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Westlake Legal Group > David Cameron

How not to destroy Trump and Johnson

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson both have a capacity to provoke torrents of abuse from otherwise moderate, well-behaved people. An article this week for The New York Times raises the question of whether, given the failure of the most vicious insults to have any visible effect on the President’s poll ratings, “the search for a killer line on Mr Trump is a fool’s errand”.

He has been called “a pathological liar”, “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot”, “ISIL man of the year”, “utterly amoral”, a “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen”, and a “terrible human being” who has made “disgusting and indefensible” comments about women, to quote but a few of the things said about him by senior Republicans.

I have not gone to the trouble of collecting a comparable series of insults about Johnson. But in the latest London Review of Books, Ferdinand Mount calls him “a seedy, treacherous chancer”, and there is plenty more where that came from.

Trump and Johnson speak well of each other, but are in important respects quite different. Johnson is better educated, more charitable, more favourably disposed towards immigrants, more loyal to the institutions to which he belongs or has belonged, and more anxious to unite people, and to restore friendly relations when he has annoyed them.

But both men have benefited, at various points, from being underestimated by their critics, who perhaps supposed that no one could survive such fierce attacks.

And supporters of Trump and Johnson sometimes get the impression they too are being written off as evil and repulsive people. Hillary Clinton was explicit about this. She said at one of her fundraisers that you could put half Trump’s supporters in “the basket of deplorables”, for they are, in her view, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it”.

This is not very good politics. The easy hit of self-righteousness, the casting into outer darkness of one’s opponents and their followers, enables one to avoid the more difficult task of scrutinising what those opponents are saying, and working out which bits of it constitute a legitimate response to the understandable concerns of, say, car workers who worry their jobs are going to Mexico.

Johnson benefits from the same lack of proper scrutiny. In recent weeks he has made announcements on such matters as health spending, police numbers and prisons which might equally well have come from a moderate Labour leader.

The Opposition has been reduced to silence, or to fringe subjects like grouse shooting. It informs us from time to time that Johnson is a liar, but this means it cannot respond to what he actually says. By indulging in character assassination, it has deprived itself of an opponent with whom it could have an argument.

On Brexit, it insists Johnson is leading the country to perdition, but its warnings are often put in such apocalyptic terms that voters wonder whether things are going to be quite as bad as all that; wonder indeed whether it is the Remainers who have lost touch with reality.

The case against exaggerating your opponent’s faults was well put by Tony Blair in his memoir, A Journey. Here is his defence of the gentle art of disparaging understatement:

I defined Major as weak; Hague as better at jokes than judgment; Howard as an opportunist; Cameron as a flip-flop, not knowing where he wanted to go. (The Tories did my work for me in undermining Iain Duncan Smith.) Expressed like that, these attacks seem flat, rather mundane almost, and not exactly inspiring – but that’s their appeal. Any one of those charges, if it comes to be believed, is actually fatal. Yes, it’s not like calling your opponent a liar, or a fraud, or a villain or a hypocrite, but the middle-ground floating voter kind of shrugs their shoulders at those claims. They don’t chime. They’re too over the top, too heavy, and they represent an insult, not an argument. Whereas the lesser charge, because it’s more accurate and precisely because it’s more low-key, can stick.

Trump will probably defeat himself in the end. So perhaps will Johnson. Their opponents seem unable to find the right words.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Johnson bypasses the broadcasters to talk directly to voters

Yesterday’s announcement of a relaxation of the immigration rules for scientists from around the world was noteworthy for two reasons.

First, because it’s a good idea, long overdue and likely to be popular.

Second, because of how the message was delivered.

There was a press release, and an accompanying evening news package by the BBC, filmed on a Prime Ministerial visit to a fusion power research centre in Oxfordshire. But before either of those went out, the actual announcement took place online, in a Facebook Live broadcast by Boris Johnson.

The video itself was short, hitting key messages on police and NHS spending before trailing the headline news, leaving the detail for the official release shortly afterwards. The fairly simple set contained a few nods to his fans (and detractors) The flag, the ministerial red box (rapped pointedly when he spoke of getting to work) and, nestled away at the back, a red bus.

No, not that red bus. Nor the now-famous red buses built out of painted wine boxes. Rather a red, double-decker, London bus featuring the Back Boris 2008 logo – a memento of the mayoralty which influenced him so much, placed carefully where a TV had stood earlier in the day.

It’s the use of this video as the first point of announcement for an important policy that is particularly significant. It’s no secret that some political broadcasters have at times been a bit antagonistic, and that there are some tensions in the relationship already. More generally, what every politician really desires is an opportunity to communicate their message directly to voters without edit, limit or interpretation.

Breaking news through a social media broadcast, unfiltered, therefore makes sense. Between Facebook and Twitter this clip was seen by at least 450,000 people throughout the course of the evening, which isn’t bad given there was no pre-publicity to warn the audience in advance. My understanding is that this is a first experiment, and there will be more such broadcasts from the Prime Minister, the audience of which will be closely studied in Downing Street.

In an age which values authenticity, this is an approach with potential, particularly for this Prime Minister. Johnson opens with an invitation, the emphasis on the personal nature of the conversation and the privileged access being offered to viewers: “I’m speaking to you live from my desk in Downing Street”. He has built his career on being distinctive, engaging and entertaining; he’s the Government’s most notable media asset. It would be madness to lock that away behind bland scripts and anonymised official statements.

Previous examples of leaders seeking such direct communication with voters spring to mind, some more successful than others. Stanley Baldwin, the UK’s earliest adopter of broadcasting as a political tool; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous ‘fireside chats’; Harold Wilson’s sometimes ill-advised penchant for television (complete with the affectation of a pipe); Ronald Reagan’s extraordinary run of over 1,000 daily radio commentaries on current affairs prior to becoming President. David Cameron, of course, had WebCameron – sometimes a bit stagey, but always more at ease than Gordon Brown’s rictus efforts at YouTube. There are lessons from each, and all underscore that no politician can afford to stand still while the media changes around him.

It’s encouraging to see the Prime Minister’s team exploring and trying out new ways to cut through to the electorate. Making sure they maintain message discipline while allowing his personality to show will be the key. Relax it too much and it loses its bite; structure it too closely and it risks looking like a hostage video, turning off fans who want to feel they are seeing their Prime Minister as he really is. Get it right, and these broadcasts could have a really big impact.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The life of Gove, Cameron’s Jeeves and Johnson’s stooge

Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry by Owen Bennett (Biteback, £20)

Michael Gove possesses a streak of genius. Before writing this review, I watched again his demolition of Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons in January.

Nobody in the present House does that kind of speech better. Gove is the Prince Rupert of debate. With merciless dash he cut the Leader of the Opposition to pieces and left him a bedraggled laughing stock.

Tory MPs loved this performance, and were reminded that in the leadership contest which must soon come, Gove would deserve serious consideration.

He started well in that contest. Oddly enough, it was a line in this biography which tripped him up. The Daily Mail, which had bought the serialisation rights, lighted on a few lines on page 348, and made them the story.

Owen Bennett had discovered that while Gove was preparing for the tricky questions he might be asked at launch of his previous leadership bid, in 2016, a member of his team had asked him if he had ever taken drugs, and he replied, “Yes, cocaine.”

He was told not to give that answer, and the story only became public, thanks to Bennett, on the evening of Friday 7th June 2019, when the next day’s Mail appeared. By the following Monday, when Gove held his campaign launch in Millbank Tower, the fuss had not died down, and his early momentum had been lost.

In the final ballot of MPs on Thursday 20th June to decide which two candidates would fight it out in front of the membership, Boris Johnson received 160 votes and Jeremy Hunt 77, while Gove came in third with 75.

Bennett’s book ends abruptly at this unsatisfactory moment. We do not get Johnson’s victory a month later, or his appointment of Gove as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in charge of preparations for a No Deal Brexit.

So the book reads like a work in progress. The author reports the known facts of Gove’s life, and concludes:

“given the volatility of UK politics, it is impossible to say if the 2019 leadership contest will prove to be the final opportunity for Gove to achieve his ambition. The man in a hurry could still be the future of the right.”

Those rueful words echo the title of Gove’s own first book, which appeared in 1995 under the title, Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right.

Portillo was not the future of the right. He declined to stand against John Major in 1995, in 1997 lost his seat, returned to the Commons in 1999, but in 2001, when he did at last contest the leadership, came a close third in the final round of voting by MPs, so was eliminated. Iain Duncan Smith, who was only one vote ahead of him, went on to defeat Ken Clarke.

Bennett says of Gove’s book that

“it details Portillo’s life studiously and competently, but is hamstrung by the fact that it feels like – and is written very much in the style of – a prequel to another, more interesting book in which the central character goes on to become Prime Minister.”

The same could be said of Bennett’s book. As a portrait of a remarkable figure, it does not work. Although he got the cocaine story, few people close to Gove have spoken to him, and not much light is cast on the paradoxes and mysteries of Gove’s character. The volume contains many tributes to Gove’s wit, without very often illustrating that quality.

We get his touching love for his adoptive parents in Aberdeen, Christine and Ernest Gove, and theirs for him. He did not wish to contact he mother who had given birth to him, for he thought this would suggest he felt unfulfilled by the life he actually had.

But he knew from an early age he could not follow Ernest into the fish business, and would instead work with words. Christine said of him, “He really just couldn’t pass a bookshop. I had to get books for him all the time.”

He was so gifted the Goves tightened their belts and paid for him to go to Robert Gordon’s College, in the centre of Aberdeen. Here he blossomed into a brilliant schoolboy debater, an activity run by his English teacher, Mike Duncan, who nurtured his love of literature.

Duncan has recalled that while preparing for debates, Gove was “usually pretty clear and logical”. But there were times when, in the heat of battle and filled by the urge to win the argument, the pupil ran off the rails and the teacher felt inclined to say to him, “Your judgment’s gone out of the window here.”

Gove went on to Oxford, where he read English at Lady Margaret Hall and soon made his mark as a debater. Johnson, who is three years older, was already a star of the Oxford Union debating society, which is where Gove met him:

“The first time I saw him was in the Union bar. He was a striking figure with sheepdog hair and penny loafers, standing in a distinctive pose with his hands in his trouser pockets and his head bent forward. He seemed like a kindly, Oxford character, but he was really there like a great basking shark waiting for freshers to swim towards him.”

Bennett quite rightly reproduces, with attribution, that description, given to me by Gove when I was writing my life of Johnson. Gove remarked in that interview that Johnson was “quite the most brilliant extempore speaker of his generation”:

“Boris has the capacity apparently to lose his way in a sentence, like a child in a nativity play. You want him to succeed, and when he does you share in his triumph.”

And as Gove cheerfully added: “I was Boris’s stooge. I became a votary of the Boris cult.”

David Cameron was also at Oxford at this time, but played no part in the Union, and Gove does not appear to have met him.

A generation of politicians starts to come into view, and in due course Gove did become close to Cameron, who recognised him as man of outstanding ability, encouraged him to switch in 2005 from The Times to the Commons, rapidly favoured him over Johnson, and protected him when Gove’s publicly-funded extravagance was exposed during the expenses scandal of 2009.

It might by now be said that Gove was Cameron’s stooge, preparing for and then in 2010 taking charge of the Education portfolio.

But such a scheme, with Gove as a frustrated Jeeves who yearns to take over from Wooster, would run the danger of being too neat. As early as 1998, Gove had met Dominic Cummings, at a breakfast organised by Business for Sterling, and Cummings, who came to work for him at the Education Department, acted, among many other things, as a severe irritant in relations with Number Ten.

In 2014, Gove was shocked to find himself removed from Education and shunted into the by no means suitable role, for a man with a love of telling fascinating things to journalists, of Chief Whip.

Cameron was preparing for the 2015 general election, at which he managed to win an overall majority. The price of victory was high. He had neutralised UKIP by promising to hold an EU referendum, and this in turn led to a seemingly irreparable rift with Gove, who came out for Leave.

So it would be possible to write a life of Gove in which he wearies of being anyone’s stooge, and tries repeatedly to strike out on his own. In the summer of 2016, after he, Johnson and Cummings had led the Leave campaign to victory, Gove reluctantly agreed to back Johnson for the leadership, but within a few days denounced him and decided to run himself.

He did so despite having repeatedly assured everyone that he knew quite well he was not cut out to be Prime Minister.

His campaign was a flop, and the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, sacked him from the post of Justice Secretary, conferred on him after the 2015 general election, in which he had won golden opinions.

After she had received a huge, indeed slowly terminal shock in the 2017 general election, she brought him back as Environment Secretary, and again he won golden opinions.

He stuck with May to the end, then this summer tried once more to strike out on his own, but found himself overwhelmed by Johnson, who had left the sinking ship rather earlier.

It is possible that Johnson now has Cummings and Gove in exactly the right posts, where they can act as indispensable auxiliaries in the disruptive task of driving through Brexit against opposition from a timid, lily-livered Establishment. It is also possible that this is not the case, and there will be a car crash.

If one judges Gove’s life by the conventional but vulgar measure of whether or not he has become Prime Minister, he is, so far, a failure. But as a man whose talents have flowered in the public eye, has reformed great departments of state, and has reduced dinner tables to paroxysms of laughter, he is a conspicuous success.

These events are still too near to be placed in the right relation to each other. Bennett does not attempt that task. He tells the story straight, as if it were one long newspaper report, and Gove becomes almost humdrum.

Future writers will be indebted to Bennett for setting out the present state of knowledge. But one trusts that in the future there will also be someone who can capture Gove’s flair, audacity and wit. We are left hoping, one day, for an outrageously indiscreet autobiography.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Adam Honeysett-Watts: After three years of gloom under May, it’s time for fun with Johnson

Adam Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the financial technology sector. 

Before this leadership election got underway, I wrote that the next leader must be able to tell the Tory story – of aspiration and opportunity – and identified Boris Johnson as the person best-positioned to do that.

Having previously supported David Cameron and then Theresa May, I like to think I back winners – at least, in terms of those who reach the top. That said, while the former will be remembered for rescuing the economy – while giving people the power to marry who they love and an overdue say on Europe – the latter, much to my disappointment, has no real legacy. Johnson should avoid repeating that mistake.

His final column for the Daily Telegraph, ‘Britain must fire-up its sense of mission’, was jam-packed with the kind of Merry England* (or Merry UK) optimism that we experienced during the Cricket World Cup and that the whole country needs right now: “They went to the Moon 50 years ago. Surely today we can solve the logistical issues of the Irish border”. Quite right.

You’ve guessed it, I’m chuffed that Conservative MPs, media and members supported Johnson’s bid to become our Prime Minister. I’m looking forward to May handing him the keys to Number Ten and him batting for us after three, long years of doom and gloom. Sure, optimism isn’t everything – but it can set the tone. A detailed vision must be articulated and executed by a sound team.

Whichever side you were on before the referendum (or are on now), in the short term, we need to redefine our purpose, move forward with our global partners, unite the UK – and defeat Corbynism.

Mid-term, we should invest further in our national security and technology, improving education and life chances and encouraging greater participation in culture and sport, as well as boosting home ownership. Plus the odd tax cut here and there would be well-advised.

However, we must not put off having debates – for fear of offending – about controlling immigration and legalising drugs, and about funding for health and social care, as well as protecting the environment, for these issues matter and will matter even more in the future.

We should also avoid the temptation to ban political expression, alternative media and sugary foods, and celebrate instead free speech, press freedom and the right to choose.

Again, I look forward to Johnson peddling optimism and hope that people get behind him, because, ultimately, he will write our next chapter – and if we jump onboard and provide support, much more can be achieved by us all working together.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Luke Tryl: The next Prime Minister must complete the education revolution

Lule Tryl is Director of the New Schools Network. He is a former Director of Strategy at Ofsted, and former Special Adviser.

While his forthcoming book will, no doubt, try and set the record straight, David Cameron must by now be resigned to the fact that he will largely be remembered for Brexit. More charitable types will cite the introduction of equal marriage, the commitment to 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid, or his work tackling the budget deficit, but when it comes to Cameron’s legacy, most will likely miss the most important area of reform during his administration – education.

True, the Coalition Government’s education reforms are more closely associated with Michael Gove than David Cameron, and it’s undoubtedly true that both the policy innovation and determination to drive through reform came from Gove, Nick Gibb and Nicky Morgan’s leadership at the Department for Education (DfE). But the simple fact is, they were given the license to operate because they had a Prime Minister who, having been a Shadow Education Secretary himself, was a passionate believer in the cause of improving education.

I remember a meeting in 2015 as Nicky Morgan’s Special Adviser during the spending review negotiations in which George Osborne, then Chancellor, remarked “I don’t know whether it makes you lucky or unlucky, but education spending is one of the areas the Prime Minister will take most interest in”. It was a level of interest I saw throughout my time at the DfE. Fundamentally, Cameron, perhaps conscious of his own life advantages, recognised that there was no point in trumpeting the traditional Conservative mantra of meritocracy while we had a school system that simply didn’t offer equality of opportunity.

That is exactly what the reforms introduced by his Government did. On the standards side, changes to the curriculum ensured that all children, not just the privileged few, are exposed to the best that had been thought and said, new gold-standard qualifications genuinely prepare young people for work and further study, and grade inflation has been stopped; on the structures side, turbo-charging the academies programme has given more head teachers the freedom to run their schools in the way they know best and to support other schools. Arguably, most radical of all was the free schools programme which gave teachers, parents and employers who weren’t happy with their local schools the chance to demand something different for their community and open a new school.

Those reforms have worked. We now have 1.9 million more children in Good or Outstanding schools compared to 2010, more children are on course to become better readers thanks to the phonics check, and more will have mastered the 3Rs by the end of primary school. Across the country, free schools have brought in innovative practice, are the top performing schools at GCSE and A-Level, and are 50 per cent more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted than other schools.

Unfortunately, as with so much domestic policy, Brexit sapped the momentum from education reform. This was compounded by the Government’s disastrous attempt to promote grammar schools, which undermined the central premise of earlier reforms – that every child should receive a rigorous academic education up until age 16 – while the surprising impact of school cuts campaigners on the 2017 election has meant that the debate has since been dominated by arguments around funding and workload rather than standards.

But the cause of education reform has never seemed more urgent. Most of us recognise that while much of it was about the EU, the Brexit vote was also about something else: communities that felt left behind, pushing back against a rigged system. A system where because of poor schools and lack of opportunity, parents no longer believe that their children will have better lives than they do. The Sutton Trust’s latest report confirmed what many already assumed – the top echelons of society continue to be dominated by those who were privately educated. And of course, while it is no fault of their own, the fact that both candidates to be the next leader of the Conservative Party were educated at elite public schools is not the greatest advertisement of the Party’s commitment to meritocracy.

That is why the charity I run, the New Schools Network, is urging the two leadership candidates to put education policy back at the heart of their Government.

Both candidates have committed to increasing school funding, and the case for extra resources for our schools is undeniable. But money alone isn’t enough. Simply throwing more investment at schools will not raise standards in and of itself.  The next Prime Minister also needs to complete the reform programme.  That means restoring the incentives for good schools to become academies so that they can share their expertise with underperforming ones. It means reaffirming the commitment to 100 new free schools a year, focused on the areas that need them most, and cutting down the bureaucracy that is stifling the next wave of innovative schools coming through. It means investing in alternative provision free schools for excluded kids, because every child deserves a chance to get their education back on track and to be kept safe from the risk of grooming and gangs.

The Government’s record on education since 2010 is one they can be proud of, but there is still much to do. The Prime Minister who gave a rallying cry against burning injustices may be on her way out of Downing Street, but the biggest injustice of all – the uneven distribution of educational opportunity – remains. Whether it’s Hunt or Johnson, the next Prime Minister should make it their number one priority that when their time comes to leave Downing Street, their legacy has been to finally tackle it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ryan Shorthouse: How to boost integration

Ryan Shorthouse is the Founder and Director of Bright Blue, and co-author of Distant neighbours? Understanding and measuring social integration in England

Concern about a lack of social integration in the UK has been high for some time. In 2015, David Cameron even ordered a review into the state of social integration in the country. Published a year later, Dame Louise Casey’s Review into opportunity and integration concluded that successive governments have failed to ensure that social integration in the UK has kept up with the “unprecedented pace and scale of immigration”.

But what is social integration, and how can we strengthen it? That is the focus of Bright Blue’s latest report, published today.

We propose that neighbourhood trust should be at the heart of our understanding and measurement of social integration, since it is indicative of positive, meaningful and sustained interactions in a local area. Admittedly, neighbourhood trust is only capturing that between members of a community, not necessarily between people from different ethnic groups. In truth, then, neighbourhood trust would only be a good measure of social integration if that trust is high in an ethnically heterogeneous community.

Furthermore, since it is possible for people to trust their neighbours on the basis of them being in the same ethnic group, high levels of neighbourhood trust in ethnically diverse communities only indicate high levels of social integration when the local area is not residentially segregated. This is an important qualification that needs to be included when measuring levels of social integration.

We recommend that the Government, as well as local and combined authorities and public bodies, utilise this new measure of social integration. Specifically, the Government should produce a ten-yearly Social Integration Index, measuring levels of social integration across all different local authorities in the country. This Social Integration Index could consider incorporating other measures, such as levels of deprivation.

Bright Blue has had an initial attempt at this new Social Integration index, through independent statistical analysis the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Citizenship Survey, the 2011 Census and the 2015 Indices of Deprivation, as well as further analysis of the Index of Dissimilarity and the Index of Ethnic Diversity. Based on our proposed measure of social integration, we identified the four most socially integrated local authorities in England as those with relatively high levels of neighbourhood trust, relatively high levels of ethnic diversity and relatively low levels of residential segregation. These are the City of London; Cambridge; Richmond upon Thames, and Milton Keynes.

Our report proposes original policies to boost social integration in England. These are targeted at individuals, to better equip them to socially integrate, and institutions, to increase the opportunities for social integration. In particular, we focus on improving English language competence across all social groups, and reforming schools so they can support greater social mixing between young people.

First, on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course. Overall funding for them has fallen by 56 per cent from 2009-10 to 2016-17, which has been accompanied by a decline in participation from 179,000 to 114,000 people in the same time period.

The Controlling Migration Fund is a £100 million bidding fund launched in 2016 by the government to assist local authorities which are impacted the most by recent immigration to ease pressures on their services. Plans for the Controlling Migration Fund beyond 2020 are supposed to be considered during the next Spending Review.

Considering the importance of English language skills for social integration in this country, we recommend in our report that the Government continues the Controlling Migration Fund beyond 2020 and dedicates a minimum and significant proportion of it for funding ESOL projects. This will give local authorities who are under the most pressure a guaranteed resource with which they could provide ESOL courses to meet higher levels of demand.

Second, on National Citizen Service, which is a government-sponsored voluntary initiative for 15-17 year olds where they engage with a range of extracurricular activities that include outdoor team-building exercises, independent living and social action projects. The scheme currently operates both a four-week and a one-week version during school holidays.

National Citizen Service appears to improve some indicators of social integration in its participants, including increasing levels of trust in others and making it more likely to describe their local area as a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

We recommend that the UK Government trials delivering at least one week of NCS to all Year 9 or Year 10 students in all state secondary schools in England during term time. If the trial is successful, the Government should introduce a legal duty for all state secondary schools in England to provide at least one week of NCS to either all Year 9 or Year 10 pupils, depending on which cohort is found to be responding best to the scheme. The optimal length of time of the NCS during term time, ranging from one week to one month, should also be discovered through the trial and introduced during national rollout.

Finally, on school linking programmes. This involves bringing together classrooms of children from demographically diverse schools with the aim of increasing social contact between groups who would otherwise not meet. This can involve a range of collaborative activities, including exchanging work, joint drama, arts and sports sessions, and even community projects for older pupils. School linking can have a positive impact on many aspects of pupils’ skills, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, including broadening the social groups with whom pupils interact.

The Pupil Premium is additional funding for state-funded primary and secondary schools designed to help disadvantaged pupils, such as those receiving free school meals and looked-after children, perform better. It is awarded for every eligible pupil in school and schools have significant freedom in how to spend it. Making part of this funding conditional on participating in a school linking scheme could incentivise participation in such programmes. As independent schools are not eligible to receive Pupil Premium payments, their participation in school linking programme must be incentivised through a separate mechanism. We recommend making the charitable status of such schools contingent on participation in a school linking programme.

There is no simple, straightforward solution to strengthen social integration. The limitations of public policy have to be recognised and respected, especially in regards to people being free to develop the relationships they want. And, crucially, social integration is a two-way street. It is not enough to say migrants and their children must do more to integrate; native Brits must also make an effort to welcome and involve newcomers.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hustings in Maidstone. Johnson offers glutinous harmony while Hunt declares himself the better Jeremy

The tour is coming to an end. The two stars, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, will soon have other engagements, depending on the verdict the audience reaches on this one.

Last night they performed before a thousand Conservatives at the Kent Showground, outside Maidstone, in a huge green shed next to the Cattle Marquee.

Hunt, who went second, adopted the manner of a pained but amiable grown up who feels obliged to warn that the party is in danger of getting out of hand.

He has nothing against Conservatives having fun: “Optimism is a great thing and I love Boris for his optimism, but it’s got to be optimism grounded in reality.”

According to Hunt, there is “a big risk if we approach Brexit in a headlong way” of ending up with a general election and Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten.

But all is not lost: “We can choose our own Jeremy!”

As he said this, Helen Whately, MP since 2015 for Faversham and Mid Kent, gave a great whoop from just behind the press seats.

The idea of using Jeremy to beat Jeremy did not, however, rouse the audience as a whole to more than polite applause. Many of them were more stirred by the idea of using Johnson to get Brexit done by 31st October.

That was his opening pledge, and it produced a favourable reaction. Soon he was describing how he would do it. He would look after the EU nationals who are living here (a respectable level of applause, for Conservatives are by no means as illiberal as they are painted).

And he would “suspend” the £39 billion we contribute to the EU “in a state of creative ambiguity until such time as we get what we want.”

Not everyone would feel comfortable commending “creative ambiguity” as a key element in their negotiating position. Here, on the other hand, is Jonathan Powell, describing its role in the Northern Ireland peace process:

“The part played by ambiguity in a negotiation is complicated and needs careful handling. In the initial stages, ambiguity is often an essential tool to bridge the gap between irreconcilable positions. The only way we could get over decommissioning at the time of the Good Friday Agreement was to make its terms ambiguous so that each side was able to interpret the Agreement as endorsing their position…constructive ambiguity took the strain.”

That sort of careful justification might be given by Hunt. In Johnson’s hands, creative ambiguity means keeping the other side guessing.

He passed swiftly on to lighter matters, including the ingredients, such as whey, required “to make the Mars Bars in Slough on which our children depend.”

He charged onwards: “Where there’s a will there’s a whey, as I never tire of saying.” This line he has used on an unknown number of previous occasions, but it still produced a decent laugh.

Hunt’s line, that he is an entrepreneur, though he himself asks in an ironic tone whether he has ever told us this before, is somehow less enjoyable.

Hannah Vaughan Jones, the journalist who interviewed each candidate in turn, asked Johnson how he would describe his temperament.

He replied: “I would say eirenic.” A moment’s silence, for many people could not remember what this meant.

Johnson explained that he is “approaching a state of almost glutinous harmony with my fellow Conservatives”.

It is likely that in the ever widening field of Johnson studies, entire books, or PhD theses, or at least entire paragraphs, will one day be devoted to his use of the term “almost glutinous harmony”.

In October 2009, he spoke on Newsnight of the “almost glutinous harmony” between himself and David Cameron at Oxford.

The joke of this is that he and Cameron were not close, yet when it suited them could make a show of closeness. So Johnson is exaggerating in order to show, in a comic way, how bogus the claim is.

And yet it is not totally bogus. There is some sort of affinity between himself and Cameron, and indeed between himself and his fellow Conservatives. The subject eludes definition. We are back to creative ambiguity.

Someone in the audience asked a good question: “How are you going to sort out Tory Remainers who would rather bring down the Government than let us leave with No Deal?”

Johnson replied: “It’s not Remain and Leave any more.”

He added: “I think there’s a real spirit of compromise now in our party.”

Is this true? Nobody knows for sure, or at least nobody can prove the question one way or the other.

Conservatives seemed to be getting on in a perfectly civilised way with each other at the hustings. A group of Johnson supporters lined up to welcome their man, followed by a smaller group of Hunt supporters to welcome their man.

Various drivers waited outside the venue for the Conservatives they had brought to the event. Here was a husband waiting for his wife, and, rather movingly, two parents, neither of them a Conservative voter, waiting for their son, who at the age of 16 has joined the party in order to vote in this leadership election.

These thousand Conservatives did not correspond to the ignorant caricatures sometimes offered in the press of the party’s membership. They took the decision seriously, and were well aware of wider public opinion.

So when Johnson was asked whether as Prime Minister he would call a free vote in Parliament on hunting with dogs, and he replied that he did not think “in all candour” that this is the moment to put hunting “at the top of our standard”, he received solid applause.

Hunt tried in vain to score off his opponent. The Foreign Secretary was amiable, professional and astute, but could not connect with the audience in the way that Johnson did.

Johnson is relaxing into this contest. Because he feels himself to have an unassailable lead, he can dare to play his natural game, mixing serious observations with frivolous ones, in a manner infuriating to some people but attractive to a larger number.

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Iain Dale: The hustings. From Manchester to Belfast – and on to Nottingham.

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

‘Populist’ has replaced the phrase ‘Alt right’ as the lefty choice of word to insult politicians on the Right. Boris Johnson is often now described as a ‘populist’ politician. It’s meant to put him in the same class as Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orban and, of course, Donald Trump.

He is, of course, nothing like them if you actually look at what he believes. As I put it to him at one of the hustings, he’s actually very much on the liberal side of conservative thinking.

This is the man who once flirted with an amnesty for illegal immigrants. This is the man who has an exemplary record of supporting the adoption of pro-gay rights legislation. On that point, it’s always good to remind Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters that Johnson voted to repeal Section 28 in 2002. Corbyn did not.

Brexit blinkers those who just view Johnson through the ‘populist’ prism. They deliberately ignore the rest of his beliefs in a vain attempt to smear him as some sort of far-right ideologue. My suspicion is that if he goes on to win the leadership, we’ll see a government that is very far from what the Guardian and its ilk likes to imagine.

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Talking of the hustings, I’ve now compered five of them, with number six coming up tomorrow morning in Nottingham.

One of the challenges is to keep things fresh and to introduce new areas of questioning on each occasion. In Manchester on Saturday, I decided to devote my ten minutes with each candidate to Northern Powerhouse issues. Rather hilariously, just before we went on stage I got a text from Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, with a couple of questions for the candidates – well, five actually.

I rather theatrically waved my phone at the 800 strong audience and asked them if I should ask Johnson a question from Mayor Burnham. “YEEEES”, they cried. So I did. The audience then clapped the question, and he then paid tribute to Burnham and agreed with the thrust of the question. Strange times.

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At the end of interviews with the candidates, I have taken to asking them a light-hearted question. The answers  often give people a very different insight into the candidates’ characters, and also demonstrate an ability (or lack thereof) to think quickly on their feet.

In Manchester, I had forgotten to prepare such a question, so I just asked something very simple: which place in the North West that they had visited had left the most memorable impression. OK – not very original and not exactly the most challenging question I have ever asked.

Johnson chose the Midland Hotel in Manchester…and I could almost sense the collective mind of the audience start to boggle. He then explained that, in 1906, Winston Churchill had held a very important meeting there, the details of which now escape me.

It then came to Jeremy Hunt’s turn. I’m pretty sure he hadn’t heard Johnson’s answer, but he too gave the Midland Hotel as his choice. He looked rather perplexed when the audience collapsed into fits of laughter. He then went on to explain that it was where Mr Rolls met Mr Royce. Who knew?

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On Tuesday morning, I got up at 5.30am to fly to Belfast from Heathrow. Apparently, I wasn’t deserving of a place on the private jet which flew the candidates and their entourages there!

Unusually for me, all the travel plans went smoothly, and I arrived at Belfast City Airport on time. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Northern Ireland politics, so I spent some time getting a briefing from someone who does. Always a good idea when you’re keen to avoid causing some sort of diplomatic incident.

I arrived at the venue quite early, and spent some time talking to audience members as they started trickling into the hall. Hunt varied his standard hustings speech rather more than Johnson did – and we were spared another rendition of the McHuntyface joke.

Praise be. I know it’s difficult when there are 16 different hustings to do a different speech at each, but both candidates would be well advised to shake it up for the final eight. If they don’t the media will lose interest.

I had been told by various people in advance of the Belfast hustings that Northern Ireland Conservatives were just like English Tories but about 20 years behind in terms of their social views. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the questions in Belfast were of a better quality and incisiveness than at any of the other hustings so far. And they were generally quite progressive, and not obsessed with issues which only related to Northern Ireland. It was also good to see so many under-30s in the audience.

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The styles of the two candidates are clearly very different. Hunt is never going to match Johnson for rhetorical flourish, but his great asset is his unflappability in his response to hostile questioning. And there’s been some pretty tough questions from each of the audiences.

He sits up, back ramrod straight, then leans into the audience and tries to reassure them. It’s part of the reason David Cameron appointed him Health Secretary. He has a nice, reassuring bedside manner and the audiences have liked it.

– – – – – – – – – –

Let me finish by paying tribute to a 16-year-old British Asian lad called Ajay who sent in a question to the Manchester hustings, and which I chose as one of those to ask Johnson.

His question was a challenging one, both to ask and for Johnson to answer. When I called Ajay to ask his question, he stumbled with his words a little. I willed him on.

He explained that he suffered from clinical depression and mental health issues and wanted to know what a Boris Johnson led government would do to help people like him. He used the phrase: “If you are elected…”. Some wag in the audience shouted out: “You mean when…”

That could have easily put Ajay off his stride, but it didn’t – and he completed his question. I really hoped the audience would applaud him, as it must have taken balls of steel to ask that question, especially given his age. The crowd didn’t let me down, and nor did Johnson, who gave a very detailed answer on what he would do to expand mental health services.

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You’ll have noticed that I’ve been scrupulously balanced in this column, and said positive things about both candidates. I’ll save any negative things for the memoirs! Actually, truth be told, that would be a short paragraph. I’ve actually been impressed by how both of them have done so far. I think the whole process has been handled well by both of them.

In addition, let me conclude (again!) by paying tribute to Brandon Lewis and the CCHQ team who have organised these hustings at very short notice. He leads a highly professional team and I can’t speak highly enough of everyone involved. A job well done, but it’s not finished yet.

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Mark Harper: We need a date for Britain to leave the EU. But here’s why it can’t be October 31st – much as I’d like it to be.

Mark Harper is a former Chief Whip, and MP for the Forest of Dean.

We now have two candidates left in the Conservative Party leadership contest, and I am sorry to disappoint – but I will not be disclosing which I am going to back, although whoever wins will have my full support to make their leadership of the Party I love as successful as it can be. I think the next Prime Minister, whoever it is, needs a realistic plan to keep our promises and deliver Brexit.

Like most Conservatives, I’d love to leave the EU as soon as possible, and I voted to leave on the March 29th and April 12th. The current extension to Article 50 runs to October 31st – which is the EU’s date, not ours. As a former Chief Whip, it’s my judgement that it isn’t credible to say either that the present deal can be negotiated, or that a new can, and be got through both Houses of Parliament by the end of October.

But I don’t think we should carry on kicking the can down the road, either. After our disastrous showing in both the local and European Parliament elections, I want to make sure that Britain has left the European Union before we have any more elections. We must leave between October 31 this year and March next year. We can’t go into the 2020 elections for important Mayoral positions and Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales without having delivered our promise to leave the European Union.

If the Government is faced with the choice of leaving without a deal or never leaving at all, I believe we should leave without a deal. My view is that the Commons will allow this to happen if Conservative colleagues are persuaded that the Government has done everything it can to secure a deal, but it simply isn’t possible to do so. I don’t believe that colleagues will be persuaded of that by October 31st, so leaving without a deal on that date isn’t credible.

From the moment the new Prime Minister assumes office, he should take every step required to ensure that we are in a position to leave without a deal if that proves necessary.

So how are we going to get a new deal? The key is to build strong relationships, both across the Conservative Parliamentary Party, with our DUP allies, and with our European partners.

First, the new Prime Minister needs to properly engage and listen to the views of our Conservative MPs. The Conservative Parliamentary Party, having been heard and properly consulted, can then unite around the new strategy.

We can only get Brexit delivered, as I argued last October on this site, with the votes of Conservatives, our DUP allies and a handful of backbench Labour MPs. We cannot trust the Labour front bench: its job is to oppose us, and Jeremy Corbyn wants to destroy us.

We must also face up to the reality that the current unamended ‘deal’ is dead. The only thing for which Parliament has signalled approval is the present ‘deal’ without the backstop.

So must go back to Brussels and open real and transparent discussions to change the backstop. After the Brady amendment’s approval in January and credible work on alternatives, I haven’t seen any evidence that the Prime Minister or Cabinet seriously pursued this course of action when it had the chance to earlier this year.

The second element of a credible Brexit plan must involve setting the right relationship with our EU partners – both the Commission and the heads of government of the member states.

The new Prime Minister and Cabinet must use their diplomatic and communication skills – both bilaterally and collectively – to get the tone of these relationships right. We need to show the EU what a positive post-Brexit relationship could look like – covering trade and the economy, security and defence – and clearly articulate how it’s best for both sides to get this right.

Then we can put forward a proper plan to change the backstop and protect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

The third part of this Brexit plan should involve building strong relationships both with the Republic of Ireland, and with both communities and all Parties in Northern Ireland.

This final element of the plan is crucial. The EU will only move on the backstop with reassurance about both the integrity of the Belfast Agreement and the Single Market. We need a serious and credible figure to lead the Northern Ireland Office and tackle these issues head on.

It is vital to rebuild a proper relationship with the Republic of Ireland. We work very closely with Irish officials on everything from the operation of the Common Travel Area, to our efforts to crack down on smuggling at the present currency, VAT and excise border and regularly share intelligence and security resources to ensure both countries are kept safe. This was something I saw first-hand when serving as Immigration Minister under David Cameron.

Our relationship with the Republic of Ireland should not only be with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, but also with the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil. As a general election in Ireland becomes a less distant prospect, we need to avoid the backstop becoming a partisan electoral issue in that contest.

In Northern Ireland, we need to make swift progress in re-establishing the Executive at Stormont, driven by a renewed effort from the new Prime Minister and Secretary of State. As the Conservative and Unionist Party, we owe it to everyone in Northern Ireland to restore a functioning devolved government.

This task will be difficult, but the role of Northern Ireland in achieving a successful exit from the European Union for the whole United Kingdom together will be critical.

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Richard Chew: We need to professionalise the Special Advisers

Richard Chew was a special adviser to David Cameron and Theresa May between 2015 and 2019.

An occasional criticism of British political advisers is that they swan around pretending to be in The West Wing. Any pretensions I might have had to this were ended on my first day in Downing Street. In one episode of the US TV hit, a character faces a moral dilemma after finding out that in any emergency he will be evacuated with the President, while his closest colleagues will be left behind. In the security briefing that followed my appointment as a special adviser to David Cameron, it was made abruptly clear to me that in any emergency situation I get left behind.

As well as putting a new staff member firmly in his place, this episode stood out for being pretty much the only formal induction process when I started working for the Government. My experience matches that of most of my colleagues: you get a Blackberry, an email address, a password and told to crack on. I was fortunate to benefit from the support and mentoring of outstanding colleagues, both in government and at CCHQ. Yet starting to work for the Government is a blizzard of jargon, acronyms and bureaucracy. I spent the first few months struggling to get to grips with this, grateful at least that I was in Number 10, where there are plenty of political colleagues to turn for advice, rather than in a department which typically has only two or three special advisers.

Faced with challenges on all sides, improving the support given to special advisers is one of the easiest things the Party could do to boost its survival chances. Change should happen in a number of areas, starting with better support when people start in government. Recruitment should be made more systematic, with a greater focus on a pipeline of future SpAds and more support for incoming Secretaries of State to hire the right people. Specific training should be provided, given the wide range of skills and expertise advisers need. The whole system of pay and progression needs fundamental reform. Turnover is naturally high, but there should be more use of the expertise of former SpAds.

Some readers with an already low opinion of special advisers may not find these shortfalls in the system particularly surprising, or even worth fixing. I would naturally disagree. Special advisers are for the most part extremely talented and politically committed, and play a crucial role in the success of the Conservative Party.  Vastly outnumbered in government by civil servants, they work every day (and many nights) to bend the government machinery in a Conservative direction: trying to deliver election promises, avoiding political pitfalls, and developing a strategic platform and policy programme to keep Labour out of power. The better special advisers can do their job, the better the Party as a whole can do.

Leadership candidates may find criticising special advisers an easy clap line in MP hustings. But effective special advisers will make their job easier – as the candidates, who have been Secretaries of State, know full well. The next Prime Minister will face profound challenges. Overcoming them needs every part of the Party – elected, voluntary and professional – operating at their peak. Improving the support available to special advisers is low-hanging fruit to achieve this, and the new Prime Minister would reap the benefits.

The issues I have described are well known, and the solutions are fairly straightforward. Any decent size business gives its employees more support than special advisers currently receive. Several of my former colleagues put in a lot of time and work – on top of their main roles – to improve the situation, and the picture has improved thanks to their efforts.

However, the next Prime Minister has the opportunity to go further. He will soon appoint people to be in charge of policy, communications, strategy and other key functions. He should appoint someone with specific responsibility for managing the professional political team across government. This would supply real impetus for the change that is needed. It would help manage a transition where large numbers of SpAds will likely leave, join or change roles. It would build into the system a focus on professionalisation that outlives whoever first fills that post.

Getting this right is especially important given the likelihood of an early general election, when ministers lose the support of the civil service. At this point they – and the rest of the Party – rely even more on professional staff to develop the policies and message we will take to the country on the doorsteps and the airwaves. Continued Conservative government depends on getting that right.

‘Professional politician’ often gets thrown round as a term of abuse. Yet British politics is far from a profession, in the sense of a job requiring any formal training or expertise. Our Party would benefit from becoming more truly professional.

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