still be a positive force in terms of unifying Europe and bringing about positive developments. However, this issue of the European Union is causing a lot more problems for David Cameron in terms of his position.

One reason why David Cameron has called for a referendum has to be the fact that he is struggling to unify his own party, especially the backbenchers. It’s almost a weekly occurrence to hear of unrest among the backbenchers on a range of things and this has to be taking its toll on the Prime Minister. Arguably, if the Conservative Party had won the General Election outright, this would not have been as big of an issue as he could be far more accommodating of many of the right-wing conservative ideas that fall behind him. One of the big ideas from those backbenchers is that the European Union is taking too much power away from Britain, eroding at its sovereignty, and that the British government should pull itself away from Europe. There have been many calls in the press that UKIP actually convey more of the traditional Conservative Party ideas than the current leadership of the party, even so far as being said by chief Cameron/Osborne tormentor Nadine Dorries this past weekend. There is a very small chance that there may be a defection of Conservative Party members and supporters to a party that better represents their views. That’s why this claim by Cameron seems to be a token acknowledgement of the backbenchers to try and maintain their support and keep his party under him. Cameron is trying to be the tamer with his whip trying to tame the lion that is the Conservative right.

However, it was the phrase “when the time is right”, which really got me in the press. Firstly I hate that phrase. That almost always means that it will never happen and I wonder why it can’t be said outright that it is not wanted or that it will not be done. It wastes time and it wastes people’s’ opinions (even though I am spouting about it at the minute). The problem in this case though is that David Cameron has to tame his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, as well as his own party. I think it’s very well-known that the Liberal Democrats are very much pro-European Union and very much pro integration. The members of the party will detest an in/out referendum and will fight tooth and nail to stop it. So it looks as though with the phrasing of Mr.Cameron’s words in the Sunday press are merely a way of trying to appease both sides of the Coalition. It is again a regular occurrence to hear David Cameron listen to his Tory backbenchers wanting to “ditch the Lib Dem menace” or “to get rid of the evil Lib Dem menace”. This would not be helpful to the Tories. Cameron knows this. One thing he isn’t is stupid. Hapless maybe but not stupid. He needs the Lib Dems because he knows that a Tory minority government would not be able to get bills passed and he will be held to account for these failings. It will be interesting to see how the next week will shape up with both parties of the coalition flexing their muscles with their differing views on Europe.

The other beast that David Cameron has to tame is the public. Ultimately his government is held accountable on their actions by the public. We are a democracy and we judge politicians on whether their actions help, aid or suit us. Now there is a broad mix of opinion on the European Union with a lot of people supporting our role in the European Union and many opposed to it. Many people want us to have a say in Europe and don’t want us to be isolated in terms of decision-making from the rest of Europe. Others believe that the European Union has taken too much sovereignty away from Britain and that we ourselves should pull out of Europe to regain sovereignty both politically and legally. As mentioned earlier, I fall into the former category. Part of the groundwork for European integration was trade agreements and preferential trading arrangements and I believe that is important especially when in an economic situation that we are in at the minute. We should be boosting our industries by focusing on these trade arrangements and putting money into them, which could in turn lead to creation of jobs. Have the government not learned from the austerity of the 1930s (surely that’s under Michael Gove’s History curriculum) that had us suffering  greatly until we boosted our military economies in 1938/1939, which led to unemployment beginning to go down. At the same time the USA and Germany spent money on their economies and they moved out of recession quicker than our National Government. I fear for these trade arrangements and businesses if we were to pull out of the European Union. Aside from that, David Cameron faces the eternal struggle of trying to appeal to all of the electorate on an area where they are so divisive.

So David Cameron faces his own Cerberus. Does he tame his party, his coalition or the country. This is why he is flip-flopping and sitting on the fence regarding the issue of the European Union and the mythical in/out referendum. He is the leader politically of all three of these bodies and has to tame them all. It’s a case of option A, option B or option C. However, this will not be resolved until he decides which of these bodies that he leads is his priority. That is the key. Then we will get an answer, an opinion, a decisive response from the Prime Minister. Either way he goes, he is going to face praise, and in turn face criticism, that’s the natural way with Politics. However he will show a backbone, which is something lacking at the minute.

Ed Miliband this week should be jumping all over this. He needs to be constantly pressing the Prime Minister, The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats over this. He needs to be constantly pushing to get Cameron to give a decisive answer on this while offering up a unified Labour viewpoint. This is how he needs to demonstrate to the electorate that he could be a strong a decisive Prime Minister and that he could run a Labour government to help the people. Whether he does this though….

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“It was all Labour’s fault….”

One thing that is really annoying me in Politics at the minute is the real overuse by the government  of “It was the last government’s fault…” or other variations of it. It’s become so much of a joke that my students are now running sweepstakes on Tory MPs and how long before they will say it (for the record it took Justine Greening about 20 seconds to say it on last nights episode of Question Time). David Cameron is chief among this. Apart from continually not answering the question (a Prime Minister tradition), PMQs is littered with these comments.  At the minute it seems like it will be the campaign slogan for the Tories/Lib Dems in 2015.

There is a real possibility that this will backfire on the Coalition. It’s been 2 and a bit years since they actually formed the government and they are still blaming the Labour government for issues in Britain today, most notably the economy. Now I’m not naive enough to suggest that Labour were not at fault for nothing in their 13 years in power or that change can simply happen overnight in British Politics but there has to be a point by which the blame game has to stop.

There was a big swing away from Labour, partially because of the lack of faith that people had in Gordon Brown, but also because they were seen as having wronged the country and that the Tories would fix it. If they carry on with this blame game for another year, that would be over half of their term up and they would be breaking the promise that they had made to the electorate in the election. Anybody who would be sensibly scrutinising the Coalition parties would say “Well you haven’t done what you said you were going to do?” or “If it was Labour’s fault, why did you not sort it?” There is also the fact that by highlighting that something was “Labour’s fault”, the government are highlighting problems for the public to see. This policy is being counter productive and will turn people who are swing voters away from the Tories and to alternatives.

Now in terms of Labour, and I fully admit that I don’t see Ed Miliband as a creditable Prime Minister, subtly they have acknowledged their mistakes in the past and demonstrated failings. This was evident with Red Ed’s recent speech regarding Labour’s immigration policies of the past. By doing this Labour make the Tory “Labour’s fault” idea redundant and again pushing the idea of “Well what are you doing about it?” What the Labour need to do is offer areal alternative to the Coalition government in order to win on merit rather than on Coalition failings, much like Jon Cruddas MP recently said similar to 1945, 1964 and 1997.

So if the Tories/Lib Dems want to stay in government, they should cease and desist from the idea of “Blame Labour”. There’s only so long it can be valid for….

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Michael Gove: Going Back In Time

I think by this point most teachers opinions on Michael Gove is clear enough – They can’t stand him. This is evident in what most teachers say about him and the fact that the Unions are now using anti-Gove advertising in order to attract teachers to join their unions (possibly not the best thing to do in my honest opinion). In two and a bit years, even after a history of poor secretaries of state for education, Gove has seemingly made himself public enemy number 1 amongst the profession that he oversees (although this seems to be a coalition trait e.g Lansley and Doctors, May and Police Officers, Clegg and Lib Dem Supporters).

There was an out pouring of anger towards Michael Gove when this week it was leaked and, after being called by an urgent question from Labour, confirmed an education policy that seemingly would scrap GCSEs and return us to a similar idea to O-Levels and CSEs. To be truly honest, I’m not surprised. Since becoming Education Secretary, Gove has seemingly been on a mission to return the education system to what it was like when he was at school. This was clearly evident with the English Baccalaureate, which seemed to push forward some subjects that are simply not relevant today.

My main issues with this new policy is firstly that it forces a judgment on pupils at an early age and some from disadvantaged background may face a glass ceiling in terms of achievement. More schools from disadvantaged backgrounds will be more willing to go for the CSEs as a way of boosting results because from what I understand, schools will still be judged on results in terms of league tables. This will cause problems for pupils who would be bright enough to achieve beyond their means and alienates them. This would in turn lead to a stigma on some pupils and a divisive culture. We’re clearly all in this together.

Secondly, there must be a reason why O-Levels were got rid of in the first place. I don’t pretend to know the exact reason for this ( I believe I was 3 at the time) but I have read that it was because CSEs were seen as not being worth the paper that they were written on. So why the hell are we reintroducing something that was seen, by a Conservative government, to have been wrong and problematic Mr. Gove may want to do some history (even British, which he seems hellbent on enforcing). We study the past so that we are not doomed to repeat it.

My main anger of this was the timing. The students are sitting their exams and I find it insulting that after the year or even two years of hard work that students, teachers and parents have put in, this has deemed worthless because the qualifications are too easy. As an A-Level teacher and marrying a secondary school teacher, we have both worked hard ensuring that our pupils are ready for these exams, as most teachers do as well. Our students match this. A lot of my students independently answer exam questions for myself to mark putting this hard work and effort to make sure that they are ready for these exams. This announcement would surely demoralise them and they won’t go into exams with the right frame of mind. We are judged on the results as are the pupils because of the pressures that previous governments have placed upon us and to have our efforts deemed not good enough us is demoralising.

It also suggests that my GCSEs, as well as those of others, were not worth it. I worked damn hard for my GCSEs, for my A-Levels and for my university degree. To have the opinion that they were so easy to get because of the whim of an education secretary is insulting. How the ‘Quad’ did not know about this I cannot fathom. Cameron must have known about this, nothing leaves Government without him knowing. How they couldn’t control this I don’t know. Opinion and meaningful discussion clealry doesn’t matter- only in May every 5 years.

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Response to Question Time 14/06/2012

Watching Question Time on the I Player in one of my valuable free periods, it was interesting to hear Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, say “Allow teachers to get on with what they do best”. It was a phrase that is often bandied about but one that is largely ignored.

I became a teacher because I loved my subject areas and I wanted to pass on my enthusiasm and knowledge to others that share an interest. However, this is not what we have to completely contend with. We have to constantly update and comment on pupils withing our results. We have to constantly analyse results to show that we are doing our job properly. Currently I am having to waste time redoing perfectly good schemes of work because my place of employment wants a uniform model. This adds to my role as an exam marker as well as revision sessions, and extra things that I organise to try and raise awareness for my subject. Oh and in that I teach. It annoys me when people comment about how much holiday teachers get because most of us work hard during that time as well.

Governments say that the system doesn’t work and therefore needs changing. It might help if education was not constantly being changed and we could actually embed a system which we could work in. Constantly changing A-Levels/GCSEs helps nobody, because we have very little time to get used to system. Changing it piles more work on us, creating added stress and therefore a damaged work/life balance, which will impact upon our teaching.

It also kind of does not help having an idiot in charge of the education systems. Gove and Wilshaw are seemingly clueless on what makes our education system good and dump it on teachers. They want to take education systems and establishments back to what they had and i’m sorry but they need to get with the times. They also need to realise that not all kids are the same, have the same background and that schools are very different with different aims. It would help if Michael Gove visited a school north of Watford and stopped harping on about Free Schools and Academies when firstly it allows unqualified people to teach and secondly makes the education system too generic. Academies don’t help every school so stop rolling it out for every school.

Oh and the decision to remove EMA. I can see the effect on pupils and I can see why they questioned is. What people didn’t ask was the effect on schools. Well here’s the example. Nnumbers went down this year partly due to this. There have been huge cuts in funding and redundancies. More unemployed.

So Tim Farron. We would love to do what we do best. Having a chance to do it would be nice too.Image

*21/6 – Now Gove’s taking us back to O-Levels – Time Warp*

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