03 September 2009

Moved and changed.

I have had a slight reorganisation of the way I blog which means, for now, that SpinBlog will not be updated.

If you want ot see what I have to say about Nation Issues, or about my role as Parliamentary Candidate in Nottingham North go here.

If you want to know what I do or say as a local Councillor in Whittlesey, follow this link.


16 August 2009

League Tables need to reflect employers views

I really like Michael Gove's thinking over School League tables.

There is no doubt that some schools have changed their systems solely to improve where they stand in the league tables, and a strong suspicion that this is often against the best interests of some of their students.

The question we need to ask is; which system is most likely to get a school to encourage a student to take a course that stretches them and tests their ability? Certainly not one where a Media Studies degree rates the same as Maths, History or English, even though an employer rates the latter more strongly

When I visited Cambridge earlier this year, I heard an admissions tutor say that they wouldn't look seriously at certain A Levels and that they would give more weight to others. When it comes down to it, our league tables and how we weight exams must be based around how Universities and employers rate them, not on a piece of wishful thinking from the Government.

Does that make some exams second rate. Only if people portray it that way. It is just a case of the right exams for the right students. The same argument has been made about FE. There is nothing second rate about FE colleges - they are just as vital as Universities, just different. We need plumbers just as much as we need teachers and barristers (arguably more than we need barristers).

That is the point of education - it is about developing young people and getting them on the stepping stone to the right career. Part of that is about stretching them and encouraging them to do better. Weighting exams is more likely to ensure that this stretch is in the system.

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15 August 2009

The NHS Debate

The debate about Dan Hannan's comments on the NHS are interesting; albeit, the Government reaction comes from a blinkered Socialist view about where we are.

Firstly, we should be proud of what has been accomplished with the NHS, but we should also recognise that universal health care is not unique to Britain. We ignore other models at our peril.

It is right that we continue to maintain our commitment to the principle of free health care, but we should also be examining what is going on elsewhere and learn and develop where we are.

There are some ludicrous anomalies in our system. I have kidney disease, and take blood pressure tablets as a precaution - it is essential that I do so - because high blood pressure and kidney disease don't mix. I have to pay for my prescriptions, yet diabetics get theirs free. Asthmatics also have to pay for prescriptions. I don't begrudge diabetics free prescriptions, but these issues need to be examined and corrected.

I am pleased the Conservatives have pledged to maintain spending on the NHS. It is our most essential service - health is everything. But we need to invest more in prevention to reduce reactive costs. We must also recognise that, like all Whitehall driven Government, it is massively over bureaucratic and that it is essential to streamline administration so that we can increase the proportion of money spent on the front line.

For this reason it is critical that we don't just bury ourselves in a debate that suggests the NHS as it stands is the only way. We must examine what is going on elsewhere and learn, whilst robustly maintaining the principle of universal health care free at the point of delivery.


22 July 2009

Spinning about helicopters

I listened to Gordon Brown try to defend his position on helicopter support in Afghanistan today.

He resorted to some dubious quotes from a Lieutenant Colonel and an Air Commodore. Now, respect to those guys, although important and relatively senior, they are hardly at the top of the tree as far as the MoD goes - which suggests to me that Gordon cannot find anyone of 3 or 4 star rank to support his line.

His first quote was from Air Commodore Simon Falla who said that we had more helicopters than Australia, Canada and Holland. Great sound bite, but the truth is that we have more troops in Afghanistan than those three countries combined. This can only have been said to make the aforementioned soundbite. What other logical reason can there be to quote those countries and not Germany, Poland, Spain etc. etc.? Troop numbers can be found here.

The second soundbite was from a Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson who said that "helicopters would not have saved the lives of the individuals last week". Note "last week" not that deaths have not occurred in Afghanistan because of a lack of helicopters.

It is a real shame that this sort of spin is being used. Why not just admit what everyone knows and sort it.


22 June 2009

New Speaker - Labour resorts to type

I am really concerned that the election of John Bercow as speaker will prove yet another politically orientated mistake by Labour MPs.

Their failure to do the decent thing started when Michael Martin was elected as speaker - breaking a tradition of rotation.

They then failed to get rid of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when it was absolutely necessary and then today, when it was absolutely essential that MPs needed to vote, and be seen to vote, totally independently and for the best candidate for the post, they instead went for the result that would annoy the Conservatives most. My concern is that the public will see this for what it is - a political vote that should not have been so, and it will fail to have the positive impact that it desperately needed to have.

John Bercow must, of course, be given time to show that he is up to it. But I fear that controversial appointments in posts like this can only end in tears - in fact the way our National media works and whilst we allow unattributable briefings by MPs and their representatives to the media, I suspect controversy is a near certainty.


15 June 2009

Ed balls says he wants an honest debate, but then....

I have just watched Ed Balls on Sky News, agreeing that an honest debate is needed on taxes. He then went on to talk about the desire to continue raising schools' funding.

I am sure this will be of interest to the growing number of schools who have had to make cuts this year to prevent them setting deficit budgets.

The biggest issue with education funding is that too much is managed and controlled from the centre. Labour want every school to belong to a category of some sort so that they can then dictate how to improve, effectively bypassing the LEAs and the people that know those schools best. All of this eats money which could and should be passed directly to schools. The right leaders in those schools will be able to use that funding to improve in a way that suits their culture and ethos, not the one dictated by Government.

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14 June 2009

Education Reforms - The Conservatives are Right

I have jsut watched Michael Gove on Andrew Marr and was, as ever, quite impressed with what I saw. The idea he is proposing to end KS2 SATs and to test when children enter secondary school is really well thought out. He quite rightly points out that many good secondary schools already test when children arrive and also that it would free up time at hte end of KS2 for teaching rather than preparing for SATs.

There is anotehr advantage as well. There is some concern that the knowledge gained from preparing for SATs is often temporary - that it is soon forgotten, because it is about the test rather than in the best interests of the student. Testing at the start of Autumn term will make sure that it is a test of embedded knowledge. Surely that is a useful benefit.

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05 June 2009

The Probation Service - My View

The horrific murder of Dano Sonnex has highlighted some issues with the Probation Service.

Until recently I was a Board Member of Cambridgeshire Probation Area.   It was a role I enjoyed, but one that I found really, really frustrating - I enjoyed it because I always enjoy working with dedicated and committed people, and Cambridgeshire had no end of those.  Butthe job was always absolutely undermined by the poor political management at a National level.

The Probation Service is the most centralised, the most socialist, public service I have worked with.  It is totally, totally underfunded, not just in London, but across the Country; and this means that the role they carry out is inevitably undermined.  But it is worse than that, they have centralised IT contracts, centralised estate management etc. etc.  I remember coming across one example where an office could not move a filing cabinet because of the estates contract, but the worse aspects were that staff are working in poor accommodation that is not fit for purpose and which, again, undermines there ability to get the best out of the people they work with.  

For me, what I saw of the Probation Service was a total reflection of everything that is wrong with New Labour - always failing to get the best out of people because its structures controlled people instead of trusted them, and those structures cost money that should be reaching the front line.  

I am as horrified as everyone by the murder of  Dano Sonnex, but when we criticise the fact that one of the murderers was only present because the Probation Service let the system down, we should do so in the light of the fact that the cause of the Service's failings are absolutely rooted at the very top.


04 June 2009

A Very New Labour Coup

The email doing the rounds of Labour MPs asking for support to oust Brown is typical of the gutless attitude of New Labour.   It is an anonymous email, pledging anonymity to anyone that pledges support until they have 50 signatories.  No-one is willing to stand up and be counted, not having the strength of character to stand up and say enough is enough.

It was the same at the end of the Blair era and it is the same now.   Gutless representation from a gutless party.  The sooner they go the better.


02 June 2009

Jacqui or Tom - Which is the most significant?

Most of the news is about Jacqui Smith deciding to leave the Cabinet.  I can see why - she leaked it to prevent it being a sacking.  However, I wonder if Tom Watson is more significant.  Firstly, he was a trusted servant of the PMs.  So if Gordon was going to sack him, it suggests that the PM knew that his reshuffle was an all or nothing gamble.

Moreover, Tom Watson was, at one time, a Blairite who crossed the New Labour floor to the dark side.  Could it be he is about to head to a different corner and fight for someone new?  Interesting to see whether he starts to side with Alan Johnson, who is most people's favourite to be the next Labour Leader.

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31 May 2009

PR is not the answer

I am a bit disappointed that one of the outcomes of the expenses debacle seems to be a move towards Proportional Representation.

Quite how PR will help to stop MPs abusing an over-generous expenses system is beyond me.  In fact, my suspicion is that it is an attempt by Labour and the Lib Dems to try and keep the Conservatives out of power.

The question I would ask is what do you want out of any electoral reform?  Do you want months after an election where political parties squabble over power and the Country is left effectively rudderless?   If so - support PR - it is what happened in Germany (4 months) and Belgium (9 months).

Do you want a situation where a party like the BNP or the Communists hold the balance of power and are able to dictate terms in order to allow a major political party to gain power?   If so, support PR.

Do you want to risk losing your link to an elected member of Parliament so that you are not sure who to write to about your own issues?   If so support PR.   Our members of parliament are personally accountable to you.    Our MEPs are not (and it is a stupid system).  Our MPs are elected using a form of PR.

The only question to which the answer is PR is: "How can make our system of Government worse?"

Don't be conned.  Sort out our MPs, support a power of recall, support fixed term parliaments, but don't support PR.


26 May 2009

Cometh the Hour cometh Douglas Carswell

David Cameron's speech today was yet another demonstration that he is a Prime Minister in waiting. It also takes the initiative from those Labour MPs who have tried to hijack the current constitutional crisis by bringing forward the Proportional Representation argument. The reason they want PR is not because it will solve anyhting, except the potential for the Labour Party to be wiped out whenever a General Election is called.

It is interesting that none of what he said today was partcularly new, in fact many of his points were used as part of his campaigning when he was elected as leader and were taken from Direct Democracy, a movement founded by Douglas Carswell MP.

Douglas Carswell is having a good crisis. Firstly, he was the one strong enough to stand up and be counted when it came to the need for the speaker to go, and now we see his methodology leading the Conservative Party towards General Election victory. I am pleased, because although he is a bit of a renegade, he is so because he believes in his ideals. Indeed it is people like him that will come into their own once David Cameron succeeds in reigning in the whips in Parliament.


15 May 2009

Read and digest. Don't Vote BNP.

13 May 2009

David Cameron finds the solution the PM takes the credit

David Cameron announced a very comprehensive plan to sort out the expenses problem for the Consrvatives last night. Then the PM copied it and seems to be taking the credit. It is really disappointing. Gordon has dithered, Dave was decisive.

I am also unsure how the PM can punish MPs. It seems that they acted within the rules, even if not within the spirit of them. So Parliament has no power, whereas David Cameron and the whips can withdraw the whip - Gordon Brown's announcement may prove to be toothless. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.


12 May 2009

Norman Tebbit

Norman Tebbit has been the voice of the right of the Consrvative Party for some time. As David Cameron has done the sensible thing and moved the agenda to the centre ground and reinvigorated the party's commitment to localism and social justice he has sounded more and more remote.

Today he has suggested that people should vote for anyone other than the three major parties in the Euro elections and obviously a number of people in the party are a little peeved, with some, including Conservative Home suggesting he should have the whip removed.

Tactically this might be a sensible thing to do. It would provide a significant signal that the Conservatives have moved on. But, we are also a party that has accomodated a range of views and opinions and it is healthy to have a voice that offers challenge and debate from within. Norman Tebbit has done that successfully for a long time and I think it would be wrong to ditch him as a result.

However, the Conservatives do need to make sure that the message about leaving the EPP gets out to the electorate though as a way of countering the threat from UKIP and showing that we are taking a solid, practical Eurosceptic stance. It may also be sensible to look at the facts behind these allegations about UKIP's accounts.


29 April 2009

Ghurka Victory

How wrong did the Government get this? How out of touch does Gordon Brown look?

How good is Joanna Lumley?

In principle I have a huge problem with the Lib Dems and the way they do business, it would take a lot for me to side with them. In this instance I have no doubts, I would have voted with the Lib Dems in this vote. I am absolutely delighted that service to Britain and loyalty have won over what is now truly identified as a morally bankrupt Government.

I wonder if this is the point at which Gordon Brown's premiership starts to collapse. This is an issue in which the British public as a whole care and Gordon has, once again, fallen well, well short.

I await the next opinion polls with eager anticipation.

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23 April 2009

Burning Our Money

I like this. Alot:


St George's Day

Happy St George's Day all.

Sorry we all have to go to work - if there was any justice we would all have a day off.


22 April 2009

Kevin Maguire, Minister for Spin

Just listened to Mirror Editor Kevin Maguire on 5 Live.

I don't know why he doesn't just put a red rose on the front cover of the Mirror and be done with it.


Don't Listen and Watch - Read

I have said it for the last two years and I say it again today. Don't give any credence to what the Chancellor says in the budget speech. Wait until the world has analysed all the hidden stuff that the Chancellor doesn't have the guts to tell us.

PMQs was interesting. The Prime Minister is still in denial about the causes of recession and the impacts. The Chancellor is either going to have to contradict during the budget him or be complicit in another piece of totally unbelievable Spin.