Thank God for Gove and Clarke!

Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse

I fear few children other than those educated at Harrow or Eton will understand the legend of the Trojan Horse today so may be puzzled about the equine link with Islamic fundamentalists in Birmingham schools.

We should be very, very grateful to two people for exposing this Trojan Horse operation which shows the lengths to which Islamic fundamentalists will go to promote their dream of a world-wide caliphate.

First thanks are due to Michael Gove for having the courage to expose this conspiracy and to set up a formal inquiry into Islamic infiltration of Birmingham Schools.  What a shame to see this brave and forthright politician sidelined to the role of Chief Whip while the school unions that have comprehensively wrecked state education in this country are whooping with joy at Cameron’s demotion of Michael Gove, the best schools’ Secretary of State we have had for years.

Second  thanks are due to Peter Clarke (certainly not to Europhile Ken Clark!) for his forensic examination of and report on the Birmingham schools, that plotted to promote unacceptable Islamic fundamentalism.

What saddens me is the failure of Birmingham City Council to deal with this Islamic menace when they were first made aware of it.   I am very proud of my quarter century in local government with eleven years as council leader but it means I understand local government’s weaknesses.  If this had been C of E or Roman Catholic schools caught promoting unacceptable doctrines, I have no doubt the whole education establishment would have descended on them like a ton of bricks without hesitation.  Given this was Islamic fundamentalism and the ethnic make-up of the Birmingham population, I am afraid Birmingham Council seems to have behaved in a craven manner, driven by political correctness rather than political integrity.

Michael Gove and Peter Clarke have taught us a valuable lesson. Islamists, promoting their caliphate, will seek to subvert our democratic processes to achieve their undemocratic ends – an undemocratic caliphate that promotes a mediaeval concept of religion that this country rejected five centuries ago and that denigrates women in general and punishes young women in particular for demanding an education.

A number of councils have found themselves embroiled with Asian men who have ensnared young white women in abusive practices, drugs and prostitution.  Oxfordshire was one of them.  If this had been white men menacing Asian women, I have little doubt the issue would have surfaced sooner and been dealt with much more speedily.  I suspect the fear of being branded “racist” may have intimidated council, health and police managers to hold back until they were 250% sure of everything.  There is a lesson here.  We must not be intimidated by Islamist fundamentalists who will use the race card against our gentler and kinder natures to enable them to promote their out-of-date and unacceptable views about women and sexual mores.

There is an important role here for the vast majority of moderate Muslims in this country.  I have listened to their concern with what they see as western decadence and falling moral values and I think they are right.  When I plough through TV channels and see the top shelves of newsagents, not to mention the appalling language and violence that is endemic on radio and TV, I think they have some very valid points.  However, they need to be brave enough to distance themselves from many of their leaders and fundamentalists to speak out against unacceptable and mediaeval Islamist views.

I also remember attending an Asian event in East Oxford some years ago in a Moslem community centre when I was Leader of the Council.  We were all invited to stand for “the national anthem” which I willingly did but was surprised to find that those present were not singing “God Save our Gracious Queen” but something entirely foreign and in a foreign tongue.   Either this is their country and their Queen or they should be thinking of moving back to a country that better reflects their instincts and patriotism even if at the price of a lower standard of living.

When I walk to Banbury station and pass the taxi rank, I can’t help noticing that all of the drivers are Asian and, while this is not a problem in itself, I am puzzled that there are not other nationalities who would aspire to this form of self-employment and wonder what barriers prevent us from having a more racially mixed collection of taxi drivers?  More fundamental is the fact that they never appear to speak English except when driving a passenger.  Many of them must have been in this country for quite some time now; am I alone in feeling their use of a foreign language at least unfriendly and unhelpful and bordering on the offensive if they have made England their home?

If the aim of Islamic fundamentalists is to inculcate a hatred of western values in the minds of the young and if their parents would like to prevent this radicalisation, I believe the best approach they can take is to demonstrate a harmonisation with our English lifestyles to the point where English is the spoken language in the home.  At the same time, they could become much more vociferous in supporting a raising of moral standards and the eschewing of the worst aspects of our TV and other media.  We could all have something to gain from this.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

I conclude as I started. Thank God for Michael Gove’s integrity and Peter Clarke’s forensic analysis.  The sooner MG is back in a cabinet post that matches his skills and reminds us that he has the courage  of his convictions and the means to express them, the better for the country.  While some suspect his public arguments with Theresa May might have been his downfall, I have a suspicion that increasing numbers could see Michael Gove as just what this country needs – a politician who speaks the truth, takes on vested interests and would make a fine Prime Minister in the Thatcherite mould when the time comes for a change.  I suspect that may have been his downfall and I hope it is temporary.

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Shuffling the pack – 2

imageI do have some sympathy for DC.  Re-shuffles are hell.  We all know he hates them and has put them off whenever he could.  The radical nature of his 2014 reshuffle has clearly taken a lot of commentators by surprise!

I was Leader of Oxfordshire County Council for 11 years and I must have done three or four re-shuffles in that time.  They have several characteristics:

  • you upset as many people you have sacked as you please those you have promoted and each of those you sack can become so aggrieved as to make your life difficult and to promote plots to remove you.
  • when you think hard about people’s capacity for a challenging job (particularly true in local government) you discover that many of those with the skills and mental capacity either have not got the time or cannot afford to give up their day job.
  • on the other side, many with neither the skills nor the mental capacity for a big job have an infinite amount of time at their disposal and ambitions well beyond their capabilities.
  • the process of sacking can be stressful when the office holder being told his job is ended is relying on the income to pay for his life style.  Politics should not be about money but I am afraid it can be highly intrusive in motivating individuals.

So I have some sympathy for DC in the difficult job he has done in the full glare of the national media machine.  Now I turn to some individuals.

Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

SURVIVOR:  Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.  I suspect there were not a few council leaders and councillors who were cheered by the rumour that Eric was for the chop.  In the end, he has survived.  I am not clear why but he has been much more a friend of the Treasury than of his local government colleagues and that may explain much.  Although hailed a successful council leader, I think he served for about a year on Bradford Council.  I am not sure he has been much of a friend of local government during his spell at the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis

SURVIVOR  Neither has his sidekick, Brandon Lewis, who has moved to housing and planning within DCLG.  The new role looks something of a political graveyard on past performance.

However, he will have Penny Mordaunt under him (in an organisational sense!) and we will have to see how she fares.  Local government rarely finds itself with a real friend who will fight its corner and stand up for its values and I doubt if much has changed with the reshuffle.

Nick Hurd

Nick Hurd

DEPARTED:  I was sorry to see Nick Hurd has lost his job.  The son of Douglas Hurd and a decent and well meaning guy, I suspect his departure proves that those who succeed in climbing the greasy pole of politics are not always the best role models but I hope Nick finds a useful role for his undoubted talents.  Nick was a great promoter of local representative democracy and while I was less sure of the organisation he chose to promote it, there was never any doubt as to his sincerity in so doing.

Greg Clark

Greg Clark

SURVIVOR: Just to disprove my previous statement, I am delighted to see that Greg Clark has survived the reshuffle and has moved to become Universities & Science Minister, following David Willetts.  Greg was another rarity in national politics – approachable and decent.  I hope he does well and I hope I can persuade him that Oxfordshire’s high tech economy has huge potential for the UK economy and for economic growth in and beyond our county.

William Hague

William Hague

DEPARTED:  I do have to applaud William Hague for the dignified manner in which he has moved on to a new role and is clearly preparing for a complete change of scene at the next election.  I served 24 years in local government and 11 of them as leader of my council.  It was enough.  You can get stale and set in your ways and there is usually someone ready to take your place when the time comes in which respect, I think it will be interesting to see how Philip Hammond adapts to his role as Foreign Secretary.  He has always seemed a bit of a grey man, hovering between accountant and lawyer so how he struts the world stage will be an interesting study.

Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb

AT LAST – A BEARD IN GOVERNMENT!  Finally, my congratulations to Stephen Crabb who becomes both Welsh Secretary and the first member of the Cabinet with a beard since 1905!  If he appears beardless within a few weeks, we will know the Party apparatchiks have been at him.  Shame on them if they do and shame on him if he succumbs!

With a beard and a Welsh constituency, he may well be assumed by many to be Labour and he might manage to sneak into the odd Labour meeting undetected!

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Shuffling the pack – 1

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister

I think Cameron has got it wrong with his Cabinet Reshuffle.  This is in two areas, one general, the other specific.

  • I think trumpeting the ascendancy of women to senior positions in government sends all of the wrong signals.  Many will assume they are there for their looks, dress sense or gender and not for their skills.  Much better to have gone about a re-shuffle that promotes the best and brightest and leaves people to draw their own conclusions.  As it is, people will assume Esther McVey is there for her dress style and Liz Truss for her youth if not her surname!
  • Worse though, in my view, is the sacking of Michael Gove.  If there is a single institution that has failed our country for half a century, it has to be state education.  Our state schools continue to turn out children who cannot read, write or speak confidently or correctly.  After 12 years of state education, the system has failed to inculcate the three Rs such that many employers find them unemployable and those that go on to university have to be re-trained in their first year in the three Rs.  This is a complete disgrace and is why this country has fallen so low in education league tables.

What is the cause? I think there are three causes:

  • Someone with whom I work said she thought the biggest single problem in schools was those children whose parents had neither enthusiasm for education nor an understanding that education alone would give their offspring a happy and successful future.
  • While education is apparently “free” there are too many parents who will fail to understand its value.
  • State schools employ teachers who are mostly unionised, who regard their own terms and conditions as more important than the future of their pupils and who are largely imbued with left-of-centre views about levelling opportunities down and equalities at any price.
Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Michael Gove had clearly thought about these issues long and hard and instituted a programme of reform for state education that went some way to addressing the third of these problems.  I suspect he would have wished to address the first and second ones more if he could but we have a tradition in this country that values so-called “free” state provision without recognising the reality that someone is paying for an inferior product and too many users fail to value a service that appears to be “free”.

I have always believed that education is far too important to trust to the state and that it should be funded by the public purse but provided by a wide range of organisations that have no direct connections or affiliation with the public sector.  This has led me to favour a voucher system, giving parents an entitlement to spend a specific sum per annum on each child’s education in a school of their choice, whether the local comprehensive or Eton or Harrow.  I suspect Michael Gove was too shrewd a politician to believe that a voucher system would have been acceptable to much of the public and also, I am sorry to say, to a lot of members of the Conservative  Party so he settled for a half-way house that might have led to a voucher system in time.  These were academies (borrowed from Labour – ho-ho!) and Free Schools and they were working.  This was no reason to sack him and move him to be Chief Whip.  I suspect Theresa May has something to answer for here?  A lesson, perhaps, about choosing your arguments carefully!

MorganN1

Nicky Morgan S of S Education

I hope his successor, Nicky Morgan, has the balls to continue the Gove reforms and to tell Mrs Blower (Chief Executive of the National Union of Teachers) that the reforms go ahead; that professionals do not strike; and that many of our children have been badly let down by the teaching establishment for far too long.  I hope but I am not holding my breath.  I am afraid our Prime Minister has a sniff of appeasement about him.  Margaret Thatcher never gave in to Scargill.  Blower is the new Scargill and the antics of her union are threatening the nation’s children.

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Importance of Tax Return Accuracy

Tax ReturnThe deadline for submitting one’s tax return is long passed but here is an interesting reflection from a regional newspaper on the importance of submitting accurate information and omitting nothing.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has returned the Tax Return to a man in Evesham after he apparently answered one of the questions incorrectly.

In response to the question: “Do you have anyone dependent on you?” the man wrote “2.1 million illegal immigrants; 1.1 million crackheads; 4.4 million unemployable Jeremy Kyle scroungers; 900,000 criminals in over 85 prisons plus 650 idiots in Parliament and the whole of the European Commission.”

HMRC stated the response he gave was unacceptable.

The man’s response to HMRC was “Who did I miss out?”

 

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Bicester’s wannabe councillor

Polly Foster

Polly Foster

I understand Labour have selected their candidate to contest the Bicester West Ward in the Cherwell District Council elections on 22 May 2014.  She is Miss Polly Foster who lives in leafy Fritwell.  It is quite a tiring cycle ride between Fritwell and Bicester!  It is slightly baffling that Labour have had to import this lady from a leafy village and one can only assume they could not find anyone willing to stand who actually lived in the Ward or even in the town?

Norman Bolster
Norman Bolster

 

Of course, the sitting Conservative Councillor is Norman Bolster who lives in Hambleside and who has been a Cherwell Councillor and Executive member for many years.  I include his picture for completeness but I know all residents of the West Ward will see a lot of “Stormin” Norman in the next few weeks.   There may not be a lot covering Norman’s head but there a lot of good sense inside it!

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Labour’s wannabe MP

Sehdev_SIn my earlier post, I referred to Mrs Savita Sehdev who reached the Labour shortlist for the Banbury Parliamentary seat and I said that no-one had heard of her.  Well, Google has shed a little light on this lady.  It seems she is or has been a teacher of English as a Foreign Language and is based in Wolverhampton.  She can be found expressing her ambition to become a Labour MP in the following words – reproduced precisely:

Well I taught nerly 29 yr in this country. I have a long life experience in that field. During my teaching profession I experienced to deal with all the communities. I had a very good relationship with tthem.   I would like to carry on serving these communities. That’s why I want to become MP.   Please kindly send me the application form.

Here is the link if you want to check it out.

I don’t think I can add anything to her own testimonial.

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Labour at war in Oxfordshire

hammer & SickleThere are signs that Labour factions in Oxfordshire are fighting within their own ranks rather than taking the fight to their Conservative opponents. The Banbury Labour Party has always been a traditional Brownite Party of the unions and what used to be the traditional “working class” who got their hands dirty in metal-bashing industry.

champagne glassBy contrast, the Oxford Labour Party contains large numbers of Blairite, wealthy, public and academic sector workers with bloated pensions and high level, high table lifestyles. “Champagne socialists” would not be an unkind epithet for many of them.

Put these two groups together and you can expect explosions and we have seen them! Labour’s Banbury constituency is trying to select a parliamentary candidate to oppose Sir Tony Baldry (majority in 2010 was 18,227) in the 2015 elections. This follows their axing of long-serving Cllr Les Sibley as their parliamentary candidate who has fought for the Parliamentary seat on numerous occasions and is well known as a community activist. It is ironic that Cllr Les Sibley is now supporting the County Council Conservative minority administration after Labour axed him.

Word on the street is that Labour had reduced their Parliamentary selection process to three candidates of whom one was Mr Perrin Moon, a second was Mrs Savita Sehdev, based in Wolverhampton and the third was local Cllr Sean Woodcock. The Moon couple have been active in opposing spending cuts in general and school transport cuts in particular although their recognition of their own Party’s role in the need to make public spending cuts has been less apparent as has any view as to where alternative cuts should be imposed. They may well believe we should keep on borrowing an extra billion for every three billion raised in taxes from hard pressed working people but I could not possibly comment.

No-one seems to have heard of Mrs Sehdev.

Well, to cut to the chase, the Banbury Labour web site has announced: The hustings scheduled for this coming Friday evening, 7 March in Banbury and on Saturday morning, 8 March in Bicester, were both cancelled. It seems that three applicants were nominated but one of these nominees had to withdraw before the short-list was drawn up. The constituency selection committee has now heard from one of the two short-listed nominees that they are also withdrawing from the selection. This last-minute withdrawal left only a single contestant – the young and relatively inexperienced Cllr Sean Woodcock. The selection committee has therefore apparently decided to cancel the current selection process, with the intention of running the procedure again later after seeking further applicants.

I am hearing that the truth behind this bland announcement is that Mrs Moon, who led a campaign against necessary Oxfordshire County Council homes to school transport policy, took her campaign to County Hall only to find her efforts rubbished by Cllr Lady Liz Brighouse and the County Labour Group, including Labour County Cllrs Christie, Beal, Dheshi and Cherry. She then seems to have had a fit of the vapours and, one must assume, pressed, her husband into withdrawing his candidacy for the Parliamentary seat.

Labour need to find someone else to attack Sir Tony’s 18,227 majority!

This is not the first time cracks have become evident in Labour policy between Labour at Bodicote House and at County Hall. Cherwell Labour, led by Cllr Sean Woodcock, opposed the Conservative budget because it retained current parking charges. At County Hall, the Labour Group there proposed an amendment to increase parking charges at the county sites, including Water Eaton in Cherwell District. Some Labour councillors voted one way in one council and contrary in the other! This proposal was thankfully defeated but one wonders what Labour policy is in Oxfordshire with County Labour wishing to tax the motorist back to the stone age while Cherwell Labour (including, it would seem, the Labour County Councillors) opposing any parking charges.

If they can’t get their act together at a local level, can anyone imagine Miliband in No 10?

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