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Daniel Hannan: The Johnson tape, the Field incident. So much was said about both. But why the silence about the Kirklees arrests?

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

We learned at the end of last week that West Yorkshire Police had arrested 44 people as part of a probe into organised sexual abuse. Not that you’ll have seen much about it on TV or in the weekend newspapers, which were instead obsessed first with the eco-protesters who had invaded the Lord Mayor’s banquet, and then with fact that Boris Johnson’s girlfriend had reportedly shouted at him.

Some columnists worked themselves into a lather about how shocking it was for an MP to manhandle a female protester. Others – and this was trickier since, in the Johnson case, the police confirmed that nothing untoward had happened – sounded off about domestic abuse in general, and how public-spirited the snooping neighbours had been. Almost no-one thought it worth talking about grooming.

It’s true, of course, that we don’t know the details of what happened in Kirklees. The presumption of innocence must apply in this as in any other case. Still, given what we know about similar cases in Yorkshire, and given the gravity of the accusations, isn’t there a pretty strong public interest in the arrests? The investigation, after all, concerns the systematic rape of underage girls. I know there is a growing list of Subjects On Which Male Columnists Are Not Allowed An Opinion, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that all of us, men and women, can recognise that prolonged exploitation and sexual abuse is worse than being frogmarched out of a room or having wine spilled on your sofa.

Why, then, the imbalance in column inches? Google “West Yorkshire grooming” and you’ll mainly find advertisements for dog and cat parlours. The arrests were reported in local newspapers and on regional television, but made barely a dent in the national media.

Is it, as some will allege, a liberal conspiracy to cover up crimes committed by Muslims? Hardly. Yes, there are journalists who are squeamish about cases of this kind, and hyper-sensitivity about imagined racism was an exacerbating factor in the Rotherham abominations. But that doesn’t explain why there was so little coverage in conservative, as well as Leftist, media.

Something else – and something every bit as ugly – is going on. The reason that there was such a disproportionate focus on the Field and Johnson stories is that they could be dragged into the horrible culture war which defines our politics. In both cases, people could (and did) take sides according to their existing affiliations. In both cases, people began with their conclusions and fitted the facts to their prejudices. Depending on their politics, they saw either an MP reacting instinctively to someone who had barged in and might be armed, or a nasty Tory bullying a woman. Depending on their politics, they saw either some vaguely wrong behaviour from Johnson (no one could quite put their finger on what) or a snooping Leftie neighbour fabricating a story.

The point is, in either version, there are villains. That is what makes the culture war at once so arresting and so revolting. People can enjoy fulminating against (delete as appropriate) evil Tory MPs or awful Leftist protesters and sneaks. They can revel in their righteous indignation. In the Kirklees case, by contrast, there is no alternative interpretation. No one, however uncomfortable they might feel about stories like this coming out, is seriously going to defend rapists and abusers.

Culture wars are primarily defined by what and whom we dislike. For example, I am broadly pro-immigration, but I don’t think of people who oppose immigration as morally flawed, so fellow supporters of immigration tend to see me as being ranged against them. Similarly, I was a supporter of equality for gay people long before most Cameroons. But, again, I refuse to dismiss people who disagree with me as numbskulls and homophobes. This puts me on the other side from those for whom the rights of gay people are secondary to the delight in inveighing against imagined bigots.

The tendency to misunderstand, caricature and define yourself against others is encoded deep in our DNA. Studies show that misrepresentation of political opponents is more common among educated people, and especially among the politically active. This might seem counter-intuitive: you’d think that those who followed politics would have a clearer sense of what the other party stood for.

But no, those of us who are politicos (and that includes you, reader) tend to define “our” tribe in ideological terms rather than through, say, sports teams. We are then prompted by our Palaeolithic genes to dislike and disbelieve representatives from rival tribes. It affects, not just how we would like to see the world, but how we actually see it. Conservatives genuinely saw an MP public-spiritedly dealing with a potential terrorist; Leftists genuinely saw a man bullying a woman. (Had it been, say, a female Brexit campaigner being manhandled after shouting at Chuka Umunna, the line-up would have been different.)

This tendency is not new. But it is getting worse, here as in most developed democracies. “Yeah, because of Brexit”, some readers will say, inadvertently revealing their own confirmation bias. Actually – and you might think this a confirmation bias of mine – the polarisation came after the campaign, and has deepened with every passing day as the issue of Brexit has dominated the news. Look at how many people who, before 2016, were not especially fussed one way or the other, are now prepared to go to any lengths to hurt the other side. Witness, for example, the way the Guardian, which campaigned high-mindedly for years against tabloid intrusion, thought nothing of publishing remarks recorded from inside a private house.

What changed? In a word, the division became tribal. Brexit is no longer about trade, budgets or sovereignty. It is now about whom we dislike, caricatured respectively as elderly bigots who fell for lying demagogues or as sneering snobs who despise their own country.

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” said Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Neither did I. But plenty of people have withdrawn friendships since the referendum – one of many reasons that stirring it all up again with a second poll would be catastrophic.

Settling the Brexit issue – ideally by leaving the EU and becoming its closest friend and partner – will not, in itself, end this ghastly partisanship. The tribalism will transfer to something else unless we rediscover our sense of common purpose, our understanding that fellow citizens with whom we disagree are opponents rather than enemies.

“Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally,” said George Washington in his farewell address. “This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.”

Amen, General. Amen.

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Sajid Javid: I’m in this race because I want to level the playing field, to lower the ladder to everyone.

Sajid Javid is the Home Secretary, and MP for Bromsgrove.

The first time I felt like an outsider was when I was six years old. My cousin told me we needed to change our walking route to school because of the ‘bad kids’ who supported the National Front.

At school, when I wanted to do the O levels and A levels I needed, I was told that kids like me should know their limits. When I was a new graduate seeking a job in the City, I met old-school bankers in old school ties who thought what my father did for a living was more important than what I could do. And when, after 20 years in business, I wanted to give back to my country by moving into politics and looked for a place in the only party I had ever supported, there were those who told me it just wasn’t for me, or that I should join Labour.

So I am used to people trying to tell me what I can’t do, and I’m used to proving people wrong. That is why I am optimistic and determined about what we Conservatives can do, together, to fix the problems we are facing as a party and as a country.

I have put myself forward to become the next Prime Minister of our United Kingdom because I believe I am uniquely placed to deliver on the three most significant challenges that our country faces. We need to deliver Brexit. We need to unify our party and our country. And, for the good of that country, we need to keep Labour out of government.

I’ve got a credible and honest plan to deliver Brexit. I’ve got the background, experience and positive vision for the future that will bring us together. And if we get all that right, then we will keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10.

This is a moment for a new kind of leadership and a new kind of leader. We can’t risk going with someone who feels like the short-term, comfort-zone choice. Our party needs to “change to win”, not unlike we did a decade ago.

At a time when our country feels so divided, we cannot afford to divide it still further. We cannot call ourselves a One Nation party if whole swathes of that nation don’t think we share their values or understand their needs, whether that’s young people, people from minority backgrounds, or working-class people who don’t see anyone who knows what their lives are like.

I’m not in politics to be a player in the game of thrones. I want to make a difference. I take people at face-value. I’m more of a man of action than words. I first took an interest in politics when I realised the power government had to give – or not give – people the opportunities they deserve. That will be the acid test for my policy agenda.

For me the fundamental question about the role of the state is whether – as the socialists believe – government should tell people what to do and how to live, or whether – as Conservatives have always said – it should give them the freedom and support they need to achieve their potential. I know where I stand, but for too many people this has become a discussion about abstract ideas rather than very real lives.

I’m in this race because I want to level the playing field, to lower the ladder to everyone. For me hard work, public services, and my family were the success factors. I want everyone in this country to feel that if they have a go, they will have every opportunity to succeed. That requires world-class public services. For me, public services aren’t just names of government departments, they were my ladders of opportunity.

My biggest priority would be education. Our schools, colleges and universities are the biggest engines of social justice we have. I recently laid out a long-term plan for education, ensuring that every child has the chance to get on in life. We need an education system which supports our FE colleges, encourages skills and apprenticeships and allows lifelong learning to become the norm.

We also need to reset our relationship with teachers and other public sector workers, like nurses and the police. I have committed to significantly increasing resourcing for our police, providing enough to get an additional 20,000 officers on our streets.

If we want world-class public services, we need a vibrant economy to pay for them. That means a low tax economy, and a Conservative Government which backs business, rewarding those who work hard and take a chance. It means we need to invest in growth.

I have outlined plans for an ambitious new £100 billion National Infrastructure Fund, to invest in projects which will ensure the British economy is fit for the future. It would prioritise projects outside London and the South East, recognising that we need to rebalance the economy, and deliver economic growth all around the country. This, in turn this will help us build a more united country.

This does not just depend upon economic growth. We must also focus on the root causes which damage life chances. The measure of any society is how we help the most vulnerable. I would focus on early intervention, look at how we tackle addiction, and focus on rehabilitation of offenders.

I believe a vital part of this equation is the role of the family. I was lucky to have a family who constantly encouraged me, but so many problems stem from family breakdown. I would make it a priority to look at how we can strengthen families right across Government.

We also need to build a stronger national family, including overcoming the sense of haves and have-nots. The housing crisis has driven a huge wedge between generations. As Communities Secretary I increased building rates to the highest levels in decades, but we need to go much further, building hundreds of thousands more homes, whole new towns, and get home ownership back up.

I am passionate about our country because, for my family, Britain was a choice. They came here for freedom, security, opportunity and prosperity. It is because of these strengths that I have always been an optimist about Britain’s future. And I believe if we can unite both our party and our country, we can secure for future generations all the things that make this country a beacon for the world.

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The Conservative Women in Parliament Group’s letter to the leadership candidates

Dear leadership candidates,

The Conservative Women in Parliament Group believes that women should have the same freedoms and opportunities as men.

Conservatives have a proud record of promoting gender equality. We have introduced mandatory gender pay-gap reporting and the right to request flexible working. We have led the way legislating on crimes which particularly target women like modern slavery and domestic violence. And, of course, we have had two female Prime Ministers – showing there need be no limits to a woman’s ambition.

But there is more to do. There are so many ways in which women face greater challenges and fewer opportunities in their lives.

Britain should be the best place in the world to be a woman – a country where your talents and hard work, not your identity, background, or gender, determine your success.

As a candidate to be the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister we call on you to explain how you will build on this record and achieve the Conservative vision of a fairer, more equal society.

For instance,

  1. How will you end discrimination on the grounds of gender?
  2. How will you close the gender pay gap and make sure women have equal opportunities to succeed at work?
  3. How will you help families share caring responsibilities and career opportunities more equally?
  4. How will you help women gain equal financial security and independence?
  5. How will you tackle inequalities in health outcomes for women?
  6. How will you tackle sexual harassment and violence against women at home and abroad?
  7. How will you increase the number of women elected to public office?
  8. How will you increase our Party’s electoral appeal to female voters, particularly young women?

We look forward to your response with interest.

  • Helen Whately MP
  • Rachel Maclean MP

Other signatories:

Victoria Atkins MP, Maria Caulfield MP, Mims Davies MP, Vicky Ford MP, Nus Ghani MP, Trudy Harrison MP, Gillian Keegan MP, Maria Miller MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Victoria Prentis MP, Maggie Throup MP, Chloe Smith MP, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.

Baroness Altmann CBE, Baroness Berridge, Baroness Bertin, Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen, Baroness Couttie, Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, Baroness Eaton DBE DL, Baroness Fall, Baroness Finn, Baroness Helic, Baroness Hodgson, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, Baroness Newlove, Baroness Pidding CBE, Baroness Redfern, Baroness Rock.

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Eve Allison: The barriers that women politicians still face

Eve Allison is former Kensington and Chelsea councillor.

Although we make up half the human race, women were usually confined to the estate, house or hovel until relatively recently.  We were not doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants and CEOs.  Indeed, we were not in the military, armed forces, police, or even accepted as undergraduates at Oxford or Cambridge.

Women were tea-makers and ‘mothers’ and guardians of their cultural heritage: rather than being leaders, they were led their husbands.
But we are now coming through in roles in which we are nonetheless still marginalised, and in which the spotlight shines more harshly on a woman, especially as a politician. 
That spotlight is trained on our dress sense rather than our principles and policies – on every word, every nuance and every shoe worn, including heel height.

If one is a woman, a politician (and of colour), one is often met with “the glance”. (“How did you get here?” it asks) or, on the odd occasion, one is told that “you are in the wrong place” and even, sometimes: “oh, you cannot come in here”.

Women need to be in positions of power and should be, where leadership roles are played out, at the heart of where decisions are made and carried to fruition. Women need to be taken seriously in such roles.

If we are talking about real power and acceptance, then women should comprise 50 per cent of the representation in politics, locally and nationally. The grinding issue is related to women standing as councillors and as Parliamentary Candidates – and hence being Members of Parliament.

That last equates to being selected in the first place, and then to actually being elected, and remaining in the role. So what can be done to address the overall retention of women politicians? Are more courses and training workshops the answer, and if so should they pertain to such aspects of a women’s identity as ethnicity?

The ones that stand out to me as a former Conservative councillor are those that purport to “highlight political leadership” aimed at those politicians that are of colour. Are such courses run for politicians who are classed as “white”?

Instead of leadership and any real positive information for politicians of colour, sure enough, cliques open up along ethnic and party lines. Being a lone ‘Blue’ surrounded by a sea of ‘Red’ can often be most frustrating and stifling.

Such courses need to be rooted in proper fact and debate, and not just be check boxes for local councils.  What is evident is that when forums, workshops and development weekends are held for politicians, they are usually well attended by men.

It’s men that write most of the political articles, it’s men that dominate most of the decision-making in local councils and who select committees: it’s mostly men who are cabinet members, locally and nationally.

Perhaps part of the issue is that women do not deal as effectively as they should with being challenged. It is condescending to hear  “What are they doing?” “Why are they doing it?”, “Do they know what they are doing?” and so on.

Equally, for any relatively ambitious female politician, whether local or national, it can be disconcerting in no uncertain terms to be regarded as a “dustbin” case –  and, unlike most of your male cohort, face years of not being offered roles such as lead member, vice chair of a committee, working group lead and perhaps, worst of all, years of ‘the glance’  (as described earlier).

For such women, perhaps the biggest frustration is that of being surrounded by primarily women politicians with no ambition at all, and who expect you to follow suit.

Politicians are elected to represent all sectors of the community and not identities within those communities. So for women politicians, divisions of role, should not equate with division of place or position. The shackles of ‘social conditioning’ must be thrown off and by women themselves going forward.

So the big question is: what is going on with women in politics? What is preventing us from reaching their full potential with regard to political leadership in politics ? Is it a lack of financial stability, or the responsibility of caring roles, such as being parents and mothers, or of being carers for elderly family members ?

Even when women are in senior cabinet roles, these tend not to be in Finance, Planning or Security. They are ‘Cinderella’ senior cabinet roles in Children & Families, Adult Social Care, Public Health, Education and Libraries.

Is this all connected with the perceived inflexibility of the role and, if so, why cannot some of the work be performed from home, and not lead to a demeaning of the role? And what about the use of Skype or video conferencing as tools to help be part of and in place for positions of power?

Surely political leadership in politics is not all about meetings – and yet this seems to be the case. One is measured by not by how many constituents you have assisted, but by how many meetings one has attended.

Furthermore, even in politics the conditioning is persistent in that politicians are judged as either being ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ in relation to these meetings – whether one has uttered a word or not, whether one agrees with what happens or not, or simply makes up the numbers there.

For women politicians, fear and anxiety can be a factor in politics, from the emotional anxiety arising from non-support; from constant chastising and belittlement from fellow political colleagues; from angry and bewildered constituents and the constant grind of social media and beyond.

Histrionics will abound, and yet political leadership opportunities are held by the ‘gate keepers’. This is frustrating if one is not part of the inner circle – or if the lens is not trained on you as a woman politician who wants to go forward, break the mould, break down barriers and perceptions, no matter how long held.

But as a woman politician, irrespective of particular variables, you have a duty as a public servant to keep pushing upwards, keep asking, keep finding ways to circumnavigate and penetrate.  One must work to create fissures and furrows in the inevitable hope that wide canals will follow.

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“The Conservative Party should stand up for all those who feel powerless in Britain today”- Gibb’s reformist speech

This is the full text of a speech delivered today by Nick Gibb, the schools minister, to the Social Market Foundation.

Thank you, James for that introduction. And thank you to the Social Market Foundation and Edelman for hosting and organising this morning’s event.

The SMF notes prominently on its website, “British politics is in flux”. Well, you can say that again. And after several years serving as a minister and very much sticking to my brief under two prime ministers, I wanted to take this opportunity to draw on my experience at the Department for Education and offer a wider perspective on some of the particular challenges that we face.

And by ‘we’, I mean several groups.

I mean the country…as we face up to testing times and seek to find ways to bring people together after years of rancour and division.

I mean the people who run businesses…as trust in business – and in the economic consensus that sustains it – continues to fall.

I mean the Conservative Party…now so consumed by Brexit that our great successes as a government over the past decade – and all the progress we have made as a country – has been forgotten.

And I mean politics as a whole…because what we know from Edelman’s own research is that trust in – and respect for – our political system is falling. And that creates the space for the populists, with their divisive rhetoric and easy solutions, to fill.

That is what we are witnessing today. Populism is on the march. It threatens to upend not just our political system, but so many of the old certainties on which we have come to rely. And it’s on the march for a simple reason: because mainstream politicians have not done enough to listen – let alone respond – to the priorities and concerns of the people who pay our salaries and give us our jobs.

But my conviction this morning is this: it is not too late to turn things around.

For if there is one thing my time at the Department for Education has taught me it is that if you do the hard work nothing is impossible. If you approach each challenge with what Martin Luther King described as the “fierce urgency of now”, change can happen. And a clearly articulated vision, the drive to make it happen, and the determination to see it through can yield extraordinary results.

That is why I believe so passionately in the capacity of politics and politicians to make a difference – to change lives for the better, which is what we all set out to do. Because I have seen it happen. And it is why I recoil when I hear politicians attacking the political process in this country. There will always be disagreements between parties and politicians. But I believe that politics is a noble calling; that people enter a life in politics with good intent; and that politics at its best can provide the forum in which we settle our differences, overcome divisions, and find the compromises that allow us to all move forward together.

Clearly, this may sound like a romantic view given where we are today.

It is widely accepted that we are in the midst of a political crisis, the like of which few of us has experienced before.

We are witnessing a clash between the twin forces of direct and representative democracy which has unbalanced our system of government and thrown it into a tailspin.

But this clash between the two forms of democracy is – like the issue of Brexit itself – about something even more profound. It is about power. And where we believe power should lie.

As much as anything, Brexit is an argument that says power should reside at the level of the nation-state – not at a supranational level where institutions are often unaccountable and typically all too remote.

The vote to embrace Brexit and to leave the EU was partly about the issue of where political power should lie, but it was also driven in large part by people who felt utterly powerless themselves in the face of macro political, economic and social forces over which they had too little control, or none at all. In other words, Brexit was and is about the assertion of power at every level.

And the determination to deliver Brexit is driven by a simple belief: that power should ultimately lie with the people of this country – not with any other body, group or organisation.

In 2016 Parliament and the Government were explicit: the decision whether to leave or not leave the European Union would be decided by the referendum. The people’s decision was final. That is why so many MPs have set aside their own concerns, or have been prepared to compromise by accepting a deal that they think is imperfect, in order to deliver the will of the people. Because ultimately, in a democracy, the people are sovereign. They are the masters. And government is their servant.

It is to the Prime Minister’s eternal credit that she has never once forgotten this fact. Despite all the difficulties, she has always been determined to deliver the will of the people: because she knows that to fail to do so will only reinforce the sense of powerlessness that drove so much of the Brexit vote and risk opening the doors of our democracy to populism.

The crisis of capitalism

Yet, this is where we are today: confronted by the very real prospect of the rise of a narrow-minded and nasty populism of the right led by Nigel Farage or Tommy Robinson and a romantic but equally nasty brand of populist socialism on the left led by Jeremy Corbyn. A man who seeks to create and exploit perceived imbalances of power; who attacks and demeans the media – and encourages his supporters to do the same; who despises our allies while refusing to condemn the actions of our foes; who uses the language and the rhetoric of the populist as he seeks to set one against the other.

Yet who, despite this, continues to command a loyal following among younger voters and managed to attract substantial number of their votes at the last general election just two years ago to put him on the brink of Number 10. And we Conservatives must not kid ourselves that Corbyn’s brand of socialism is so-outdated and extreme that it will not be attractive to those of all backgrounds and economic circumstances who nevertheless feel ignored by our current polity or whose concerns have been left unaddressed.

This fact was brought home to me recently during a trip to the theatre.

The musical Hadestown is a love story, but it carries a deeply political – and undeniably left-wing – message. It denounces the values of capitalism while venerating the ideals of a socialist society.

And as I watched it being performed, I became aware of a remarkable phenomenon. I looked around me. The theatre was full of what would best be described as middle-class young people. Intelligent professionals. The future of this country. Full of idealism and hope. The kind of people who cheered Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury and gave him their vote two years ago. And they cheered again at Hadestown.

It was a revealing moment for me. Because those young people were essentially cheering the destruction of an economic and social system that has done so much more to advance their goals and values than any other the world has ever known.

The capitalist system has done more than any other to lift the poorest out of poverty, to open the world up to exploration, to inspire the inventions that have transformed the ways in which we connect and talk, expand our knowledge, broaden our horizons. It’s a system that has helped us treat diseases that were otherwise regarded as death sentences; that has supported the expansion of freedom where previously repression and dictatorship reigned; that is developing technology to help tackle climate change. And let us remember that it is a system that quite simply helps us to fund the lifestyles we want and the public services we rely on. That helps us to lead the good life we want for ourselves and others.

No other economic or social system comes close to being able to make the claims that capitalism can make. And yet here we are, in 2019, with an audience of intelligent and informed young people cheering its destruction and replacement with something we know to be much worse: systems that crush the spirit of those with an enterprising bent. Socialist systems that always end in one-party states, with freedoms smashed by the jackboot of the secret police. It happened right across Eastern Europe until 1989 and it is happening in Venezuela and North Korea today. Which is why we should worry when a generation of young people seem oblivious to its horrors.

A host of recent studies have shown a creeping tendency for young people in the West to think that democracy – the very thing we so often take for granted – may not necessarily be the best or most viable form of government. One such study from January 2017 found that a quarter of the young people surveyed agreed that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant”.

Given the near unimaginable sacrifice of countless people in the past and in some other parts of the world today, it should come as a profound shock that so many could be so blasé about such fundamental liberties.

The causes of that crisis

This is a political crisis. And it goes to the heart of the crisis of capitalism too as the two things so often go hand in hand.

But if we step back, it is not hard to discern the roots of the crisis. For the evidence is all around. And we – moderate, mainstream politicians – must accept our share of responsibility.

Yes, the capitalist system has lifted people out of poverty and generated millions of new jobs, but it has also created a world in which the average pay ratio between a FTSE 100 CEO in the UK and their employee is 145 to 1. To me and to many, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the wealth created by the capitalist system has extended educational opportunities and helped to increase our collective knowledge, but it has also fostered a system in which a university vice-chancellor can earn £450,000 a year while students leave university plagued by debts as they start out on their working lives. That just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the globalised capitalist system may have broken down borders and fostered a more connected world, but it has also allowed big corporations like Google, Amazon and Facebook to make huge profits and use outdated double tax treaties designed for a mercantilist era to undermine the spirit of taxation that says you should pay your fair share. That just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the capitalist system has benefited many – but it is far from perfect. There will always be those who try to exploit it and so Government has a crucial role to play to enforce the rules, to change them where necessary, and so to maintain public consent. Over the last few decades, Labour and Conservative governments have been guilty of ignoring the steady scream of dissatisfaction, anger and powerlessness that is now overwhelming our political system. So it is essential – both for the defence of capitalism as the best system to govern our economic and social life, but also for the future of the Conservative Party as we face up to the threats of populists like Jeremy Corbyn – to seek to swing the balance of power back in favour of those who too often feel powerless in the face of the big economic and social forces that hold sway.

A party that stands with the powerless

And that means embracing the zeal of the revolutionary and adopting the fierce urgency of now, as we seek to take up the mantle of change.

The starting point is to be clear that the Conservative Party should stand up for all those who feel powerless in Britain today. It should stand for all those who feel they have too little control. It should stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong. It should be the party for all those who feel their voice is unheard as they go about their lives in modern Britain.

We must talk with passion and conviction about the everyday problems of modern life. We need answers to the challenges parents face with the rising costs of child care and the concerns confronting the children of elderly parents navigating their needs for social care. We need answers to the difficulties of would-be first-time house buyers. We need to take action, and be seen to take action, to deal with this generation’s greatest challenge: the devastating impact of climate change.

I believe that there is much for us to learn from the approach we have taken with education over the past few years. We have broken the stranglehold of Local Authorities and shifted the power to parents and pupils. The academies and free schools programme has revolutionised educational provision in this country partly because those schools know they have to be more responsive to local parental demands. We have introduced greater competition, given parents and pupils an element of control – and outcomes have been transformed.

We have successfully taken on the education establishment and changed the way that reading is taught, pushing our country up the international league tables for reading. We have transformed maths teaching both at primary and secondary, reformed our GCSEs, removed thousands of worthless qualifications that the poorest in society were being duped into taking. Grammar, punctuation and spelling are now being taught as never before and we’re testing to ensure children know their times tables.

There is a great deal more to do. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve only just begun when you consider the fact that in Nottingham, which is the 8th most deprived area in the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, 80 per cent of secondary schools are rated good or outstanding compared to just 50 per cent in prosperous Hertsmere, 243rd most deprived out of 326 local authority districts in that same index.

In other words if it is possible for schools to be good or outstanding in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, why can’t it be so in all areas of disadvantage? And if it is possible in some areas of disadvantage, why are there some prosperous areas with too many underperforming schools and poor standards?

Why is it that one state school in east London, Brampton Manor Academy, recently reported that 41 of its students have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge but, although the DfE does not centrally collate information on university offers, looking at the 2017 destination tables, there were no students with an Oxbridge destination from Blaby, Bassetlaw, Braintree, Broxborne, Broadlands (in Norfolk), to name just the local authorities beginning with a B; and none from Chorley, Corby, Castlepoint, – you see where this is going! Overall, there were 45 out of 323 local authority districts with KS5 students without a single student with an Oxford or Cambridge sustained destination. A good education is the fundamental building block for a good life. Ensuring that every child attends a good school must be central to the Conservative Party’s mission to stand for the powerless, ensuring the success of our reforms, the opportunities they represent, is spread to every corner of the country.

So there is more to do in Education, but with vision, drive and determination we have already come so far. And it is this spirit – this revolutionary zeal that has informed our education reforms – which we Conservatives must apply across the full realm of political life as we seek to tip the balance of power in favour of the hardworking people of Britain.

There are some who argue that the anger in our political discord is also driven by the pace of social reform that we have seen over the last two decades. Some seem to relish the kind of culture wars that dominate debate between many Democrats and Republicans in the United States.

I am, unashamedly, a socially liberal Conservative. How could I not be? My life has been completed by legislation introduced by Tony Blair and David Cameron to recognise same sex relationships. Having always believed that marriage and family were the cornerstone of a strong, free and happy society, being able to marry as a gay man was the greatest moment of my life. And what have I discovered since? That my joy has been shared by so many of the people I work with every day, by members of the Bognor Regis and Littlehampton Conservative Association, by constituents who I meet at my surgery, at community coffee mornings, in local businesses, out on the street. I simply don’t buy the argument that the British are a moralistic, disapproving and mean-spirited people.

We are a nation that embraces change, gets on with it, and doesn’t worry too much about what other people do unless it gets in the way of their lives. We laugh at, rather than obsess about, what goes on in the bedroom: we are the nation of ‘Carry On’ and ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. Innuendo is a national pass time. Isn’t it, Mrs?

What people do worry about is a feeling that change is being imposed and they are unable to express a view. That an elite in Westminster has little interest in or knowledge of how change can impact everyday life. Where concerns about immigration are dismissed or ignored, where people feel talked down to, where long held values can become out of fashion overnight, it is hardly surprising that a sense of powerlessness grows.

Tackling this sense of powerlessness over the actions of vested interests – whether in the political class or in large economic corporations – offers a way forward for the Conservative Party.

Let us think, for example, of the role that big tech plays in our lives today – and of the way in which the behaviour of the big tech companies has damaged the reputation of capitalism as a whole.

We embrace all the advantages of new technologies. We share details of our lives with family and friends. We click a button and have almost anything we want delivered to our door. A question that once involved a trip to the library can now be answered by a simple tap on a screen that we all keep in our pockets. As an Education Minister and as a citizen of course I welcome that. And of course, none of it would have happened if we didn’t live in capitalist, democratic societies.

But at the same time, elements of the tech revolution have gone too far. They have produced new concentrations of power. Supranational companies that see themselves as alternatives to the nation-state. Organisations and corporations that think they can’t be controlled.

Now, because the capitalist system still works, these big tech companies may soon have had their day. New start-ups are emerging to take on the behemoths with better, more people friendly alternatives.

Again, this simply wouldn’t happen under a socialist economic system of command and control.

So, we need to support these endeavours. But in the meantime, we need to take action too.

That means having the courage to regulate where we need to regulate. It means enacting policies that disrupt these concentrations of power. And it means ensuring that these companies are paying their fair share of tax.

There is nothing un-Conservative about this. Capitalism does work best when least fettered by rules and regulations that can crush innovation and stifle enterprise. But the free market has always relied on rules and the rule of law for it to function. It relies on the state to provide security, infrastructure, enforcement of contracts, title to land and the protection of intellectual property.

We need to make sure those rules and regulations are fit and proper for the challenges of the 21st century, as Teddy Roosevelt did to tackle the concentrations of power at the start of the 20th century.

But ‘Big Tech’ has become a common target. What about other areas where the balance of power has become inverted and has grown out of all control? Where can – and must – politicians act?

Utility companies who use confusing, complicated policies and tariffs to bewilder and exploit consumers. Who know that they can get away with it because our lives are busy and therefore they have effective power and control. A Conservative Party that stands up for the powerless shouldn’t stand by and let people be exploited by these multinational corporations. There’s nothing un-Conservative about that. We need to show the will and desire to tackle these monopolies of power and give people more control.

Insurance companies who ramp up premiums on the unwary and loyal, hoping we won’t notice or will be too busy to care. Hoping that the busy lives we lead will mean we acquiesce too easily.

Bosses exploiting their workers. Creaming off vast profits while cultivating or tolerating a culture of bullying and intimidation further down the chain. We should be angry at such people and such companies. The unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism of today.

Investment banks foisting investments they know to be worthless on unsuspecting savers in their retail division.

Estate agents promising higher valuations to home owners in exchange for higher commissions knowing full well the ultimate sale price would be less.

House builders, increasingly dominated by just a handful of companies, building homes of questionable design and resulting in thousands of complaints about poor construction, while making ‘super profits’ that the free market is meant to be designed to compete away.

Banks which are supposed to provide capital for new businesses and young people wanting homes but which are caught deliberately driving small business to the wall and which refuse young people mortgages because of their own malpractice in the past – denying a generation entry to property ownership, the foundation of a capitalist system. Is it any wonder that a musical rendition of a non-capitalist society sounds so appealing to that generation?

An agenda for a bold renewal of Conservatism

It should be our task as a party to act with urgency to correct these abuses and address these injustices, driven by a determination to speak out for the powerless at all times. It must be our mission to restore trust in the political system and in politics as a noble calling; something that with vision, drive and determination can change lives for the better.

To do so is not to validate Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. It is to thwart them. For if we fail to do so – if we fail to address the very real areas in which the capitalist system is failing – a long period of left-wing, socialist government is surely on its way. And it won’t be long before the cheers fade and the idealism is at an end.

This is an insight as old as Conservatism itself. Change to conserve has always been our mantra. Make change where the system is failing to preserve faith in the whole. As Burke put it “A state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation”.

So let us harness that insight and embrace this agenda for a bold renewal of Conservatism. Safeguarding and shaping the future by addressing the challenges of today.

A party for the powerless with a revolutionary zeal to pick up the mantle of change.

Determined to take on vested interests and monopolies of power.

Determined to stand with the people every step of the way.

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

Richard Ritchie: Christianity and politics at Easter. Do the Gospels present a manifesto?

Richard Ritchie is the author of The Progress Trust (Without Hindsight: A History of the Progress Trust 1943-2005). He is Enoch Powell’s archivist and is a former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate.

Eastertide presents Christians with an obligation, as well as an excuse, to think about something other than Brexit. But it is probably no exaggeration to say that anyone interested in politics who professes also to be a Christian is bound to wonder whether the political beliefs he or she advocates meet with the approval of Jesus Christ.

This presents a problem – because while Christ has a great deal to say about morals and motivation, his words are not so easily transcribed into political practice. An obligation to feed the hungry and protect the poor, for example, is not necessarily achieved by the introduction of a wealth tax. But if a Conservative’s sole reason for opposing such a tax were the dislike of having to pay it oneself, he would be on shaky ground. And even then, it’s not simple. Can anyone be confident of the purity of one’s motives? And yet, if pressed too far, scrupulosity might easily lead towards political paralysis.

For socialists, it’s easier. Christians with left-wing views almost always tend to think that their politics are consistent with their faith, and one can see why. Literal readings of the parables all lean towards condemning the rich for having too much and for lacking compassion. Hence, the need, in the eyes of many on the Left, for redistribution – although a redistribution dictated by the state rather than freely offered by individuals which, it could be argued, is not at all what Christianity is about. It’s hard to see why simply paying taxes should help to get one into heaven. But it is not just politicians of the Left who make this mistake, and who seek to mould Christ’s teaching into a political philosophy. Margaret Thatcher, for example, used the parable of the talents to justify capitalism. But Doctors of the Church remind us that these talents represent God’s grace – not money in the bank.

This is why for a ‘literal’ reading of the parables, one might more accurately substitute ‘superficial’, because it is clear that they were never intended be interpreted from a single standpoint. Almost every parable has a deeper theological meaning, which is peculiar not only to Christian morality but also to the very nature of Christ’s Church. If anyone doubts that, they only have to read Harold Macmillan’s great friend, Monsignor Ronald Knox. His Mystery of the Kingdom interprets the parables as being primarily about Christ’s purpose in creating his Church and the characteristics which it will hold – including the presence of good and evil within it.

But this doesn’t mean that an avowedly Christian politician should expect to end up politically in the same place as, say, a Muslim or an atheist. One’s religion should make a difference – and then the question is whether a religious person has a duty to ensure that the law of the land reflects his religious values.

Most today would say not, but again it is not that simple. A recent essay by the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, has recently been published, in which he returns to his favourite theme of ‘absolute’ rather than ‘relative’ moral values. He challenges today’s central assumption that morality should be determined exclusively “by the purposes of human action that prevailed.” He concludes that the current approach to morality means there can “no longer be anything that constitutes an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil.”

Any Christian whose conscience is in the same place as Pope Benedict would have found it necessary to oppose, in his words, “the unprecedented radicalism” of the 1960s. In particular, he singles out the proliferation of pornography as a serious source of evil which no Christian politician should have countenanced, however ‘libertarian’ his or her outlook. But he goes further in the following passage, which goes to the heart of the dilemma facing any Christian politician:

“After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.”

Most people today would say :“and a good thing too.” Religion should only be “the private affair of a minority.” But that is not what a Christian politician should think, whether of the ‘right’ or of the ‘left’. One doesn’t have to be a Roger Scruton to note, in Pope Benedict’s words, that “in the twenty years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely.” Christian politicians are under an obligation to challenge a morality based entirely on private judgment and relativity, especially if they conclude that these normative standards are endangering the spiritual welfare of children.

It is because socialists in particular have liked to claim for themselves a monopoly of Christian morality – except, of course, when it comes to sexual morality – that the politics of this country has drifted into a religious ‘no man’s land’, where everyone is judged by the standards of the BBC and nobody asks difficult questions. But however important issues such as the distribution of wealth or child poverty should be to a Christian, it does not follow that the Gospels contain a political message or solution.

All we know is that ambition and material sufficiency can be barriers to holiness – and the more comfortable we are, the greater this danger. Such thoughts don’t write a manifesto: at best they only provide the moral foundations on which a manifesto is based. And Christ’s resurrection certainly doesn’t help us out on Brexit – unless it be to remind us of the Christian virtues of temperance and respect. Perhaps that should be the focus of our Easter meditation before political hostilities recommence.

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Jamie Arnell: Ministers must take care when reforming non-disclosure agreements

James Arnell is a partner at Charterhouse. He writes in a personal capacity.

The UK media are, understandably, shouting from the rooftops this week about non-disclosure agreements after Peter Hain’s controversial use of Parliamentary privilege.

It is understandable. Because NDAs get in the way of a good story, we should expect plenty of noise around the issue. That’s all well and good. What is less good is the way it is framed.

In every media outlet I have seen or heard, the framing of the issue is as follows: NDAs are used by companies to force employees who may have suffered harassment, bullying, unfair treatment, and so on, to stay silent.

There are a couple of major flaws in this.

A “company” is not a real thing. Companies do not “do” anything. People working for companies do things. Real living and breathing people sign every one of these NDAs. So, unless we assume that all these people are unethical, bad people, the framing of the issue as “bad company (for which read bad person working for company) vs good victim” is too simplistic.

The media’s framing assumes that employees are always the ones being forced to sign NDAs. In my experience, it is sometimes the other way round.

An unscrupulous employee can quite easily extort money from a company by making allegations, without disclosing supporting evidence, and the company’s decision-makers face Hobson’s choice.  They can pay off the claimant and secure an NDA, or they can “call the claimant’s bluff”. If they call the employee’s bluff, they get months and years of adverse publicity as the allegations are aired, they get months and years of distraction from day-to-day business, and, if they lose the case, their company suffers serious reputational damage.

Given that the facts are rarely clear to the decision-makers in these cases (who are almost invariably not the accused executives), they take the safe route and pay for an NDA. The victim in cases where the facts were unproven is the company and not the employee.

Again, because a company is not a real thing, this really means that it is the other employees and shareholders of the company who are the victims. These are real people, who have in these cases had money extorted from them.

The good news is that, thinking it through from the employer’s point of view, I arrive at the same conclusion as those who focus on the employee. These NDAs should not be allowed to cover harassment and bullying. They should be limited to commercially sensitive information – IP, pricing, customer data, etc.

If every decision-maker at every company knew that it was impossible to use an NDA to silence an allegation, this would provide useful incentives. For harassing, bullying managers, it would be clear that their employers would not protect them with an NDA and they would have to expect to face justice. For the unprincipled false accusers, they would know that they would have to prove any claim in court. There would be no opportunity for extortion.

I have no idea whether this would lead to more harassment cases or fewer. That depends how many are real and how many are simply attempts to make some money. I suspect that it would lead to a lot more cases and therefore pressure on the courts, who would have to process all the real claims.

This would be good for transparency but, unless accompanied by a substantial increase in spending on employment tribunals, it would cause a massive backlog of cases, which would be unfair for employees and employers alike.

In this debate, therefore, it is important that we do not satisfy ourselves simply with outlawing these NDAs. We also need to ensure that the tribunal system is funded to allow rapid dispute resolution.

I think it would be sensible to withhold the names of claimants and employers in such cases until the facts have been established, to avoid prejudicing careers and company reputations.

Finally, there is one unspoken and very uncomfortable aspect of all this which should be put on the table. As things stand, the majority of allegations (true and false) will be silenced with an NDA, at a price. This means that the risk of an allegation can be priced upfront. For a given profile of employee, there is a given probability of an allegation, and a likely cost of silencing it.

I have a daughter, and this worries me a lot. If the majority of claims are from women, who suffer the most harassment and bullying, then female hires come with a higher cost attached upfront. The risk is that this leads to a reluctance to hire women, instead of a determination to root out harassing males. This is obviously wrong-headed, but it risks becoming a commercial reality.

Three things are therefore key as we wait for NDAs to be disallowed. First, we must of course root out our bullies and adopt zero tolerance of harassment. Second, we must avoid running scared of hiring female employees, even if they come with a higher risk of claims. Third, everyone should be very careful not to lose sight of the fact that some claims are baseless, and that those who make them, whether under the #metoo banner or otherwise, deserve our opprobrium.

The sooner we remove the financial incentive for false claims, the better.  And the sooner we move away from this “bad company, good claimant” simplistic view of life, the better, too.

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

Guys challenging a WNBA player to a one-on-one game miss the point

Westlake Legal Group guys-challenging-a-wnba-player-to-a-one-on-one-game-miss-the-point Guys challenging a WNBA player to a one-on-one game miss the point Women The Blog Sports gender Equality basketball

Westlake Legal Group Peters Guys challenging a WNBA player to a one-on-one game miss the point Women The Blog Sports gender Equality basketball

If you happen to be a member of the Y chromosome club and are a fan of basketball, have you ever seen one of the WNBA players and thought to yourself, “you know, I could probably take her one-on-one?” If you have, we can draw two immediate conclusions. First, unless your full-time job is playing point guard for the Celtics she’s probably going to kick your butt. And second, you’re kind of a jerk.

Do men really do that, though? I wouldn’t have thought so, but according to Washington Mystics power forward Devereaux Peters, it happens more often than you might imagine. And what does Ms. Peters do when guys try to pull that on her? She just ignores them. (Washington Post)

A few weeks ago, as I was walking down the street to my car, a man stopped me to begin a conversation about my height. Here we go, I thought. He asked the usual questions, prodding me about my basketball career, and then there it was: “Let’s play one-on-one. I bet I could beat you.”

It was far from the first time. I’m a tall woman, at 6-foot-2, and almost everywhere I go, people notice me. The first question is: Do you play basketball? When they find out I’m a professional player, some are just impressed and want to know more about the life of a pro athlete. Most of the men I talk to, though, ask me to play one-on-one.

If you’ve ever had that impulse, let me stop you here. I’m not going to play you one-on-one. I’m never going to play you one-on-one. I have been playing basketball my entire life, and for just as long I have been challenged by men who think they are better than me. I had to prove my skill in middle school against the boys who thought girls don’t play basketball. I had to prove my skill in high school when the guys’ egos were hurt because the girls basketball team was more successful and more popular than theirs. I had to prove it in college when grown men started challenging me to one-on-one games because there was no way this college woman was better than they were. Time and time again, I have trounced men — far too many to count. Now I have nothing to prove.

This is only the latest in a series of stories we’ve covered here about fundamental differences between the genders and how these unique traits manifest themselves in the world of professional sports. Most recently we looked at LPGA all-star Brittany Lincicome and her attempt at playing against the men in one of the PGA tour stops a couple of weeks ago. Lincicome has won nearly all of the big tournaments and accolades available in the LPGA and is a world-class athlete. But even on a week when nearly every single male golfer you’ve ever heard of was across the ocean playing in the British Open, she not only failed to make the cut to play over the weekend, but only managed a better score than three of the roughly 160 men who finished the first two rounds.

What does that have to do with the essay written by Devereaux Peters? It’s almost an exact parallel, but it approaches the question from the opposite direction. As a man, you might be the hottest baller in your after-work muni league and keep yourself in good shape. But odds are that if you walked out on the court with Devereaux Peters she would smoke you like a salmon fillet. Similarly, if you play golf in your local club’s men’s golf league, shooting from the blue tees, you might put up a fairly low score on a regular basis. But Brittany Lincicome could probably mop up the clubhouse with you.

But if we put Devereaux Peters out on the court one-on-one against LeBron James or Anthony Davis, what would happen? Pretty much the same result which befell Brittany Lincicome at the Barbasol Championship. I’d wager that pretty much every NBA starter (and probably a few of the college seniors who are headed for the pros) could beat her. The fact is that the world’s best female athletes in virtually any physical competition we’ve looked at would be able to beat 99.99% of the men in the country. Most of you just aren’t professional athletes no matter how good you think you are. But when we put the very best women up against the very best men, the men do better.

That doesn’t mean that men are “superior” or women are “inferior.” The two genders are simply different, with one having built-in genetic advantages, making them, on average, taller, heavier, faster and stronger. And that’s why it’s wrong to allow men to compete against women in professional or Olympic venues. And it’s also why you’re a jerk if you’re a man that’s running around trying to compete against women.

But if you’re a guy who plays in your local sports bar league and you really want to take on one of the WNBA starters, I almost hope you get your chance as long as I get to come and watch. I’ll bring the popcorn and the beer to assuage your hurt feelings after she dunks on you like a cop in a donut shop.

The post Guys challenging a WNBA player to a one-on-one game miss the point appeared first on Hot Air.

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