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Westlake Legal Group > Michael Gove MP

Oliver Heald: The Prime Minister has a duty to continue our record on animal welfare

Sir Oliver Heald is Member of Parliament for North East Hertfordshire. 

Britain prides itself on being a nation of animal lovers. We were the first country in the world to introduce legislation on animal welfare, as long ago as 1822, when we criminalised the unnecessary suffering of some domesticated animals. Skip forward to the modern day, currently an estimated 12 million households – that’s 44 per cent of us – are pet owners.

The British public has time and time again shown outrage at the poor treatment of animals, with mass movements against cruelty at home and abroad, not least with the latest protests against commercial whaling resuming in Japan.

As a strong supporter of animal welfare Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister, has a duty to respond to the national interest by maintaining and enhancing our record on animal welfare, while continuing to encourage our global partners to also do more.

Conservatives have long been effective guardians of animal welfare. From introducing mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses to banning the cruel use of electric shock collars, ending third-party sales of puppies and kittens to committing to banning the use of wild animals in circuses, it was a Conservative Government that led the charge to increase these protections for animals. Theresa May repeatedly called animal welfare “a priority”, while Michael Gove cemented his position as a most effective minister for the environment with real attention to animal protections.

The issue of animal cruelty has a particular resonance for me. I was struck by the story of my constituent, PC Dave Wardell, and Finn the police dog. Finn had been injured in a horrific knife attack, resulting in four hours of surgery that just saved his life, and although he had risked his life to save his handler, his case was treated like criminal damage in the legal system; like he was a piece of equipment instead of a living being.

A change in the law was crucial – these brave creatures deserve justice too. So I was delighted when my Private Member’s Bill calling for legal recognition of service animals was championed by Members from across the House and adopted by the Government.

During the passage of Finn’s Law, it became clear that the same punishment should also apply to offences against any animal. Essential work is now progressing to change the law. Although Britain has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, our maximum penalties for animal abusers are still among the lowest, at just six months’ maximum imprisonment. This meant that regardless of the extreme brutality of the action, even to man’s best friend, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Judges in several instances expressed a desire for the increase, following horrific cases with instances of cruelty that should never be repeated.

However, the Government has recognised this needs to change. A new Bill, which received its Second Reading recently, will extend the maximum penalty to five years’ imprisonment, making it one of the toughest penalties in the world. This is exactly the stance we need to be taking, and it appropriately reflects that those who inflict cruelty on animals will be subject to the full force of the law.

The UK should also be proud of its global efforts to protect animals. The 2018 Ivory Act, backed by Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, is one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales, while last October, London hosted a global conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) to drive greater change. This is the sort of action we need to see: stringent regulations, the use of diplomatic links to discuss corruption and exploitation, and giving animal abuse and trafficking the gravitas of a serious global issue that also acknowledges its potential to fund transnational organised crime.

Building on this record, we can be strong international advocates for further closures of markets for other species under threat, such as pushing for an end to tiger farming.

Going further, the banning of imports of so-called ‘trophies’ would indicate the severity of the issue and help reduce both supply and demand. While the sale of ivory is banned in the UK, imports of ‘trophies’, hunting momentos which are often in the form of the body parts of endangered species, are allowed back into the UK with a special permit. If the UK wants to be a world leader on these issues, then it must stand firm against this behaviour, and I’m delighted that Michael Gove pledged his support for this campaign as one of his last acts as Environment Secretary.

As the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson must send a signal of zero tolerance for animal abuse and exploitation and use our global influence to drive further action.

Globally, Britain already has some of the highest animal welfare standards, but we must do more. Post-Brexit we can be even more ambitious. With 81 per cent of the British public preferring animal welfare laws to be maintained or extended after Brexit, stronger enforcement of these standards must inform decision-making and can be integral in the upcoming Environment Bill and Agriculture Bill. Actions like banning imports of foie gras, ending live animal exports, and introducing more effective labelling of products would embrace these ambitions and lead us towards a Green Brexit.

Our new Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, has long been a champion for animals, and campaigned on many of these causes. I look forward to seeing her in action after recess, when the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill will be one of the first Bills back in the House.

We must live up to our reputation as not only a nation of animal lovers, but as a world leader in protecting and enhancing their welfare. It is up to the new Prime Minister and Environment Secretary to lead us there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennett says of Gove’s book that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson 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 Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

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

Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson 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 Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

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

Johnson’s shuffle. If one asks for decisiveness – for an end to drift – don’t complain when it’s delivered.

ConservativeHome offered Boris Johnson advice on his coming reshuffle over a month ago.  Whatever you do, we said, shuffle with purpose.  Every single member of your new Cabinet must be signed up to leaving the EU on October 31 – without a deal if necessary.  Do or die.  All together now.  Band of brothers (and sisters).  No more Theresa May-era mass resignations over Brexit policy, totting up in the end to over 50, even without taking into account the very last ones.

A question this morning is whether or not the new Prime Minister has followed that train of thought to the point where it crashes into the buffers – and drives uncontrollably through them, leaving a trail of wreckage and corpses in its wake.  For he not only fired those Cabinet members who couldn’t support the policy (those that were left, anyway), but went on to sack many of those who surely could have done, or would at least have made their peace with it.

Jeremy Hunt, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Damian Hinds, David Mundell, James Brokenshire, Karen Bradley, Jeremy Wright – all of these would presumably have rallied round the new leader.  Two of them, Fox and Mordaunt, were 2016 Brexiteers.  The latter was prominent within Vote Leave.  One of them, Brokenshire, was a Johnson voter in the leadership election.  Yet the new Prime Minister deliberately chose to bundle them up in no fewer than nine full Cabinet sackings.  Greg Clark hung on until the end, while Chris Grayling went of his own volition. That brings the total to ten.

This was the bloodiest Cabinet Walpurgisnacht in modern history – making Macmillan’s night of the long knives look like a day trip to Balamory (although technically the changes marked the start of a new Government, not a shuffle within the old one).  Add the ten to the departure of Theresa May, Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Rory Stewart and David Lidington, and one reaches 15.  And that’s before getting into the dismissal of MPs entitled to attend, such as Mel Stride and Clare Perry.  That’s ten Conservative MPs alienated and in some cases added, perhaps, to the core of perhaps 25 ultra-rebellious Tory Soft Brexiteers and Remainers.  And the Government’s majority soon looks to dwindle to one.

There are many ways of assessing the replacements for the departed 15 or so.  For a start, there is ethnicity.  To Sajid Javid is added Rishi Sunak, now to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Alok Sharma at International Development plus, above all, Priti Patel at the Home Office (and of those entitled to attend there is James Cleverly, the new Party Chairman, plus Kwasi Kwarteng).  Then there are women: to Patel, we can add Liz Truss at Trade, Andrea Leadsom at Business, Theresa Villiers at Environment, Nicky Morgan at Culture, Amber Rudd at Work and Pensions.  This is Johnson’s briefed-in-advance “Cabinet for modern Britain”.  May had only three female members of her full Cabinet: Rudd, Mordaunt, Bradley and herself.  Javid was the only ethnic minority member.

As for the changes themselves, they seem to us to be a mixed bag.  Sunak, Cleverly, Leadsom, Robert Buckland at Justice, Ben Wallace at Defence: these are good appointments.  Julian Smith will know the Northern Ireland scene well from his work as Chief Whip.  Alister Jack is presumably in because Johnson wants a Leaver at the Scottish Office.  Nicky Morgan at Culture can take as her motto the saying of Leo X: “God has given us the papacy – let us enjoy it”.  Robert Jenrick, with Sunak one of three authors of a pro-Johnson leadership endorsement, has a big promotion to housing.  Their co-signatory, Oliver Dowden, will be a Cabinet Office Minister “entitled to attend”.

He will be among a swelling group of people: no fewer than ten, including Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House.  The new Prime Minister is doing nothing to make the Cabinet more compact.  The site would have preferred to see Theresa Villiers back at Northern Ireland rather than pitched in to Michael Gove’s shoes at Environment.  The big experiment will be exposing Gavin Williamson to the electorally-sensitive world of teachers and parents.

But if you want to locate the key to this reshuffle, it isn’t ethnicity, or gender, or finding horses for courses.  Rather, it is support for Johnson himself – and for Brexit. Rudd is the only declared Hunt voter to survive.  Morgan plumped for Gove.  Everyone else voted either for Johnson, right from the start of this contest, or at least after elimination themselves (if we know what they did at all).  Furthermore, 15 out of the 32 people eligible to gather round the Cabinet table voted Leave in 2016, compared to seven out of 29 in May’s last Cabinet.

Dom Raab at the Foreign Office – First Secretary of State, to boot – plus Patel, and Michael Gove at the Cabinet Office, working hand in glove with Dominic Cummings, while Steve Barclay hangs on at DexEU.  These are all general election-ready, Vote Leave veterans.  One has the spooky sensation, looking at this Cabinet and leadership, that the year is somehow 2016 – and that we now have the Government that we should have had then, ready at last to counter the charge that Vote Leave scurried away from Brexit, rather than manning up to deliver it.

Yes, the slaugher is spectacular.  And yes, the demotion of Hunt was unwise – though perhaps not as much so as his own refusal to take responsibility in government for our armed forces.  But look at it all another way.  Johnson stood accused of being a soft touch – indecisive; yielding; vacant.  So one can scarcely complain when he wields – not least before those who look on from abroad – the power that the premiership still has.  Brexiteers are accused of not taking responsibility.  After this shuffle, they can’t be: Johnson and Patel and Raab and company are unmistakably, unmissably in charge.

Remainers and Leavers alike can converge on a shared point.  Vote Leave helped to create Brexit.  Let their leaders now own it.  If one asks for decisiveness – for an end to drift – one can scarcely complain when it’s delivered.

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

Full list of Johnson’s Cabinet appointments

Here is the list of members of the new Government, so far:

Prime Minister: Boris Johnson

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Sajid Javid

Foreign Secretary (and First Secretary of State): Dominic Raab

Home Secretary: Priti Patel

Defence Secretary: Ben Wallace

Brexit Secretary: Steve Barclay

Health Secretary: Matt Hancock

International Trade Secretary: Liz Truss

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Michael Gove

You can follow all the latest news on our live blog here.

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

Patrick Spencer: Some advice for the new Conservative leader. Stick to these three ideas to boost productivity.

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The Conservative leadership contest has proved to be the battle of ideas that the party wants, needs and should probably have had back in 2016. Yes, Brexit has dominated the discussion, but in amongst chat of proroguing, No Deals and backstops, we have heard interesting ideas about, for example, tax reform, a national citizens’ service and early years support for young mothers. During the Parliamentary stage of the contest, the Centre for Social Justice hosted the Social Justice Caucus of Tory MPs, holding their own hustings event for the Conservative leadership, and the candidates didn’t disappoint.

The litany of new ideas stem from the fact that most of the candidates felt it is time to reshape the Government’s fiscal strategy. The last nine years have been defined by successive Coalition and Conservative government’s support for fiscal rebalancing. David Cameron and George Osborne successfully formed governments after two general elections on a platform of fiscal prudence.

However, the political landscape has changed. Younger voters who weren’t around to vote in 2010 now make up a sizeable chunk of the electorate. Years of austerity, job growth and a much healthier national balance sheet has meant that ‘austerity’ is increasingly unpopular.  Combine this with the perceived economic harm that a No Deal Brexit may cause, and the case for loosening austerity is compelling.

In this vein, Boris Johnson has argued for lower taxes on higher earners as well as increased spending on education. Esther McVey wanted to cut the International Aid budget and spend savings on the police and education. Dominic Raab called to raise the National Insurance Threshold and cut the basic rate of income tax. Michael Gove hoped to reform VAT so that it becomes a Sales Tax. And Sajid Javid said he would slow the rate of debt reduction, which would free up £25 billion for new spending commitments.

Even outside of the leadership circle, Tory MPs and right-of-centre think tanks are advocating for a new spending strategy.  Neil O’Brien has coined the ‘O’Brien Rule’, which allows for budget deficits as long as debt as a percentage of GDP is falling. This sentiment was echoed by Philip Hammond, who called on every leadership candidate to commit to keeping the deficit under two per cent of GDP as long as the national debt was falling.

Considering the appetite to do something, the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister should be warned that spending for spending’s sake is not a good idea. If the decision is taken therefore to loosen the fiscal taps, it should be carefully targeted so that this increases growth and more importantly, productivity.

The Centre for Social Justice released a report in 2017 that highlighted a clear policy agenda that used tax and spend policies to boost productivity across the UK. It is roundly recognised that the productivity conundrum in the UK has not been the result of any one issue but, rather, is a confluence of factors that have taken hold of our economic and social machine.

First and foremost, British companies do not invest and innovate enough. Compared to other countries we have lower levels of capital investment, lower uptake of new-generation technologies such as robotics, and entrepreneurs sell out too early. Britain has a proud history of innovation and technology, and yes we do have several world beating unicorn companies, but in recent years we have lost ground in the innovation stakes to the US, Germany and the Asian economies.

The CSJ recommended a raft of policies that could help reverse this, starting with a ramp up in public funds available for research and development. Public cash for R+D has a crowding in (as opposed to crowding out) effect. We also called (counter-intuitively) for the scrapping of Entrepreneurs Tax Relief. It is expensive and does little to help real entrepreneurs, and only acts as a tax loophole for asset strippers (this policy has recently been advocated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation). We also called for simplification of the tax system. Look at the Annual Investment Allowance, for instance, that was decreased by 75 per cent in 2012, increased by a factor of 10 in 2013, doubled in 2015, only for it to then be almost cut in half in 2016.

Second, the CSJ called for a radical increase in support for vocational education in the UK. While businesses needed some help to innovate and compete, the labour market needs support in terms of skills and competencies. Recommendations included a new spending commitment for FE colleges and more support for adult learners who are in low skilled work. The Augar Review called for the Government to make £1 billion available for colleges, a good start but realistically the Government will have to go much further in the future. here is an example of where public money can make a big difference in public policy.

Last, if the next Prime Minister wants to support productivity growth, they can look at rebalancing growth outside of London across Britain’s regions. London is home to less than a quarter of the UK’s population but contributes to 37 per cent of our economic output. It attracts a disproportionate number of high skilled and high paying jobs. Public spending on infrastructure in London dwarfs that spent in the North and Midlands. Reversing this trend will of course take a generation, but by boosting transport spending on inter-city transport (most obviously Northern Rail), tax breaks for companies that set up in struggling cities such as Doncaster, Wigan or Bradford, as well as more money for towns and cities to spend on green spaces and cultural assets (such as museums, public art, restaurants and bars) that attract young people.

These three productivity-generating policy areas will allow any Government to loosen the fiscal taps without bankrupting the country. When the next Prime Minister appoints his Chancellor, he or she would be well advised to stick to the basics of cutting taxes, spending more on education and rebalancing growth outside of London.

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John Bald: “Points mean prizes” has to stop.

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.

For decades, governments have tried to make schools do the impossible, using paperwork, statistics, and inspection as their weapons. Labour demanded reams of policy documents, imposed ill-informed Cromwellian “strategies”, and fiddled results when they didn’t work. In recent years, Conservatives have run them a close second, imposing arbitrary and unrealistic targets, nitpicking over Labour’s cumbersome safeguarding systems, and abusing inspection findings to fast track schools into academy status without giving them a chance to improve.

Tests for 11-year-olds (SATs) are pivotal, as they are both the key indicator for primary schools, and the baseline for setting GCSE grades. The government has correctly dismissed Labour’s call to abolish SATs, because this would return us to the position we had before they were introduced. In the authority I worked for, some schools had under ten per cent of pupils reaching the standard needed for success at secondary school, and no-one was doing anything about it. Follow these pupils through to 16, and their secondary schools had five or six per cent, with five GCSEs at Grade C. Go back to the infant school, and scores on the authority’s reading test showed a steady decline of three-quarters of a percentage point each year over a ten-year period, a fact hidden from elected members by officials, until I published the figures in The Guardian.

But where there is a figure, there will be someone looking to fiddle it, which is probably what Churchill meant by “lies, damned lies and statistics.” Labour again led the way. When test scores dipped, they lowered the pass mark (2000), sacked the markers (2005), or, when even that didn’t work, in tests at 14, abolished the test. That one put them in a bind. Around 1998, a dip in test scores that put Labour, and progressive English teaching, in a bad light, was followed by crazy marking, that credited pupils whose writing was at 7 year-old level with the expected Level 5. These pupils had no chance whatever of making the expected progress to GCSE, which would have looked even worse, and so the tests were scrapped. Points only mean prizes if you can get the points.

Since 2010, our Conservative ministers have had much success in reforming tests and exams. The non-qualification of AS at 17 has been abolished, and external marking at GCSE has left outright cheating as the only, risky, opportunity for fraud. The phonics check for six year olds has a stable, child-friendly format, and focuses attention on the key skill of using information from letters, rather than guessing, to read words. The new multiplication tables check for eight year olds should be as good, and the reformed SATs for 11-year-olds have been more sensible than had been predicted from some of the non-statotory guidance.

And yet we are still in deep political trouble in education, and point scores are at the heart of it. Our coalition partners did not like Ebacc, or Michael Gove’s plans for further reform of GCSEs, and forced through a system called “Progress 8”, which measured a pupil’s best eight GCSEs against their SAT scores in English and maths. How English and maths were to provide a baseline for a GCSE in subjects that have little to do with English and maths is a question that can only be answered by a statistician or bureaucrat. They provide a baseline because we say they do. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t say it. And of course, they reduce everything to a point score, and points mean prizes, in the form of continued employment.

This thinking, in which all subjects are equal, but some are harder than others, has had a distorting and damaging effect on education that affects every 16-year-old in the country. Ofqual, the guardian of standards, interprets this role as the prevention of grade inflation, which it does by applying statistical formulae, based on SAT scores, to all subjects. If a subject, such as German, attracts a large number of higher-attaining candidates, Ofqual maintains standards by giving them lower grades than they would have received in subjects attracting less able pupils. The result of this even-handedness is that German candidates in 2018 were overall one grade lower in German than in their other subjects, and French nearly as bad. I founded the British Association of Teachers of German, which has 280 members, partly to campaign for fair testing and grading, and Ofqual’s stonewalling response would have made the Kremlin proud, if not jealous. Niet, Non, Talk to the Hand. Ofqual is right, and if German dies out at A level and in state schools, it’s not their fault. Statistics can’t lie. They shall not pass. I’m informed that Ofqual is now stonewalling over A level, even though this is now described by Professor Katrin Kohl as harder than Oxford’s first year examinations.

And of course, if heads don’t win enough points to win the prize, they get the sack, and know it. So they go for easy subjects, and are dashing to Spanish, as they think it’s easier than German or French. The statistics prove this under the current system, although Spanish has also stalled, with entries falling in each of the last two years. In the meantime, Ebacc, rightly seen as the core of education, is suffering. Its subjects don’t necessarily count in the progress 8, and, while around 38% of pupils are taking Ebacc, the pass rate is around 23%, which puts the qualification in a precarious position. The point system of Progress 8 is at the heart of it. Heads, and academy chains, look for the best chances of getting points to boost the score, and think of little else. This may be an unintended consequence, but it is a pernicious relic of the coalition and we need to get rid of it.

The solution is simple. Return to the requirement for all schools to publish their grades and entry numbers in all subjects, so that people can see what is really going, on and schools can’t hide weaknesses behind point scores in softer subjects. Then consider these scores in the context of the school. This is, I believe, the principle behind Amanda Spielman’s reforms in Ofsted, and Edward Timpson’s excellent review of exclusions for the DfE, a brilliant analysis that takes full account of the context and reasons for exclusion rather than focusing only on the numbers.

Sir Bruce Forsyth was much loved, and points mean prizes was a great slogan for his game show. It does not serve the needs of children, teachers and schools. It must be scrapped.

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Johnson’s August 1) He must spend some time in Scotland

It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.

He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.

So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We open today a brief series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

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Today’s papers suggest that the new Prime Minister will visit Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron – it apparently isn’t yet decided in what order – and seek to visit Donald Trump early in search of a UK – US trade deal.

He will also have to go to Dublin to make personal contact with Leo Varadkar – testing and perhaps fruitless though such a trip may be.

One can begin to see from the number of journeys that Johnson will have to make from Downing Street that he will need a strong team, with perhaps a Deputy Prime Minister or First Secretary of State in place, and certainly a capable Minister at the Cabinet Office, to run much of the Government’s new domestic policy in his absence.

The new Prime Minister shouldn’t be out of London more than is absolutely necessary – after all, the Iran standoff may suddenly flare up, in the manner of August foreign policy crises – but he will surely have to find time for a trip to Scotland.

There is evidence that his ratings in Scotland are weak; much of the Scottish Conservative Party will have voted for Jeremy Hunt; Ruth Davidson is not a fan, the SNP would undoubtedly use any No Deal Brexit to make a new push for Scottish independence – and Scottish Parliamentary elections are due in 2021.

In short, the threat to the Union “hasn’t gone away, you know”, and the new Prime Minister must seek to head some of the trouble off.  His main downside seems to be that he is seen in parts of Scotland as quintessentially English figure.

But the same could be said of almost any Tory successor to Theresa May, including Jeremy Hunt.  And some Scottish MPs and MSPs have broken for the front-runner.  Ross Thomson, Colin Clark, Douglas Ross and Andrew Bowie are now signed up.

The last is May’s PPS, and will be a useful guide to Scotland for the new Prime Minister.  Thomson is a long-standing supporter.  One of Johnson’s first decisions will be what to do with David Mundell, the experienced Scotland Secretary, who along with several of his colleagues backed Michael Gove.

Three MSPs  – Michelle Ballantyne, Margaret Mitchell and Oliver Mundell – are also doing so, though they are very much in a minority in their group.  Mundell explained his reasons recently on this site.

Johnson has dropped his original wish to recast the Barnett formula, and will now seek to be styled Minister for the Union as well as Prime Minister.

But he will need to do much more than that if he is help bolster the Union early – and rebuff claims of indulging in mere Red-White-And-Bluewash.

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Tom Tugendhat: The last two men left standing in this contest must resist the temptation to slug it out

Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

In a contest which has been framed around personality, it is striking how many ideas have been generated by the Conservative leadership contest.  Each of the ten candidates original candidates had something to say. Each has championed a new vision of Britain, and each has given Conservatives plenty to think about.

It’s also showcased some good news about how the Conservative Party is changing. Which other party in any other country could boast a contest that included a television presenter, two newspaper columnists, an entrepreneur, an old-school adventurer, a second generation Muslim immigrant, or the son of a Jewish refugee? Not as tokens, but each arguing on merit their own cause as an advocate of an idea.

I backed Michael Gove’s determination to do everything he can to strengthen our United Kingdom and make this country a cleaner, greener place to live. But there are parts from other campaigns that were inspiring. I love Esther McVey’s promoting of Blue Collar Conservatism that has underpinned the Conservative movement for generations and Dominic Raab’s focus on home-ownership and cutting taxes for the lowest-paid.

Andrea Leadsom’s defence of EU citizens who live in the UK and the need to give them (my wife included) certainty about their future status is a proposal I completely back and Matt Hancock’s continued emphasis on mastering cutting-edge digital technologies as the key to our country’s future prosperity is one I have been pushing for since I discovered that parts of Kent are less well connected than Kabul or Khartoum.

At a time when faith in politicians is waning, Rory Stewart showed us just how we can rebuild trust not only through outreach but by talking about the real issues that change people’s lives.

And Boris Johnson? What isn’t there to say about him? He has picked up school places and tech infrastructure, taxes and the living wage and, closest to my heart in our in a time of educational separation – apprenticeships. That, along with his ability to animate the faithful make his contribution so powerful.

But he’s not alone. No one could be unmoved by Sajid Javid’s back story and determination. His pledge to recruit 20,000 more police is a welcome return to the values many expect of us – protecting those most in need. And as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve long admired Jeremy Hunt’s ability to master the widest of briefs and understand the details that drive change in our world. His commitment to fund our armed forces and diplomacy properly is also hugely welcome.

The range of these ideas gives me great hope for the future. Partly because they confound the lazy allegation that we have run out of them. Partly because none of them need be mutually exclusive. And partly because Brexit is the biggest shift in UK policy in generations with massive implications for everything from the NHS to housing policy: there is a massive opportunity for creative thinking.

While there is no shortage of ideas, there has been a shortage of leadership. We need a Prime Minister now who will take us through Brexit and confront the challenges beyond. The 2016 referendum, and the three years since our vote to leave, have revealed many profound political problems – common to many other countries – that we now have both an opportunity and a duty to address.

The poorest have felt the impact of the financial crisis hardest, while the benefits of our economic growth have been imperceptible to too many: especially those who do not live or work in our big cities. We have to build beautiful new housing that reflects the way we live today. We need to ensure that our education system is focused on endowing our young people with the skills that translate into career security in a world which has already been transformed by internet connectivity and will be further by automation and AI. Finally, everything we do must be sustainable. The policies we pursue today must not imperil our children’s future.

The temptation for the last two men left standing in this contest will be to slug it out. There is a real danger that the race becomes acrimonious and divisive.  We are at our best as a country when we are unified. I know from my time chairing the committee that has scrutinised both Foreign Secretaries that each man is above this.

Let us spend the next week scrutinising these two potential leaders. Then let’s unite behind whoever wins to deliver Brexit and a compelling vision of the future for this great country.

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