The Government has put our education system on the line, and our children deserve better

Since 2015, £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets according to a National Education Union sponsored campaign. All Hallows Catholic College in Macclesfield will have seen a loss of over £278,492 between 2015 and 2020, as well as a per-pupil loss of £275. In East Cheshire alone, there will be a total loss of £10.9 million in real terms for our schools. But according to Theresa May, there is ‘record levels of spending’ in our education system.

In principle, this is correct. Schools get money based on how many pupils they have and as such, with a higher number of pupils than ever, schools supposedly get more money. However, to peddle this line would be to imply that our schools are in a state of prosperity. The reality of the situation is however, very different.

Regardless of whether you’re on the Left or the Right we all have a duty to our youth. Young people are the future. So for schools to have to write emails and letters to parents saying that they can’t afford pens or toilet paper, you should probably realise there’s serious issues. Ministers are, to be frank, in complete denial. While they continue the typical Tory tradition of spouting the party line at every opportunity, they are in turn legitimising the breakdown of our schooling system. Education secretary Damian Hinds was this week criticised by Headteachers for refusing to meet with them to discuss the state of the system due to Tory austerity. If the Secretary of State for Education is too scared to meet people in the actual system, then it’s clear that even the government know that they’ve failed our children.

An open letter by Head Teachers claimed that since 2010, their budgets had seen an 8% reduction in real terms. Schools are making drastic cutbacks, with some schools closing early or even axing under-subscribed subjects. Class sizes have reached unacceptable levels as a direct result of funding cuts. For example, Kevin Courtney, the joint General Secretary of the NEU, has taught a maths class of 37 pupils. How can we expect our pupils to learn in these conditions? Pupils need individual support, but in classes of this size, they won’t get it.

And as such, this lack of individualised support can contribute to stress and anxiety amongst children who struggle academically as they will feel as though they can’t succeed without support. Pastoral Care has also seen reductions, no longer being seen as an essential part of schooling. This is, in turn, leading to more pressure on teachers and year-learning leaders to make up for the lack of pastoral leaders by focusing on pupil’s emotional state as well as academic state.

We’ve effectively become a one-issue nation thanks to the Tory Government’s horrendous handling of Brexit. This has allowed the Conservatives to effectively brush their callous cuts to education under the carpet. Sadly, they’re getting away with it too often.

We are currently in the midst of another national crisis in the form of Knife Crime. The Tories have cut 21,000 police officers and this has, of course, led to a spike in knife crime amongst youths. But for me, cuts to education and youth services have played a key role in this rise in violent knife crime as well. Children who aren’t so academically successful are being forced out of mainstream education in order to raise a school’s achievement. It is allegedly these children that are most likely to carry a knife for example. Schools should not only be used to educate children academically, but also protect and safeguard them, while also teaching them valuable morals and values. While schools can’t stop knife crime among youths, they can play a key part in preventing some cases.

But while they are underfunded, schools cannot afford this. In fact, many of them are resorting to desperate measures to raise money. Some are holding fundraising days while others are setting up crowd-funding pages online. One of the first duties of the government is to adequately fund our institutions. If schools are resorting to practically begging parents to make up the gap between their budget and their funding cuts, then it’s clear that the government is failing in its duty.

Teachers are leaving the system in their droves now, and that’s not because they don’t care or because they’re bad at their jobs. It’s because they simply cannot cope with the stress of an underfunded system coupled with increasing workloads. It’s not just children that the government are failing, it’s the teachers as well. To put it simply, it is not good enough.

Education is so important for shaping the country we want. We are meant to have one of the best systems in the world, but it’s clear now that it’s spiralled out of control. We need to fix it as a matter of priority. With ministers being in denial, it’s become blindingly obvious that the people who know the most about the system are those who are actually in it. We need to listen to teachers and headteachers now more than ever. While throwing more money at the problem isn’t always the solution, it would certainly be a good start…

 

Tory MPs using food banks for photo-opportunities is the height of hypocrisy

With the demand for food banks in the UK rising by 52% following the rollout of the government’s flagship welfare policy, Universal Credit (Trussel Trust, October 2018), it’s clear that they are one of the biggest challenges facing the United Kingdom. The Conservative government’s continued austerity and welfare cuts, coupled with the rising cost of living not being matched with wage growth, has led to the poorest in society not being able to afford basic necessities. Now, in a CCHQ bid to make Tory MPs appear ‘human’, it’s noticeable that a substantial number of MPs (Claire Perry and Dominic Raab being two of the most widely ridiculed MPs to have viral photos of themselves at food banks/collections) are using these systems for photo opportunities.

When my MP, David Rutley (conveniently now effectively the ‘food supplies minister’) posted an image on his social media feeds of him taking a picture with a food bank collection station in Macclesfield’s Tesco supermarket, it only went to further prove what the Tories are up to. Following the damning report into the effects of the governments policies in the U.K. by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, which found that the government was ‘causing misery’ and that ministers were ‘in denial’ about this, CCHQ have apparently told MPs that they must have photographs at local food banks and food collections in a bid to make them look like decent human beings, perhaps as a possible pre-election push to win over those who feel that the Tories truly are inflicting ‘misery’ on the poorest.

The sheer hypocrisy of Tory MPs knows no bounds. It is them that has led to the rise in use (up 13% on last year according to the Trussel trust in March 2018). It is them that have left many of the poorest in society living in ‘misery’. And it is them that will continue to create further poverty unless they are voted out.

The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, criticised the ‘scathing’ report by the UN Special Rapporteur, arguing that not only was it wrong, but the ‘extraordinary political language’ was ‘inappropriate’ and  ‘discredited a lot of what he was saying’.

However, what Ms Rudd fails to realise is that its the government she serves that has caused this report to be published in the first place due to their horrific policies. That is politics and the fact that the language of a report that said that it was the government’s fault that many were living in poverty only goes to prove that the report’s claim that ‘ministers are in denial’ is more than accurate.

Jeremy Corbyn used PMQs this week to attack the PM on her record on the area, and in a sharp condemnation of the recent actions of Tory MPs such as Claire Perry and Dominic Raab, said that “food banks are not just a photo opportunity for Conservative MPs, all of whom supported the cuts in benefits that have led to the poverty in this country.” The Prime Minister’s response? Denying the report by the UN Rapporteur and refusing to halt Universal Credit. In pointing out the hypocrisy of the Conservative MPs, he drew the exact response that he wanted from Theresa May, proving that the ‘extraordinary political language’ of the UN report’s claim that the ministers were in denial is true.

Following on from her staunch denial of the UN report’s validity, the Prime Minister then had the cheek to once again blame Labour for the problems, saying that the Tories have had to make difficult decisions due to ‘Labour’s poor control of the countries finances’. To blame the Global financial crash for her austerity plans is a disgrace.

This Christmas, remember the families that are suffering as a result of the Tories austerity while you look at pictures of smiling Tory MPs laughing away and having a great time while getting a picture at a food bank. Remember the ‘misery’, a word so often repeated in this article due to the emotion it brings out, that this government has instilled on those who desperately need help as the Tory MPs live it up in their magnificent mansions and cosy cottages. Remember that there are people that are relying on food banks to feed them due to the barbaric Universal Credit system as the Tories tuck into their expensive Christmas meals that will no doubt be claimed back via their expenses, out of the taxpayers’ purse. Because while those who actually rely on food banks are suffering, the Tory ministers are ‘in denial’ as they live out their fancy, taxpayer-funded, luxury lives. Because this Government, and indeed, the Conservative Party on the whole, truly are for the elite, rich few, and most certainly not the many in this country that suffer at the hands of their cruel and callous policies.

Liberal Democrat MP resigns Party Whip due to “irreconcilable differences” over Brexit Vote

The Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, Stephen Lloyd, has announced he is resigning the Party Whip, citing that he has “irreconcilable differences” with the Lib Dems intentions to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Bill.

The MP for a pro-leave constituency that voted 57% to leave in the 2016 Referendum, Lloyd had previously stated that he “will not be bullied” into voting against the deal, promising to keep his “clear promise” to his constituents that he accepts the Brexit result, a position that is at odds with the Liberal Democrats, who are the most prominent Pro-EU party in the United Kingdom and have openly campaigned for a second referendum.

Mr Lloyd has promised that he will “remain a member” of the Liberal Democrats and support them in Parliament, however he will now sit as an independent. Over 70 Lib Dems, including councillors and activists, openly called for him to have the whip removed should he vote for the deal.

Irish PM warns UK to “stand by its commitments over Irish Border issue”

The Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar has told the UK Government that it must avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, honouring its commitments to the Irish Peace Process.

With the UK due to leave the EU on March 29th next year, tensions have been mounting that a deal to solve the border issue will not be reached. The EU has cited the issue of Ireland as the key reason no Brexit deal has been reached, and Theresa May has vowed to find a way to stop a hard border. And Varadkar, has said that if there is an arrangement reached, it cannot feature a time limit.

The has deepened in recent weeks due to disagreements over the agreed ‘backstop’, with questions being raised over whether it should apply to the whole of the UK or just Northern Ireland, as well as fears over a proposed ‘time limit.

Any agreement that sees the reintroduction of a hard border would inevitable break the Good Friday Agreement as it would mean goods would have to be checked when they pass through the border and there is speculation of passport checks at the border. However, if there was to be a backstop applying only to Northern Ireland and not the whole of the UK, then this would create a hard border in the sea between N.I. and the U.K., as Northern Ireland would stay in the customs union (potentially for a time-limited period).

Earlier today, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is reported to have called the Irish Taoiseach in order to “calm anger” across the sea over comments made by Brexit secretary Dominic Raab. Mr Raab is rumoured to have claimed there should be a time-limit of just three months on the Backstop agreement, which is said to have left Mr Varadkar deeply concerned and upset. Mrs May is claimed to have reassured him that her very own Brexit Secretary’s comments are not the UK’s policy, reemphasising her commitment to a full backstop that would work for the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

 

Tories reportedly close to triggering leadership challenge against May

Amidst growing pressures surrounding the ongoing Brexit negotiations, its been claimed that the Conservative party backbenchers are close to launching a leadership challenge against the Prime Minister.

According to The Times, the Chair of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady has received 46 out of the 48 required Letters of No Confidence in Theresa May. While these are unconfirmed reports, they’re seemingly backed up by the amount of MPs who now feel comfortable criticising their leader. An unnamed ‘Former Tory Minister’ went as far as to tell the Sunday Times that there will soon be the moment when “the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted”, before saying “she’ll be dead soon”. Such language hasn’t been heard from Conservative politicians since Andrew Bridgen reportedly joked about “stabbing David Cameron in the front” and “twisting the knife”.

On Wednesday, the 1922 Committee will meet, and a senior Brexiteer has said that the PM should “bring her own noose to the ’22”, revealing that unless she pulls off an “uncharacteristically powerful, persuasive and coherent performance”, then her “time will be up”. And the previously mentioned Andrew Bridgen has said she is “drinking in a last chance saloon”.

With speculation rife about who the next Tory Leader will be, the favourites currently stand as being Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and David Davis. Perhaps what is most striking is that there is no clear frontrunner amongst what is seen as a “bad bunch” of candidates.

Such news of an attempted coup against the PM will come as no surprise, with rumours emerging on Sunday that she has “72 hours to save her job”. The big question now is when, not if, the Prime Minister will be ousted, and while only Mr Brady knows the exact number of letters he’s received, its believed that enough Conservative MPs are willing to do what it takes to get rid of Mrs May. And if there really has been 46 letters already, then all it will take is just two more and there will be a leadership contest. While Brexit secretary Dominic Raab put out a rallying call for MPs to back her, it would seem like its too little too late for the beleaguered Prime Minster.

 

Police open 7th Criminal probe into Tory-run Cheshire East council

Earlier this year, TPN reported on the scandals engulfing the Conservative-run Cheshire East Council. Now, police have confirmed that they have opened their SEVENTH probe into the council, bringing the running total of criminal investigations by Cheshire Police up to SIX.

With questions being raised over the transparency and legitimacy of the council, its perhaps no surprise that there was what Acting Chief Executive Kath O’Dwyer claimed was a ‘targeted, forensic audit of historical land transactions’. This comes as the latest in a long line of blows for the council, which has been described by the local Labour group as ‘lurching from scandal to scandal’.

Last week, Council leader, Cllr Rachel Bailey, appeared on the BBCs Sunday Politics North West, where she said that people know about the investigations into CEC ‘because we’ve told them in an open and transparent way’. There you have the leader of the council covering her own back and making out that because we are all aware of the police investigations it’s all okay. To (misquote) Jim Callaghan, “Crisis? What crisis?”.

The fact of the matter is that Cheshire East Council has been far from ‘Open and Transparent’. Air quality figures manipulated, staff accusing them of bullying, land transactions being investigated and more. You simply couldn’t make it up.

Leader of the Labour Group, Sam Corcoran, recently wrote to the counties 5 MPs to call upon them to look into the concerns raised by the residents of Cheshire East, explaining how the bill to the taxpayers (£1 million for disciplinary processes and temporary appointments) and the scandals are negatively impacting the county. Its clear that only by changing the Tory leadership of the council can we achieve an ‘open and transparent’ council as Cllr Bailey claims we already have.

This is why the Independents have launched their own campaign, appropriately named ‘Change Cheshire East’. Their aim is to overhaul the cabinet system in a bid to put the power in the hands of the public. Naturally, this campaign is separate from the Labour Party’s campaign, however, a source from within the local Labour group says that ‘We welcome them joining our campaign to clean up Cheshire East Council’. Currently over 2700 people have signed the groups petition, and if 15,000 residents sign (5% of the electorate), the council must hold a referendum over the cabinet issue. While it looks like an unlikely figure for the petition, the fact that its already got over 2700 signatures should show the council just how serious residents of the area are taking the matters.

As Private Eye so aptly put it, the Tory-run Cheshire East Council are a ‘Rotten Borough’ and only by changing the leadership to Labour can we get an ‘open and transparent’ council.

John Bercow to leave his post as speaker “next summer” after damning Commons bullying report

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, will step down from the role following Dame Laura Cox’s report into bullying within the House, which showed that the “bullying and harassment is coming right from the top”.

Labour MP John Mann had his request for an Urgent question on the report accepted by Mr Bercow today, with Conservative MP Maria Miller calling upon the Speaker, who was unanimously elected in 2015 and 2017 following his first election to the role in 2009, to resign. Bercow has denied all allegations against him.

Sir Kevin Barron, the departing chair of the Commons standards committee, led a damaging attack against the Speaker, saying that he didn’t believe Bercow was the best person to change the culture in Westminster. Following accusations earlier this year that Mr Bercow, 55, had bullied his former private secretaries, it is widely believed that he should resign following this latest report.

When he was elected as Speaker, he had very little support from his now former party, the Conservatives, but had managed to win large swathes of Labour MPs over following what many believed was the forcing out of Michael Martin and Bercow’s perceived switch towards the left wing, which infuriated many of the Tory party. However, it would appear that he has lost the support of even his strongest allies.

The new head of the parliamentary standards committee, Labour MP Kate Green, opposed an investigation into Mr Bercow earlier this year following a referral by Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, but the committee voted three to two against it.

John Mann’s urgent question on the Cox Report was heard at 2pm today, and numerous MPs, including Maria Miller herself, called upon Mr Bercow to resign. Following the question, it has been reported that he will leave the role next summer, telling close friends that he will step down in his 10th year in the role. The outgoing Speaker has called for an independent investigation into the bullying reports.

Brexit deal is “Still achievable” claims May, amidst difficulty over Irish border

In an impromptu speech to Parliament, the Prime Minister has told MPs that despite differences with the European Union, she believes the U.K. will still reach a Brexit deal. It comes amidst increasing difficulties in negotiating over a ‘back-stop’.

The British Government want an agreement covering the whole of the United Kingdom, however the European Union is concerned that the British plan is unfeasible and thus have proposed their own idea, which would see Northern Ireland remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn describes the issue as “beginning to feel like Groundhog Day”, criticising the Government’s lack of action in the run-up to “a critical point in this countries history”. He reiterated that if Theresa May cannot get a good deal, she “has to make way for those who can”. 

Meanwhile Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster Leader, seemed visibly annoyed after Theresa May brushed off his concerns about Northern Ireland being left in the Single Market and Customs Union. In a lengthy answer, she refused to unequivocally state that Northern Ireland would be leaving the E.U. with the rest of Britain, and Dodds appeared to shake his head in disgust by her answer.

In an unreassuring speech, the cracks were on show for the Prime Minister. With the questions and concerns mounting regarding Brexit, she offered very little answers, and those seeking a strong commitment to a definite end date on a customs arrangements will be left with much to desire. 

In a highly anticipated moment for many, Dominic Grieve once again threatened to rebel against the government, saying that if the government leads the country towards a conclusion that would see us be  in a “two year relationship with the EU… with no say in the rulemaking” and remain bound to a “common rule book”,  he would “not be able to support the government unless it is put to the British people again”. 

As rumours of a cabinet rebellion stir and Brexit negotiations stalling once again, Theresa May’s attempts to cool tensions will have had little effect. 

Breaking: Welsh Labour to use one-member-one-vote to choose next leader

Welsh Labour will use the one-member-one-vote system to elect its new leader, the same way in which Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the national leader. At a special conference in Cardiff, OMOV won 64-36 over reforming the electoral college, after months of debate over whether all party members votes should be equal. This move is expected to help Mark Drakeford in his bid to attain the leadership, and hinder Vaughan Gething.

The result ends a long running row in the Welsh Labour Party over leadership elections. The Welsh Deputy leadership election was won by Carolyn Harris despite her winning only 35% of the votes of members and less overall votes. Her opponent, Julie Morgan, won the popular vote 54 to 46.

Daniel Metcalf, Chair of the Preseli Pembrokeshire Constituency Labour Party, said

‘It was great to see OMOV adopted by the party after over a year of hard work. We had a great well spirited debate with many notable speeches making excellent cases for OMOV. We can’t wait not to get on with the leadership election and decide our next First Minister’.

The majority of CLPs backed the proposal as well as Unite but many Unions supported reforming the electoral college. Among the leadership candidates Mark Drakeford supports OMOV whilst Vaughan Gething, favours retaining the electoral college.

More follows

Analysis from James Barber- Editor

In a decisive victory for democracy within the Welsh Labour Party, the members have made it clear that they want to elect their leader in the same way that the national party elected Jeremy Corbyn. The decision means that all party members and members of unions/groups affiliated to the party will have an equal vote. After what the outgoing leader Carwyn Jones labelled as a “mature and respectful debate”, its a move that will be seen by many within the party as sensible, and can only serve to benefit the democratic process within the party.

This decisions means Mark Drakeford will be a strong favorite to become first minister. In battle between left and right in the Labour Party this is another victory for the left and may mark a change in the style of governance of the Welsh Assembly. In internal party politics it will most likely mean one more Corbyn ally on Labour’s NEC.

Chuka Umunna telling Corbyn to ‘call off the dogs’ stinks of hypocrisy

With the moderates in the Labour Party continuing their rebellion, Chuka Umunna, who has acted as one of the lynchpins, has told Jeremy Corbyn to ‘call off the dogs’. This came just a day after Tony Blair said that the party could ‘never be taken back’ by his ilk.

Yet the issue for Umunna is that everything he says nowadays when it comes to the party stinks of hypocrisy. On Twitter, he said “Was Labour founded to fight for working people or attack excellent MPs”, naming the recently deselected Joan Ryan as an example of what he presumably feels is a ‘witch hunt’. So its okay for him to attack anyone who’s even slightly more left-leaning than him, and for him to demonise the leadership, but when his friends are beyond criticism.

And this is the issue with the so-called ‘moderates’ in the Labour Party. Streeting, Hodge, Ryan and Umunna himself are just a few of the examples of these MPs who are committed not to getting in a Corbyn-led Labour government, but to effectively enable the Conservatives and stop Labour winning.

It’s perhaps interesting then that Umunna says the priority for Labour should be to fight Brexit. But surely a Labour ‘Soft’ Brexit is better than a Tory ‘Hard Brexit’, or heaven forbid a ‘no deal scenario’. Umunna’s protests are completely counterproductive. Doing fancy speeches for ‘Progress’, the right-wing Labour pressure group isn’t going to get you the Brexit that you want, neither is focusing all of your politics on attacking the only people capable of bringing down the Conservatives and stopping said Brexit. Corbyn may not be the most appetising for many, but he IS the only option to defeat the Tories, whether Ummuna likes it or not

With deselections looming for many more moderates, surely they must realise that the membership are upset by their actions? While these deselections serve Chuka’s case well, he can hardly argue that some of them are underserved. There is no doubt that Labour is a broad church. However, when MPs are actively working against the party, undermining the leadership and enabling the Tories, why should they be allowed to continue representing it?

I myself disagree with deselections, instead favouring Open Selection, championed by Momentum, where CLP’s can vote whether to allow the sitting MP to continue, or vote them out after each term. This is the way the party should go, making the whole process as open and democratic as possible. In fact, it will serve to improve the party as it may force MPs to work harder to keep their job.

And to assume that ‘all the moderates’ would be gone is wrong. For that to happen, you would have to presume that all of the moderate MPs CLP’s dislike them strongly, which as shown by the narrow 94-92 vote of no confidence in Joan Ryan, is most likely not the case. Being an MP should not be a job that is taken for granted, as it is by many MPs nowadays.

Chuka Umunna must embrace the party in its current form if he is to continue representing it. As he continues his threats to break away and fund a centrist party (for which there is no appetite), many feel he should go ahead and do it. A centrist party that nobody wants, funded by multi-billionaires who nobody like, and represented by politicians nobody respects, would do only one thing. Help the Tories. While it would take votes off them most likely, it would take far more off Labour. This new party would enable the Tories to do whatever they want with the country. Hard Brexit? It’d be easy for them. Austerity? Expect it to continue forever. No matter what, the whole concept of a new centrist party is not only flawed, it is counterproductive.

Umunna is a clever man, and a good politician who represents his supporters well. But the fact that he doesn’t realise that people don’t want a new centrist party baffles many. The failure of the Liberal Democrats to make any impact on the political atmosphere since the coalition shows how little people want a new party representing the middle ground.

Labour is still not quite there, a mess in many ways but a mess orchestrated by those opposed to Corbyn. The Mainstream Media’s smears have worked incredibly well for the centrist MPs within the party and its without a doubt that we haven’t heard the last of the ‘Progress’ politicians but the hypocritical campaign of the likes of Chuka Umunna and his friends only does one thing, help the Tories.