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A Sinister Sacrifice to Populism

Friday 18th July 2014: The government reshuffle last week caught the headlines, especially because of the unexpected removal of Michael Gove from Education. Here, John Marenbon* warns that such populism has its sinister side.

UKIP is often described as a ‘populist’ party, because its leaders, as a matter of long-held and deeply-thought conviction, advocate a view with which is very popular in the country. But this is not populism, at least, not in the pejorative sense. Populist leaders are, rather, those who, no matter what their own convictions (or in the absence of any convictions at all), shape their policies, and choose who is to implement them, according to what they believe to be popular: the practitioners of government by opinion poll and focus group. Recent British governments have all tended to such populism, and Mr Cameron’s is no exception. The most populist moment of his premiership came earlier this week: a reshuffle which was deliberately billed as being intended to make the appearance of the government more publicly attractive and representative, with greying grey-suited men replaced by younger males and attractive younger women, who are not more able but more telegenic.

No Stone Unturned?

Friday 11th July 2014: As the government announces two new inquiries into child abuse allegations, Dr Sheila Lawlor considers past form at Westminster.

Child abuse allegations are in the headlines again as it emerged that files handed to the Home Office in the 1980s, which named high-profile child abusers in Westminster, seem to have gone missing.

Little Ed Riding Hood?

Friday 4th July 2014: Little Ed Riding Hood? Ed Miliband’s new, apparently growth-friendly policies are a disguise for dangerous, failed red politics and red economics, writes Dr Sheila Lawlor.

Labour stepped up its campaign this week with two big ideas to woo voters and business. The idea appears to be that despite the red economics the party is now championing, it does want economic growth and prosperity and has a plan to get it.

Safer NHS Wards? Going Digital May Bring Better Patient Care

Friday 27th June 2014: The NHS is once again in the news with the publication of a list of hospitals with a “poor” rating for honesty. Dr Tony Hockley suggests that NHS trusts may benefit from a strong dose of transparent and greater ​use of digital data.

This week the NHS has again been in the news. A list of hospitals with a "poor" rating for honesty about safety was published as a new investigation into NHS whistle blowing under Sir Robert Francis was announced. This will be part of the bigger drive for NHS transparency under which hospitals are to receive better ratings for being honest about how well (or badly) they are doing on a number of measures.  It reflects the growing concerns about the treatment of staff who try to raise the alarm on safety risks. The spotlight therefore is now on one of the most serious gaps in the system – the lack of accurate data for the NHS, without which it would be difficult to improve things for patients and without which there will be little real transparency.  

Laws Against Grammar Schools -  Misguided Class Warfare

Friday 20th June 2014: Education ministers are set to make grammar schools less academically selective by insisting they admit more pupils on the basis of social disadvantage. Dr Sheila Lawlor, Politeia's Director, explains that more grammar schools are needed, not more rules.

Britain’s education ministers have launched class war on the grammar schools. Until now their ‘crime’ has been to select pupils on academic grounds, admitting only the brighter children who pass the entrance at 11 plus. Now the claim has been made that grammar schools also favour the well off – those whose parents pay for extra cramming by private tutors.   

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