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Westlake Legal Group > Theresa May MP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“This will most likely be the last time I will speak at length as Prime Minister…” – May on the state of politics

The below is the full text of the speech delivered by Theresa May at Chatham House today.

This will most likely be the last time I will speak at length as Prime Minister and I would like today to share some personal reflections on the state of politics in our country and around the world.

I have lived politics for half a century. From stuffing envelopes for my local party in my school years to serving as a local councillor, fighting a by-election, winning a seat, to serving for 12 years on the opposition front bench, and for nine years in the Cabinet as Home Secretary and Prime Minister.

Throughout that time, in every job I have done, I have been inspired by the enormous potential that working in politics and taking part in public life holds.

The potential to serve your country, to improve peoples’ lives, and – in however big or small a way – to make the world a better place.

Looking at our own country and the world of which we form a part, and there is great deal to feel optimistic about.

Globally, over the last 30 years extreme poverty and child mortality have both been halved.

Hundreds of millions of people are today living longer, happier and healthier lives than their grandparents could even have dreamed of.

As a world, we have never cared more deeply about the ecology of our planet’s environment.

From treating the earth as a collection of resources to be plundered, we have within a generation come to understand its fragile diversity and taken concerted action to conserve it.

The UK is leading the way in that effort with our commitment to net zero emissions.

Social attitudes in our country and many other western countries have transformed in recent decades.

There are more women in senior positions today than at any time in history.

When I was born, it was a crime to be a gay man, legal to discriminate on the basis of sex or race, and casual bigotry was a socially acceptable fact of daily life.

All that has changed – and greatly for the better.

There remains a long, long way to go to achieve what we should rightly seek – an economy, a society and a world that truly works for all of its people.

Where everyone has the security of a safe home and enough to eat; the opportunity to get a good education and a satisfying job to support their family; and the freedom of thought, speech and action to do and be everything their talents and hard work fit them for.

The generation of young people growing up today – in the UK and around the word – have it within their grasp to achieve more in the decades ahead than we today can imagine.

They will have the chance to harness the great drivers of change in the world today – from artificial intelligence and the data economy; cleaner forms of energy and more efficient modes of transport; to the technological and medical advances that will extend and improve our quality of life.

The twenty-first century has the potential to be a pivotal point in human history – when economic, social and technological progress reach a combined apogee with the benefits multiplied and with everyone enjoying a share.

It will not come about without effort.

We will all have to work hard – individually and collectively to reach that better future.

Crucially, the full power and potential of a small, but strong and strategic state must be brought to bear in that effort, establishing and maintaining the legal and economic structures that allow a regulated free market to flourish.

Co-ordinating its own interventions to maximum effect – supporting science and innovation, supplying crucial public services and infrastructure, leading and responding to social progress.

At our best, that has been the story of the democratic century that we celebrated last year when we marked the first votes for women and working men in 1918.

It has been democratic politics, an open market economy and the enduring values of free speech, the rule of law and a system of government founded on the concept of inviolable human rights that has provided the nexus of that progress in the past.

And a healthy body politic will be essential to consolidating and extending that progress in the future.

It is on that score that today we do have grounds for serious concern. Both domestically and internationally, in substance and in tone, I am worried about the state of politics.

That worry stems from a conviction that the values on which all of our successes have been founded cannot be taken for granted.

They may look to us as old as the hills, we might think that they will always be there, but establishing the superiority of those values over the alternatives was the hard work of centuries of sacrifice.

And to ensure that liberal inheritance can endure for generations to come, we today have a responsibility to be active in conserving it.

If we do not, we will all pay the price – rich and poor, strong and weak, powerful and powerless.

As a politician, my decisions and actions have always been guided by that conviction.

It used to be asked of applicants at Conservative candidate selection meetings, ‘are you a conviction politician or are you a pragmatist’?

I have never accepted the distinction.

Politics is the business of turning your convictions into reality to improve the lives of the people you serve.

As a Conservative, I have never had any doubt about what I believe in – security, freedom and opportunity. Decency, moderation, patriotism. Conserving what is of value, but never shying away from change. Indeed, recognising that often change is the way to conserve. Believing in business but holding businesses to account if they break the rules. Backing ambition, aspiration and hard work. Protecting our Union of nations – and being prepared to act in its interest even if that means steering a difficult political course.

And remaining always firmly rooted in the common ground of politics – where all great political parties should be.

I didn’t write about those convictions in pamphlets or make many theoretical speeches about them.

I have sought to put them into action.

And actually getting things done rather than simply getting them said requires some qualities that have become unfashionable of late.

One of them is a willingness to compromise. That does not mean compromising your values.

It does not mean accepting the lowest common denominator or clinging to outmoded ideas out of apathy or fear.

It means being driven by, and when necessary standing up for, your values and convictions.

But doing so in the real world – in the arena of public life – where others are making their own case, pursuing their own interests.

And where persuasion, teamwork and a willingness to make mutual concessions are needed to achieve an optimal outcome.

That is politics at its best.

The alternative is a politics of winners and losers, of absolutes and of perpetual strife – and that threatens us all.

Today an inability to combine principles with pragmatism and make a compromise when required seems to have driven our whole political discourse down the wrong path.

It has led to what is in effect a form of “absolutism” – one which believes that if you simply assert your view loud enough and long enough you will get your way in the end. Or that mobilising your own faction is more important than bringing others with you.

This is coarsening our public debate. Some are losing the ability to disagree without demeaning the views of others.

Online, technology allows people to express their anger and anxiety without filter or accountability. Aggressive assertions are made without regard to the facts or the complexities of an issue, in an environment where the most extreme views tend to be the most noticed.

This descent of our debate into rancour and tribal bitterness – and in some cases even vile abuse at a criminal level – is corrosive for the democratic values which we should all be seeking to uphold. It risks closing down the space for reasoned debate and subverting the principle of freedom of speech.

And this does not just create an unpleasant environment. Words have consequences – and ill words that go unchallenged are the first step on a continuum towards ill deeds – towards a much darker place where hatred and prejudice drive not only what people say but also what they do.

This absolutism is not confined to British politics. It festers in politics all across the world. We see it in the rise of political parties on the far left and far right in Europe and beyond. And we see it in the increasingly adversarial nature of international relations, which some view as a zero sum game where one country can only gain if others lose. And where power, unconstrained by rules, is the only currency of value.

This absolutism at home and abroad is the opposite of politics at its best. It refuses to accept that other points of view are reasonable. It ascribes bad motives to those taking those different views.

And it views anything less than 100 per cent of what you want all the time as evidence of failure, when success in fact means achieving the optimum outcome in any given circumstance.

The sustainability of modern politics derives not from an uncompromising absolutism but rather through the painstaking marking out of a common ground.

That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles – far from it. It means delivering on them with the consent of people on all sides of the debate, so they can ultimately accept the legitimacy of what is being done, even if it may not be the outcome they would initially have preferred.

That is how social progress and international agreement was forged in the years after the Second World War – both at home with the establishment of an enduring National Health Service and, internationally, with the creation of an international order based on agreed rules and multilateral institutions.

Consider, for example, the story of the NHS. The Beveridge Report was commissioned by a Coalition Government.

The Health Minister who published the first White Paper outlining the principles of a comprehensive and free health service was a Conservative.

A Labour Government then created the NHS – engaging in fierce controversy both with the doctors who would work for the NHS, and with a Conservative opposition in the House of Commons which supported the principles of an NHS, but disagreed with the methods.

But the story does not end there. Just three years after the NHS was founded, Churchill’s newly elected Conservative Government was faced with a choice, a choice between going back over old arguments or accepting the legitimacy of what had been done and building on it.

They chose to build on what had been established.

Today, because people were willing to compromise, we have an NHS to be proud of – an institution which unites our country.

Similarly, on the international stage, many of the agreements that underpinned the establishment of the rules-based international order in the aftermath of the Second World War were reached by pragmatism and compromise.

The San Francisco Conference, which adopted the United Nations Charter – the cornerstone of international law – almost broke down over Soviet insistence that the Security Council veto should apply not just to Council resolutions and decisions, but even to whether the Council should discuss a matter.

It was only a personal mission to Stalin in Moscow from US President Truman’s envoy Harry Hopkins that persuaded the Soviets to back down.

Many States who were not Permanent Members of the Security Council did not want the veto to exist at all. But they compromised and signed the Charter because of the bigger prize it represented – a global system which enfranchised the people of the world with new rights, until then only recognisable to citizens in countries like ours.

It’s easy now to assume that these landmark agreements which helped created the international order will always hold – that they are as permanent as the hills.

But turning ideals into practical agreements was hard fought. And we cannot be complacent about ensuring that they endure.

Indeed, the current failure to combine principles with pragmatism and compromise inevitably risks undermining them.

We are living through a period of profound change and insecurity. The forces of globalisation and the pursuit of free markets have brought unprecedented levels of wealth and opportunity for the country and for the world at large. But not everyone is reaping the benefits.

The march of technology is expanding the possibilities for humanity in ways that once could never have been conceived. But it is changing the nature of the workplace and the types of jobs that people will do. More and more working people are feeling anxious over whether they and their children and grandchildren will have the skills and the opportunities to get on.

And although the problems were building before the financial crisis, that event brought years of hardship from which we are only now emerging.

Populist movements have seized the opportunity to capitalise on that vacuum. They have embraced the politics of division; identifying the enemies to blame for our problems and offering apparently easy answers.

In doing so, they promote a polarised politics which views the world through the prism of “us” and “them” – a prism of winners and losers, which views compromise and cooperation through international institutions as signs of weakness not strength.

President Putin expressed this sentiment clearly on the eve of the G20 summit in Japan, when he said that the “liberal idea has become obsolete”…because it has “come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

This is a cynical falsehood. No one comparing the quality of life or economic success of liberal democracies like the UK, France and Germany to that of the Russian Federation would conclude that our system is obsolete. But the fact that he feels emboldened to utter it today indicates the challenge we face as we seek to defend our values.

So if we are to stand up for these values that are fundamental to our way of life, we need to rebuild support for them by addressing people’s legitimate concerns through actual solutions that can command public consent, rather than populist promises that in the end are not solutions at all.

In doing so, we need to show that, from the local to the global, a politics of pragmatic conviction that is unafraid of compromise and co-operation is the best way in which politics can sustainably meet the challenges we face.

Take the example of how we address some of the concerns and fears over globalisation.

The Far Left – including the leadership of our once proud British Labour Party – would argue that we should scrap an open market altogether. And we should be in no doubt that if we cannot successfully reform the free market system to create an economy that works for all, then people will increasingly reject it in favour of an alternative, no matter what the wider economic and social consequences.

But we know it is free and competitive markets that drive the innovation, creativity and risk-taking that have enabled so many of the great advances of our time. We know it is business that pioneers the industries of the future, secures the investment on which that future depends, and creates jobs and livelihoods for families up and down our country.

And we know that free enterprise can also play a crucial role in helping to meet some of the greatest social challenges of our time – from contributing to the sustainability of our planet to generating new growth and new hope in areas of our country that have been left behind for too long.

But you do not protect the concept of free market capitalism by failing to respond to the legitimate concerns of those who are not feeling its full benefits. You protect free market capitalism and all the benefits it can bring by reforming it so that it works for everyone.

That is why I have introduced reforms to working practice and workers’ rights to reflect the changes in our economy. It is why I launched the Taylor Review into modern forms of employment like the gig economy – and why we are delivering the biggest improvements in UK workers’ rights for twenty years in response to it.

It is why I have advanced changes in corporate governance – because business must not only be about commercial success but about bringing wider benefits to the whole of our society too.

And it is why we have put in place a Modern Industrial Strategy – a strategic partnership between business and government to make the long-term decisions that will ensure the success of our economy. But crucially, a strategy to ensure that as we develop the industries of the future, so the benefits of the trade and growth they will give rise to will reach working people – not just in some parts of the country, but in every part of our country.

These are steps rooted in my Conservative political convictions. They are not a rejection of free enterprise. But rather they are the very way to restore the popular legitimacy of free enterprise and make it work for everyone.

I believe that taking such an approach is also how we resolve the Brexit impasse.

The only way to do so is to deliver on the outcome of the vote in 2016. And there is no greater regret for me than that I could not do so.

But whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long-term – so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together.

That has to mean some kind of compromise.

Some argue I should have taken the United Kingdom out of the European Union with no deal on 29th March. Some wanted a purer version of Brexit. Others to find a way of stopping it altogether.

But most people across our country had a preference for getting it done with a deal. And I believe the strength of the deal I negotiated was that it delivered on the vote of the referendum to leave the European Union, while also responding to the concerns of those who had voted to remain.

The problem was that when it came time for Parliament to ratify the deal, our politics retreated back into its binary pre-referendum positions – a winner takes all approach to leaving or remaining.

And when opinions have become polarised – and driven by ideology – it becomes incredibly hard for a compromise to become a rallying point.

The spirit of compromise in the common interest is also crucial in meeting some of the greatest global challenges of our time – from responsibly harnessing the huge potential of digital technology to tackling climate change; and from preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons to upholding and strengthening international rules in the face of hostile states.

During my premiership, the UK has led the way both domestically and internationally in seeking a new settlement which ensures the internet remains a driver of growth and opportunity – but also that internet companies respond more comprehensively to reasonable and legitimate demands that they take their wider responsibilities to society more seriously.

That is why we are legislating in the UK to create a legal duty of care on internet companies, backed up by an independent regulator with the power to enforce its decisions.

We are the first country to put forward such a comprehensive approach, but it is not enough to act alone.

Ultimately we need a realistic global approach that achieves the right balance between protecting the individual freedoms of those using the internet – while also keeping them safe from harm.

That also holds the key to further progress in the fight to protect our planet.

Here in the UK we have recently built on the 2008 Climate Change Act by becoming the first major economy to agree a landmark net zero target that will end our contribution to climate change by 2050.

Of course, there were some who wanted us not just to make that net zero commitment but to bring it forward even earlier. And there are others who still question the science of climate change or the economic costs of tackling it.

But we were able to come together to agree a target that is supported across the political spectrum, across business and civil society – and which is both ambitious and also deliverable.

Just as the nations of the world were able to come together and agree the historic Paris Agreement of 2015, a settlement which if unravelled would damage us all and our planet.

And just as we seek to protect the hard fought Paris Climate Agreement, so I also believe we must protect the similarly hard fought JCPOA – the nuclear deal with Iran, whatever its challenges.

Once again it took painstaking pragmatism and compromise to strike that deal.

Of course, there are those who fear a reduction in sanctions on a country that continues to pursue destabilising activity across the region, and we should address that activity head on.

But whether we like it or not a compromise deal remains the best way to get the outcome we all still ultimately seek – to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to preserve the stability of the region.

Being prepared to compromise also means knowing when not to compromise – and when our values are under threat we must always be willing to stand firm. Just as we did when Russia deployed a deadly nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury, and I led international action across the world to expel more than 100 Russian intelligence officers – the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.

We are here today at St James’ Square – the location from which Dwight Eisenhower led the planning for D-Day. And it was standing on the beaches of Normandy with other world leaders last month – remembering together all that was given in defence of our liberty and our values – that most inspired me to come here today to give this speech.

Eisenhower once wrote: “People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable…Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”

I believe that seeking the common ground and being prepared to make compromises in order to make progress does not entail a rejection of our values and convictions by one iota, rather it is precisely the way to defend them.

Not by making promises you cannot keep, or by just telling people what you think they want to hear. But by addressing the concerns people genuinely hold and showing that co-operation not absolutism is the only way to deliver for everyone.

For the future, if we can recapture the spirit of common purpose – as I believe we must – then we can be optimistic about what together we can achieve.

We can find the common ground that will enable us to forge new, innovative global agreements on the most crucial challenges of our time – from protecting our planet to harnessing the power of technology for good.

We can renew popular support for liberal democratic values and international co-operation.

And in so doing, we can secure our freedom, our prosperity and our ability to live together peacefully now and for generations to come.

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WATCH: PMQs – “You have failed the test of leadership…apologise, now”

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Johnson’s August 3) Delivering campaign pledges – in so far as he can without a durable majority

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 continue our series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

– – – – – – – – – –

According to our weekly updated list, Boris Johnson has made some 25 policy pledges during the Conservative leadership election.  In the probable event of a general election in the autumn, he won’t be able to deliver on many of them.  And he will soon have a working majority of only three in any event.

Which surely rules out a Special Budget in September.  It would have to contain more provisions for No Deal, and wrapping them up in this way would only encourage MPs to vote them down.  He would do better to try any that he needs on the Commons piecemeal.

MPs would also vote down any tax cuts “for the rich” – a category who they would collectively argue includes those who pay the higher rate of income tax, the threshold of which Johnson has promised to raise.

It would be impossible in effect to cut income tax rates in time for a snap election anyway, though the Commons might nod through a rise in the national insurance threshold for lower paid workers, another of his pledges.

But just because Johnson can’t do everything – or even anything much that requires a Bill – doesn’t mean that he can only do nothing.

Governments have greater discretion on spending than tax.  So, for example, he could start to deliver on increasing funding per pupil in secondary schools and raising police numbers.  That would come in handy with an autumn election looming.

The latter move would go hand in hand with a battle with Chief Constables and others over the best use of new resources.  Voters want to see more police on the streets and more use of stop and search.  Johnson’s new Home Secretary should pile in.

And while he will have little legislative room for manoeuvre, he will be able to propose some relatively uncontentious Bills for September – settling the status, for example, of EU citizens.

Then there are measures that he could announce the new Government will not proceed with, as well as those that he wants to proceed with.  Theresa May is providing a growing list of the former.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he should take an axe to parts of her legacy programme – including, as Henry Hill has argued, the hostage to fortune that is the proposed Office for Tackling Injustices.

He will also want to show a direction of travel on some major policy issues.  We do not believe that refusing to commit to a reduction in immigration is sustainable.  As a starting-point to establishing control, he could do a lot worse than take up the Onward proposals floated on this site yesterday by Mark Harper.

There is a limited amount that the new Government will be able to do a in single month – not least when the new Prime Minister is bound to be out of London for parts of it, Parliament isn’t sitting, there is a new Brexit policy to get into shape, and the threat of a no confidence vote in September.

What Johnson can do is form a team, shape a Cabinet – of which more later – begin the Brexit negotiation’s new phase, and show what his priorities are: police, schools and infrastructure, with a particular stress when it comes to the latter on the Midlands and the North.

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The next Prime Minister should scrap the Office for Tackling Injustices

Now that it has happened, it feels as if there was something inevitable about Theresa May’s scramble for a legacy leading her to try to create at least one new quango.

They’re the ultimate ‘legacy’ vehicle: a publicly-funded body which will continue to pursue your agenda – proudly independent of political oversight from your usurpers or political opponents – long after you have left office.

Even as an example of the genre, however, the Prime Minister’s mooted ‘Office for Tackling Injustices’ is an eye-poppingly bad idea. As Guido Fawkes points out, as currently planned it would simply duplicate a range of data-gathering functions already performed, at public expense, by bodies such as the Office for National Statistics.

But its worse than that. Like so much of May’s “burning injustices” agenda, ‘OfTI’ implicitly prejudges its own data. Its very name conflates disparate outcomes – which can arise from a huge range of factors, not all of them linked to discrimination – with ‘injustice’. Moreover, since these trends will take decades to solve (to the extent that they are soluble or need solving) its reports will inevitably and indefinitely be a stick with which to beat future Conservative governments and apply leverage to Labour’s levelling-down agenda.

Yet the problems with OfTI go beyond the specific flaws in the design of one particular quangos. This last gasp of Mayisme reflects a broader, deeply problematic trend of politicians outsourcing responsibility to the quasi-independent sector.

Another recent example of this is Jeremy Hunt’s idea of an independent infrastructure commission to make decisions on matters such as airport expansion. Whilst it is easy to understand where this comes from – successive governments have proven utterly woeful at making big calls in this area – it is nonetheless deeply flawed. Not only would it be wrong in principle for voters to have nobody to hold to account for such decisions, but experience suggests that politics would get in the way in any event. Just look at how MPs reacted when the independent body they created to set their pay recommended an increase.

Over the past few years I have written about several dimensions of the quango problem, such as how it erodes political accountability and ministerial responsibility, and suggested possible remedies such as making quango appointments explicitly political.

But I have also written about the fact that Conservatives ought to be much more willing to reverse bad measures when they get the chance, rather than just resigning themselves to any policy which makes it over the line.

To that end, May’s successor should not just kick OfTI “into the long grass”, as the Sun reports. They should scrap it – and get a taste for scrapping quangos whilst they’re at it.

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Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: May denounces Corbyn as a Groucho Marxist

Theresa May flung Marx at Jeremy Corbyn: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”

That comes, she reminded the House, not from Karl but from Groucho, and applies all too well to this malleable Leader of the Opposition, now reduced to following his Remainer colleagues.

Corbyn cannot speak with authority, and usually evades, as too difficult, whatever the issue of the hour may be. Today he took refuge in a worthy sequence of questions about legal aid.

Once we get a new Prime Minister, there will surely have to be a new Leader of the Opposition, capable of holding the Government to account, and plausible as an alternative PM.

The age of May and Corbyn will become, perhaps, a shadowy period, over which historians will pass in a sentence or two.

The sense of things coming to an end was intensified by the Prime Minister’s expression of “great regret” at the resignation of Sir Kim Darroch from the post of Ambassador in Washington.

David Lidington, sitting on one side of May, nodded with unbounded and repeated emphasis as she said this.

Philip Hammond, sitting on the other side of her, nodded ever so slightly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not a demonstrative man, and can seldom be found lamenting others’ misfortunes.

May accused Corbyn of doing “his best to ignore the anti-semitism in his party”, and pointed out that Lord Triesman and two other Labour peers have just resigned from the party because of this.

She remarked that Labour’s cry used to be “education, education, education”, but now “it’s just tax, tax, tax, injustice, injustice”.

Corbyn had already said he is “totally committed to eliminating racism in any form”. But if this is so, why have the three peers gone?

PMQs went on for too long. The Speaker has got into the habit of allowing as much time as backbenchers need to get a fair crack of the whip.

The same effect could be achieved if everyone asked shorter questions. The House has become self-indulgent. MPs no longer concentrate on expressing themselves with the greatest possible concision and force.

They ask long-winded questions, which give the Prime Minister longer to think, and more chance to evade the heart of the matter by rambling on about inessentials.

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Daniel Hannan: For Brexit to work, power must be stripped from the quangorats – and returned to people we elect

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.

When Donald Trump entered the White House, his then senior adviser, Steve Bannon, set out the administration’s three priorities. First, “national security and sovereignty” (hurrah!) Second, “economic nationalism” (boo!) Third, “the deconstruction of the administrative state” (huh?)

Few Americans had much idea of what “the administrative state” was; but conservative think-tankers and writers were ecstatic. Indeed, Trump’s readiness to act against the administrative state (or the regulatory state) is, along with his judicial appointments, the main reason that they overlook his character flaws and back him.

In Britain, we call it “the quango state”. We mean the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies that can set rules without legislation, raise money without taxation, and impose decisions without accountability. We mean bodies like the Charity Commission, the National Lottery Community Fund, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the Carbon Trust, the Export Guarantees Advisory Council, the Care Quality Commission, the Food Standards Agency, the Low Pay Commission, the Information Commissioner’s Office, UK Sport, the Highways Agency and a hundred others.

There may be occasions when MPs need narrowly and contingently to delegate authority. But what has happened in Britain, as in other large democracies, goes well beyond specific outsourced functions. We have seen the growth of an imperium in imperio, a network of bodies staffed by people who think in similar ways, and who pursue their agendas more or less independently of the wishes of Parliament or people.

Naturally, those who share the quangocrat outlook – fondness for higher public spending, obsession with diversity and inclusiveness, enthusiasm for the EU – are untroubled by this state of affairs. But Conservatives have never much cared for it, and fitfully go through phases of scrapping the more obviously obsolete quangos while encouraging people from beyond the Left to apply for the others. This website, for example, runs a regular “Calling Conservatives” feature, aimed at encouraging more Tory applications to some of these bodies. None the less, perhaps inevitably, the system remains dominated by Blairite smoothies.

So pervasive is the soft Left culture in our administrative state that attempts to even the balance are often seen as an invasion, and the few Conservatives who take on positions on even purely advisory bodies can be hounded out of them. Just ask Roger Scruton.

The first task of the new prime minister in a couple of weeks’ time will be to reassert the supremacy of our elected representatives over our functionaries. That might strike you as an eccentric statement. Surely the new Prime Minister’s first task will be Brexit?

Yes, but the two things can no longer be separated. Over the past three years, we have seen large chunks of our standing bureaucracy – civil servants, quangocrats and other officials –working to frustrate the referendum result. The Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office have harassed Vote Leave campaigners. Eurosceptic donors even appear to have been targeted by the tax authorities. At the same time, senior civil servants have taken full advantage of Theresa May’s disastrous readiness to be ruled by official advice.

What I am saying should be uncontroversial. The purpose of having elected ministers at the top of departments is to ensure that those departments – including the quangos they fund – work for the general population rather than for themselves. A minister who simply does what his officials tell him is guaranteed a quiet life. He will be well regarded. He will get a reputation as a safe pair of hands. Approving remarks about him will find their way into the papers. But he is utterly failing to do his job.

Not every Secretary of State is like this, of course. Indeed, the starting line-up in the current Conservative leadership election included some of the ministers who had shown themselves most prepared to impose themselves on their departments. But, in general, May preferred – and offered preferment to – ministers in her own image: that is, ministers who deferred to the experts, said little in public and declined to rock the boat.

Well, that won’t do any more. Not at a time like this. We need the entire government machine to be working to make a success of Brexit. We need to be cutting taxes, especially business taxes, so as to attract investment. We need to be exploiting the regulatory freedoms we acquire as we diverge from Brussels. We need to let our financial services, in particular, compete against their global rivals. We need to remove tariffs and trade barriers, unilaterally if necessary. These things will require an act of collective national endeavour. We simply can’t afford to let Sir Humphrey frustrate things because of his sincere but, in the circumstances, inadmissible belief that we must cling on to every aspect of EU membership.

I’d be tempted to give Michael Gove the task of streamlining our standing functionariat, with Dominic Cummings as his SpAd. That should sort things out.

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Henry Newman: The next Prime Minister’s first few days in office will be crucial

Henry Newman is Director of Open Europe.

In a little over two weeks’ time, Boris Johnson will – barring a huge upset – become Prime Minister. He will face enormous political difficulties, as the Conservatives struggle to cling to office with a precarious parliamentary position.

His predecessor managed a year-long honeymoon before imploding with catastrophic consequences in the snap General Election which destroyed her chances of success on Brexit or indeed much else. Johnson will have far less time. There’s barely three months before the 31st October Brexit deadline which he himself has described as “do or die”.

The stakes are extraordinarily high, and not just for his administration but the Conservative Party itself, which now faces what seems like an existential threat. Everything will rest of the decisions Johnson takes in his first few days in office – on the appointment of his top team, what he says to his parliamentary colleagues about his plans for Brexit, and how he shapes his Brexit policy.

Although we have heard far more recently from him than we did in the early stages of the leadership race, there are still big question marks over many areas of his plans for Brexit. He insisted over the weekend that he was not “bluffing” over the possibility of a No Deal Brexit on 31st October, having previously described the odds of one as a “million-to-one against”. There are significant differences in the positions espoused by different members of his team or their outriders. Some talk of tearing up the current deal, others more in terms of tweaks. This may or may not be part of a strategy of creative ambiguity, keeping options open for later on in the process.

Delivering Brexit by 31st October will be a very significant challenge. Europe is largely out of action for August, with a long summer break. But more importantly, the European Council – where heads of governments and states from across the EU meet – is not scheduled to gather until 17th and 18th October. That’s less than a fortnight before exit date, leaving hardly any time for Parliament to pass a deal, even assuming new concessions could be secured. When I asked civil servants whether the requisite legislation could be bashed through in that time, they blanched. It might be possible to arrange an emergency Council meeting before mid-October, but leaders will be reluctant to do so. A serious charm offensive will be required.

Officials and politicians from key EU member states continue to argue publicly that the Brexit deal is closed. They repeat their mantra that the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation. On the other hand, there’s also an acceptance that a new prime minister does need to be given a hearing in Brussels. Although it’s obvious to all that the exact same deal now stands no chance of passing Parliament, this has not yet led to a push from the EU side to make further concessions to the UK.

EU leaders will be loath to concede much to Johnson, whom they see as something of a bogeyman. A few weeks ago, European diplomats told my team that the EU would be less likely to make concessions to what they called ‘Hard Brexit’ candidates such as Dominic Raab or Johnson, as opposed to other potential prime ministers. But finding a negotiated way through on Brexit, and agreeing a stable framework for long-term cooperation with the Continent’s second biggest economy and most important defence and security player, ought to be a top priority for the EU, whoever is in charge in Westminster.

The decision on whether to move or not on Brexit concessions will really come down to three key capitals – the EU27’s pre-eminent powers, Paris and Berlin, of course, but also, Dublin. Because if the Irish signal they can accept an attenuated form of the backstop, other member states would likely go along with them. The Irish Foreign Minister did acknowledge yesterday the (obvious) point that “No Deal means we lose the backstop”. But there’s no sign yet of Ireland preferring a time limited backstop to the possibility of no backstop at all on 31st October.

Amongst the first decisions for a new prime minister is the formation of their cabinet. So much of the shape of Theresa May’s time in office was fixed by her early decisions in building her team – whether Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill (her powerful Chiefs of Staff), or Philip Hammond, the Chancellor she was never strong enough to fire, despite her apparent wish to do so a year later.

Every leader is tempted to appoint allies to fill their Cabinet. But that’s a risky approach even at the best of times. It’s particularly difficult given the hung parliament, and the polarisation within the Conservative Party. There’s now a serious risk of the Government being brought down – or at least made impotent – by two blocs of its own MPs. On one side of the party, self-declared Spartans threaten to withdraw support if Brexit does not happen on time or in the right form; at the other end of the spectrum, a similarly-sized group seeks to prevent a No Deal Brexit, with some threatening to do so at any cost.

Johnson will need both of these blocs to survive in office. So he should model his Cabinet on the team of rivals approach adopted by Abraham Lincoln. Given his clarity on the issue of the Brexit deadline, he has understandably decided to ask all new cabinet minister to commit to leaving the EU by 31st October. This will rule out several big beasts, meaning the backbenches could be home to some potential rivals, which he will need to manage.

Another big problem facing the new leader is the gap between the expectations of what is possible on Brexit, and the reality of what is likely to be secured. On the plus side though, Johnson’s rhetorical abilities and political salesmanship skills far eclipses Theresa May’s wooden communication style. May was not just bad at making the case for her Brexit deal, for too long it seemed as if she was not even trying to do so. Johnson must not make that same mistake.

The new occupant of 10 Downing Street will face a bumpy few months ahead. At the same time as getting Government on a full No Deal footing, he must prepare for a possible forced General Election, retain the support of the DUP as well as recalcitrant Tory colleagues, launch a Brexit charm offensive in Europe, and face a host of domestic problems requiring urgent attention. That’s a very full ‘In Tray’.

Meanwhile, the Conservative party risks destroying its reputation for good governance if it continues to air its dirty laundry in public and fails to pull together on Brexit. As leader, Johnson should set out to bring the whole party back together whether supporters of his or opponents, Leavers or Remainers, Brexit Spartans or anti-No Dealers. For their part, all Conservative MPs should give him the chance to do so. There’s a path through to delivering Brexit. It’s painfully narrow. It can be reached…just. But only if Conservative MPs and the new Prime Minister all work together.

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Sponsored Post: Richard Lambert – Housing is too important to be used to create a legacy 

Richard Lambert is Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA). This is a sponsored post by the NLA.

Why has the Conservative Party turned its back on the self-sufficient, the entrepreneur who is prepared to work hard and plan for their future?

The Thatcher Government inherited a dysfunctional housing market, and opened up the sector, fast-tracked home ownership and liberalised the laws around private renting. Over the ensuing three decades this has paid dividends. The UK’s flexible workforce is able to move to where jobs are, students can move to study in other parts of the country and, at the same time, people have been able to restore previously destroyed pension pots. These are Conservative values which Theresa May undermined with an announcement to try and create a legacy.

Private renting has gone from strength to strength, and we have all benefited from the flexibility that it provides, which is why Number 10’s proposed abolition of Section 21 ’no fault’ evictions in April was met by landlords with dismay and outright anger. Anger at a policy that has not been thought through and is based on a news cycle, rather than solving the issues that do exist in the private rented sector. The announcement shows a basic misunderstanding of the private rented sector in the highest echelons of government. Landlords’ anger has yet to dissipate; instead it is now accompanied by incredulity at the lack of consideration Theresa May has shown for the likely outcomes of this proposal.

The importance of Section 21 is not so much in its use – only around 11 percent of landlords have used Section 21 in the last five years, according to YouGov. Section 21 provides landlords with a process through which they can be certain of vacant possession, as long as they comply with the legal requirements to give appropriate notice to tenants and in providing a safe home. As no evidence of fault is required, landlords can follow an accelerated possession claim and avoid attributing blame to an individual and stigmatising them. It also avoids putting both parties through a court hearing, in an already over-stretched court system.

Ministry of Justice statistics show that from July to September 2018, there were 5,183 accelerated possession claims using Section 21 which did not require a court hearing. During the same time period, there were 5,781 private landlord claims heard in court through the standard route. Without Section 21, the courts could see a dramatic and potentially catastrophic increase in the possession claims they would need to hear.

This is compounded by the lack of funding for courts, which has seen 90 out of 240 county courts close between 2010 and 2018, and increased pressure placed on those that remain. Is the Treasury going to reopen these courts and adequately fund the legal system? May’s government has repeatedly underplayed quite how dire the situation currently is for users of the courts system. National Landlords Association members take an average of 145 days at a total cost of £5,730 to regain possession using the courts. The lengthiness, cost and uncertainty inherent in using the courts has resulted in the reliance on no fault eviction.

The reality is, wholesale reform of the court process is a necessary precursor to any changes in possession procedures. A new housing court or tribunal needs to be introduced if the new Prime Minister wants to continue May’s headline-grabbing announcement. There would need to be a meaningful and successful change to the way landlords regain possession. Those involved in the tribunal will need to have specialist knowledge of housing law to ensure clarity and consistency with decision-making; something which is currently lacking. This cannot be accomplished on the cheap; who is going to fund it? Doing nothing will not be an option.

Removing Section 21 and failing to address the courts means piling more and more risk on the households who need the most help. Those who can’t access the social rented sector and who have no realistic opportunity to access finance for a mortgage are the ones who are going to find it increasingly difficult to rent a home. The Government is committed to ending homelessness; this one policy will undermine all the work that has been done and is being done by councils and central government.

The next leader of the Conservative Party has an important decision to make when it comes to housing. Does he want to lead a government which promotes aspiration to property ownership and self-sufficiency or one that can only look to recreate the mistakes of the 1970s? Scrapping Section 21 may seem bold and popular, but in reality, it is a policy that Sir Humphrey would describe as brave, perhaps even courageous.

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The civil service isn’t neutral. It shouldn’t be, it can’t be.

The civil service may be impartial, but it isn’t neutral.  Indeed, a world in which civil servants worked in a vacuum, without values, policy expertise or vision, couldn’t be the world that we live in.  Nor is it.  The civil service will remain broadly committed, whichever party holds office, to a core of policy aims that are unobjectionable, or ought to be.  These include maintaining a first-rate relationship with the United States – the “special relationship”, as it is sometimes, not uncontroversially, described.

Kim Darroch has in no way made that relationship more difficult by writing memos that are critical in some respects of the Trump administration.  It is the duty of our Ambassador to the United States to give Ministers and others his view, and it is his right to be able to do so in confidence.  As journalists, we rejoice in the Mail on Sunday getting hold of Darroch’s memos: they provide a cracking story.  But as citizens, with wider interests than journalistic ones, our take is that the leak is bad for Britain.  It will make politicians and civil servants alike less likely to tell the truth, as they see it, to both themselves and to each other.

It neither follows that all Darroch’s judgements are necessarily right, nor that the civil service’s instincts shouldn’t be challenged.  These are worth a long view.  Consider, for example, Michael Palliser – one of a series of Foreign Office civil servants who, during the run-up to British membership of the Commons Market, helped turn the department’s Eurosceptism into Euroenthusiasm.  Or Michael Quinlan, the civil service theoretician, at the Ministry of Defence, of nuclear deterrence.  Or Charles Farr, the former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who had a particular take on what policy should be towards non-violent extremism.

Examples are endless, and there are more of them since recently-retired senior civil servants have taken to Twitter.  Nicholas Macpherson, the former Treasury Permanent Secretary, likes the hashtag #soundmoney.  Simon Fraser, a counterpart at the Foreign Office, is critical of the Brexit project.  This takes us to the point.  The civil service worldview is multilateralist, pro-EU, pro-NATO.  There are worse causes to adopt.  But the referendum result has exposed a difference between the view of much of the machine and the take of a mass of voters.  Particular decisions have worsened this tension.  The civil service is responsible for none of them.

It was Theresa May, not the bureaucracy, who centralised Brexit policy, cut DexEU out of it, and made Olly Robbins, in effect, her personal negotiator with the EU.  It was also the Prime Minister who brought much of the culture of the Home Office into the heart of government.  We have nothing against Mark Sedwill, but senior parts of the civil service have become leaky on his watch: consider the recent briefing against Jeremy Corbyn, whose future was “openly discussed at an event attended by mandarins this month”.  It is the job of the rest of us to keep him out of Downing Street, not that of the civil service – let alone for mandarins to brief about it.

Which returns us to Darroch.  There is a suspicion that Sedwill, and not Darroch himself, was the real target of the leak.  The former is reportedly interested in the Washington post.  A new Prime Minister will be in place by the end of the month.  Changes at the top of the civil service are expected.  The leak looks designed to prepare the way for a replacement for Darroch who is more Trump-friendly than Sedwill.  But the disposition of Darroch’s replacement to the President is not the exam question, or shouldn’t be.

There is a precedent for sending a non-civil servant to Washington as ambassador: Peter Jay, Jim Callaghan’s son-in-law, was sent to Washington when the latter was Prime Minister.  However, the example is not encouraging.  Perhaps Prime Minister Johnson should scour the more junior civil service ranks, and send for one of those who, pro-Brexit Ministers tell us, have put in exemplary work preparing for No Deal if necessary, regardless of their own views.

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