1551. That was the last year – give or take – when there was a grammar school in every town. I know that because Chris Skidmore told me, and he’s a historian.
It’s fairly straightforward. Edward VI was on the throne, and there had been a few tussles between Church and State for the control of young minds. The Church wanted Latin used for chanting; the State for logic and grammar. So free schools were established (Michael Gove was not the first) to liberate the curriculum in order to inculcate the Liberal Arts and raise standards of attainment. Continue reading →
According to George Eaton, writing in the New Statesman, “Tories have stopped talking about the NHS” because “election strategist Lynton Crosby has warned them that it helps Labour, which has a double-digit lead on the issue”.
I’ve almost ceased caring which party “leads” on this issue: I’m now at an age when I just want a healthcare service that delivers tender mercy and dependable consistency. Continue reading →
The 1970s were a dispirited, discordant and fractious decade of industrial unrest, strikes, blackouts, three-day-weeks, piles of unburied corpses, and kerbsides strewn with mountains of uncollected rubbish. I didn’t care: I wasn’t even really aware. I used to love power cuts because they meant darkness and adventure. I was far too young to worry about wages, fuel shortages, Commie unions and inflation. I didn’t know that the country was on its knees, but I loved the warming glow of candles, and the wonder of carrying one “up the rocket” to bed. Continue reading →
There is perhaps no more urgent a task for the Conservative Party in the present era than that of renewing democracy – to revive its foundational raison d’être; to resurrect its national framework of membership; and to reform its mode of engagement with party members. A political party that is immune to policy progression and insensitive to the beliefs of its core support-base ceases to be a movement for renewal: indeed, it rapidly becomes a fading testimony to past triumphs and a decaying monument to ancient glories. Reformation leads to enlightenment and revival – in politics as well as theology. Continue reading →
Back in 2009, in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal and a profound crisis in the British political system, David Cameron made a speech that electrified the Conservative Party and promised to usher in a revival of democracy. With great rhetorical flourish, he expounded his core conviction like an article of faith:
“I believe the central objective of the new politics we need should be a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power: from the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities; from the EU to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power from the elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.”
It was wonderful Whiggish stuff, which is no real surprise as it echoed (indeed, lifted almost verbatim) the words of self-professed Whig Daniel Hannan MEP and his Roundhead compatriot Douglas Carswell MP, who had co-written just months before: Continue reading →
I have never met Nadine Dorries, but I feel as though I have. She radiates the sort of plain-speaking, unstuffy approachability which is rapidly becoming rather attractive to the disaffected and disillusioned masses – if the Farage Factor is anything to go by. I listened intently to her speeches on abortion 18 months ago – in particular her plea for the utterly common-sense safeguard of separating ‘independent’, NHS-funded counselling from the profit-making abortion providers. I watched with sadness as she was predictably pilloried by the left-liberal media, but I was appalled when she was treated worse by some of her own parliamentary colleagues – simply for having the temerity to inject a little reason into the irrational consensus that constitutes our apparently immutable abortion settlement.
If I’d been in her abused shoes, I might have been tempted to jet off to spend a few weeks with Ant & Dec in the jungle myself, if only out of a preference for piranhas over politicians. Continue reading →
“Please don’t feel guilty about betraying the Conservative Party, they’ve already betrayed you – and without a care.”
With these parting words, David Meacock resigned his membership of the party he has loved since his childhood and served as a member of the Chiltern District Council since 1999. He also won a by-election against the Liberal Democrats to become a Buckinghamshire County councillor, which was no mean feat back in 2001 – even in ‘true blue’ leafy Bucks. Like many loyal and hard-working party members, he had dedicated months and years of his life to canvassing, door-knocking, writing ‘In Touch’, delivering leaflets, phoning, stuffing envelopes, attending hundreds of meetings and getting out the vote.
He worked so hard that he even increased his majority in 2003, and again in 2007. In the interim, he earned a place on the Approved List of Candidates, and fought the parliamentary seat of Huddersfield in the 2005 general election – as well as a county council seat back home in Amersham. God knows how much he spent on petrol and how many hours his glazed eyes whizzed up and down the M1. Continue reading →
Now that the House of Commons has given its blessing to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, the focus will soon turn to the House of Lords and the final consummation. Even if the Bill emerges from its Committee stage largely unscathed, it is so badly drawn-up that it is unlikely to survive the scrutiny of those in the Upper House who are tasked with applying their philosophical and theological expertise to expose all legislative shortcomings.
And don’t think for one minute that the opposition will come only from the Conservatives: many unreconstituted Labour peers and a fair smattering of Liberal Democrats and Cross-benchers are likely to unite in a strategy of filibustering and frustration. There is a determined cross-party consensus among Their Lordships that the case for same-sex marriage has simply not adequately been made. Continue reading →
On Thursday of this week, the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe became Dame Ann. It is an honour well-deserved and long-overdue, bestowed in recognition of her remarkable contribution to politics and society, along with decades of tireless work for charity. ‘Dame Ann’ not only sounds good; it adds gravitas to a well-known name which will enhance the profile of her charitable efforts and increase her capacity to raise much-needed funds for the myriad of good causes she champions.
But this damehood was not bestowed by the Queen in Buckingham Palace at the behest of the Prime Minister: it was a papal honour granted after a Mass in Parliament’s Crypt Chapel. Ms Widdecombe is now a Dame of the Order of St Gregory – an honour conferred by Pope Benedict XVI himself and bestowed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor at a ceremony in Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster. Continue reading →
I have for many years opposed amending the Act of Settlement 1701, in particular those historic clauses which refer to the Protestant Settlement between the people, the Monarchy and the Established Church. I understand, to some, that this puts me in the ‘extremist bigot’ category, somewhere above Enoch Powell but still a little way beneath the Rev’d Dr Ian Paisley. That was the view taken by the Catholic Herald back in 2005, when they demanded that Michael Howard dismiss me as a Conservative parliamentary candidate over articles I had written on the matter for The Spectator two years earlier (which had been evaluated by the Chief Whip, no less). But there was no reasoning with the ‘something-of-the-night’ autocrat. Thankfully, more mature minds (like Charles Moore, William Rees-Mogg, Ann Widdecombe and Boris Johnson) fully understood my concerns, which were based on theological knowledge and constitutional history rather than any irrational prejudice or ‘bigotry’. Continue reading →