A very British problem

Once again Tory Eurosceptics are demanding for a referendum on the EU, powers to be repatriated and even more protection for the City.

Once again they are wrong.

The coalition agreement has stated that a referendum is only applicable when more powers are to be transferred from the UK to Europe, there is no suggestion that this will be the case. Secondly the main issue is for the Euro zone to get its house in order as it is critical to the world economy.

Instead of sniping from the sidelines the UK should be working as hard as possible to steer the Euro into a long term sustainable position, rather than taking sticking plaster solutions. I do agree that inevitably we will need to decide whether the UK is in or out, but now is not the time, there are bigger issues at stake than our own sense of world importance and self rule. We either want to be in “the club”, have peripheral membership but refrain from constant attempts to have things on our term all the time or get out completely.

Lastly, although the City is important to the UK economy, we do seem to bend over backwards for the financial sector and are prone to their lobbying tactics, when more important is the rebalancing of the economy. Come on actions not just words on a new economy.

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Lord of the Flies

The recent and spreading rioting, looting and violence is completely indefensible and makes one wonder what is happening in the UK when communities are closing down and streets left to yobs. Are our streets becoming dominated by youths from Lord of the Flies?

There will be many questions asked of the police response and whether they could have done more to prevent the problems, but that I feel is an operational question and to be honest they’re damned if they step in and damned if they don’t.

I would, however, like to focus on 2 aspects, firstly my thoughts on why the riots may be spreading and secondly why it’s even happening.

Firstly the advent of social media, 24 hour TV is making it much easier for groups to get together and copy events happening a few miles away. There is no way that any of the riots (Tottenham being the possible exception) are related to the death of Mark Duggan or a social / political comment. Groups / gangs saw what was possible and replicated them in other areas. London in the suburban areas is very quiet as I write with most restaurants and shops closing early and with heavy police presence there may not be the violence of the past few days. However, in Manchester and Birmingham, there are fresh areas to target and the gangs there want to show what they can do.

So if this is not an explicit social action what is it? I believe that what we’re seeing is decades of failed policies by successive governments for social mobility and increasing opportunities for those in the poorest parts of our community. Being poor doesn’t mean you riot and thieve, being poor doesn’t mean you don’t know what is right from wrong, but for many too many generations have given up. They see no change in their lives from their parents.

It’s not easy to change if the parents have given up we need to encourage the children, but with no role models and lack of ways to channel their energy, many of the poorest youths today are not being the citizens we want them to be. If I was to come back with a stolen TV my parents or guardians would march me to the nearest police station, for these kids it won’t happen.

It means more targeted resources for the poorest children at school, more youth and sport centres to keep them occupied and be with role models. Better careers guidance to show them what is possible. Increased investment for apprenticeships and the government paying for everyone to have the opportunity to sit exams up to A-Levels. That means that someone who has dropped out of school at 16 but realises they want to turn themselves round at 25 can get A-Levels at a college, not pay for it themselves, which can be a struggle.

David Cameron’s words that “you will feel the full force of the law, and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment.” sounds good, but in the long run it is completely wrong.

The youngest arrested, so far,is 11 years old, is it the 11 year olds fault he was caught up in this or the social factors he’s brought up in? Is his whole life now going to be determined by this one event? It is also why we need restorative justice and to ensure criminals are rehabilitated.

How many people would employ people who can not read or write very well? How many would give them a job if they have been in prison? Too often prison is a revolving door with short jail sentences doing nothing, what hope for those who want to go on the straight and narrow, what does it mean for their kids? Re-equip those who want to learn and be a part of society by ensuring they can read and write, learn a basic skill and be employable.

We are all guilty of creating the environment in which we now live in. The riots are wrong, but we should all be doing more to ensure these events never happen again.

Red Ed or Yellow Mili?

Ed Miliband used his first major speech as Labour party to leader to position himself and the party back into the centre ground. It was almost as though his brother, David, was giving the speech, talk of having to deal with the deficit, not backing unnecessary strikes over public sector spending cuts and wanting to reform welfare.

He paid tribute to Labour’s achievements, but also made several attacks on its past like:

  • An unjust war on Iraq
  • Student tuition fees
  • Attack on civil liberties
  • Loose regulation of financial services

Is it me or is Ed Miliband saying that the Liberal Democrats have been right all along on these issues? Does he want to join the Liberal Democrats?

Actually of a bigger tactical note is he’s making both an attempt to move to the centre as well as appeal to Liberal Democrats voters and open a flank for potential co-operation in the next parliament should there be a hung parliament. The other risk for the Liberal Democrats is of being squeezed, even more reason to continue to shout about the Liberal Democrat policies being implemented.

Of course we need to see policy announcements but the speech sets a tone, but that can change over time, David Cameron veered from soft and cuddly to right wing depending on his own political situation.

It’s only day 3 of Ed Miliband’s leadership but he’s certainly shown over the past months something his brother David Miliband never had – balls. And I don’t mean having to work with Mr Yvette Cooper!

The best teachers aren’t always the best graduates, just as top football managers weren’t always great players

David Cameron is right that standards need to be raised in teaching, however, his answer of only allowing graduates with a 2:1 from elite universities to have financial support for teach training is utterly wrong. If teachers were paid more then you would have more “high flying” graduates thinking about it.

I went to the University of Bath, a top 10 university, and I know of only one person who went into teaching. Many science and engineering graduates I know are doing accountancy and management consultancy as they’ve chosen the money (rightly or wrongly) over a life of low paid research or teaching.

There is also no guarantees that the best teachers are the ones with the best degrees, teaching involves inspiring and delivering great lessons, many exams are a test of regurgitating lecture notes.

In the world of sport the best players do not make the best coaches. In the football Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez or Roy Hodgson played top flight football and they’re at the top of the footballing tree. Likewise many great players have struggled in coaching Tony Adams, Paul Ince and John Barnes to name a few recent coaches.

Lastly it was pointed out in the Guardian that the Tory’s “Maths Tsar” Carol Vorderman only got a third in engineering at Cambridge…