Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Faith schools: a bad idea just got worse

God knows (if you’ll forgive the expression) what goes on in Michael Gove’s head. In politics, quotas are rarely a good idea at the best of times, but his removal of the 20% cap on teacher recruitment on grounds of religion has got to be a terrible idea, even for him. In short, he is saying that a school may recruit 100% of its staff according to where they worship or, indeed, if they worship at all.

Making decisions at world leader level is a lot harder than people often give credit for. Ataturk largely saved the modern Turkish nation by his wise decision to keep religion separate from state. And, say what you like about him, but Tony Blair usually had a pretty good nose for decision-making. However, there were undoubtedly the odd times as prime minister when he had clearly had an off-day, a row with Cherie or one too many gin and tonics the night before. Announcing his departure in 2005 but not saying when; the London mayoral elections; and faith schools. Anything involving religion seemed to have the potential to cloud Blair’s judgement, and occasionally cause him to ignore the timeless advice of one A. Campbell: not to “do God”.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Labour must speak not only for organised labour

As predictable headlines follow Ed Miliband committing to speak at the TUC rally on March 26th, it's useful to take a more detached look at how the relationships between Party, movement and workplace demographics interact.

Let’s not be daft - no-one sensible is saying that Labour is “in the pocket of the unions”; however, it is not a particularly wild claim that Labour’s two historic constituencies among the employed have been public sector workers - largely unionised - and the unionised private sector. New Labour’s genius for electoral success was, of course, its ability to fashion a broader church than Labour had ever before managed. “Post-New” Labour, however, is a different animal.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

So, the alternative to Cameron’s vision: we’re offering what, exactly?

David Cameron has many failings, but he is patently not a racist.  There may just remain a few old Powellites in his party rank and file but largely, whether we like it or not, accusations of latent racism no longer dog the Tories.  And it may just be, paradoxically, Cameron’s Saturday speech was more of a success than we think: perhaps he has just stolen a march us on the whole debate about radical Islam and on issues of race and ethnicity in general.  Not because he is right but because he, at least, has raised them.

Was he being merely populist?  That is a more tricky question but, in the main, I don’t believe the reasons behind his Saturday speech on multiculturalism was sheer populism.  It was, as Anthony Painter put it, “nuanced”.  It tried and, if we believe much of the press, failed to ignite a sensible debate.  Well, perhaps it didn’t deserve to.  And it was surely open to misinterpretation; but the point is that race issues always are.  There is always some interested party to the left or right who will wilfully twist what you are saying.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Labour in Helmand: Operation Overreach?

Things like this make me wrestle with myself. My instinct as an activist is to be supportive and I feel like we all need cheering on. But I also need to understand why this trip was a good idea. I felt uncomfortable watching the footage of Labour’s Afghanistan trip and I have this uneasy feeling that those on the receiving end did, too. In pictures, we saw a gung-ho Ed; Jim Murphy smiling supportively; a slightly sheepish-looking Douglas Alexander; and a bunch of impassive soldier faces. The media coverage seemed neutral, if a little light, because of the tight security and Egypt. But…maybe it was just as well.

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