Tag Archives: theresa may

A Grammar School Boy

In my early days as a barrister I was having a conversation with another, more senior, barrister in the robing room. The conversation turned to schools. He asked me where I went. I told him Kingsway, a comprehensive school in Cheadle. 

“Really,” he said, “what was it like being a grammar school boy at a comp?”

I pointed out to him that I was not a grammar school boy at a comprehensive. I was just a boy at a school. 

That is why the Government’s announcement about grammar schools is just so wrong. At the age of 11 my life should not have been defined by the school that I went to. At the age of 11 children should be equal, with equal opportunity and shared experiences. 

I am not proclaiming that I went to a school where the lessons were in hard knocks and life, albeit I recall vividly the time when one of my teachers knocked a classmate to the floor twice by punching him to the face and then made us all stand behind our chairs for an hour before telling us not to tell our parents. What I would say is that I went to a school that was reflective of society, a broad spectrum of society. And there are aspects of my “education” that have been important in my life that had little to do with books and grades.

I like to think that I would have passed an 11+ examination. In fact I will let you into a secret, I passed the entrance examination for a local private grammar school but failed to secure a scholarship. Had I gone to that school I may well have been someone who believed that life was divided into grammar school boys and comprehensive school boys. Why create that division?

Our Prime Minister had introduced her grammar school plan by saying the future of children are being held back by “dogma and ideology.” I suppose the dogma is that access to education should be on an entirely equal footing, irrespective of social position or wealth. I suppose the ideology is that every child in this country who has the ability should go on to achieve their ambitions.

 A grammar school/non grammar school is defining those likely to go to university at the age of 11. My “Frere Jacques” was spot on at age 11. I only discovered I was really bad at French during my A-Levels. Children develop at very different times and in very different ways. A grammar school system locks children down far too soon. 

If the Government’s plans go through, in thirty years from now will we have a lawyer expressing some surprise that a boy from a comp has managed to qualify? If we do, the country has taken a massive backwards step. 

Polls Apart

A Twitter account, @JeremyCorbyn4PM, published a Tweet which has been widely circulated. I have reproduced the screenshot below. The thrust of the Tweet is to defend recent poor polling results of the Labour Party, to suggest it is the fault of the “Coup” rather than a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s failures. It states in terms “We were polling level with the Tories before the coup: anyone who sets any store by these things should place the blame at the door of the plotters.”

Here is their statement in full (as an interesting aside the Twitter account makes it plain they don’t speak on behalf of the official Jeremy Corbyn camp or the Labour Party, and that in itself may reveal part of the problem with the Labour Party at the moment….)

Is this a fair point made on behalf of Corbyn? His supporters have certainly run with it, Re-Tweeting it far and wide with the glib abandon of children in a playground singing about people sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. 

A group called “bloc” made a similar point on Facebook on 27th July when they published this graph with their accompanying commentary blaming the plotters and extolling Corbyn’s success. Here is another pretty screenshot for you

So there we have it. Pretty conclusive. Jeremy was totally smashing it and it is only those pesky Establishment types in the PLP that have ruined the crest of success the Labour Party were going to ride all the way to General Election glory in 2020. 

Save for the fact that it does not show this at all. In polls from 18th April 2016 to 10th July by ICM, Opinium, YouGov, Ipsos and BMG the mode result for the Labour (the one that occurs most frequently) is 30%. The mean polling result (the average of all the polls) is 32%. The range is between 29% and 35%. For the Conservatives the mode is 34% and the mean is 37.8%. In 25 polls in that time there has been one tie and one poll, on 26th April, which put Labout ahead. 

My analysis pretty much matches bloc’s pretty graph above. The Conservatives have, by and large, been ahead in the polls. Now the polls do not tell the whole story, and this is where it gets bad for Corbyn. 

More recent polls put the Conservatives way ahead. Of course the discord in the Labour Party and the apparent inability to organize an election in a democractic body is not helping that situation. The Conservatives are also benefiting, however, from the new manager bounce that even teams facing relegation suffer from. The public like a new leader because they have not had time to mess it up yet. So it is undoubtedly the case that Theresa May is having a good time in the polls. 

It is actually the polls from before the infighting that tell the depressing tale. Through April, May and into June the Conservatives were at their weakest. They were divided with Cameron and Osbourne pitted against Johnson and Gove. They had infighting galore. The Prime Minister was a lame duck PM. Then the country and the economy was thrown into turmoil by the Referendum Result and the Prme Minister resigned. Was Corbyn able to take advantage of the chaos, infighting and instability in the Goverment to take a clear lead? Did he woo the swinging voter? 

The answer is, without doubt, no he was not able to. The Labour Party poll figures remain, by and large, fairly level. A Government that the public should dislike because of where we are in the cycle of politics, whom should be damaged by the severity of austerity and who were a wounded dog in the pre and post referendum period barely had a glove landed on them by Corbyn. 

That was before plotters. That was before the coup. 

That is why Labour would not win a General Election under Corbyn. Rallies and popularity in sections of social media do not win General Elections. Being popular amongst your core voters will not win a General Election, if it did then we have more to fear from Britain First than just their hateful ideology. 

Polls are wrong, of course they are. They have statistical anomalies and weaknesses. Nonetheless I am more than happy that they tell me more about the reaction to Corbyn than they do about the “coup”, particularly when you stop to think for a minute about the fact this was the time when making gains was going to be at its easiest. 

Get this wrong and we will have 8 years wishing that we had got it right. 

The Return of the Dead Eyed

Our new Prime Minister sits behind her desk. She surveys her new surroundings. All is good. She picks up the phone, pressing a single button.

“I am ready, Norma, send him in.”

The door opens and in walks a familiar figure; tall, slightly soft belly, domed head and the eyes of a fish that has not been in the water for 72 hours. 

“Chris, Chris, come in, take a seat.”

“Thank you Prime Minister,” he responds, pulling out a chair, “and may I say, what a thrill it is to see you here.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you. You were my campaign manager, not that we needed a campaign, all it took was one interview….but I am a woman of my word and I said you could name your price….so, what can I do for you?”

He clears his throat.

“Well, I really liked being Lord Chancellor….”

The Prime Minister shifts in her seat.

“…..and I would like my old job back. At the MOJ.”

“It’s a new dawn, Chris, time for a fresh start. Why would you want to go back?” the Prime Minister responds as she attempts a smile that chills everyone in the room.

“Gove…” at the mention of his name both of them make the sign of the cross and mime the throwing of salt over their right shoulder, “Gove cancelled all my big ideas, he undid my legacy.”

“Come on Chris, I know I said anything, but this, this is difficult. How about Gibraltar?” the Prime Minister smiled again (and somewhere a fairy died).

“The Governor of Gibraltar! Why would I want that job?”

“Not a job, the place. I will give you the whole place. That has to be better than a job at the MOJ….”

Chris straightens himself up to signify a stiffened resolve.

“No. I want my job back….”

“And a million pounds….” a note of real panic enters the PM’s voice, “…..no, £350 million….a week…I believe it is going spare. I’ll give you Gibraltar and £350 million a week, just don’t make me give you back Justice…”

“No you said ‘anything’ and that’s what I want. Lord Chancellor and the MOJ. Again.”



“Oh very well,” the PM pause whilst she thinks, “if I am going to do that I will have to bury that news, make the headlines about something else……”

The PM reaches for the phone. She hits a single button again. 

“Norma? Get a message to Amber. Tell her it is Home, not Foreign after all. And then get me Boris…..yes that Boris…”

She replaces the receiver and looks at her new Lord Chancellor.

He Knows What You’re Thinking….

Vladimir Putin delivers a speech in which he declares that he intends to take action, outside of the normal parameters of the law, to suppress the expression of certain views. Meanwhile China declares a raft of measures to prevent opponents gathering in public. In North Korea steps are announced to boost organisations that are compatible with the values held dear by Kim Jong Un.

Democratic nations across the world erupt in condemnation. Britain, with all its sense of decency and fair play, is strong in its criticism of these assaults on the sort of freedoms, let’s call them rights, which we hold dear.

Now read the speeches given today by Chris Grayling and Theresa May. The Lord Chancellor declared he knows how the British people really feel about human rights. And he will, sometime soon, share that with us.

The Home Secretary speaks of new measures that will be targeted at people and groups who “stay just within the law but spread poisonous hatred.”

Read that again. May is looking to criminalise behaviour that is not currently criminal for a certain sector of society. The powers will include banning taking part in public protests, from being present at all in certain public locations, from associating with named people, from using of conventional broadcast media and will grant a power to vet the content of posts on social media. Social media like this blog.

These proposals come not from a dictator or totalitarian regime. They just sound like they do.

These powers will be available to use against “those who challenge democracy” or those who pose a risk of the commission of the very lowest of Public Order Act offences. Now that would include someone who held anarchist or communist views. Or someone who was at risk of swearing at a policeman…..

If the rights and freedoms of the individual are worth going to war for, they are worth protecting in law. It is no coincidence that the Lord Chancellor, a politician who has already eroded the rights of the citizen to challenge the state in judicial review proceedings, has declared war on human rights on the same day that the Home Secretary proposes a curtailment of those very rights.

Actually that gives me a thought. The attack by the Lord Chancellor on access to justice and judicial review could be seen as a real threat to democracy. Perhaps we could use the Home Secretary’s new powers to ban them associating with each other and to starve them of the oxygen of publicity.

Now that is a suppression of free speech I could go for.