Friday 24th July: The House of Lords defeated the government this week over its rushing through its plan for 'English votes for English laws'. Instead, their Lordships backed the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler's call for a joint parliamentary committee to consider the proposals.‘Surely’, he said ‘it is more important to get the proposals right than to rush them through'.
Professor David Abulafia, like Lord Butler, agrees on the aim of English votes, but explains that the House of Commons must be able to function ‘without tripping over its own feet’.
Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, Bart., (Eton and King’s), former President of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, who spent forty-three years in the House of Commons as a convert to socialism, once wrote a book entitled The Importance of Being Awkward. He never achieved high office, and had an impressive record of voting against the government when his own party was in power. Capable, to be sure, of some bizarre comments, he earns his place in history for something else – his sharp insight into the constitutional mess that was created by Scottish devolution. To say that is not to oppose devolution, but to make the point that fiddling with the political structure of the United Kingdom without thinking through all the consequences has been the trait of one government after another, not just in respect of the four nations but in respect of the House of Lords, our position within Europe (‘ever closer integration’) and perhaps even the judiciary (were the Law Lords really a problem?).
Friday 17th July: The Health Secretary's comments about imposing seven day working on hospital doctors has sparked a debate about how the NHS should be managed. Should control be removed from central government and placed back in the hands of patients? Or should the Department of Health dictate hospital working hours? Politeia author Dr Tony Hockley and former Health Minister Gerald Malone join the debate, reflecting on the different approaches to the future of the Health Service.
Dr Tony Hockley writes Today’s blog for Politeia by Gerald Malone and this week’s keynote speech on the NHS by Jeremy Hunt display the frustration that ministers feel in dealing with the leaders of the medical profession. Since Bevan’s hurried deal with the doctors when the NHS was created, ministers have found themselves having to pussy-foot around the unions in seeking improvements to NHS service.
Friday 10th July: The test of the Chancellor's Budget, says Dr Gerard Lyons, will be whether the UK's low productivity rates will be entrenched or ended.
Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson was once credited with telling us to watch what politicians do and not just listen to what they say. This is particularly relevant this week in the wake of Wednesday's Budget and Friday's National Productivity Plan, when so many positive things were said about future prospects.
Naturally there is a heavy political element to any Budget, particularly the first of a new Parliament, and this has given a strong steer to the economic policy we should now expect. Three underlying messages appear to emerge. One is low tax and cutting welfare, despite this being a Budget littered with much higher taxes overall, albeit in some less sensitive areas from a political perspective. A second is the desire to have higher wages and higher productivity, ideally by unleashing the supply side of the economy and boosting productivity, although there is a considerable way to go here. Third, boosting the trend to home ownership, and in the process aligning this with voting Conservative, at a time when many people feel they can no longer afford to buy. The dramatic relaxation announced to the planning system is part of this.
Friday 3rd July: This week the Education Secretary sparked a debate on how schools should identify potential extremists. She was commenting on new government guidance on preventing radicalisation in schools and other institutions. However, as Prof John Marenbon points out, the mark of a liberal society is that it is tolerant of different views - even the intolerant.
Recently, the Evening Standard reported that the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, when asked to name some of the signs of Islamic extremism, against which she was warning, gave ‘intolerance towards homosexuality’ as her example. The newspaper mentioned her remark in order to try and convict of her of inconsistency, since, as the article went on to point out, she — along with a majority of Conservative MPs — had voted against homosexual marriage. But Mrs Morgan would have a very good reply, although, since her promotion, she may have become too politically correct to want to make it. Unless tolerance towards a group requires accepting their values, it is perfectly possible to be perfectly tolerant towards homosexuals but opposed to the idea that homosexual union can constitute a marriage.
Although her comments were rather vague and I'll thought-out, they were truly worrying. 'We have seen’, she is reported as saying in the Guardian
, 'sadly Isil [Islamic State] are extremely intolerant of homosexuality. I think if there were language ... it could trigger a thought. It depends very much the context in which that was being discussed’.
Friday 26th June: Chris Woodhead, England’s Chief Inspector of Schools 1994-2000, died this week. Here Politeia's Director, Sheila Lawlor reflects on the life and work of a friend who saw his task as purging English schools of the mediocrity left by low level ‘progressive’ teaching and doing battle with its perpetrators. Dr Lawlor writes....
Chris Woodhead got the job by accident. At the time in 1994 the powers that be wanted someone who would not ‘go native’. Woodhead, I was told by one such power-that-was, was not the favourite, because he was not deemed, in official speak, ‘reliable’. I took that to mean he was his own man - something which should have been in his favour. He was indeed the strongest of the candidates – intellectually independent, clever and academically sensitive to what the aims of education should be.
And while able, he was also a dreamer.