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Westlake Legal Group > Gavin Williamson MP

A victory for free speech. But clear legal safeguards are still needed.

Thank goodness for Mr Justice Julian Knowles. A judgement he delivered yesterday was a powerful defence of freedom of expression, which is expected to have significant implications.

Harry Miller, a 53-year-old man from Lincoln, had challenged the Hate Crime Operational Guidance of the College of Policing – the professional body which delivers training for all officers in England and Wales. Miller, himself a former police officer, had tweeted:

“I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me.”

A complaint was made of “transphobia” which resulted in a visit from Humberside Police. Though no crime was committed, a “hate incident” was recorded.

Knowles said:

“There was not a shred of evidence that the Claimant was at risk of committing a criminal offence. The effect of the police turning up at his place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated. To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”

Evidence was presented to show that the underlying issue about gender identity is vigorously debated. Professor Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy at Sussex University, stated:

“In my work, among other things I argue that there’s nothing wrong, either theoretically, linguistically, empirically, or politically, with the once-familiar idea that a woman is, definitionally, an adult human female. I also argue that the subjective notion of ‘gender identity’ is ill-conceived intrinsically, and a fortiori as a potential object of law or policy. In light of these and other views, I am intellectually ‘gender-critical’; that is, critical of the influential societal role of sex-based stereotypes, generally, including the role of stereotypes in informing the dogmatic and, in my view, false assertion that – quite literally – ‘trans women are women’. I am clear throughout my work that trans people are deserving of all human rights and dignity.”

Knowles quoted John Stuart Mill who wrote the treatise, On Liberty, which said:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister, tweeted:

“To be clear: there should be a very bright line between speech which we as a society see as offensive, disgraceful, awful, hurtful – and speech which is punished by criminal law. As tempting as it is to lock up the people who offend and upset us it’s not generally a good idea and police are not good judges of where that line should be, if it is left vague.”

But can we rely on the judges either? Knowles is clearly a passionate believer in free speech. What if the matter had been left to another judge with a different view?  Knowles declared that the police response in this case was unlawful. He did not say its guidance itself is unlawful. That guidance defines a hate incident as “any non-crime incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender”. Until the law is changed, that “chilling effect” on free speech will continue. Anyone can report anything as a “hate incident” – just notifying the police of their “perception”. Then if the police decide to record it as such – and a judge upholds them as doing so – this would seem to be a matter of discretion. Free speech should surely have a more secure basis than that. Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, is to be commended for seeking to protect open discussion in our colleges – but the threat goes much wider than academia.

It follows that reform of the judiciary remains an imperative – an area where the attention of the Policy Exchange is welcome. Pretty drastic change is also needed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

That makes the appointment this week of Suella Braverman as the Attorney General an encouraging sign. Last month she wrote on this site:

“Traditionally, Parliament made the law and judges applied it. But today, our courts exercise a form of political power. Questions that fell hitherto exclusively within the prerogative of elected Ministers have yielded to judicial activism: foreign policy, conduct of our armed forces abroad, application of international treaties and, of course, the decision to prorogue Parliament. Judicial review has exploded since the 1960s so that even the most intricate relations between the state and individual can be questioned by judges.”

So when we have all finished cheering Mr Justice Knowles, there is a lot of work to do. There must be public confidence that our legal system upholds freedom and democracy – rather than undermining that precious inheritance. To achieve that will be a huge challenge.

 

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

“There are kids who can read and write today because of Nick Gibb”

That’s what a Special Adviser says – and his are words to ponder on this second day of the reshuffle.

Nick Gibb has been reappointed to his job as an Education Minister, serving under Williamson.  By our count, that makes the latter the fifth Education Secretary that Gibb has served under.  We make it: Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan, Justine Greening, Damian Hinds, and now Williamson.

Gibb’s still there because he is legendarily committed to his work, and in particular to the teaching of sythetic phonics (see here for example, and look elsewhere too).  Secretaries of State have come and gone, and education fashion with them.  Consider for example the twists and turns of policy over the years on grammar schools.

All the while, Gibb has stuck to his cause; driven through change; refused to be distracted, sidelined or daunted.  So it is that he has been at the Education Department, with one break, since 2010.  Politicians get a kicking, sometimes deservedly, but if you want an example of committed public service, look no further than Gibb.

We’ve nothing against Robbie Gibb, his brother, having received a knighthood.  But the disparity should make one think hard about the vagaries of the honours system.  If R.Gibb can become a knight, shouldn’t N.Gibb, in due course, become a peer?

Let’s hear it again: “there are kids who can read and write today because of Nick Gibb”

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

The calm before the reshuffle? Our first Cabinet League Table of 2020

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jan-20-1024x955 The calm before the reshuffle? Our first Cabinet League Table of 2020 ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Simon Hart MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Liz Truss MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Baroness Morgan Andrea Leadsom MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

This is the first Cabinet League Table of 2020. It is also very likely the last before the Prime Minister embarks on his next reshuffle. December saw some stellar scores in the aftermath of that month’s general election victory, and it’s once again a pretty rosy picture. Here are a few takeaways:

  • No change to the podium. There has been some inevitable fluctuation in the specific scores but the top spots are still held by Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, and Michael Gove.
  • Few women at the top. With rumours that the Prime Minister might be about to dismiss five female Secretaries of State, we note that only Priti Patel makes the top ten this month. Expand the selection and only Andrea Leadsom and Liz Truss make the cut in the top twenty.
  • Another bad month for the territorial offices… Both Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, and Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, are at the bottom of our table for the second month running.
  • …save for Northern Ireland. But Julian Smith has broken out of that pack, rising to the top half of the table on the back of his role in getting the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running.

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

The calm before the reshuffle? Our first Cabinet League Table of 2020

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jan-20-1024x955 The calm before the reshuffle? Our first Cabinet League Table of 2020 ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Simon Hart MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Liz Truss MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Baroness Morgan Andrea Leadsom MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

This is the first Cabinet League Table of 2020. It is also very likely the last before the Prime Minister embarks on his next reshuffle. December saw some stellar scores in the aftermath of that month’s general election victory, and it’s once again a pretty rosy picture. Here are a few takeaways:

  • No change to the podium. There has been some inevitable fluctuation in the specific scores but the top spots are still held by Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, and Michael Gove.
  • Few women at the top. With rumours that the Prime Minister might be about to dismiss five female Secretaries of State, we note that only Priti Patel makes the top ten this month. Expand the selection and only Andrea Leadsom and Liz Truss make the cut in the top twenty.
  • Another bad month for the territorial offices… Both Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, and Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, are at the bottom of our table for the second month running.
  • …save for Northern Ireland. But Julian Smith has broken out of that pack, rising to the top half of the table on the back of his role in getting the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running.

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

Triumphator Johnson – our final Cabinet League Table of 2019

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Dec-19-1024x954 Triumphator Johnson – our final Cabinet League Table of 2019 ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Simon Hart MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Baroness Morgan Andrea Leadsom MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

This is it: the very last Cabinet League Table of 2019 and, unless you’re feeling especially pedantic, the decade. The Conservative Party has been in office, in one form or another, since 2010, and it really is remarkable that it is heading into 2020 with in such apparently strong shape. A few points of note:

  • Election afterglow. As you might expect in the aftermath of this month’s unexpected but decisive electoral triumph, the overall ratings have received a significant boost compared to last month.
  • Johnson just short. Our editor wrote this morning about what the Prime Minister needs to do to match or exceed Margaret Thatcher. But on one metric at least he has yet to top Theresa May, who retains her League Table record by 0.1 points.
  • Gove and Javid hold the podium… Johnson’s soaring to the gold-medal position has obviously shuffled them down but they remain, as they have been consistently, the two top-rated Cabinet ministers beyond the man himself.
  • …as Cox closes in. The Attorney General is now within touching distance of a top-three finish, which is quite a contrast with reports in today’s papers that he might be facing the chop.
  • Poor showing for the Territorial Offices. Is it coincidence that Julian Smith, Alister Jack, and newly-appointed Simon Hart – respectively the Northern Irish, Scottish, and Welsh Secretaries – are all at the bottom of the table?

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

Our survey. Gove is Minister of the Year.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-12-26-at-17.11.06 Our survey. Gove is Minister of the Year. ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Theresa May MP The Cabinet Simon Hart MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Priti Patel MP Philip Hammond MP Penny Mordaunt MP Nick Gibb MP Liam Fox MP Karen Bradley MP Jeremy Wright MP Jeremy Hunt MP James Cleverly MP James Brokenshire MP Highlights Greg Clark MP Grant Shapps MP Gavin Williamson MP Dominic Raab MP David Mundell MP David Lidington MP David Gauke MP Damian Hinds MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Chris Grayling MP Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP   At the beginning of the year, the following were not members of the Cabinet –

Boris Johnson; Dominic Raab; Priti Patel; Robert Buckland; Ben Wallace; Therese Coffey; Theresa Villiers; Robert Jenrick; Grant Shapps; Alister Jack; Simon Hart; Alok Sharma; James Cleverly.

(We leave aside for a moment those entitled to attend.)

And the following were members of the Cabinet –

Theresa May; David Lidington, Philip Hammond; Jeremy Hunt; Penny Mordaunt; David Gauke; Damian Hinds; Liam Fox; Greg Clark; Chris Grayling; James Brokenshire; David Mundell; Alun Cairns; Karen Bradley; Jeremy Wright; Amber Rudd; Brandon Lewis.

(Again, we leave for a moment those entitled to attend.)

One member of the present Cabinet, Gavin Williamson, was a member at the start of the year and at the end – but sacked in between.

Another, Andrea Leadsom, ends the year as a fully-fledged member, began with the right to attend…and resigned between the two.

All of which is a reminder of what a turbulent year this has been at the top of politics – as well as elsewhere.

This pace of change made it hard to select four candidates to put to the panel as Minister of the Year.  (And we might have looked beyond the top table – to Nick Gibb, say, at the Education Department.)

But in the end we settled on two energetic Cabinet ministers who served the year in the same roles throughout: Michael Gove and Matt Hancock.

And also chucked in Geoffrey Cox, who as Attorney General has had the right to attend throughout, and Liz Truss, originally entitled to attend as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and now Secretary of State for International Trade.

Gove’s creativity and media skills will always serve him well in surveys like these, and he is duly top once again with over half the vote.

Cox’s good showing suggests that our pro-Brexit panel will always take a shine to pro-Brexit Ministers.  It is sobering to reflect that Gove also tried and failed to become Conservative leader this year…

…And that though we’re confident he will survive the large-scale reshuffle due at the end of January (assuming he wants to stay), further large-scale change is sure to come.

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

John Bald: Labour’s education policy of hiding failings by abolishing tests and independent inspection is the way of the Ostrich

John Bald is a former Ofsted inspector and has written two books on the history of writing and spelling. He is Chairman of the Conservative Education Society.

Nine years ago, Katharine Birbalsingh stood up at our Party Conference and told the truth about what was happening in London schools. It was a brave thing to do, and within a week she was sacked. This summer, she and her colleagues celebrated one of the most important achievements in the history of British education – from a non-selective intake, they had achieved four times the national average of highest grade passes in the reformed GCSE, and one of the highest “value-added” scores on record. For me, Birbalsingh’s brilliance was clear from those first words she spoke – as Sir Michael Wilshaw has said, sometimes you know instantly. But when even The Guardian is forced to report and acknowledge her success, and by implication that of Michael Gove, who opened the door for her, there is no more room for honest doubt. Birbalsingh is right, and her key idea -”Work hard, be kind” – is spreading steadily across the country.

Our opponents, Angela Rayner and Polly Toynbee, promise to tackle the “long trail of failure that drags down national results.” Amen. Alas, neither they, nor anyone else on the Left have the faintest idea of how to do it. No-one wants to see children going to school hungry, but tackling that will not improve what happens when they get there. Children, and particularly those for whom learning is not straightforward, need work that is closely matched to their learning needs if they are to make progress. The Left’s mantra of mixed ability teaching makes this impossible, and I spend much of my time picking up the pieces. Second chances at FE are no substitute for wasting the first chance in school, and that is still what happens too often. Rayner has outstanding academic ability – see her fluent conversation in British Sign Language  – and what worked for her will not work for most people who fail at school.

The path to success is to tackle problems in basic skills full-on from the beginning, and not to give up. Hiding the problem by abolishing tests and independent inspection is the way of the Ostrich.

So, tests and honest exams, the outcome of nine years of hard work, principally by Nick Gibb, are part of the way forward. The Lib Dems held this up as long as they could, and did a serious disservice by blocking tests in key skills for 16-year-olds by insisting on GCSE for everyone. Raising starting salaries for teachers will help too. Teachers are professional people, and deserve professional support, including effective use by more headteachers of the powers the government has provided to minimise poor behaviour. My MP, Lucy Frazer, has fought from the beginning for fairer funding of education in areas outside London and the – I hope, former – Labour heartlands, where the late Lord Prescott set up ingenious systems to deprive the South of essential facilities and drive up its council tax. Our manifesto commitments on spending will improve balance.

It would make it much easier for Conservatives in education if the new government could also:

  • Publish the results of each school in full, by grade and subject
  • Avoid further hidden reductions in school funding through additional charges.
  • Find a better way for Ofqual to ensure standards than the current “comparable outcomes”.
  • Improve the teaching of reading, spelling and arithmetic beyond the initial stages.
  • Remove the requirement for teachers to submit planning and “data drops” to management.
  • Give teachers the right to impose an immediate detention, enforced by management.
  • Introduce tests of key skills in English and maths alongside GCSE.
  • Improve the accuracy of SEND assessment, particularly of autism and dyslexia
  • Set up behaviour hubs and improve facilities for excluded pupils.
  • Give credit against student loans and interest in return for service in the state sector
  • Set up a German excellence programme on the lines of the successful Mandarin initiative

As Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson showed the determination needed to carry his programme through and stand up to internal opposition. He may well need to do so again. We must do what we can between now and Thursday evening to make sure he gets the opportunity.

 

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

Our last pre-election Cabinet League Table. It’s a near-tie at the top: Javid, Gove, Johnson, in that order.

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Nov-19-1024x952 Our last pre-election Cabinet League Table. It’s a near-tie at the top: Javid, Gove, Johnson, in that order. ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay Sajid Javid Robert Jenrick Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden Nicky Morgan Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng Julian Smith MP James Cleverly Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey Elizabeth Truss Dominic Raab ConservativeHome Members' Panel Chris Skidmore Brandon Lewis Boris Johnson Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

It’s our last Cabinet League Table before polling day. Next month we will in all likelihood be looking at a new line-up – at the very least, the Prime Minister will need a new Welsh Secretary. Here are a few takeaways:

  • Javid back in front. Last month was the only one of the new Government in which the Chancellor hasn’t topped our table, and this month he returns to what is becoming his traditional position. Are Tory members fans of his new spending plans?
  • Patel closes in on the podium. The Home Secretary has been front and centre in an election campaign with a strong immigration and law and order focus, and has climbed a few places in our table this month – almost to the top three.
  • Rees-Mogg falls away. Having been sidelined from the campaign after his deeply ill-judged Grenfell comments, it is perhaps not a surprise that the Leader of the House, once something of a fan favourite, now finds himself in the lower half of the table after shedding more than 30 points.
  • Cairns stays in the black. It says something about the level of goodwill the grassroots harbour towards this Government that Boris Johnson’s first ministerial resignation still departs with a net positive score.
  • Scotland still vacant. At this point it seems worth noting that this was yet another month in which there is no formal Scottish Conservative leader to place in our table.

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

Robert Halfon: How Labour flicked two fingers at 17.4 million

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Labour botched Brexit

As I was scootering out of the House of Commons (literally) on Saturday, and came across the huge crowd of remainer/second-referendumers, the first dulcet tones I heard came from, none other than, “Rochester woman”, Emily Thornberry. To rapturous roars from the rowdy bunch, she exclaimed, “Britain is a Remainer country!”, and expressed her strong support and that of the Labour Party for a second referendum.

I thought to myself at the time, how incredible that, not only has Labour defied the wishes of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union in 2016, but so too have they come out against their own 2017 manifesto commitment to respect the referendum result.

Labour’s decision to support a second referendum – and by intent, remain – is extraordinary for another reason; whilst it may please some metropolitans, electorally, it makes no sense.

On Sunday, when Keir Starmer got up on the Marr programme to confirm Labour will have a second referendum, his party, essentially, flashed two fingers up at working class constituencies like my own – Harlow.

But the decision begs the question of whether Labour will even win the arch-remainer votes they are so intent on attaining. Although they might gain Islington, it’s very likely the die-hard-remainer vote will go to the Liberal Democrats.

If I learned anything from Saturday’s anti-Brexit march, the first was better-acquainting myself with the back roads of Westminster, thus avoiding the “remoaner” shrieking. Second, it is clear that the so-called “liberal voter” – the young professional, disenchanted with the Conservative pro-Brexit position and ardently adamant on remaining – is going to vote for the Liberal Democrats, who have made it their signature policy. These same people have very little faith in a Corbyn-led government.

But in attempting to appeal to these voters, the Labour Party will be sure to lose the votes of working people. Their decision smacks of contempt for millions who voted to leave, and the arrogance of an elite who think they know better. No doubt, Labour will suffer hugely for this at the polls.

In turn, the Conservatives have an opportunity to win millions of these working people’s votes. However, not only must Boris deliver Brexit, the Conservatives must convince the public that we care deeply about public services, particularly the NHS and education.

That is why the Boris strategy is the right one. Taking visible steps to be the party that champions our NHS, with new hospital projects, and invests in our schools and colleges, with increased teacher salaries and more funding per pupil.

The public who voted to leave because they felt left behind, must be sure that if they vote Conservative, they will not be left behind again.

It’s time to end the social injustices facing parents of children with special educational needs

I wrote recently for Conservative Home about the brilliant work that the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, is doing, particularly on apprenticeships, skills and technical education. He should be congratulated and supported on this.

However, there are some areas of our education system where deep social injustices remain.

One such disaster zone is in the way that children with special educational needs and their parents are continuously let down.

Thousands of parents face a titanic and shameful struggle to get the right care for their child. They have to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, in a system which breeds conflict. Families must navigate a postcode lottery of provision. At times, support for their child is at the peril of local authorities acting unlawfully, rationing support and imposing barriers to getting help, meaning their needs are neither identified, nor met.

There is a horrific lack of accountability and significant buck passing from local authorities to schools, and back again. Unclear responsibilities for resourcing also stretches to the Government departments, meaning that the health aspect of a child’s Education Health and Care Plan often falls short, or is non-existent.

All this increased bureaucracy is directing support away from the classroom; despite the good intentions of Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014, there simply aren’t enough specialists (SENCOs) in schools or educational psychologists (EPs).

This is just wrong, wrong, wrong. I suspect that most MPs are very aware of what is going on because of the enormous swathe of parents of children with SEND who come to see them at surgery appointments – a last-ditch effort to get the right treatment and resources for their child.

Today, our Committee has published a comprehensive report highlighting these problems that parents and teachers of children with SEND face. In what was one of the biggest ever inquiries, with over 17 hours of evidence-gathering sessions and more than 700 submissions, the Committee has painstakingly gone through each of these issues (and many others) in turn, and come up with suggested solutions.

First, every parent/carer should have an allocated person with a neutral role to help them navigate this bureaucratic nightmare. All schools should be guaranteed access to SENCO professionals and there must be a rocket-boost in the number of educational psychologists.

Second, there must be a more rigorous inspection framework to improve accountability. Local authorities and health providers should have clear consequences for failure and greater powers are needed for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to investigate inside the school gates, when something does go wrong.

Third, my Committee is calling for a reporting line for parents and schools to appeal directly to the Department for Education where local authorities appear not to be complying with the law.

Moreover, even if a child gets the right provisions up until they turn 16, there are real resource questions as to what happens after that, and whether or not there are special incentives and support for businesses who can offer these young people apprenticeships and other employment opportunities.

Young people are eager to grab opportunities with both hands but are, currently, being let down by a lack of support and opportunities.

As Conservatives, we have to acknowledge and address these deep areas of social injustice. Parents need hope from us that we are looking after their children with special educational needs, that their titanic struggles are over, and that they will get the best quality provision for their child.

These children should have as much chance of climbing the educational ladder of opportunity as anyone else – too many are being denied that chance.

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

Neil O’Brien: Fifty shades of conservatism

Neil O’Brien is MP for Market Harborough.

You might say socialism and liberalism are ideologies, while Conservatism is more like a character trait. But that’s not quite right. Socialism and liberalism are ideologies about maximising one thing, be it equality or freedom. In contrast, Conservatives believe in a wider variety of ideals.

So what kind of conservative are you?

Since the classic Liberal party gave way to Labour, we’ve been the party of the free market and sound money, even more so since the Thatcher/Reagan era. The free market is a such huge part of what we are about, it tends to dominate, but there’s much more to conservatism.

Perhaps you are a law and order Conservative: patron saint Thomas Hobbes, who, inspired by his experience of the civil war, observed that without strong authority and law and order, life tends to be “nasty, brutish and short.”

But in a nice example of how conservative ideas fit together, a strong law and order policy is also a One Nation policy: because who suffers when there is crime and disorder? Those who live in the most deprived fifth of neighbourhoods are 50 per cent more likely to be victims of crime than those in the richest fifth.

Or perhaps you are a constitutional conservative. Do you believe in keeping the Monarchy? A House of Lords that isn’t elected? Do you believe in keeping first past post elections, and an unwritten constitution? Do you believe in the common law and rule of law? Those ideas are more important now Labour believes in expropriation of your pension, your shares, your house, and anything else that isn’t screwed down.

Perhaps you’re a conservative because you believe in Liberty. Habeas Corpus. Limits on Government. Legal protection of personal and family life. Liberty always raises contentious issues like hunting or drugs. Or think of recent cases like the gay marriage cake. I thought the courts got it right: a business can’t refuse to serve gay people, but people can’t be made to promote political views they don’t hold, even if I disagree with those views.

What do we think about the growing deployment of live facial recognition technology in public places? Liberty lovers might want to ban it. Law and order fans might want to allow it.

Liberty-loving conservatism can also clash with another ideal – social conservatism. Are you worried about family breakdown? What do you think about transgender issues? What do you think about full facial veils? That question pits liberty against traditional pattern of our society. France banned them, we allow them.

Do you think what you get out of the welfare system should be linked to what you put in? And how should we make choices about immigration: do we just think about migrants’ skills and earnings, or how easily they will integrate into our culture? I incline to the latter view.

One big idea that I think fits under social conservatism is the idea of the nation state. National self-determination and the lack of a shared European demos powers the idea of Brexit, but it also explains why we are prepared to make compromises to try and keep the United Kingdom together.

Zooming down from the nation to the individual, conservatism is about individual self-reliance. That’s why we strongly support individual home ownership. Mrs Thatcher expressed this well. She said that people: “are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.”

Things like the doubling of the Income Tax Personal Allowance and the National Living Wage – and also welfare reforms – are about self reliance. George Osborne was onto something when he talked about a “higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare spending” society. Personally, I believe tax should be based on the ability to pay, and so we should bring back the higher tax allowances for children Labour abolished in the 1970s.

But conservatives don’t just believe in individualism. We are the society party. Civic conservatives know that many problems can’t be solved by either the free market or the state. David Cameron said: “There is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same as the state.” When we think about problems like loneliness in an ageing society, we can only solve them by catalysing and helping voluntary groups and family life. The Big Society may have been a good idea, badly timed. But the ideal of voluntary action remains very attractive, I find particularly to younger conservatives.

Conservatism is also about gradualism. Burke attacked the French revolution as a huge, risky, leap-in-the-dark.
Gradualism is behind all our biggest policy successes. Welfare reforms started under Peter Lilley, continued under New Labour, and then under another Conservative government – and now have the record employment. The academy schools programme also spanned governments: from Kenneth Baker to Gavin Williamson.

In contrast, Socialists believe in utopian leaps. In the USSR and under China’s Great Leap Forward millions died, yet John McDonell still says, “I am a Marxist”. In contrast we should be proud gradualists. What do we want? More use of evidence. When do we want it? After randomised control trials.

As well as gradualism, Conservatism is about pluralism and decentralisation. Environmentalists have shown us why it is dangerous to have a monoculture of anything, because if things then go wrong, they do so on a huge scale. Think about the Irish potato famine.

Take a more recent policy example: during the heyday of disastrous progressive teaching methods, they swept all before them. But independent schools and grammar schools were a bastion for traditional methods (like phonics), which could then make a comeback after trendy methods failed.

Devolution allows experimentation. In the US they say the states are “laboratories of democracy”. Ideas like welfare reform or zero tolerance policing were tried locally and taken up nationally when they worked. Conservatives also believe in pluralism in a deeper way. People have different ideas of the good life.

That’s one reason I think we should keep the honours system – to recognise those who are motivated by something other than money, whether they want to serve their country on the battlefield, or help their community by running a youth club. That should inform our thoughts on things like childcare. Do we just focus on maximising employment or education? Or let people choose if they want to be stay at home parents?

I’m sure readers will point out things I’ve missed. But those are some of the main elements of Conservatism.
Law and order. The Constitution. Liberty. Social Conservatism. Civic Conservatism. Individual-self reliance.
Gradualism. Pluralism. Ideas that are sometimes in tension, but which fit together.

Conservatism is a bit like the roof of parliament’s Westminster Hall: which is held up by a lot of huge, ancient beams all resting on each other. Likewise, the elements of conservatism fit together, and have also made something really strong and enduring.

This article is based on a contribution by the author to a Centre for Policy Studies event, “Free Exchange: The case for conservatism”, at last week’s Conservative Party Conference.

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