Theresa May got a lot of praise for her speech in response to Wednesday’s terror attack, and rightly so. In that speech, she stated that “democracy – and the values it entails – will always prevail. Those values – free speech, liberty, human rights and the rule of law – are embodied here in this place, but they are shared by free people around the world.” Quite right. Never were truer words spoken.
Perhaps I’m being over-simplistic here but it strikes me that a lot of those values have been under sustained attack by those specifically entrusted with their protection: our elected government. This has been attempted under the guise of Ms May’s own notorious Snoopers’ Charter, which can most certainly be seen as a threat to free speech; in her party’s continued insistence that Britain withdraws from the European Convention on Human Rights; and, most recently, in the shameful challenge that Brexiteers mounted against the Supreme Court’s ruling that Parliament was entitled to a vote on the implementation of Article 50 – a ruling which protected the proper parliamentary process and a challenge which therefore posed a threat both to democracy and to the rule of law.
Let us hope that, in response to this week’s attack, the Conservative government has now determined to uphold these cherished values upon which our British sense of honour and justice is founded.
So it seems that, in the face of continuing austerity and deepening cuts to public spending, Philip Hammond has managed to find hundreds of millions of pounds to splurge on Theresa May’s pet project: free schools. One of the supposed freedoms which these schools enjoy is that they don’t have to follow the national curriculum, although quite what purpose that serves is anybody’s guess. I cannot imagine how it could be in the best interests of the pupils – unless the national curriculum is not fit for purpose, in which case I would suggest that it is in urgent need of review.
These free schools can be set up and run by independent (which is to say, private) schools or by people who really know what they’re doing, like parents or faith groups – because, in the Brexit age, everybody’s had enough of experts.
What free schools truly represent is the channelling of public money into the Tories’ cherished private sector, and their propagation contributes to the further undermining (and under-funding) of state education. Free schools are purportedly not-for-profit but that merely means that they are run as charities, which is the same outrageous tax-avoidance scam that schools in the private sector have been pulling for years. Tax free schools. Indeed, since free schools are also able to set their own pay and conditions, there can be little doubt that this programme is about little more than the creeping privatisation of state education by the back door.
As ever, the Conservative vision of a small state serves only to lead to a widening of the divisions in society – and yet somehow it always ends up being subsidised by the taxes paid by ordinary working people.
Now that the BBC is set to lose The Great British Bake Off, I thought the time might be ripe to propose a slight variation to the format. As it happens, I have an idea for a programme featuring the competitive making of traditional Jamaican chicken and pork dishes, ideally to be hosted by that Boris Johnson fellow.
Unfortunately, I’m rather stuck for a title. I wonder if anyone might be able to suggest something apt…
According to a YouGov Survey, 57% of British people want a ban on burkas in public places. Here’s the thing: we live in a free country – something which we rather value – but that means that it has to be a free country for everybody: you can’t just have freedom for people who you agree with – endeavouring to follow that path means you end up having laws not only about what people can wear but on what religious beliefs they can hold, what political direction they may follow, what opinions they are allowed to express and even what they are permitted to read (in fact, I believe Theresa May already has that last one very nearly covered in her upcoming Snoopers’ Charter…). Pretty soon you’ll find yourself living in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
No, if we truly want to preserve what we perceive as being the British way of life then what we actually need to do is to defend people’s freedom of choice and of expression, and that means ensuring that nobody has anybody else’s will imposed upon them – that all of us are equally free from oppression and subjugation. The only way to achieve that, of course, is through improving education and by defending liberty. It may not be the fastest path to change but it is the only way of preserving freedom and democracy.
Meanwhile, in France…
In 1940, with fascist forces marching steadily across Europe, Winston Churchill famously gave his “We shall fight on the beaches…” speech (oft misquoted with a “them” erroneously inserted). It’s good to see that the French are today able to summon the same grit when it comes to facing down women wearing modest swimwear, although I can’t help thinking that they may have rather missed the point, which I believe was something about defending liberty from an uncompromising and authoritarian state. Liberté, égalité, fraternité, huh?
The NHS Reinstatement Bill was deliberately blocked on Friday by Tory MPs who spoke on another topic at great length in order to use up parliamentary time – and this is not the first occasion that we have seen this tactic employed. Filibustering may be considered by some of our political representatives to simply be a normal part of parliamentary procedure but the fact is that it makes a mockery of democracy and is an insult to each and every member of the electorate. The House of Commons is not some sixth form debating society; reducing the discussion of the future of our nation to the level of a college sport trivialises the issues which members of the public live and experience every day.
The future of our NHS and of other public services is important to British citizens; these institutions are held dear and if ministers are not prepared to do their duty by taking the trouble to consider the interests of the people whom they are elected to represent then they should be expelled from the House, for they have no place in a modern democracy.
Some politicians seem to think that the Commons is a venue for party political games to be played out but that isn’t the perspective of anyone outside of their tiny clique. We keep being told that the public are disengaged, disenchanted and disenfranchised from the political process but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth – most people care deeply about politics but their over-riding feelings on politicians tend towards cold anger and despair at being treated with such naked contempt by our supposed representatives.
It is evident that many of our political class see themselves as being set apart from the masses but they should take care; such shameful behaviour will not be tolerated by the people of the UK.
Sign the petition to stop this behaviour.
Perhaps I’m being obtuse but I really don’t understand the basis for the constant stream of allegations I see in the media that Jeremy Corbyn is “extreme left-wing”; he’s a socialist – that’s kinda the point, surely – so he wants libraries and hospitals and social housing and a more equal society, but I’m not seeing anything extreme in what he’s talking about. Nonetheless, a great many political pundits are discounting him, insisting in print and online that the public will only elect “moderates” – and yet the only recently re-elected Tories (with a “majority” of 37% – not much of a mandate there) are selling off all our national assets and presiding over the greatest increase in levels of inequality seen in this country since Dickensian times. Perhaps it’s just me but I fail to see how that behaviour might be considered to be even remotely moderate.
Forcing the sick and disabled back into work only killed a moderate number of them, I suppose – despite all David Cameron’s claims about the faith of this country, the only concession to Christianity that his party has made was Iain Duncan Smith demanding that the lame should throw down their sticks and walk – but forcing people into deeper and deeper debt because of dogma-driven cuts also strikes me as being rather extreme. Can somebody – anybody! – please explain to me precisely what it is about the Labour party leader’s political position that is more offensive or outrageous than stripping our country of its services and infrastructure, selling its assets off to overseas (and often tax-exempt) concerns, outsourcing public services to known tax-avoiders and driving the poor into utter destitution?
Meanwhile, recent actions taken by Cameron’s government include cutting the armed forces, cutting the police force and now cutting the fire brigade – one imagines in order to get them all to sizes where they can be more easily managed by either G4S or Capita. These smaller units will presumably allow only moderate conflicts, moderate crime waves and moderate infernos to follow the moderate flooding which has engulfed Britain of late, causing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of quite immoderate damage.
Whatever criticisms one might wish to make of him, the thing that does appear to set Corbyn apart is that he only takes positions that he genuinely believes in: every statement that he issues is consistent with his behaviour ever since he first came into politics; unlike, for example, David Cameron, who persistently takes positions which are utterly at odds with those that he stated just prior to the two elections in which he has stood: no cuts to front-line services, no top-down NHS reorganisations, no plans to raise VAT, no means-testing of child benefit, no plans to scrap Education Maintenance Allowances, no plans to scrap Sure Start, no cuts to child benefit, no cuts to welfare… Please, tell me again which party it is that is in disarray and has now become unelectable.