David Lidington’s letter to Conservative Party members on ‘reform in Europe’ tells us not very much about almost nothing at all. It is measured, upbeat and polite, but that is the essential optimism and generous disposition of the man himself. The only interesting glimpse it offered into current thinking was confirmation of his ignorance of the Maastricht Treaty. Perhaps, like Kenneth Clarke, he hasn’t bothered to read it.
The Europe Minister wrote: ‘I’m sure [members] will be pleased to know that in their Subsidiarity Review, the Dutch Government proposed a new principle: ‘at European level only when necessary, at national level whenever possible’.’
It isn’t clear if this ‘new principle’ is untrodden ground to the Dutch Government or to David Lidington: I hope the former, if only because I expect the Europe Minister to be rather more informed and better advised. Whichever it is, that such chicanery can be sent out to loyal, intelligent and discerning Conservatives in the hope of fobbing them (indeed, us) off with frivolous sloganeering only serves to perpetuate the epistemic distance between the parliamentary and voluntary wings of the party. 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 →
Dementia is a purgatorial madness. Whatever form it takes – Alzheimer’s, Vascular, Fronto-temporal, Creutzfeldt-Jacob – it is not only the patient who suffers, but their entire family.
The disease reduces the victim to a shell of humanity, emptied of all joy, emotion and recognition. As cognitive ability declines, so too does the memory, the capacity to feel, dexterity in language and the intelligence to reason. Tears give way to mourning; despair to grieving for the living. Loved ones become strangers; relationships are turned to shadows. It is a dreadful affliction; terrifying for the victim, and profoundly distressing for all around to witness. 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 →
As the Socialist Worker alliance of teaching unions continue their disruptive ‘work-to-rule’ policy in schools, I see they are now agitating for further strike action. It has been announced that the comrades will walk out (again) and abandon their students this summer and autumn in protest at Michael Gove’s education reforms. We’re more than acquainted with NUT hyperbole and disinformation when it comes to the Government’s education policy, but I am intrigued by a contentious letter in The Independent on this subject which has been signed by more than 100 academics.
These eminent professors and teachers of education write on behalf of some of the nation’s most prestigious centres of learning. They are seemingly persuaded that the proposed reforms to the National Curriculum will damage education standards because the tedious focus will be on ‘endless lists of spellings, facts and rules’, spiced up with a dirge of ‘rote learning without understanding’. Continue reading →
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the irrepressible Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, has apparently had enough of the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). These demand in-depth screening, scoping and consultation on all major planning and development projects, and have long played havoc with domestic planning law as every road, railway, factory and housing estate becomes mired in months and years of delay as bats are counted, wind-speed recorded, decibels measured and earthquake risks monitored.
Every brown-field site is seemingly treated as a putative Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as each development has become subject to uniform assessment criteria. And it’s not only the hassle of delay, but the additional significant costs on the whole planning process. Quite why our own town and country planning systems in England and the devolved administrations can’t be trusted to conserve our own birds and bees is something of a mystery. But in local government there is almost a default fealty to EU supervision and oversight as the planning regime has become increasingly subservient to European Union law. Continue reading →
This might seem like a very small victory, or a relatively insignificant retraction from the onward progression of the EU’s ‘ever closer union’ which has (until very recently) seemed inexorably one-way. But Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has firmly rebuffed the pompous Europhile academics and statisticians who demand unquestioning compliance to EUniformity.
From the end of October, the Department of Communities and Local Government will no longer collate or publish data based on the EU’s regions, which form part of the administrative landscape in all member states. Instead, data will be gathered along distinctly UK business and council-led Local Enterprise Partnership boundaries, to complement existing statistics gathered by local authorities. Continue reading →
The name of Adonis will go down in the history of education in England as one of the most reforming and far-reaching ever – right up there with Forster, Balfour, Butler and Boyle; names which have become synonymous over the years with their respective legislative acts. This achievement is all the more astonishing since Andrew Adonis was only an advisor, then head of policy, and then a minister: he was never Secretary of State, and yet his name eclipses dozens of those who have carried that brief.
While Tony Blair and Gordon Brown steadily gnawed their way through six education secretaries who issued 14 separate acts of parliament, along with a seemingly endless stream of white papers, green papers and flowery reports, Adonis was quietly beavering away in the background to forge the academies programme – a new breed of quasi-independent state schools, designed to replace the failing, mediocre, inadequate ‘bog standard’ comprehensives, with the sole objective of raising student attainment in areas of high social deprivation. Continue reading →