Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Why is the government letting faith schools interfere in the personal lives of their staff?

Yes, Tony Blair was wrong. The bolstering of faith schools and the consequent upsetting of the delicate existing balance between them and society at large, I wrote in 2011, was always a rather suspect idea: not because religious people have not the right to educate their children as they like – they do, up to a point – but largely because of the dangerous precedents they set with regards to human rights in general, not least of children themselves.

At that time, Michael Gove’s allowance, that faith schools could insist on 100% of their teachers being of-the-faith, was already raising worrying questions about the interference of the state or, more troublingly still, a private-sector employer, in the rights of the individual to live their lives as they choose. But this, it now seems, was nothing compared to the knock-on effects that this appears to be triggering in such schools with regard to both discrimination, and wholesale interference in the lives of teachers.

Last week, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales published“guidance” which effectively allows Catholic schools to discipline, or dismiss, their workers for breach of Catholic teachings in their personal lives.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Labour needs to stop being a prisoner of Ed Balls' past

The Centre Left has been on a brief hiatus (even I get to go on holiday every now and then), but I thought I'd get back into the swing of things by posting my third piece for the Independent, which went out last week. Hope you like it.

I didn't choose their title, by the way...!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The polling facts about Labour’s mid-term lead

Much has been made during 2012 of Labour’s solid poll lead, which has been of the order of 10% ever since the government’s disastrous Budget. For some it seems difficult to refrain from mentally converting this into a line on Peter Snow’s election night model of the House of Commons, showing a majority for Labour.

What this fails to account for, quite apart from the changed circumstances which may prevail in two years’ time (and which may be much more attractive for the Tories, as Peter Kellner cheekily points out here), is that incumbents tend to have a dip at mid-term anyway. Quantifying this effect would obviously help us to make more accurate forecasts, to the extent that this is possible.

Last week at Uncut, Atul Hatwal showed the numerical arguments against a win for any party which failed to establish a poll lead on the economy. In a complementary way, we can try and allow for this mid-term effect, to try and get a better idea of where things might end up, all other things being equal.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

2013: in Labour’s do-or-die year, it’s the strategy of hope versus the strategy of hopeful

The audacity of hope: it worked for Obama in 2008, and it is an important quality for an opposition to bring to the table, as Ed Miliband did in his New Year’s message last Friday.

It is fairly clear that at this point the Coalition is bringing very little credible hope to the Great British Public, although we must also accept that this situation may well have changed by 2015, as and when the economy recovers. But right now, there is clearly no light at the end of the tunnel, and this is an opportunity for Labour.

Why is this the critical year? Well, we can already see the landscape: because of the new, fixed parliamentary terms, we now know when the election will be: May 2015. Knowing this, it is all but an inevitability that there will be a very long campaign, because no-one will care about “moving too soon”. Also, it is certainly seems probable that the Tories will want to start campaigning sooner rather than later, hoping to exhaust Labour with their superior resources.

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