France to scrap law forcing drivers to carry breathalysers at all times

France is to scrap a law which required all drivers, including those from other countries, to carry breathalysers in their car at all time.

The law was introduced in 2013 to try to address the country’s shocking drive-drive fatality record but has been mired in confusion and controversy from the start.

It required all drivers travelling in France, including those visiting from the UK, to carry at least one breathalyser in the car at all times and be able to use it if asked to by police. Those who didn’t have one were meant to be subject to an 11 euro fine.

However, even before the law came into force, President Francois Hollande decided to scrap the fine, meaning that drivers who failed to comply were still breaking the law but faced no punishment if caught.

Despite that, most motoring organisations and ferry operators heading to France advised British motorists to carry one to avoid problems with French police.

Read more: How accurate are home breathalysers?

Effectiveness ‘not proven’

The law is now being abolished as part of a new transport and mobility bill – Le projet de loi d’orientation des mobilités.

The French government said that the feasibility and effectiveness of the law hadn’t been proven in addressing the problem of drink-driving.

The offence is thought to be a factor in a third of all road deaths in France and around 1,000 people died in drink-drive related incidents last year. In the UK, despite drink-drive related fatalities reaching an eight-year high, they account for 250 deaths or around 14 per cent.

disposable breathalyser
The breathalyser kits had to be made to a specific “NF” standard for France (Photo: AlcoSense Laboratories)

Stricter limits

While the law is to be repealed, observers have warned drivers to remember France’s strict drink-drive limit and consider still carrying a breathalsyer.

Read more: Driving abroad: what you need to know

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “While the law governing drivers carrying breathalysers in France might be about to change, drivers heading across the Channel should still remember that the country has a much stricter drink-drive limit than in the UK [except Scotland] – and anyone caught over the limit faces some very tough penalties.

“The best advice is to never drink and drive, whether driving in France or elsewhere. For any driver that still chooses to, it still makes a lot of sense to carry a portable breathalyser to check they are well below the relevant legal limit.”

Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories and member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) added: “It is still a legal requirement to carry an NF approved breathalyser in the vehicle while driving in France and that will be the case for a while yet.

“With the French limit significantly lower than the English limit and the penalties harsher, it will remain advisable to carry a breathalyser to test yourself while driving in France and avoid unintentionally drink driving.”

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Record number of people asking for debt advice shows households ‘struggling to hang on’ says charity

A record number of people in the UK contacted a debt charity asking for help and advice in the first half of the year, figures reveal.

StepChange said 331,337 people got in touch in the first six months of 2019, signalling that a growing number of households were “struggling to keep their heads above water”.

The figure is the largest half-yearly total recorded by the debt charity, which has been offering support for 26 years, and is largely down to unexpected life events such as losing a job or becoming ill.

“These statistics provide a sobering assessment of the scale of problem debt in this country,” said Phil Andrew, chief executive of StepChange.

Read more:

‘How I saved £5,000 and cleared my debts using money apps despite being on a tight budget’

I paid off £53,000 worth of debt – using cash helped me go debt free

‘Red flags’

“Across the board, we are seeing red flags, including worrying proportions of new clients falling into debt due to reduced income, illness or because they rely on credit to pay for day-to-day living expenses.

“Clearly more and more households are struggling to hang on and are ill-equipped to deal with any economic shocks the future may hold,” he added.

The charity found the level of debt people were dealing with had increased from previous years.

More than 190,000 of the people who contacted StepChange had non-mortgage debt worth nearly £13,800 – a two per cent increase compared with six months earlier and a six per cent increase since 2016. These people went on to receive full debt advice.

Nearly a third of people’s outgoings were more than their incomes, with their average shortfall amounting to £365.

Of StepChange’s new clients, 18 per cent were experiencing a reduction in income, 16 per cent were dealing with injury or illness and another 16 per cent had found themselves unemployed or  redundant.

a person is pictured holding a wallet containing a £5
Some people’s outgoings were more than their income (Photo: AFP/Getty)

People with mental health problems affected

One group of people particularly likely to feel under pressure financially are those with mental health issues, according to the charity.

More than 40 per cent of StepChange clients were identified as having an additional vulnerability on top of their financial difficulty. Nearly half of clients identified as vulnerable had a mental health issue.

Typically their income was £200 less a month than clients generally.

Single parents were also particularly likely to be affected by debt, making up a quarter of those who contacted the charity in the first half of the year.

This proportion has risen by a third since 2014, when 18 per cent of new clients were single parents.

‘Wake-up call’

Mr Andrew said the figures “must act as a wake-up call to the Government”, with issues around bailiff behaviour and the five-week wait people have before they receive their first Universal Credit payments.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are determined to help families improve their lives through work, while continuing to support them with the cost of living.

“But we know some families need more support, which is why we spend more than £95 billion a year on working age benefits. With Universal Credit, people can get paid urgently if they need it, and 700,000 families will get on average £285 more a month because the system is simpler.”

Additional reporting by PA

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Mark Francois’ Hot Fuzz Moment

Last night, Mark Francois really got stuck into the job of an MP as he joined his local police force patrol donned in full uniform. Perhaps the most disappointing stripper ever…

In a sight enjoyed by anyone who likes men in uniform, the top Brexiteer MP was snappedwalking around town and in and out of pubs”, although he adamantly says he didn’t consume any alcohol while on the job… 

The post Mark Francois’ Hot Fuzz Moment appeared first on Guido Fawkes.

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I’m not a snowflake for shutting out David Cameron for the sake of my mental health

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the 12-step Al-Anon program – the recovery program for friends and family who have alcoholic loved ones – is about creating boundaries. It’s not just learning about how to say no, but it’s about recognising the signs of what has a negative impact on your mental health, assessing what you can and can’t control, and then creating a boundary in a way that supports you mentally.

Sometimes that means shutting down the things that make you feel terrible mentally, and for me, that includes David Cameron.

When I saw the first photos promoting the ITV interview between him and Tom Bradby, in which Cameron promised to address the role he played in the referendum, I felt that first prickle of anxiety mixed with outrage. When those feelings of unease increased after seeing tons of tweets analysing the interview, mentions of his autobiography, and columns and editorials on the revelations in said book including Cameron smoking weed at Eton, I knew I would have to create a boundary around him.

I don’t think it’s me being a snowflake or irresponsible by not engaging in current affairs.

No extra mental space

He was the Prime Minister whose legacy will always be the man who called for the referendum that divided our country, and then quit the job, leaving us all to sort it out (Photo: Getty)

For me, there is simply no extra mental space to accommodate Cameron, given he was the Prime Minister whose legacy will always be the man who called the referendum that divided our country, and then quit the job, leaving us all to sort it out.

I still remember the unfolding horror and sense of betrayal of those first few days, and then weeks, when we realised that remain or leave, there was no clear plan in place from our political leaders to carry us through to leaving the EU.

‘Brexit has moved beyond the point of leaving the EU. My biggest concern is around what is happening to us domestically as a consequence of the uncertainty’

Three years on, however you voted, many of us feel powerless about the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the future of the country. We are exhausted, and it is impacting our mental health in unforeseen ways. Earlier this year, a poll revealed the uncertainty of Brexit was affecting the mental health of at least a third of the adults surveyed, manifesting as anxiety, depression and a low-level sense of dread.

To me, Brexit has moved beyond the point of leaving the EU. My biggest concern is around what is happening to us domestically as a consequence of the uncertainty, and the mental health sector, from services at a local authority level to preventative measures, are one of the most affected.

The detrimental impact on our mental health at an individual and macro level as a consequence is an irony, given Cameron’s “landmark” speech on the mental health crisis in 2016.

The interview with Bradby is hard to watch amid the ramifications of an unresolved Brexit shuddering through our lives. On the one hand, Cameron says “not a day goes by” when he doesn’t think about all the decisions around calling the referendum and how “deeply sorry” he is for what has happened since, but on the other, he says he believes it was still the right approach in terms of re-negotiating Britain’s position with the EU.

To me, cancelling Cameron is like getting rid of a toxic friend who just can’t properly apologise or admit they are wrong.

‘I overheard two political commentators discuss Cameron in such a cavalier way as if it was a game being played, and I immediately put my earphones in because I just can’t anymore’

Although it felt like I should read about Cameron and what he had to say about Brexit, the evidence in terms of how it was making me feel mentally was hard to ignore. Which was anxious, angry and outraged. So I decided that rather than fuelling these emotions, I was going to mute all and any conversation around him.

I applied this to tweets and removed myself from conversations when people wanted to discuss it. When I was in the BBC’s green room ahead of going on-air to discuss mental health, I overheard two political commentators discuss Cameron in such a cavalier way, as if it was a game being played, and I immediately put my earphones in because I just can’t anymore. I’ve seen the damage his legacy has wrought on some of the most vulnerable, such as those affected in the mental health space.

I’m all out of patience

Supreme Court to judge if Boris Johnson misled the Queen over decision to suspend Parliament
Our current Prime Minister who believes the cure for depression is just to work a little bit harder (Photo: Francisco Seco/Getty)

The austerity policies he implemented were deemed so detrimental to the mental health of the nation they had caused a crisis – this was addressed in a letter signed by hundreds of psychiatrists, psychotherapists in 2015. The following year, he addressed the issue of mental health and funding, saying £1billion was pledged towards to enhancing mental health services across the country – even though £11 billion was nearer to the amount needed to bridge the gap in services and reduce year-long waiting times. Under his leadership, there were no available beds for mental health patients in the whole of England at one point in 2014. 

Read more

Boris Johnson’s idea that hard work cures mental illness is totally absurd – and a worrying indication of things to come

Segueing from this into Theresa May’s too-little-too-late approach to mental health (the number of beds allocated to mental health patients fell by 30 per cent last year), to our current Prime Minister who believes the cure for depression is just to work a little bit harder, I’m all out of patience.

Given that Brexit has put pressure on an already-strained system – the manifestation of which is that suicide rates in young people are unacceptably high and growing, as well as increasing suicide rates in men and young women – it is impossible for me to engage with David Cameron in any way, and that’s okay. In this era, sometimes you have take matters into your own hands when it comes to managing your mental health. Because it sure as hell doesn’t seem to be a priority for the people who have recently led our country, or its incumbent leader.

More from Poorna Bell

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Waterloo death: Engineer killed while working on travelator at major underground station

A man has died at Waterloo Station while working on a moving walkway.

Transport for London (TfL) said the engineer died at the station on Wednesday morning.

British Transport Police officers are investigating the death, which is not believed to be suspicious.

Shortly before 5.30am, TfL advised passengers they would be unable to change lines because of a fault with one of the station’s two travelators.

One-way system

“Waterloo Station: No interchange between lines, due to a fault with the the travellator. Please exit the station and walk back in,” TfL tweeted.

A one-way system has been implemented at the station for the morning rush hour and passengers have been advised to avoid the interchange between underground lines.

Waterloo is consistently ranked as the busiest station in the UK. The station saw more than 94 million passengers pass through in 2017/18.

The transport hub, which was first opened in 1848, also has the greatest number of platforms and is the largest station in terms of floor space in the country.

Busiest station in Britain

It is also the second busiest Tube station in London behind King’s Cross St Pancras.

The travelator is one of just two on the London Underground network, with the other being at Bank station in the City.

i has contacted British Transport Police for comment.

Additional reporting by PA 

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Don’t let the Nobel Prizes fool you: central banks are political

What’s the first thing you read this morning? Twitter? An email? The back of a cereal box? It probably wasn’t your own obituary.

That’s what happened to Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel back in 1888 when he opened the paper one morning. Worse, the article, according to the story, said that the “merchant of death is dead”. The accident changed his life.

After making his fortune from manufacturing arms and dynamite, he created a new legacy with five prizes (for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace) for people who “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”.

Fast forward 70 years and another group of powerful men decided to jump on Nobel’s benevolent bandwagon and build a legacy of a rather different kind.

In the 1960s, the Riksbank, the Swedish central bank, was seeking greater independence from government. In this conflict between central bankers desiring autonomy and politicians running a social democracy a new weapon emerged: a fake Nobel prize. Everyone knows it as a Nobel and not its full name, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

As the book ‘The Nobel Factor’ reveals, the Swedish bank’s aim in creating the new prize was to use the halo surrounding the Nobel brand to enhance not only their authority, but the credibility of pro-market economic theories they espoused.

Descendent Peter Nobel, summed it up best when comparing the new prize as “a PR coup by economists to improve their reputation.” By claiming scientific credibility for economics, the architects of the prize helped to separate monetary policy decisions from politics, and in doing so prevent interference from meddling democratic representatives.

The legacy endured and was sealed in 2004. That year, Edward Prescott and Finn Kydland’s won the prize, in part, for a paper which included a mathematical model proving central banks should be independent of the influence of elected legislators – even in democracies.

Prescott and Kydland’s paper had “far-reaching impact”. For 25 years now, central bank independence has become the norm in developed economies from New Zealand to the Eurozone. Along with it came the sense that economics – and specifically monetary policy – was a politically neutral affair that shouldn’t concern politicians and the public. 

But this is wrong. Far from being politically neutral, monetary policies have huge impacts on society. Just look at how the Bank of England’s quantitative easing programme turbo-charged inequality and the housing crisis.

After the financial crisis of 2008, the Bank created £445 billion in new money to boost the economy. But, because of the way the Bank designed it, the benefits of QE were extremely unequally distributed. The richest households gained up to 278 times more than the poorest.

The central bank has also kept interest rates historically low which has meant soaring house prices in the UK, mistakenly often blamed on a shortage of houses. The bank’s decision has transformed houses into financial investments out of the reach of most ordinary people.

Decisions with huge real-world consequences like these, shouldn’t be made without democratic involvement. Economics is a social science at heart and should not be separated from the citizens whose lives it affects.

For too long economic experts have tried to hide or deny their political influence. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics has been a key weapon. But we can’t let them get away with it any longer.

That’s where the Not the Nobel Prize project comes in. Not the Nobel is your chance to turn the tables on the Riksbank and all the central banks who believe people should not have a say in economics. In opening nominations for the prize up to public, we want to shine a light on new economic thinkers and ideas which can start to reduce the huge imbalance of power that exists in our economies.

We need all our economic institutions, especially central banks, to be more open, democratic and transparent. And this new prize, is a great first step towards that.

Hannah Dewhirst is a campaigner with Positive Money. Join the #NotTheNobel debate online and help find fresh economics for addressing the challenges of the 21st century. 

This is part of Left Foot Forward’s ‘Not the Nobel’ series. See also: “Nordhaus can have his Nobel, but we shouldn’t let his theory gamble with humanity’s future” Not the Nobel Prize is led by Promoting Economic Pluralism, alongside the Circular Economy Club, Diversifying and Decolonising Economics, Dollars and Sense, Economy for the Common Good, Rethinking Economics, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance , WEAll Scotland and Positive Money.

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Newslinks for Wednesday 18th September 2019

Johnson urges judges to ‘stay neutral’ as Supreme Court hearing begins

“Boris Johnson has warned the country’s most senior judges that the courts have “no jurisdiction” over his decision to suspend parliament and they risk “entering the political arena”. The Supreme Court began on Tuesday to hear two appeals relating to the five-week prorogation of parliament, which has been ruled by Scotland’s highest civil court to be an unlawful attempt to dodge MPs’ scrutiny of Brexit. Accusing the Scottish judges of having a “fundamental misconception of how parliament operated”, the prime minister’s written submission said that it would be “constitutionally inappropriate” for the judiciary to intervene.” – The Times

  • The future is one again in the hands of the judiciary – Daily Telegraph
  • Showdown to decide ‘if Prime Minister or MPs is supreme’ – The Times


  • Johnson will recall Parliament if court rules against prorogation, lawyer insists… – Daily Express
  • …but Government refuses to rule out fresh prorogation if it loses – The Guardian

Daniel Finkelstein: The role of the judiciary in our democracy is on trial

“No, the hearings may be seen as a turning point for something else entirely. They may mark the moment Britain stopped being a political democracy restrained by law and became instead a legal democracy tempered by politics. Is our system based on the political decisions made by parliament and the executive in which it places confidence? Or are there laws and arrangements that exist regardless of parliament’s view? In his memoirs, Tony Blair devotes half a sentence to passing the 1998 Human Rights Act and does not even mention that he created the Supreme Court. Yet these may have been the most consequential things of his premiership. They changed the very nature of our democracy.” – The Times

  • Miller’s case gains traction – Adam Cygan, Daily Telegraph
  • Supreme Court is on a journey to the core of democracy – Raphael Hogarth, The Times
  • Business must stand up for the judiciary – Michael Skapinker, FT
  • Why in God’s name is Major trying to disgrace Johnson? – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

EU backlash grows against the Prime Minister’s ‘discourteous’ treatment by Luxembourg…

“A European diplomatic backlash grew today over the “discourteous” treatment of Boris Johnson by Luxembourg’s prime minister. There are fears it could fuel “animosity” between Britain and the EU at a crucial moment in Brexit talks. Mr Johnson’s decision to cancel a joint press conference in Luxembourg yesterday due to anti-Brexit protests was seized on by Xavier Bettel as a platform for an undiplomatic attack on the Conservative leader. He pointed to empty lectern next to him and accused Mr Johnson of putting party political gain over the interests of his citizens. Norbert Röttgen, a senior Christian Democrat and the chairman of the German parliament’s powerful foreign affairs committee, warned that the incident made a no-deal Brexit more likely.” – The Times


  • Juncker gives ‘hard Brexit warning’ to Europhile MEPs – Daily Express
  • MPs fear Johnson could bypass anti-No Deal legislation – FT
  • Davidson admits to being ‘hopelessly conflicted’ over Brexit – The Guardian


  • Stunt has secured a win for Johnson at the next election – Daniel Hannan MEP, The Sun

…as he tries to stop EU leaking his proposal for a deal…

“Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals have not been handed to Eurocrats over fears they will be leaked, it has emerged. Talks with Brussels to secure a new exit settlement will intensify next week with daily discussions between officials. Outlines of possible options to resolve the deadlock have been shown to the European Commission but officials have refused to leave copies of the documents behind. Government sources said they fear the Commission would “fire it at the 27” leaders of EU countries and they would no longer be “in control” of it. “We’ve been going to meetings with papers but not left them behind,” they said. Brussels is demanding solutions to protect the integrity of the single market.” – Daily Express

  • Johnson steps up plans for all-Ireland trade – FT
  • Brussels given draft deal ‘with no backstop’, sources claim – The Guardian
  • Third of Irish farmers risk going bust in No Deal scenario – The Sun


  • How I responded to a child who accused me of ‘ruining their future’ – Bim Afolami MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit tore Cameron and Gove – and our families – apart – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail

…and ministers prepare to overhaul tariff plans

“Ministers are poised to overhaul the planned tariff schedule for a no-deal Brexit with deep cuts to proposed duties on heavy trucks after opposition from the haulage industry. The government is expected to announce imminently the full set of charges it will impose on various industries in a no-deal departure from the EU, tweaking an earlier draft that was announced in March by the Cabinet Office. The Road Haulage Association complained vociferously in March when the government said it would impose a 22 per cent charge on the cost of importing a new heavy goods vehicle from mainland Europe in the event of Britain leaving the EU without a deal. That “ludicrous” increase would have amounted to an extra £15,000 on a typical heavy goods vehicle, the RHA complained. ” – FT

  • Truss wants Australia trade deal on ‘day one’ of Brexit – Daily Express
  • Gove to be grilled by supermarket bosses over No Deal planning – Daily Mail

Cummings ‘cements power to sack advisers’

“Dominic Cummings has seized new powers to sack ministers’ advisers as No 10 moves to centralise control of the government. Special advisers, who work for cabinet ministers, were sent new contracts of employment this week, whether they worked for the government under Theresa May or not, and Boris Johnson and his top advisers have more control over conduct and discipline. There have been rows this summer over decisions by Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings, his controversial senior adviser, to sack special advisers. Mr Cummings dismissed Sonia Khan, an aide to Sajid Javid, without the chancellor’s knowledge. He said she had misled him over her contact with Philip Hammond, her former boss. She denies any wrongdoing.” – The Times

Leadsom intervenes in sale of defence firm

“The government has intervened in the £4bn takeover of Cobham, a UK aerospace and defence supplier, by a US private equity firm on the grounds of national security. In a rare move, Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, has instructed the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate the takeover of Cobham, a world leader in systems for planes to refuel in mid-air, by Advent International. Leadsom said: “Following careful consideration of the proposed takeover of Cobham, I have issued an intervention notice on the grounds of national security. The government’s goals are to support private sector innovation whilst safeguarding the public interest.” Shares in Cobham fell more than 1% in early trading following the minister’s announcement. Leadsom, who was appointed business secretary by Boris Johnson in July, has told the CMA to report back by 29 October.” – The Guardian

  • The UK needs clearer rules on its national interest and strategic assets – FT

Government to appoint domestic abuse adviser

“Boris Johnson will appoint a domestic abuse commissioner today in an attempt to reassure campaigners angry at a delay to legislation. Nicole Jacobs, the chief executive of Standing Together, a campaign group, is named as the newly created independent watchdog by the prime minister and Priti Patel, the home secretary. The role was initially outlined in a Domestic Abuse Bill but the legislation fell victim to Mr Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament. The government decided not to carry over the bill into the new session, but challenged over his commitment to tackling domestic abuse, Mr Johnson promised last week that a new version would appear in the Queen’s Speech on October 14. “Domestic abuse shatters lives and tears families apart,” he said. “We are fully committed to tackling this horrific crime.”” – The Times

  • Johnson wants victims of crime to feel protected – The Sun

Corbyn accused of ‘failure of leadership’ over referendum neutrality plan…

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of an “shameful abdication of leadership” after signalling that he will remain neutral in a second referendum. In a move that has put him on a collision course with senior allies and Remainer MPs, Mr Corbyn has strongly indicated that he will stay out of the political fray and will “carry out whatever the people decide”. Ahead of Labour’s annual party conference this weekend, Mr Corbyn has set out his plan for a “sensible” Brexit deal,  which would be pitted against remaining in the European Union in a fresh public vote. However, in an article for the Guardian, the Labour leader has indicated he will remain neutral during the campaign, writing that his party is the only one prepared to “put our trust in the people of Britain to make the decision”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Only Labour will give the people a final say – Jeremy Corbyn, The Guardian

…as he prepares to announce intention to scrap Universal Credit…

“Jeremy Corbyn is poised to announce plans to scrap Universal Credit if he gets into power. Labour’s shadow cabinet have reportedly discussed tearing up the welfare reforms after their review found the policy is “toxic”. But critics blasted the plan, warning it would damage opportunities for Brits to get into work and send the welfare bill soaring. Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, the mastermind of UC, told The Sun Mr Corbyn’s plot would cost billions of pounds. He fumed “Universal Credit is popular and it works. Only a Marxist Labour Party would disagree. “Abolishing it would cost billions and cause utter chaos.”” – The Sun

  • Abolishing UC will alienate working-class Labour voters – Gabriel Milland, Times Red Box

…and Watson accuses Labour activists of trying to ‘force him out’ over antisemitism row

“Tom Watson last night accused Labour activists of attempting to force him out after he tried to clamp down on anti-Semitism in the party. The party’s deputy leader spoke out after it emerged that local constituency bodies had submitted motions to next week’s party conference censuring him for ‘undermining’ Jeremy Corbyn. Two of them criticise him for his role in efforts to deal with Labour anti-Semitism and go so far as to say he should stand down over his conduct. Labour said the anti-Watson motions would not be debated because only policies and not internal party matters can be discussed at conference. But the motions demonstrate the depth of anger against the deputy leader among Labour grassroots.” – Daily Mail

  • Corbyn accused of delaying selections to parachute in hard-left candidates – The Sun

Swinson accuses main parties of being ‘stuck in the past’

“Jo Swinson has attacked her rivals Boris Johnson as entitled and Jeremy Corbyn as stuck in the 1970s. In her first speech to the Liberal Democrat conference as party leader, she sought to present herself as a modern alternative, saying: “People across Britain deserve a better choice than an entitled Etonian or a 1970s socialist.” She accused Mr Corbyn of being a closet Brexiteer and compared him to the leader of the Brexit Party saying: “Jeremy Corbyn still insists that if Labour win a general election, they will negotiate their own Brexit deal to take us out of the EU. Nigel Farage might be Brexit by name, but it is very clear that Jeremy Corbyn is Brexit by nature.” Ms Swinson has rejected the idea that she would enter a coalition with Mr Johnson or Mr Corbyn after the next general election, but has not explicitly ruled out doing a deal with either party, suggesting that her price could be the head of their party leaders.” – The Times

  • Lamb joins revolt by ‘savaging’ plan to revoke Article 50 – The Sun
  • Party would appoint ‘happiness minister’ if in government – Daily Telegraph
  • Leader urges her party to fight populists – The Guardian
  • Lib Dems would leave UK ‘powerless’ to block entry of dual-national terrorists – The Sun


  • Lib Dem clarity is good news for the Tories – James Johnson, Times Red Box
  • The flaw in Swinson’s plan to stop Brexit – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph
  • Centrist voters are being squeezed – Mirko Draca, The Times

Poll shows six in ten Scots want to remain in the UK

Six out of ten Scots want to remain in the UK and barely a quarter back Nicola Sturgeon’s timetable for another independence referendum, according to a poll published on the fifth anniversary of the 2014 vote. The poll, conducted by Survation for campaign group Scotland in Union, found 59 per cent support for remaining in the UK and 41 per cent backing for leaving. Asked if and when there should be another independence referendum, only 27 per cent backed Ms Sturgeon’s preference for another vote within the next 18 months. More than a third (36 per cent) of Yes voters in the 2014 vote now want to stay in the UK, the poll said, with protecting public services, Brexit and Ms Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister cited as the most important reasons behind their change of heart.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Fewer than three-in-ten want another independence poll – Daily Mail


  • Sturgeon’s performance is turning voters against independence – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
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Labour Abolishes Blairite Student Wing

Last night, Labour’s NEC voted to abolish the National Organisation of Labour Students, after a motion was tabled by Momentum founder Jon Lansman. NOLS had been seen as one of the last bastions of Blairism in the party, with previous committee members including Jacqui Smith, Gloria De Piero, John Woodcock, Mike Gapes, and Tom Watson. It’s no surprise Corbynites were never a fan…

Until last year the organisation had been funded by the party, with three paid roles based in Labour’s Southside headquarters. Funding for this year was pulled and the full-time roles effectively abolished. Now the final step has been taken by Labour’s ruling executive, disaffiliating the organisation as one of Labour’s ‘socialist societies’, and setting precedent to disaffiliate other less loyal affiliated groups, like some trade unions. A big pro-loyalty power play…

Abolishing the arm organising a key demographic for Labour potentially just weeks out from a general election might not seem like the smartest electoral strategy. Last night’s meeting also lowered the threshold to trigger deselection of MPs in Wales from 51% to 33%. The purge marches on…

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9 best dressing gowns for children, from Sainsbury’s and Next to JoJoMamanBebe

Dressing gowns can play a key role in a child’s wardrobe, signalling the start of the evening bedtime routine, entice school-goers out of bed on icy mornings and be worn in front of the TV on lazy weekend mornings.

The best gowns to go for are ones that wash well without losing colour or softness.

Many companies now offer personalisation options which is a really nice touch if you’re giving a gown as a gift.

Most dressing gowns feature nice deep pockets too, which are great stuffing hands in – and for storing treasures. However, they’re also great hiding places for old tissues and tiny washing machine enemies such as marbles, coins and plastic toys, so always be sure to empty them before throwing in the machine.

Here is our pick of some of the best dressing gowns for children currently on the market.

The dressing gowns are listed in price order

Kids Star Embossed Hooded Dressing Gown

From £7.50, Matalan
Best for: Value for money

Matalan star print dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 9 months-5 years; Material: 100% Polyester ; Washing instructions: Machine wash

This fluffy little number is a real bargain. It’s soft and cosy – just as a dressing gown should be – and the star design is fairly understated and gender neutral. You’ve got the usual hanging hook, hood and pockets combination, but a really handy feature of this design is a popper under the chin that helps keep it closed properly. It’s machine washable and thanks to the fleecy material, dries super quickly so you won’t be waiting ages to wear it again between washes. It’s a really practical piece of child’s clothing and offers genuine value for money. The sizing comes up slightly on the small size (our tester is small for his age and it fitted nicely) so it might be worth considering sizing up – especially if you’re hoping to get more than one year out of it.

Lilac Glitter Star Dressing Gown

From £8, Sainsbury’s
Best for: All age groups

Lilac star print girl's dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 1 – 12 years; Material: 100% Polyester; Washing instructions: Machine wash

This pretty little dressing gown from supermarket giants Sainsbury’s comes in at an incredible price point and also covers an impressive range of ages, starting from one-to-two and going all the way up to 11-12. And, unusually, the design is adaptable enough to suit all those different age groups. It’s a genuinely soft, warm product with some lovely design features, such as the cute ears on the hood and the sparkly stars. It’s also super practical thanks to the hood, deep pockets, adjustable belt and hanging hook.

Green Camo Fleece Dressing Gown

From £8, Sainsbury’s
Best for: Disguising stains

Camo Sainsbury's TU dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 1 – 12 years; Material: 100% Polyester; Washing instructions: Machine wash

If stars aren’t your kid’s thing, then maybe this camouflage print dressing gown will appeal instead. With all the same features as the lilac dressing gown – fixed belt, large pockets, warm hood – the camo print is suitable for all age groups. The robe also features turned back sleeves, which can help to avoid wet cuffs from bathroom activities. The sizes at Sainsbury’s are fairly generous so there will be lots of room for your little one to grow. The dark colourings are actually a bit of a blessing too – stains don’t stand a chance of getting noticed.

Blue Dino Print Robe

From £12, Next
Best for: Fun factor

Dinosaur Next dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 9 months – 8 years; Material: 100% Polyester;Washing instructions: Machine wash; Warning: Keep away from flames

This bright, bold print will appeal to kids of all ages and genders. It is so soft to touch – another one our testers couldn’t leave alone – and the colourful dinosaurs are a really fun, eye-catching print. The belt is adjustable and can’t be removed, and the hood is extra thick. This dressing gown also features slightly shorter sleeves, which does reduce the risk of wet, food-stained cuffs. Sizing is generous too, making it ideal for snuggling up in.

Grey Koala Towelling Dressing Gown

From £18, JoJoMamanBebe
Best for: Babies

Mammanbebe dressing gowm

Key specs – Age: 6 months – 5 years; Material: 100% Cotton; Washing instructions: Machine washable at 40, Designs: Four (koala, unicorn, fox, dinosaur)

This was one of the few products we tested available for babies as young as six months. The hood features a cute face and ears and the towelling material is both soft and practical – it dries on the inside but feels soft to touch on the outside. It also features a very useful popper under the chin to keep it closed and a built in belt that can’t be detached. The belt doesn’t actually go all the way round either so if you are buying for a very young child, you don’t have to worry that they’ll be lying on top of it and getting uncomfortable. It’s part of a new range of dressing gowns from baby and child experts JoJoMamanBebe, all of which feature a novelty hood. You can choose from a koala, fox, unicorn and dinosaur. The koala was our favourite though, due to the neutral colouring.

Star Wars Jedi Kids’ Fleece Bathrobe

From £20, Menkind
Best for: Softness

Jedi Menkind dressing gown

Key specs – Age: None given but small 80.5 cm (length), 38cm (sleeve length), Medium size: 85.5cm (length), 42cm (sleeve length); Material: 100% polyester; Washing instructions: Machine wash

Star Wars fans will love these Jedi robes that make them look like their heroes. This was the softest of all the dressing gowns we tried – our tester couldn’t stop touching it. The sizing is a little vague, but we’d suggest a small size fits children aged between about four and six, and the medium perhaps aged seven to nine. A handy feature of this design is that the belt is stitched to the robe so while you can adjust it at the front to tighten it, but you can’t actually pull the belt out or detach it. It is also available in a fun Yoda design.

Personalised Hooded Fleece Robe

From £24, My 1st Years
Best for: Choice

My First Years kids dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 0 – 5 years; Material: 100% polyester; Washing instructions: Machine wash

My 1st Years are known for producing high quality, personalised baby gifts and accessories and this soft, fleecy robes is one of their signature products. They are the only company we tested who produce robes for newborn babies which, for all the reasons previously mentioned, might not be all that practical – but they are insanely cute. They are also so, so soft that any baby would be happy to have one. Again, the belt is adjustable but can’t be detached, the hood features super cute ears and there are practical features such as a hanging hook and pockets. The simple design is gender neutral and will appeal to all age groups. The nicest thing about this product is the huge range of personalisation options, meaning you can design a truly unique product, making it the ideal gift. Up to 10 letters can be added (free of charge), there are four colours of robe to choose from (white, grey, blue or pink), six different text colours and three different fonts. The sizes are very generous so you may even squeeze two winters out of one dressing gown, making it good value for money too.

Fleece Robe With Hood And Ears

From £25, Newbie
Best for: Unique design

Newbie bear hood dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 2 – 8; Material: 100% polyester ;Washing instructions: Machine wash

This dressing gown is quite unique thanks to the large, brown buttons down the front of the robe. The hood features an adorable bear’s face design with ears, meaning that kids look super cute wearing it as well as feeling super snug. It also features a more classic tie belt alongside the buttons. The sizes are very generous, so you may want to go for an age group down.

Toasty Towelling Robe

From £36, Frugi
Best for: Eco-friendly

Red star Frugi dressing gown

Key specs – Age: 2-10; Material: 100% Organic Cotton Velour Towelling; Washing instructions: Machine wash

Organic clothing brand Frugi is known for high-quality, hard-wearing clothing in bright and fun designs. The resulting dressing gown – available in a blue cloud or red star print – is everything you would expect from the eco-conscious experts. It’s soft yet strong to touch, washes well (at 40C) and dries quickly. It’s a towelling rather than a fleece robe, so perfect for throwing on straight after a bath, and it doesn’t feel rough or scratchy. It’s worth noting that the sleeves are designed to come up quite short on this design. Some will love this as it means you’re not constantly rolling them up to ensure they don’t drag in food or get wet during tooth brushing. But our tester did spend some time tugging at them and questioning why they didn’t come all the way down. It has a nice snuggly hood, a handy hanging hook and two deep pockets, too.

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1,000 new drivers a month have their licence revoked

Nearly 1,000 new drivers a month had their licence revoked last year, according to data from the DVLA.

The figures, which showed an average of 33 new drivers a day lost their licences in 2018, have prompted calls for the rapid introduction of a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said that the data showed drivers were being let out on the roads without all the necessary skills and urged “swift and decisive action” to improve driver training.

Under the New Drivers Act, motorists who get six or more penalty points within two years of passing their test have their licence revoked. If they wish to drive again, they are required to re-apply and pay for a new provisional licence and pass both theory and practical parts of the test again.

Drivers with more than two years’ experience can rack up as many as 12 points before facing the prospect of losing their licence, with some managing to accumulate far more than than and keep driving.

Young drivers’ problem

Drivers who have held a licence for less than two years face stricter rules on the number of penalty points they can accrue (Photo: Shutterstock)
Drivers who have held a licence for less than two years face stricter rules on the number of penalty points they can accrue (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Freedom of Information request by Brake showed that of the 11,953 motorists who lost their licences under New Drivers Act nearly two thirds (62 per cent) were aged between 17 and 24.

This age group represents just seven per cent of licence holders but accounts for almost one in five deaths or serious injuries on the roads.

Brake says that the findings prove that more needs to be done to ensure young drivers are safe on the roads.


It wants to see a minimum 12-month learning period introduced as part of a GDL system, followed by an initial test and two-year “novice” period. Under this, new motorists would be allowed to drive independently but with some restrictions, such as a late-night curfew.

The Government announced in July that as part of its two-year Road Safety Action Plan it would examine the issue of graduated licensing. It said it would consider restrictions such as minimum learning periods, nighttime curfews and limits or bans on carrying passengers under a certain age.

Proven solution

Joshua Harris said: “It’s shocking that so many new drivers are racking up enough penalty points to have their licences revoked so soon after passing their test, in particular those in the 17-24 age bracket.

“It clearly demonstrates that we need to make our licensing system more robust so that when a driver passes their test, they have all the necessary tools and knowledge to drive safely on all roads and in all conditions. Fortunately, there is a proven solution which can deliver this, graduated driver licensing.

“The Government’s announcement that they will explore the issue of GDL further is welcome. Swift and decisive action must, however, be taken to introduce GDL across the UK, as a priority to ensure new drivers have the skills and experience they need and to end the tragedy of young people dying on our roads.”

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Andrea Leadsom orders investigation into £4bn Cobham defence takeover by US private equity group

The Government has ordered an investigation into the £4bn takeover of UK defence group Cobham by US private equity group Advent international on grounds of national security.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to instruct them to investigate the deal and prepare a report on the national security aspects of the takeover. The CMA has until midnight at the end of 29 October to submit its report to Ms Leadsom.

Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has the power to intervene in mergers on public interest grounds relating to national security.

Ms Leadsom said: “Following careful consideration of the proposed takeover of Cobham, I have issued an intervention notice on the grounds of national security.

“As part of the statutory process, the CMA will now investigate and carry out a review on the national security implications of the transaction.”

Founder’s family against the deal

On Monday, Cobham’s shareholders overwhelmingly backed the takeover, with 93.22 per cent of shareholders who voted approving the 165p-a-share deal, with only 6.78 per cent voting against.

The family of the group’s founder Sir Alan Cobham had been against the deal and had urged the government to look at it on national security grounds. the founding family owns 1.5 per cent of the business and was joined by Sanderson Asset Management, a 2.4 per cent shareholder, in opposing the deal.

Lady Nadine Cobham, the widow of the son of founder Sir Alan Cobham, has said the deal undervalues the recovery underway and is against the national interest. Lady Cobham appealed to Ms Leadsom to investigate the deal following the approval of shareholders.

“It is a tragedy that institutional shareholders have chosen to join Cobham’s directors in running up the white flag over the company,” she said following Monday’s vote.

Talks with government

David Lockwood, chief executive of Cobham, said that the sale “was always going to be emotional” but “there really was only one decision”.

“We didn’t say it was fantastic; we said it was fair,” he said of the price that Cobham had agreed.

Both Advent and Cobham has already held talks with the government about giving possible undertakings on Cobham, but Ms Leadsom has taken the decision to intervene despite the reassurance offered from the firms.

Cobham was founded by Sir Alan 85 years ago and employs about 10,000 staff around the world, of which almost 1,800 are in the UK. Its largest contract is to provide its air-to-air refuelling technology to the US Air Force.

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Is this really it? ” Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU”

So  Johnson has been talking up a deal based on an expansion of  the original  agri foods proposal. An actual outline has been show to the EU negotiators, but not to  take  home with them . ( Why did they tamely agree to only a sneak preview?)   The media have all been briefed. The Johnson style seems  to be to test out all the elements of a plan in “concept” discussions  before tabling an actual plan. This avoids a single comprehensive rejection in one go and allows for development on the way. Some people are calling it “slice and dice”. Or is it more like risotto?   This is  Peston’s take.

In place of the dreaded backstop – that insurance policy for keeping open the border on the island of Ireland hated by most Tory Brexiters and Northern Ireland’s DUP – Johnson is suggesting:

  1. A)A unified single market for agriculture between Northern Irelandand the Republic (a single set of what are known are sanitary and phytosanitary rules), so that cross border flows of livestock and food is not hindered;
  2. B)Customs and limited unintrusive goods standards checks on the island but away from the border itself;
  3. C)No customs union with the EU for either the whole UK or NI alone;
  4. D)Where rules for agriculture or even for other limited markets are set for the whole island by Brussels, the principle of a “Stormont lock” – or, in the words of a source, that “the people of Northern Ireland must be able to withdraw consent, with all that entails”.

But the biggest and most important question is whether Brussels and the EU27 will and can ever accept the principle that the citizens of Northern Ireland could unilaterally choose to end the arrangement.

This is an absolute must for Johnson I am told.

Equally, Brussels has always insisted that any arrangement to keep open the border should not be capable of being terminated by one side only.

The Guardian’s version

Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiators have so far only presented the EU with a draft of the withdrawal agreement with the backstop scrubbed out, UK government sources have confirmed.

In a move that has caused tensions with EU leaders, Johnson’s team are refusing to put forward a written proposal to Brussels at this stage for fear it will be rejected out of hand or publicly rubbished.

Instead, they want to wait until almost the last minute before the October summit before presenting a plan to the EU, with just two weeks before the UK is due to leave the bloc.

The UK government source said the two sides had debated alternatives to the backstop in written discussion documents – such as an all-Ireland regulatory zone and customs checks away from the border – but they would not be putting forward a legal text to the EU at this stage.

There have been reports that David Frost, the UK’s lead negotiator, is keeping a plan locked safe in his briefcase but the wording has not been shared with Brussels.

The FT goes further
UK officials are now letting it be known that Britain wants to extend discussions on how to create an “all-island” economic relationship by tackling trickier areas such as customs, value added tax, industrial goods and the remit of the European Court of Justice..
Under the UK plan, Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU. A border would continue to exist and everything that is not covered by the all-island regime would be subject to checks. However, the UK’s intention is that these checks would be carried out away from the border to avoid reigniting tensions between Northern Ireland and the Republic.. But according to some UK officials the task ahead for both sides in securing an agreement is daunting. “There’s been a lot of activity but the difficulties are greater than people think,” said one official. “Although progress is being made on agriculture, we haven’t yet begun negotiations on what kind of customs border there should be. Is it a customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; or Northern Ireland and Great Britain? This is hugely important.

An acknowledgement of more substance under discussion but still a cool reaction from Dublin

Government sources were tight-lipped on the “concepts” Mr Coveney discussed with British ministers, but it is thought in London they involve an all-Ireland zone for food and animal products and efforts to avoid checks with extensive measures such as pre-clearance and trusted trader schemes to avoid checks on goods or confine them at a business level.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney said the negotiations were between the EU and the UK, and that no proposals that could replace the backstop had yet been tabled.

However, it is understood British ministers have not made any suggestions that could come close to replacing the backstop for the Irish Government. “We haven’t seen anything that works,” said one source, while another person briefed on the issue said none of the British suggestions were sufficient.

One weak link is clearly the so-called Stormont lock ” in effect a local veto on any changes. A substitute might be  a joint UK/EU monitoring committee with NI input. But that’s  in the backstop.

There’s a lot to cover in four weeks!

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Poverty, publicity-seekers and booze: an alternative history of London’s art scene

When I moved back to London in 2010 after 10 years away, I found an art world transformed. The scene in the 90s had been polarised. In Mayfair were forbidding galleries with willowy beauties at the front desks and pinstripe-suited smoothies in the back offices. In the East End, penniless galleries and studios peppered the upper floors of flaking, soot-stained ex-industrial blocks, and young crowds mustered on the streets drinking Beck’s beer before decamping to a nearby pub.

Tate Modern opened in 2000. Like a pheromone-laden moth, it seemed to mark the route for the art invasion that was to follow. Within a few years the icy cool art magazine Frieze launched the first edition of its art fair in Regent’s Park. International buyers started to see the city as an important stop off. Galleries followed them.

By 2010, a new art infrastructure had sprouted, twining throughout the city, supported by and nurturing a global mania for contemporary art. Slick glass-fronted spaces appeared in streets that had, a few years before, exhibited little more than discarded takeaway containers and single shoes. Hopeful young galleries were picking their way through the city’s remaining affordable postcodes. Meanwhile in Mayfair and St James’s, the old-school pinstripe suits had given way to a new generation of internationally savvy dealers whose calendars took in the carousel of art fairs in Basel, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Miami.

At the periphery appeared a host of new entities – foundations, incubators, associations, not-for-profits, collectives. What were all these things? Where had they come from? Were they any good? And, most importantly, was I allowed to visit them?

i's chief art critic Hettie Judah has written a book about London's art scene. Photo: © Alex Schneideman
i’s chief art critic Hettie Judah has written a guide to London’s best art (Photo: Alex Schneideman)

On one level, my new book Art London is the primer I wish I’d had back then, when I was trying to make sense of London’s new art landscape. Neighbourhood by neighbourhood it leads you to spaces all over London where you can see art, most of them free. Not all the action is happening in Mayfair – some of the best public galleries in the city can now be found in New Cross, Mile End, Camden and Camberwell.

The commercial galleries are spread all over too, and they are open to all. You may not have the wherewithal to buy the art they are showing, but it is important to visit these spaces and see art before it is sold and disappears from view.

‘Artists have been drunk and disreputable in London for centuries. The gallons consumed by some of Hogarth’s contemporaries would have put the YBAs to shame’

Art London is a history of art in the city, as scattered and fragmented as the scenes that it draws on. Rather than trying to plot a single unified story, this is a history that celebrates the plurality of London’s art histories. Here Hogarth, Turner and Constable share the page with the 17th-century portraitist Mary Beale, Marie Spartali who transcended her role as a Pre-Raphaelite “stunner” to support her family as a painter, and photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron.

Piecing together London’s art histories, patterns start to emerge. Alcohol is one – artists have been drunk and disreputable in London for centuries. The gallons consumed by some of Hogarth’s contemporaries would have put the YBAs to shame. Poverty is another – art is a difficult way to make a living. Many, like Francis Newton Souza who moved to London from Goa in the late 40s, spent years penniless before their works were shown.

Visitors at the Whitechapel Gallery's Is This Tomorrow? exhibition in 2019. Photo: Alex Schneideman/ Art London
Visitors at the Whitechapel Gallery’s Is This Tomorrow? exhibition in 2019 (Photo: Alex Schneideman/ Art London/ ACC Books)

There have also always been artists who knew how to promote themselves. Damien Hirst was far from London’s first market-savvy artist: Hogarth and Turner both took a business-like approach, churning out popular prints for the growing middle-class market.

Alcohol, poverty, self-promotion: these traits are common to artists the world over. What characterises London, above all, was and continues to be its cosmopolitanism. Before the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, London had no significant training institution for artists. Painters to the Royal Court in the 16th and 17th centuries were overwhelmingly from continental Europe: often Flemish refugees fleeing religious persecution. They were gifted, well-schooled in their craft, and London needed them: there were no English artists at the time that could compete.

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Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace: blisteringly good and as subtle as a solid gold toilet

Hans Holbein the Younger, King’s painter to Henry VIII, was German. Our voluptuous, florid vision of the court of Charles I – all tassels, sculpted beards and clouds of silk – came from the hand of Anthony van Dyck (Flemish) who was succeeded by Peter Lely (Dutch).

The 34 founding members of the Royal Academy were likewise a pan-European bunch. The so called London School – figurative painters who dominate our view of the second half of the 20th century – include the US-born artist and critic RB Kitaj, Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach (both born in Germany) and Francis Bacon (born in Ireland.)

Art London by Hettie Judah

In London, all these stories build up layer on layer – some are known, others less so. There is something intoxicating about standing outside White Cube gallery on Mason’s Yard in St James’s and knowing that Indica once held an exhibition by a young artist called Yoko Ono in the same square: there she handed a card to a bespectacled musician from Liverpool that
read “Breathe”.

Did you know that Jean Cocteau’s paintings were apprehended at Croydon Airport in 1938 for their obscene suggestion of pubic hair? Or that he returned in 1959 to paint the inside of the Lady Chapel at Notre Dame de France, just off Leicester Square?

There are so many good stories, if you know where to find them.

‘Art London’ is published by ACC Art Books (£15)

Secrets of London’s art neighbourhoods

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Chelsea Boy: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty)


When Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s wife Elizabeth Siddal died in 1862, the distraught artist buried the only complete manuscript of his poems with her. (They were exhumed seven years later.) A flamboyant and recognisable figure – the archetypal bohemian – Rossetti moved to 16 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea which he shared with a menagerie including deer, exotic birds and Top, his beloved wombat, a species he considered “the most beautiful of all God’s creatures”.

Covent Garden

In 1971, Bruce McLean cofounded Nice Style: The World’s First Pose Band, a glam rock band reimagined as sculpture. The title and works echoed the aspirational advertising language of the time (“British Airways: the world’s favourite airline.”) Reintroducing the human figure to sculpture in a period dominated by abstraction, Nice Style was an exploration of advertising, pose and surface. Renting an office off The Strand, they publicised performances like consumer products.

Maida Vale

Over four decades Jo Brocklehurst painted the nocturnal life of London in all its peacock finery: cabaret artists, bohemians, New Romantics, punks, drag queens and fetish fans. At the dawn of the 80s she befriended the punk Puppy Collective who had squatted a building near her studio in Maida Vale. Brocklehurst persuaded them to sit for her: singly, in pairs, and in various states of undress, among them Siouxsie Sioux and Billy Idol.

Camden Town

Discovering the council planned to erect bollards on Agar Grove near his house in Camden, sculptor Barry Flanagan drove a truck armed with a cement mixer, industrial sewing machine and wheelbarrow up by night and stitched together large blue canvas sacks which were filled with sand and cement, placed them around the street and fixed to the spot with length of rebar. Camden forgave him: in 80 they commissioned the public sculpture Camdonian, now installed on Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

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Here comes Harold Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn is by instinct a long-time Eurosceptic, as he proved during the EU referendum campaign, when his masterly inactivity helped to decide the result.  Had he put Labour’s back into campaigning for Remain, Britain might just have voted to Remain.  Instead, he, Seumas Milne and others close to him used every bureaucratic trick in the book to go slow, to the mounting frustration of Alan Johnson and others in Labour In For Britain.  After all, Corbyn hasn’t changed his mind on anything else much during the best part of half a century in the Commons: Hamas, the IRA, nuclear weapons, Hezbollah.  Why should he have done so over Brexit?

None the less, some Conservative Leavers have over-estimated his dedication to the cause.  As that referendum campaign reminded us all – and him – Labour has been a Remain party since the era of Jacques Delors.  Its membership base in pro-EU London is strongly pro-staying.  Many of the seats it holds elsewhere in England and Wales went for Leave, but the party has persuaded itself that most Labour voters within them are for EU membership and that, as a current saying has it, “Labour Remainers are more pro-Remain than they are pro-Labour, but Labour Leavers are more pro-Leave than they are pro-Labour”.  We shall see.

At any rate, Brexit has come to be a monkey for Corbyn that he can’t get off his back.  The division of Labour’s seats and the strategic problems it poses; the push for a second referendum; the drift to Remain of John McDonnell and the EU-enthusiasm of Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Tom Watson – all these prevent him from clearing the decks to maunder on about “austerity”.  The plain fact is that the Brexit saga is harming his party’s chances of gaining power – the quest that must always come first.  Left to his own devices, he might tacitly have let Theresa May’s Brexit deal pass the Commons, in a bid to wriggle that monkey loose.

It is easy to mock the strategic tangle into which he has got himself over EU policy (and this site will make the most of the opportunity).  The Conservatives are for Leave.  The Liberal Democrats, for Remain.  Labour’s policy, in so far as one can make it out as the party’s conference approaches, is to negotiate a Labour Brexit…and then oppose it in a referendum, where the party will back staying.  That at least is the position of Thornberry, Starmer, Diane Abbott and Watson, the last of whom now wants a second referendum before a general election.  If the EU watches the Tory approach to Brexit with bewilderment, it views Labour’s with something nearer despair.

For all the absurdity of the party’s position and the bleakness of its poll ratings, Corbyn’s latest adaptation to the policy makes a weird kind of sense – and there is a solid Labour precedent for it.  He now suggests that he will float above the fray in the second referendum he so distrusts: “I will pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour Prime Minister,” he says.  Unlike David Cameron, therefore, he would be not so much an actor as a spectator.  The latter’s referendum engagement helped to bring about his downfall, as the former Prime Minister’s memoirs remind us.

Corbyn’s latest shift sounds more like the referendum detachment of Harold Wilson – who, though himself for staying in the Common Market, kept his distance from the campaign to stay in it during 1975.  Doing so  contributed to the eventual emergence of the SDP.  However, Wilson was a master of handling his own party, and used that first referendum successfully to that end; Cameron failed to do the same over 30 years later.  We suspect that Wilson is not at the top of the list of Corbyn’s role models.  None the less, he is learning from him, or seems to be.  Here comes Harold Corbyn.

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Daniel Hannan: Cameron maligns Brexiteers because he misunderstands them

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Everyone agrees that David Cameron made a terrible blunder when he called the referendum. Everyone, that is, except the country at large.

Journalists and politicians, civil servants and diplomats, subscribers to the Economist and the Financial Times, half-clever readers who get their opinions downstream from the Davos schmoozefest – all these people tell each other that the Brexit referendum was the worst mistake any British leader has made since the loss of the Americas. All forget how widespread the desire for a referendum was in 2015.

The Liberal Democrats, who now say that Cameron’s decision was “unforgiveable”, were demanding an In/Out referendum long before he was. Jo Swinson, along with the rest, told us as long ago as 2008 that only “a referendum on the major issue of in or out of Europe” would do. By 2013, plenty of Labour and Conservative MPs were taking the same line, largely in response to pressure from their constituents. There is no dishonour here: it is how a democracy is supposed to work.

Oddly, Cameron appears to have adopted the world-view of his critics. He defends his decision to call a referendum, but he does so…well, defensively. The line he takes in his memoirs is, in effect, that the referendum was forced on him by a combination of public demand and EU inflexibility. He had no choice but to go to the country, though he bitterly regrets the result. He reveals that he phoned EU leaders, as well as Barack Obama, to apologise for the way people voted. He still beats himself up about the whole thing.

For what it’s worth, I have always felt the former Prime Minister gets a tough rap. We forget the state the country was in when he took over: Gordon Brown had left us with a higher deficit than Greece’s. Cameron brought us back from the brink calmly and unfussily. Since stepping down, he has behaved with dignity – unlike, it must be said, every other living former Prime Minister. True, the timing of his memoirs is unfortunate, but that is hardly his fault: Brexit was supposed to have been done and dusted by now.

One thing, though, leaps out of Cameron’s book. He never really got Euroscepticism or Eurosceptics. He sees opposition to European amalgamation as an eccentricity verging on a mild mental disorder. The idea that it might matter to people more than, say, party loyalty leaves him genuinely nonplussed: “Michael [Gove] had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends and supporters,” he writes, in unfeigned bewilderment.

Gove did indeed pay a high price, because he was convinced that Britain would be better off outside the EU. He acted, in other words, from principle. But Cameron can’t understand how anyone could feel that way, and so puts it down to some sort of character flaw.

Similarly, he writes of the present Prime Minister: “Boris had become fixated on whether we could pass legislation that said UK law was ultimately supreme over EU law.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to him that this question – the essence of what it means to be an independent country – might genuinely matter. Johnson, we are invited to assume, cannot truly have cared about what Cameron describes as the “bugbear of the most evangelical Eurosceptics”. The only explanation for his behaviour, the former leader implies, is careerism.

In fact, Johnson – a long-standing critic of Euro-federalism – was tortured by the sovereignty question. I know, because I spent much of 2015 trying to persuade him to come out for Leave. Never once did he give any indication that he was weighing up which side would win. On the contrary, he kept coming back to the issue of legal primacy. If we could settle that then, as far as he was concerned, we could put up with the rest. But if we couldn’t, then staying in the EU would mean, over time, becoming a European province.

I am pretty sure that, if Cameron had been able to address this issue – the issue that had been the sticking point for Tony Benn, Enoch Powell, Hugh Gaitskell and the other Eurosceptic Long Marchers – he would have won the support, not just of Johnson and Gove, but of the majority of the electorate. But he could never see the problem. He couldn’t – and he still can’t – believe that anyone is genuinely bothered by what he sees as an absurd and abstruse abstraction. No wonder he feels hurt.

Sadly, in his annoyance, he reruns the referendum campaign, angrily accusing the other side of dishonesty. And here, I’m afraid, he diminishes himself. After all, we can all remember that, right up until February 2016, he was solemnly declaring that, if he didn’t get the reforms he wanted, he would recommend a Leave vote. Now he says that will always blame himself for the “enormity” of withdrawal. At least he uses that word correctly, to mean dreadfulness rather than enormousness. But how are we to square that maudlin statement with his previous assurances that he would lead us out if he couldn’t tweak our membership terms? One of the two statements must be untrue.

We all have self-serving biases, of course. We all give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When Cameron looks back at his previous promises, he doubtless sees them, not as lies, but as part of a standard political campaign. Here, for example, is how he explains his decision to resign as Prime Minister: “Why had I promised I would stay on if we lost? If I had admitted that there was any chance of my stepping down if remain lost, I would have jeopardised the referendum entirely.”

To which I say, “fair enough”. There is a difference between putting the best spin on your intentions during a campaign and calculated mendacity. The word “lie” should, in my view, be reserved for bigger offences than Cameron’s. It’s just that, with such a record, he should think twice before using the word “lie” about what was very obviously an honest mistake in one interview by Penny Mordaunt about whether Britain could veto Turkish accession.

More significant is the question of why he didn’t manage to get a better deal from the EU. This is the question that Remainers almost invariably avoid.

Had Cameron come back with any retrieval of power or, indeed, with a sovereignty amendment of the sort that Gove and Johnson had wanted, he would have won the referendum. But the EU was readier to lose its second financial contributor than to allow any diminution of its federal aspirations.

That inflexibility was the proximate cause of Brexit. It helps explain why, after the vote, it proved so hard for the two sides to agree on a common-market-not-common-government type of association. It remains the biggest barrier to a deal. Yet, bizarrely, it is hardly ever discussed. Even now, many Remainers would rather rail against the other side than face up to the reality of what the EU is turning into. The electorate as a whole, though, knows better.

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Ryan Bourne: To help grow prosperity, let’s focus on people and not places – such as towns

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Stian Westlake describes it as the “Strange Death of Tory Economic Thinking”. Conservatives have ceased telling an economic story about why they should govern, and how. Sure, there’s still the odd infrastructure announcement, or tax change. But, since Theresa May became leader, the governing party has shirked articulating a grand economic narrative for its actions.

This is striking and problematic. From Macmillan to Thatcherism to deficit reduction, the party’s success has coincided with having clear economic agendas, gaining credibility for taking tough decisions in delivering a shared goal. But, arguably, deficit reduction masked a secular decline in interest in economics. David Cameron and George Osborne, remember, wanted to move on to social and environmental issues until the financial crisis and its aftermath slapped them in the face.

Now, with the deficit down, economics is in the back seat. Fiscal events are low key and economic advisors back room. To the extent the dismal science is discussed, it’s as a means to other ends, or a genuflect to “Karaoke Thatcherism.”

In short, I think Westlake is right: the Tories do not have an economic story and, post-Brexit, it would be desirable if they did. So we should thank both him and Sam Bowman (formerly of the Adam Smith Institute), who have attempted to fill the vacuum. In a rich and interesting new paper, the pair set out to diagnose our key economic ailments and develop a Conservative-friendly narrative and policy platform to ameliorate them, even suggesting reform of the Right’s institutions and think-tanks in pursuit of the goals.

Such an effort deserves to be taken seriously, though not everyone will agree with their starting premises. It is assumed, for example, that Conservatives believe in markets and want to maintain fiscal discipline, which bridles against recent musings from Onward or thinkers such as David Skelton.

But, again, the key economic problem they identify is incontrovertible: poor economic growth. Weak productivity improvements since the crash have been both politically and economically toxic, lowering wages, investment returns, and necessitating more austerity to get the public finances in structural order. And the nature of modern innovation, arising from clusters and intangible assets, means that growth that is experienced isn’t always broadly shared.

Their agenda’s aim then is to achieve both concurrently: maximize the potential of the economy by taking policy steps on planning, tax policy, infrastructure, and devolution, to increase investment levels, allow successful cities and towns to grow, and to connect “left behind” places to local growth spots through good infrastructure. None of their ideas are crazy. Indeed, I would support the vast majority of them.

And yet, something bothered me about their narrative. In line with the current zeitgeist, they too discuss “places” and their potential, as if towns and cities are autonomous beings. My fear is this focus – shared by those who want to regenerate “left behind” areas – creates unrealistic expectations about what policies can achieve in a way that undermines a pro-market agenda. Importantly, it warps what we should really care about: “left behind” people, not left behind places.

A people-centred narrative recognises that just as firms fail in the face of changing consumer demands and global trends, so high streets, towns, cities, and even regions will shrink too. As Tim Leunig once said, coastal
and river cities that developed and thrived in a heavy manufacturing, maritime nineteenth century world might not be best placed to flourish in a service sector era of air and rail.

A true pro-market policy agenda would admit -and that’s ok. Or at least, it should be, provided we understand that raising growth and sharing prosperity requires adaptation, not regeneration. That means removing barriers for people either to move to new opportunities or have control to adapt their situations to ever-changing circumstances. This might sound Tebbit-like (“get on your bike”), but really it’s just saying policy must work with market signals, not against them.

Today though, interventions actively work in a sort of one-two-three punch against inclusive growth and adjustment. First, we constrain the growth of flourishing cities. Tight land use planning laws around London, Oxford, and Cambridge contribute to very high rents and house prices, and prevent these places benefiting from growing to obtain thicker agglomeration effects.

This contributes to the “left behind” scandal, but not in the way people imagine. When rents and house prices are higher in London and the South East and we subsidse home ownership or council housing elsewhere, it’s low productivity workers from poor regions that find it most difficult to move given housing cost differentials. As a result, they get locked into poorer cities and towns that would otherwise shrink further. That’s why Burnley, Hull and Stoke are the most egalitarian cities in the country, whereas prosperous London, Cambridge and Oxford are the most unequal, even as inequality between regions has intensified.

Having restricted people’s mobility through bad housing policy, we then impose one-size-fits-all solutions and subsidies which dampen market signals further. National minimum wages, fiscal transfers, national pay bargaining, and more, might be designed to alleviate hardship, but they deter poorer regions from attracting new businesses and industries by trading on their market cost advantages. Then, to top that off, we compound the problem further by centralising tax and spending powers, preventing localities from prioritising their spending and revenue streams to their own economic needs.

Now, as it happens, Bowman and Westlake’s policy agenda is perfectly compatible with assisting  “people” rather than “places,” precisely because it’s market-based. They advocate planning liberalisation, a flexible right to buy, and stamp duty, all of which would improve labour mobility. They prioritise infrastructure spending based on benefit-cost ratios, making investments more profitable with sensible tax changes, and devolving more transport power to regions and localities. All, again, will help facilitate areas adapting to changed economic conditions, rather than reviving Labour’s failed top-down regeneration attempts.

But pitching this as a city and town agenda still risks creating the false impression that the net gains from “creative destruction” nevertheless can be achieved without the destruction, and that all places can thrive in the right policy environment.

One can understand why they framed it in this way. Their aim is to persuade the party and its MPs of their platform. Anti-market commentators would call them fatalistic and “abandoning” places if they acknowledged the downside, as if facilitating more free choice amounts to design.

Successful past Tory economic narratives, though, willingly acknowledged hard truths. Deficit reduction entailed tough choices to curb spending. Thatcherism entailed making the case for letting inefficient industries fail. If a new Tory vision is serious about raising productivity growth and spreading opportunity for people, it will have to confront the inevitable market-based adaptation for some places.

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Jenny Jackson: A winning Conservative NHS manifesto would focus on life’s first thousand days

Jenny Jackson is a health consultant. She was previously a Special Adviser at the Department of Health, and Director of Women and Child Health at University College London Partners.

I remember working on the Conservative health manifesto in 2007 for an election that never happened. Osborne pulled inheritance tax breaks out of the hat, and Brown bottled calling a poll.

Today, as Brexit speculation grips Westminster, I can’t help thinking that Labour is bottling it once again because they lack imagination. They’ve zero to offer people beyond their duplicitous EU policy. Right now, there’s probably some poor spud-faced nipper in Labour HQ piecing together the health sections of their manifesto from Socialist Worker back copies.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have already laid the cornerstone for their manifesto: more NHS funding. The public backs raising taxes for this purpose, including a majority of Conservative Party supporters. The other abiding issues remain access to primary care and waiting times.

But beware the latter. One top pollster disclosed to me his unpublished findings, which show repeatedly that, if you talk about waiting times, the public is always left with a negative impression. Even if the waits are going down, there’s still a wait.

Beyond these key building blocks, what should be our focus? I think we should begin at the beginning.

Every new administration has a plan for the first hundred days of office. During this time, the tone is set for the duration of that term. A strong start sticks. And so it is with each one of us.

The first thousand days, from conception to two years old, frames the rest of our life in terms of health and prosperity. Clinical academics have also shown the benefits of maternal preconception health as a determinant in the lifelong health of children. Public policy needs to catch up with this new body of evidence. But how do we translate it without creating the mother of all nanny states?

The key is to empower people with information that doesn’t suggest blame, but is matched by a range of solutions, tailored to their preference. The current mistrust about MMR is a classic case in point. Despite campaigns to counter misinformation on MMR, many are still sceptical about its benefits. So we should conduct a cost benefit analysis to give parents a choice between single doses or the all-in-one vaccination. If it means sustaining herd immunity, it’s worth a shot.

Choice should extend to the range of services required post-birth. The NHS is good at offering expectant mothers a choice of birth location, and so it should be after birth. If mothers were empowered to exercise choice over their health visitor for example, it’s likely they’d be more responsive to advice and to more visits. This is especially important when it comes to supporting mothers with post-natal depression because of the social stigma attached to it.

The NHS offers free prescriptions, including for health supplements, to expectant mothers and in the year post-birth. This option should be extended to parents planning a pregnancy, given the evidence between maternal health pre-conception and a child’s long-term prospects.

Suggestions like these, designed to make the NHS more responsive to an individual’s choice at the most important juncture in our life cycle, would sit best in our Conservative manifesto. Corbyn’s Labour doesn’t understand about choice in public services. And no-one knows what the Liberal Democrats stand for beyond the repeal of Article 50.

A focus on the first thousand days is compatible with the progress we’ve already made with early years initiatives. In particular, the work of Tim Loughton strikes at the core of our compassionate Conservative values in terms of supporting the most vulnerable families. And Andrea Leadsom’s leadership on innovative cross-departmental partnerships, in order to provide a more holistic and seamless service to parents and children, is key.

Our approach could also draw judiciously on the recommendations set out in the recent reports from the Health Select Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, which have both looked at the evidence base for interventions in the first thousand days of life.

The upcoming election will centre on Brexit. The health manifesto will rightly front up NHS spending. But beyond that, I hope the Conservative health ministers and their advisers, with their wealth of expertise, will prioritise policies that support the first thousand days of life. That is how we will make the biggest gains in national prosperity for the long term and start to regain the debate beyond Brexit.

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Gary Porter: Reflections on four years as the voice of local government

Lord Porter is the Leader of South Holland District Council and a former Chairman of the Local Government Association.

It has been nearly three months since I stood down as the Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), and in that short period, British politics has experienced further dramatic change: Boris Johnson was elected as Leader of our Party and appointed Prime Minister, the Cabinet was radically reshuffled, and the brief return of Parliament after the summer recess produced more drama in one week than a full session used to in quieter times.

Although spread over four years, my time as LGA Chairman also coincided with a period of profound change: I took up the post in July 2015 just after David Cameron had secured the Party’s first electoral majority in 23 years, 2016 was the year of the Brexit vote, and in 2017, we had yet another general election, the third in seven years. The following two years saw the implications of the Brexit vote crowding out almost everything else and eventually led to Theresa May stepping down as our Party Leader and Prime Minister.

As LGA Chairman, I dealt with three Secretaries of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG): Greg Clark, Sajid Javid, and James Brokenshire. They are quite different characters, but all shared a willingness to listen to local government and respond to our concerns, for which I will always be grateful.

Under Greg, we saw significant progress on devolution in certain parts of the country, as well as the first serious moves towards the localisation of business rates. After he moved to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2016 I continued to work closely with him, particularly regarding the Industrial Strategy.

Sajid’s time at MHCLG coincided with increasing concern about the crisis in adult social care. Having listened to our lobbying on this, he worked across Whitehall to secure an extra £2 billion in funding for social care in the 2017 Budget.

Under Sajid’s leadership, we also saw a renewed focus on getting more homes built. For example, he secured £5 billion for the new Housing Infrastructure Fund, which is designed to unlock 200,000 new homes in areas of high demand. With the Government committed to building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, this funding is essential in ensuring that development is sustainable.

Finally, at last year’s Party Conference, with James Brokenshire as our Secretary of State, came the announcement that I had lobbied for my whole political career: the abolition of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap. This simple measure, which will allow councils to borrow to build new social housing, means that local government is at last able to fully play its part in tackling the national housing shortage.

James also oversaw the creation of the Brexit Local Government Delivery Board, bring together senior LGA councillors and Ministers from across Whitehall. As we approach the 31st of October, the Board is becoming increasingly influential within Whitehall.

When I stood down as LGA Chairman, I was delighted to be succeeded by another Conservative, Cllr James Jamieson, the Leader of Central Bedfordshire and the Leader of the Conservative Group at the LGA. James was replaced as Leader by Izzi Secombe. Whilst most of us were able to take a break over the Summer, James and Izzi were busy in Westminster holding meetings with a range of new Ministers, including our new MHCLG Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, to lobby for the LGA’s key asks ahead of the recent Spending Round.

Their efforts were rewarded with the announcement in the Spending Round of £3.5 billion in funding for local services, the largest year on year real-terms increase in spending power in over a decade. This included £1.5 billion for adult social care and £700 million for children and young people with special educational needs, two key cost pressure areas.

So the main lesson that I took from my four years as LGA Chairman is a very simple one: when Conservatives in local and central government work together, we improve lives and achieve the best results for our communities. With James and Izzi, the LGA is in safe hands, and I wish them all the best for what promises to be another eventful and dramatic political year.

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Defining ‘highly skilled’ migration: the mismatch between income and labour market position

The UK is in a strange political limbo. It appears that we’re simultaneously in Brexit paralysis, whilst also hurtling headlong towards the 31 October, when Boris Johnson has promised we will leave the EU ‘do or die’. But much remains uncertain about the future. Not least, what will be the immigration regime for EU citizens entering the UK post Brexit? In this blog, Helen McCarthy (Middlesex University) writes about the mismatch between income and labour market position when defining what is highly skilled migration.

As yet, we do not know exactly what the new immigration system for EU migrants coming to the UK post Brexit will look like. But indications have come both from a report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), and from the Government’s 2018 White Paper on immigration. In this paper, the Government stated: “Following the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), we will prioritise skilled migrants. A skilled-based migration policy will ensure the UK remains a hub for international talent from the EU and the rest of the world.” 

This naturally raises the question: how does one decide who is ‘skilled’? The MAC proposal suggests extending the employer-based sponsorship with minimum income requirement model that is currently used for non-EU citizens to those coming to the UK from the EU. The income threshold is currently set at £30,000 per year, and the Migration Advisory Committee has suggested extending this requirement to EEA citizens while dropping the overall cap on the number of Tier 2 visas that can be granted. There would be only temporary schemes of 12 months for those considered ‘low skilled’ and these temporary visas would not lead to settlement. This income level has received quite a lot of media attention, and recently there have been further calls for the level to be set even higher at £36,000 per year. This, it should be noted, is in the context in which the UK’s average household income is £29,400 per year. Family reunification is also likely to become much more restrictive for EU citizens as current rules applied to other immigrants are extended.

As it stands, these proposals are for future migration from the EU. EU citizens already in the UK do not have to meet these requirements to continue living in the UK. However, the proposals raise the question: how many would have been able to meet such criteria had they been in place at the time of their arrival? My doctoral research with Spanish citizens can give some indications for this specific group.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that there are 176,000 Spanish nationals living in the UK, meaning that Spanish nationals just scrape into the top ten of most common overseas nationalities. In spite of this, surprisingly little research has been done with this group. My study set out to examine a number of aspects of the lives of Spanish citizens in the UK, particularly their labour market positions. In order to do this, I conducted an online survey, receiving over 400 responses, and did follow-up interviews with Spanish citizens who had come to the UK in the last five to seven years. My research reveals how landing on a specific definition of ‘skilled’ is by no means straightforward.

My findings show that this population is young and well-educated. Just over two-thirds had a university education. If holding post-secondary education is a definition of skilled – then this is overall a ‘skilled’ group of migrants. Further, most had come to the UK to work, with 70 per cent of respondents citing ‘work’ as one of their motivations for their move and 90 per cent were in employment. However, if we define the ‘skilled’ based on income, the picture looks quite different. While just over one in ten earn over £50,000 per year, the majority of my respondents – six out of ten – earn less than £25,000 per year. By this measure, many of these people would not be able to move to the UK under the proposal above. Nevertheless, many of this group are working in what would usually be classified as ‘skilled’ jobs. In fact, different income levels are found across a range of different occupations as can be seen in figure 1.

Figure 1: Spanish citizens’ household income by occupational groups (n=385), author’s data.

The graph reveals how large numbers of Spaniards have been successful in getting jobs in professional occupations, and are in fact overrepresented in these occupations. However, this does not necessarily mean that people are earning above the £30,000 threshold. This is perhaps not surprising, given that for instance nurses’ starting salaries are currently in the region of £24,000 per year, with a similar level found for newly qualified teachers. Other skilled professionals also start below the magic 30k threshold, with junior doctors starting around £27,000 per year and in many cases junior barristers also starting on low salaries.

The truth is skills are defined by context and ‘highly skilled’ is a mutable category which people can move in and out of. Claudia, one of my interviewees, provides a good example of this. Having arrived in the UK as a qualified nurse but with little work experience, she looked into registering as a nurse in the UK. However, due to delays with the paperwork she never completed the registration, working instead as a waitress, a job many would consider ‘low skilled’. After spending some time in Australia, she came back to the UK, immediately getting a job in retail at the make-up counter of a large popular shop. She enjoyed this role for several years, but having tired of the low pay and long hours, she once again investigated registering as a nurse. After completing a ‘Return to Practice’ training, she quickly got a job as a surgical nurse, a role in which she has been working and progressing for the last few years.

Her story highlights how people’s pathways in the labour market are not always linear. In the first few years of her working life in the UK, she had filled roles which are often described as unskilled, despite being highly educated. But by the time of my interview with her, she had progressed into a ‘skilled’ professional role in a sector facing a large number of shortages. This sort of progression was fairly common among my participants. Freedom of movement gave people the opportunity to move, and develop along the way, gaining the skills that allowed them to move into better paid, ‘skilled’ jobs. (An opportunity that many young Brits also availed themselves of when moving to the EU). Under the proposed future scheme this opportunity would disappear.

More broadly, the question of how to define ‘skills’ for the purposes of immigration highlights the difficulty of designing policy that takes account of the complex reality of people’s lives. As the landscape of work changes, it is not straightforward to design an immigration regime that can balance competing interests: the requirements of industry for a ‘flexible’ workforce and the public’s desire for ‘control.’ As the research above highlights, income level does not always match with occupational level, showing one of the problems of using it as part of the definition of ‘skilled’ migration. If the current proposals go ahead, the UK will likely miss out on attracting young, ambitious individuals who may not yet make it into that ‘skilled’ bracket.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of LSE Brexit, nor LSE. The names in the blog have been changed to protect identities. Image: Public domain

Helen McCarthy is a doctoral candidate at Middlesex University, whose research interests include processes of integration, belonging and multiple citizenship. Her recent work has looked at Brexit’s potential implications both for Spanish nationals in the UK and for older British citizens living in the EUShe is on Twitter at @1helenmc.

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What’s on TV tonight: Sue Perkins meets the robots of Tokyo


Japan With Sue Perkins

9pm, BBC One

The world may be awash with itinerant celebrities, but as with her trip along the Ganges, Sue Perkins proves an intelligent and witty travelling companion – at ease with the locals and not given to gushing. This time she’s in Japan, flying into Tokyo, “so alien, so other, like a city from the future”. Sumo wrestling forms the meat (and an abundance of that) of the first episode, Perkins meeting some female wrestlers trying to break into the exclusively male sport. She also visits a business school for middle-management “salarymen” called Hell Camp, and investigates “pop idol” girl groups (such as Tornado, left with Perkins) and the iffy cult of female “cuteness”.

Interior Design Masters

8pm, BBC Two

Thomasina Miers is this week’s guest judge, which can only mean one thing – that the four remaining contestants are revamping restaurants. The eateries concerned are next door to each other in Bristol, and this time the teams (Frank and Nicki versus Cassie and Ju) receive their brief and meet the owners beforehand. The pairings appear to be deliberately provocative, and problems do indeed emerge before too long – Ju saying that “we had a shaky start because of Cassie’s leadership issues,” while Frank is quickly complaining that “Nicki is a stress-head”. A place in next week’s semi-final awaits three of them.

Patient Winifred Tunnicliff and volunteer Michael Lowe in Elderly Ward, The Royal Derby Hospital
Patient Winifred Tunnicliff and volunteer Michael Lowe in The Great Hospital Experiment (Photo: BBC)

The Big Hospital Experiment

9pm, BBC Two

Good to see from the ratings that this docu-series about young volunteers at Royal Derby Hospital is proving popular with that age group, as now, in the third week, changes are afoot. Fin, 19, is considered not sensitive enough for the Cancer Ward, being moved to the Elderly Care Ward where (perhaps because he lives with his grandmother) he proves more empathetic, bonding especially with a 101-year-old John, a wartime Spitfire pilot. The splendidly plucky student Charlotte meanwhile is on the renal ward and coping magnificently with a patient dangerously ill with sepsis acquired by insect bites. Who knew?

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Unbelievable on Netflix is an excellent, important, and relentlessly bleak depiction of rape reporting

Raiders Of The Lost Past With Janina Ramirez

9pm, BBC Four

Dr Ramirez ends her series in Mexico, where, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, American husband-and-wife explorer team Matthew and Marion Stirling were lured into the jungle by the legend of a colossal stone head. They found it – along with what proved to be a lost civilisation, now known as the Olmecs.

Kevin Bacon as Jackie Rohr & Aldis Hodge as Decourcy Ward in City On A Hill
City On A Hill is produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Photo: Sky Atlantic)

City On A Hill

9pm, Sky Atlantic

Boston is that city, the year is 1992, and the place is riddled with police corruption that’s personified here by Kevin Bacon’s hard-drinking, chain-smoking FBI agent Jackie Rohr. “What used to make this city great was that it was run by bad men who knew they were bad,” says Rohr, but there’s a new broom in crusading assistant DA played by Aldis Hodge. Produced by Barry Levinson and Matt Damon, the Boston credentials are good and the dialogue crisp, even if the milieu is a tad over-familiar.

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The Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival 2019: A weekend of boxing, dancing and Liam Gallagher among the show’s fans


9pm, Dave

The latest round of this gleefully silly comedy game show includes a memory test that only Katy Wix fully realises is a memory test and the creation of artworks that the contestants must avoid crushing as they attempt to score a goal with a mechanical roller. Genius.

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What does equality mean to the would-be Ms Speaker?

JOHN Bercow resigned before he was pushed. It is likely he saw two risks to his continuing to be Commons Speaker. The first is that the voters of his constituency would unseat him if the Conservatives fielded a candidate in a General Election. If he survived that challenge, the next risk to his speakership would come from a Conservative-dominated Commons after the election that was determined to vote in someone else to replace him. Rather like opposition MPs, Bercow feared the judgment of the public, but doubly so. He was also betting his career twice, and one of those on a hung Parliament, or where Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister. He would also be assuming that Corbyn would not want him replaced by a fellow traveller.

So who should be the next Commons Speaker? Of one thing we are certain, it will not be Sir Geoffrey Boycott, even were he an MP. The Yorkshireman’s Yorkshireman is a beneficiary of Theresa May’s resignation honours list. And that has got the sisterhood up in arms. Boycott was involved in a domestic dispute with his then girlfriend. An allegation of assault ended up in a French court, which tilted against Boycott, delivering a fine and a nominal sentence involving no jail time. Boycott was also fired from various commentating positions just on the word of this woman. Since then, his ‘victim’ has been reported to have admitted her injury was accidental. Despite this, the sisterhood are keening in a way they simply did not over Julian Assange running away from allegations of rape, or also official ignoring of the heinous culture of organised gang-rape that took place during the Blair years in Rotherham and a dozen other places. In this context, it is impossible to take these selectively self-righteous harpies seriously.

It is therefore interesting in this context that Britain’s arguably most senior member of this sisterhood has declared that she will run for the office of Speaker. Harriet Harman has been doing the rounds of the studios touting herself by trying to convince viewers with short memories that Betty Boothroyd being Britain’s first woman Speaker was of no consequence. But, in the spirit of the feminist furore over Boycott, is there anything in Harman’s own past that might count against her, even if it is several decades ago?

It is over forty years since Harman put her name to a proposal that argued for the then Labour government to water down a bill going through Parliament to deal with public concern over the growth in child pornography. Prior to the Protection of Children Act 1978, there did not appear to be a specific piece of legislation. Harman was a lawyer working for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL). The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was affiliated to this organisation in a manner similar to how various organisations are affiliated to the Labour Party. PIE’s function was to make it easier for its members to rape children by campaigning for a relaxation of the laws, but also supporting its members in their base criminal activity.

While there is no suggestion that Harman was associated with PIE, she did put forward a paper to the government where she wanted to define ‘indecent’ thus:

‘A photograph or film shall not for this purpose be considered indecent (a) by reason only that the model is in a state of undress (whether complete or partial); (b) unless it is proved or is to be inferred from the photograph or film that the making of the photograph or film might reasonably be expected to have caused the model physical harm or pronounced psychological or emotional disorder.’

The Protection of Children Act did not contain a definition of the term ‘indecent’, and the term was defined by case law. Harman’s law would have overwritten this. A possible outcome could have been the effective legalisation of ‘soft-core’ child pornography, plus a potentially difficult legal test of physical or emotional injury some time after the fact, especially if the images came from overseas. Both of these would have complicated, or possibly rendered impossible, enforcement against child pornography. It could also have been possible that once set by statute, that the term ‘indecent’ could have been chipped away at by lawyers, especially using a plea for freedom of expression as a human right. Rather than public standards of decency, the shifting aesthetic values of an exclusive metropolitan liberal elite, whose own children would never become a pornographer’s victims, could have been applied.

Whose civil liberties, apart from pornographers, were actually under threat in 1978 by the law against child pornography, such that the NCCL needed to get involved? Who, apart from the PIE, would have benefited from Harman’s watering-down of child pornography legislation? Harman provided a garbled and evasive defence of her time at the NCCL back in 2014 for the BBC’s Newsnight.

If there is a feminist outcry over a Yorkshireman’s domestic altercations, perhaps there also should be greater interest over a feminist’s work in an organisation with whom child rapists openly had an affiliation. Harman does, after all, allegedly believe in equality.

The post What does equality mean to the would-be Ms Speaker? appeared first on The Conservative Woman.

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So who ARE fit and proper persons? Not this Tory rabble

NIGEL Farage, we heard from a ‘senior Conservative’, is not a fit and proper person to be anywhere near government as the Tory Party stingingly rebuffed Farage’s offer of a non-aggression pact at the next General Election. This highly controversial judgment on the one politician in the UK who dispassionate commentators see has been vindicated by events makes the party look worried and desperate.

It stands in the tradition of responses to the UKIP and TBP challenge to UK membership of the EU, one of insult rather than evidenced rational argument. David Cameron famously called Leavers ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

This febrile Conservative insult to Farage however opens up the question of the persons not fit and proper to be near government. Those who are now raging and wrecking our Parliamentary mode of government, in order to close it down in favour of rule by Brussels, seem to be fitting the job specification far more closely than Farage. Destroying the government’s executive right to control Parliamentary business and indeed to negotiate with a foreign power thereby, does raise questions as to their fitness to be anywhere near government, notably the rogue Speaker.

It cannot be repeated enough that the Tory (now former) rebel MPs all voted to have a referendum, for their party manifesto, for Article 50 and for the procedure to displace Mrs May and bring in Boris Johnson. Yet they have acted with the opposition to lay low the government. They are, however, still deemed very fit and proper by party grandees mortally offended at the 21’s expulsion from the party. Lord Hague for example said that this was egregious and wrong. It was in fact utterly just, fair and necessary.

His outrage at much-needed discipline betrays the culture of the party, its high opinion of itself, disdain for the public and lack of democracy at its soul.

In the Thatcher era it reconnected with Mondeo Man, the non-rich middle and the blue collar populus who are the motor of the country; they trusted her and she them. With this she overthrew its patrician entitled tradition in favour of Christian mores and social assumptions. Geoffrey Howe indulged EU inroads into British governance and savaged Thatcher, the ‘entryist’ daughter of a Methodist grocer. Lord Hague’s reaction to the sacking of the 21 enemies of the Conservative government shows a similar mentality – of party first way above national interest, in fact identifying the national interest with the Conservative Party as the paramount allegiance. In fact its new (Cameron and May) entitlement managerialism chimes very well with the technocracy of the EU governance. Democracy is a nice word, but not to be taken too seriously.

Robert Colvile’s analysis of David Cameron’s ill-advised expression of fear and loathing towards MPs who were ‘disloyal’ to him and the party reported yesterday on TCW captures this mentality in Cameron. A ‘eurosceptic’, but not one that entailed any action like leaving the EU, far from it. He was astonished at the vote to Leave and shattered by it. Now he too wants the 21 enemies of the government back in the fold. A ‘party before country’ Conservative and Euroholic – identities now entwined now, and Parliamentary sovereignty as secondary.

Farage is fit and proper for the reason that he is a threat to the Conservative Party Masonic Lodge. He relates to the public and offers them a party to voice their views and concerns. That makes him a ‘populist’ and bad in the eyes of the three mainstream parties, the SNP and its monocultural ideology, and the Welsh Nationalists – who are, er, not populist! Their nationalism bewilderingly gets a very easy ride from the MSM. Never mind the SNP MPs wearing symbolic white roses at the start of this Parliament in a display of hostility to the English.

Now it is Prime Minister Johnson’s turn to be vilified in a way hitherto unknown in UK politics, not just on the grounds of his personal sexual morality but his allegedly unstable character and propensity to ‘choke’. David Cameron has joined in, though the allegation of Brexit/NHS lies was quashed by a court. 

So who is the more fit and proper person to be in government, Cameron or Johnson: the entitlement politician seeking to virtue signal on behalf the latest fad, or Johnson the fallible man attempting to implement the referendum and offending Tory masonry?

Fit and proper persons should be judged by political honesty and integrity, by commitment to democracy and the will of the people which is translated into sovereignty and national welfare. We have to judge who have been lying to us, and who telling the truth and acting on our behalf? And we will give our trust to one who would secure our independence to continue to exercise that judgment.

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Revoke the rotten lot of them!

LET us now hope for revoke. Yes, you read that right. The news that MPs are now plotting to foist outright revocation of article 50 on the country means we have surely now reached the acme of lunacy that has increasingly gripped Parliament since we voted to leave the EU those three very long years ago. When it comes to Brexit Derangement Syndrome, nothing can match its collective, kamikaze madness.

In future years much will be written on the psychology of these times: a horrible mixture amongst Parliament’s liberal majority of fanaticism, infantilism, moral corruption and above all narcissism. As judged by the collective behaviour of MPs – the selfies from inside the chamber, the grotesque virtue signalling over prorogation, the clapping and the singing – this is an institution in advanced moral decay.

Perhaps it has much to do the ancient culture of Parliament itself. After all, it has not been for most of history a democratic institution, as David Starkey discusses here, and throughout our history wider society had to fight hard to achieve representation.

It is now very clear that even that narrow window of the modern democratic era has in fact been closing for some time: the rejection by our elites of both faith and reason in favour of the narcissism of the self has led MPs to an ever more narrow and elitist interpretation of what the Burkean representative model of democracy means. After all, if all virtue resides within a chosen few, then the mass of people can be safely sidelined in favour of elite opinion.

Long before Brexit, Parliament either ignored or conspired against the people it was supposed to represent. For social conservatives in particular, the institution has become an arch-enemy, imposing unasked-for social change such as multiculturalism, mass immigration, divorce liberalisation and gay marriage on an often unwilling population. In short, Parliament has reverted to the age of rotten boroughs, to a tawdry, anti-democratic insiders’ club.

Whatever the tragedy that Brexit has become, it has fully exposed the fact that we really live in a shamocracy: some time ago I wrote in TCW that honouring Brexit really was Parliament’s last chance. For a very brief moment it looked like MPs got it, as they overwhelmingly voted to trigger Article 50. Since then it has descended to a state that none of us would have imagined possible. Matters have now surely reached its nadir, with the revolting sight of the increasingly fascistic Commons Speaker John Bercow laying waste to procedure in order to frustrate the democratic will of the people as expressed in the 2016 referendum. It regards the referendum result – the first, remember, that didn’t go the Establishment’s way – rather like the members of a refined gentlemen’s club would regard invasion by a group of chavs from the lower orders. It must be expunged.

Even if a way could be found to repair the seemingly irretrievable breach between people and Parliament, there is every chance that matters would once again degenerate at some future juncture. We therefore shouldn’t have to tolerate its ‘sovereignty’ for a moment longer: in an age of mass communication and education there is no reason whatsoever for the people not to be perfectly sovereign, triggering elections or referenda when we, not Parliament, wish to have them. A Swiss-style direct democracy with the checks and balances of a greatly curtailed representative Parliament is surely the best way forward. It is certainly the only way socially conservative voices will ever be heard again.

So, bring on an attempt at revocation when Parliament returns. Nothing could better illuminate the institution’s rotten, anti-democratic nature, and hasten its long overdue subjugation at the hands of the enraged people it has insulted for so long.

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Who’ll warn Boris of elephant traps ahead?

OH dear, doesn’t Boris have someone streetwise as his media watchdog? Clearly not. Even the Telegraph enjoyed the spectacle of the Johnson ambush in Luxembourg which made for all those humiliating headlines. The photo across the front pages had all the hallmarks of a set-up, fixed beforehand with the court jester’s photographers rather like the one with Macron last month, with that convenient table to put his feet on and look like an oaf.

In this one, Boris is posed as though reaching out, stretching, hoping to be allowed to shake the great man Jean-Claude Juncker’s hand.

He’d have done better to be pictured passing a large glass of water and giant Alka-Seltzer to the old drunk.

At least, according to my Swiss wife, Boris looks the decent person whose left hand implies that he’s not sure he’s doing the right thing. (Continentals study this stuff!) Juncker is the old arrogant Mafia Don who has no interest in any kind of deal. That makes sense. He’s almost retired. Merkel told him to play charades. She doesn’t need Boris or Juncker as long as she has Bercow running our Parliament for her.

As far as I can see the people in Number Ten and the FCO staff in Brussels are all half asleep. Otherwise, one can but conclude that they don’t care or even prefer if the Prime Minister is set up. Were the crowd of protesters British employees of the Commission or were they shipped in for the event? Most Belgians are far too busy engaged in their prandial or post-prandial activities at that time of day for any form of distraction.

Whether they were or not Boris is being caught out too many times, which means he doesn’t see things coming.

It also means that those around him either don’t anticipate the dirty tricks or chose not to warn him. Whatever the reason is, they’re not up to the job and he should send them packing along with Hammond, Letwin and Co.

Meanwhile our Swiss friends can’t understand why Bercow, Corbyn et al are not already in the Tower for treason. They think David Starkey should be made Lord Chancellor.

Finally all the Swiss that I talk to, from a variety of professions and walks of life, ask why doesn’t the British media find out how much money the Germans/EU are paying all these people and organisations in Britain.

In Swtzerland they call a spade a spade. They don’t talk about ‘our friends and neighbours’. Here everyone knows the Germans have control of Europe.

‘The Germans don’t go to war these days, they buy you,’ the young lady said who runs meals on wheels for workers in the surrounding villages. And quite spontaneously.

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Parents in LGBT protest aren’t the real extremists – teachers are

CONDEMNED as shameful and as threatening the fabric of our society, protests have resumed outside Birmingham schools against their LGBT teaching and promotion of gay and transgender lifestyles.

Gay rights activists claiming the moral high ground have protested in turn their belief ‘in love and harmony and everyone getting along and being equal’. Love conquers hate, they chant, with the implication that anyone opposing their agenda is intolerant and driven by hate. Sara Khan, the Government’s Commissioner for Countering Extremism, previously likened the Birmingham protesters to a mob while they are portrayed elsewhere in the media as uniquely Muslim and illiberal.

Yet Muslims are far from the only parents or commentators to be concerned about the ‘No Outsiders’ programme that remains integral to these schools’ teaching ethos. Christians, Jews and those of no faith have also expressed their deep discomfort and concern. 

The truth is that on this issue the real extremists are not the parents but the teachers and lobbyists who want to change our society. This they’ve revealed in their publications on the topic:

‘In a nutshell, we are asking teachers to change, and not simply mirror our society’, two of these revolutionaries have declared. They believe ‘the next phase is for teachers to take their work out into the community, spread the good practice’, by demonstrating the positive impact of institutional change and by turning it into ‘societal change’.

Andrew Moffat, the assistant head teacher at one of the schools involved, has argued, speciously, that the beauty of living in the UK is ‘that people can hold different views yet still show each other respect and live alongside each other’ yet still outlines a programme whereby children are used to convert their parents into accepting his LGBT-centric views.

It was after Mr Moffat’s resignation from a previous job – resulting from parents’ complaints about his LGBT agenda –  that he ‘learned from that situation’ and rewrote his LGBT advocacy as ‘No Outsiders’ deliberately to include all ‘equalities’, not just LGBT.

The media may have fallen for this ‘cover’, that schools are simply and virtuously ‘promoting equality’ and ‘tackling homophobia’, but Moffat has yet to convince the parents at his new school, Parklands. Little wonder – you hardly need to scratch below the surface to discover that the equality agenda is being used to sugarcoat the LGBT pill. Parents are not unreasonably asking whether ‘equalities’ teaching material like this counts as education or LGBT indoctrination?

Tackling homophobia turns out to be ‘a discourse we all tend to appropriate when we communicate with government bodies or with the general public through the popular media‘. So say the project members who advocate this approach. Furthermore they explain: ‘We have also discovered that the stances we take and the discourses we draw upon depend not only on the context and audience but also on our own fundamental understandings of what it means to go “beyond tolerance” of LGBT people.’

Going ‘beyond tolerance’ quite explicitly means one thing. It means ‘challenging heteronormativity’, for which half a million pounds has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council to help achieve this goal.

For those of you who might be wondering what is meant by ‘heteronormativity’, it refers to the existing Western Judeao-Christian social and cultural norms, legal traditions and institutions that shape our society but that some LGBT people claim makes them feel they don’t fit in. It includes the fundamental belief and knowledge that we are all male and female, that though the world can be divided into homo and heterosexual people, marriage is between a man and a woman, monogamous, and that it is only men and women who together can reproduce. All of this comes under what these revolutionary theorists call the heteronormative umbrella.

And the goal is to smash it as this YouTube presentation makes clear.

Smashing heteronormativity means destroying the traditional family. The ‘two mummies’ or ‘two daddies’ myth or make-believe – the sop which they repeat ad nauseam – is central to it.

Just as our children are taught to deny there are two sexes – male and female – the next lie they are made to believe, that some children have two mummies or two daddies, is born of an ideology intent on severing the association between parenthood, reproduction and sex. 

There has of course always been some ‘parenting’ flexibility, even in the Bible where Hagar helps out Abraham and Sarah, but it is as a response to a problem not held up as either an ideal or an equally valid alternative. That pater and mater are our genitor and genitrix is a pretty much universal cross-cultural fact since history began.

Of course some children may have to be adopted, or cared for by step-parents, men or women, but being in loco parentis does not and cannot change the basic biological and social reality. No matter how objectionable our parents, we know that if it weren’t for them we wouldn’t be here.

Removing reproduction from the parental relationship destroys the meanings of mother and father, fragmenting motherhood into genetic contribution, surrogacy and caring. But the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. Mothers are born when women give birth. The fundamental role of the father after conception is to provide for the mother-and-child unit, and despite every attempt to stop him  he knits the child into the outside world.

But how can the institution of fatherhood exist without a mother and child to care for? When gays and lesbians become mothers and/or fathers, their families can, for a while, ‘piggyback’ on the structures created by the heterosexual family. But those who would challenge ‘heteronormativity’ see it as something which ultimately needs to be overcome: 

‘This essentialism, however strategic, runs the risk of reifying categories that a queer project seeks to disrupt – for example, by reinforcing the perceived superiority of the particular type of monogamous, child-centred family relationship embodied by the penguins’. 

You may find it hard to believe but such balderdash is published and taken seriously. But if we allow this pretence – that the biological relationship is irrelevant, that it makes no difference whether a child has one mother or two dads, that monogamy and marriage are unimportant – the family has no chance of surviving.

It is this that the Birmingham protesters are up against – people who are wilfully wrecking the foundations of our society, ideologues who have woven their way into the heart of the educational establishment and have its backing. They need support not condemnation. Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists alike need to work together to nurture a society based on truth and a civilisation fit to care for the children of our children.

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My solution to our children’s climate terror – a nice thick steak

APPARENTLY, psychologists are receiving a ‘growing volume of enquiries from teachers, doctors and therapists unable to cope‘. Tragically, some children have already been given psychiatric drugs as a result. The Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) ‘is campaigning for anxiety specifically caused by fear for the future of the planet to be recognised as a psychological phenomenon’. Caroline Hickman from the CPA said: ‘The fear is of environmental doom – that we’re all going to die.’

You might think you couldn’t make this up. However, as a parent, I can tell you that none of it comes as any surprise. In front of me I have a school book which my daughter used in Year Four when she was eight. In it she has written: ‘If we destroy rainforests, there will be more global warming. Many plants and animals live in the rainforest so if the rainforests are destroyed these plants and animals will become extinct. The rainforest is home to many tribes. If the rainforest is destroyed then all of the tribes will lose their homes and be homeless’. It’s got a big tick and the words ‘Excellent work!’ – from the teacher. All the rainforests destroyed? All the animals extinct? All the tribes homeless? No wonder kids are terrified. Where is the the nuance? Or the good news – such as that deforested areas can bounce back? 

Last week a friend told me her 12-year-old daughter wants to stop eating meat – that’s British beef, to be clear – ‘because of the fires in the Amazon’. Uh? Her daughter picks up information about climate change from Instagram. My own daughters watch YouTube clips, often made by American teenagers, about how they can join the fight against climate change. A common thread is that they all need to become vegans.

I’m noticing a vicious circle whereby teenagers become vegans to help reduce climate change. (Never mind that most of the world’s agricultural land is unsuitable for crops; or the question if we all stop eating meat where will we grow the vast acreage of protein rich crops we’re going to need?) Then when they become vegan they become more depressed and anxious. It is not surprising given the evidence that vegetarian and vegan diets are linked to anxiety and depression. Then they shut themselves up in their rooms and spend yet more time on social media reading about how the world is going to end.

Frankly I can’t wait to give the whole lot of them large steaks, a lecture on being more sceptical about what they read on social media, and then send them out into the park to pick up litter and take a lead in improving the world.

But we are beset all round. My husband and I take our daughters to church on Sundays. This Sunday was ‘youth group’ where the teenagers go upstairs and spend the hour with youth leaders. Over Sunday lunch my husband asked the girls what they learned about. ‘Oh, we discussed the environment,’ they said. We did not enquire further. Perhaps we should have.

No, it never stops. But where the Daily Telegraph and the Climate Psychology Alliance get it wrong is to assume all this is mostly coming from parents. Not in my experience. Kids are bombarded with climate change fear by social media. More significantly it also comes from schools.

All I can do as a parent is push back with sound logic and facts. The most parents can do is their best to ensure that their kids will be positive and optimistic and get strong educations – mediated by them where necessary – anchored in science and reason. Such kids ought then be able to tackle the world’s problems. Yet society, the while, is doing its best to turn them into depressed heaps who console themselves with yet more social media and with ever less ability to act.

Schools have a number one responsibility for breaking this cycle, not stoking it further by allowing days off for Greta Thunberg-style protesting. Education and Schools Ministers – please take note.

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O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

A FEW days ago I had an email which made me realise how powerful our much-loved hymns can be even today, and although I repeated this one not long ago, I hope you will enjoy it again in this context.

The email was from a professional pianist called Tim Valentine. This is part of what he wrote:

‘You will need some patience to hear this through, but I feel in my heart that I must share this with you. I’m a piano player who, amidst other venues, busks on the streets, with a real piano, adapted to be mobile, with an umbrella, lights and built-in amplification, all working off 12 volt batteries.

‘I was playing on Cornmarket Street, Oxford, quite late in the evening, some time back, and the street was relatively quiet. A family of four slowly came towards me, Mum and Dad with their youngsters, a boy and girl. As they got close, I said to the children, “What would you like me to play for you?” The two children looked at their father, with knowing smiles, and the father said, “He won’t know what you would like to hear.” “Try me,” I blurted out. He spoke almost apologetically, yet sincerely, “The children would like to hear a song called O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.”

‘I went straight into it, and as happens almost every day, to at least one person, when out on the streets, tears welled up and began to flow, and to hear the whole family sing all four verses, with a little help, amidst the sobs and smiles, was just something only God can arrange, that this servant of His shall never forget!

‘After we’d finished, I asked them if they knew the story behind the writing of the hymn, to which they gave a negative reply, so I informed them and explained why there are such phrases as, ‘O light that followest all my way’ and ‘I yield my flickering torch to Thee’ and ‘My heart restores its borrowed ray’ and ‘that in Thy sunshine blaze its day May brighter fairer be’.

‘The parents were so grateful and the Mum said, “We sIng that hymn around the breakfast table every morning, before we separate for the day and the children go to school, and it will mean so much more to us now,” and there was a tear in my eye as we all hugged each other and prayed in the street together, thanking God for His merciful dealings with us and the joy of meeting together like this, as complete strangers, yet united in Christ, all this while we were still embraced in the street.

‘It was an encounter the Spirit of God arranged, Hallelujah! But there’s more. About a year later, I was in the very same street again, slightly further down, and this time it was packed with people. I was playing the same hymn, recalling that encounter of a year ago, when this guy stopped by the piano, broke down in tears and sank to his knees in the street.

‘At the end of the verse, I stopped, and said to him, “Are you ok?” “Yes”, he said, “Keep playing, this is the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard in my life, what is it you are playing?” “It’s a hymn,” I said, getting back into it, “it’s got the anointing of God on it and it’s called O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.” After I finished playing it and he’d pulled himself together, I told him the whole story of what happened with that family and explained its history.

‘If that wasn’t sufficient, the next time I went to the same street, which was about 4 months later and a bit further down, I was playing that hymn again, when this black guy came from behind me, carried on walking for a few yards, stopped, slowly turned round and edged back up the street and stood right in front of the piano, head bowed.

‘While I was still playing, I asked him if he knew it, but he told me he didn’t. I proceeded to tell him about what happened with that guy about 4 months earlier, how he broke down in front of the piano with all those people around, and he said, “That’s just exactly the way I feel.”

‘The amazing thing is this, I play that hymn almost every time I’m on the streets, but it’s only in Cornmarket Street, alone, that I’ve witnessed that type of response. For who has known the mind of the Lord?’


If ever a work resulted from divine inspiration, it is the hymn O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, requested by TCW reader ‘Starshiptrooper’.

It was written by George Matheson, a Church of Scotland minister, and by his own account it took five minutes and ‘came like a dayspring from on high’.

Matheson was born in Glasgow in 1842, the second eldest of eight children of a merchant and his wife, a talented amateur musician. His sight started to fail in early childhood but his elder sister Jane taught him to read and later he dictated his school essays to her. He excelled academically and went to Glasgow University to study classics, logic and philosophy. His younger sisters Margaret and Ellen learned Hebrew, Latin and Greek so that they could read to him and help his studies.

He graduated with first class honours when he was only 19 but by this time he was almost completely blind. He had fallen in love with a fellow student and they became engaged, but she broke it off, saying she could not face life with a blind man.

Matheson began his ministry in 1868 at Innellan, on the Argyll coast near Dunoon. His sister Jane continued to help him, and was a great support and companion. Matheson wrote a number of successful books on spiritual matters, and Queen Victoria invited him to preach at Balmoral. She arranged for the sermon, on the patience of Job, to be published.

When Matheson was 40, his younger sister Margaret married.

Later he recorded: ‘My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering.

‘The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction.

‘I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.’

While he never specified the cause of ‘the most severe mental suffering’ it is reasonable to speculate that the wedding would have prompted him to think of the fiancée who deserted him and what might have been.

These are the words he wrote:

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I climb the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

In fact there was one subsequent change to the words. The Hymnal Committee of the Church of Scotland asked him to change ‘I climb the rainbow’ in the third verse to ‘I trace’.
In 1886 Matheson became minister of St Bernard’s Parish Church in Edinburgh, which at that time had one of the largest congregations in Scotland, and his renown continued to spread. He never married, and shared a home with his devoted sister Jane. He died soon after a stroke in 1906 at the age of 64 and is buried in the Glasgow Necropolis.

Fittingly, the melody by Albert L. Peace (1844-1912) was also written very quickly. Peace was born in Huddersfield and was a child prodigy, becoming organist at the parish church in nearby Holmfirth when he was only nine. He gained a degree in music at Oxford and was organist at Glasgow Cathedral from 1879 to 1897. The Scottish Hymnal Committee invited him to set Matheson’s words to music and he carried the verses with him, ready for inspiration to strike. He was sitting on a beach on the Isle of Arran reading the words when the melody came into his mind. He said later that ‘the ink of the first note was hardly dry when I had finished the tune’. He called it St Margaret, after a queen of Scotland who was a benefactress to the church. Peace later became organist at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, then regarded as the premier post in organ playing.

Matheson always modestly attributed the popularity of his hymn to the music written for it by Peace.
I had difficulty finding a decent recording of it so I turned to this one, posted on YouTube by someone who evidently had the same problem.

There is also this one by Kenneth McKellar, the Scottish tenor indelibly associated with the BBC TV Hogmanay celebrations in the 1960s and 70s.

(Many may remember that McKellar performed Britain’s 1965 Eurovision Song Contest entry, A Man Without Love. Apparently the Luxembourg audience gasped when he appeared on stage in full Scottish regalia including a kilt. The song was placed ninth out of 18 but did gain the distinction of being one of only two occasions in Eurovision history when the Irish jury gave the UK song top marks.)

An arrangement of O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go by the tenor singer David Phelps seems to be popular. It is not to my taste, but I include it for the sake of completeness, in a rehearsal performance by the Gaither Vocal Band, of which Phelps is an intermittent member. He is the one in the check shirt.

Lastly, here is a delightful performance of another setting, published in 2002 by artist Christopher Miner, from three talented sisters called Lanie, Natalie and Carrie Clauson. Do stick with it till the end.

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Quarter of teachers in England work more than 60 hours a week despite promises to cut workload

A quarter of teachers in England work more than 60 hours a week despite successive government promises to cut their workload, research has revealed.

A study by University College London found that teachers work around 47 hours per week on average during term time, including the time they spend on marking, lesson planning and administration.

In the summer term the average working week was nearer to 50 hours.

The research looked at data from more than 40,000 primary and secondary teachers collected between 1992 and 2017, and found little change in working hours over time.

International outlier

It also found that teachers in England worked on average eight hours more a week compared to teachers in comparable industrialised countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In 2018, the average full-time secondary teacher in England worked 49 hours per week compared to an OECD average of 41 hours.

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London school accused of kicking out A-level students for ‘not getting good enough grades’

The equivalent figure for teachers in Finland – which is highly ranked in international education league tables – was just 34 hours.

The study found that around 40 per cent of teachers in England usually work in the evening, and 10 per cent at the weekend.

‘Bolder plans’ needed

Full-time secondary teachers also said they spend almost as much time on management, administration, marking and lesson planning each week (20.1 hours) as they do on teaching pupils (20.5 hours).

Professor John Jerrim of the UCL Insitute of Education, who led the research, said: “Successive secretaries of state for education have made big commitments to teachers about their working hours – how they are determined to reduce the burden of unnecessary tasks and how they will monitor hours robustly.

“Our data show just how difficult it is to reduce teacher workload and working hours.”

He added: “Bolder plans are needed by the Government to show they are serious about reducing working hours for teachers and bringing them into line with other countries.”

‘Excessive accountability’

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the research showed the Government is “doing a far better job of driving people out of teaching than they are in retaining them”.

He blamed a “culture of excessive accountability, brought on by the Department for Education and Ofsted” as “the main driver of workload”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “As today’s report shows, the number of hours teachers work has remained broadly unchanged over the last 25 years.

“We have, however, been making concerted efforts to reduce workload driven by unnecessary tasks – 94 per cent of surveyed school leaders report they have taken action to reduce workload related to marking and more than three-quarters say they have addressed planning workload.”

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Prostate cancer treatment could be cut from two months to one week thanks to new technology

A new radiotherapy technique could cut the treatment time for prostate cancer patients from two months to just one to two weeks, according to new research. It is the first time such a short time-frame of treatment has been investigated in a phase III trial – the stage that tests the safety and how well a new treatment works compared with a standard treatment.

Advanced radiotherapy technology could safely deliver curative treatment for some prostate cancer patients, according to researchers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research, London. They used ultra-hypofractionated stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) to deliver five higher doses of radiation to patients over one to two weeks.

The team found in the three months after treatment, side effects were no worse when compared with patients who had conventional therapy with more moderate doses over a much longer period of time. They are still awaiting data on long-term side effects and overall efficacy, with the treatment technique currently only available in a trial setting in the UK.

SBRT allows doctors to target tumours to minute precision. Greater accuracy reduces the chance of damaging surrounding healthy tissue, which can lead to urinary and rectal side effects such as more frequent or urgent urination and diarrhoea. In the PACE-B study researchers wanted to understand whether they could safely increase the dose of this targeted radiation, and so reduce the number of treatments required, or if this carried a risk of worse side effects.

Two groups

Some 847 patients were split into two groups with one half receiving standard treatment over four to eight weeks while the other received SBRT over one to two weeks. The team found patients in both groups had similar levels of side effects over the three months after treatment, ans also that side effects in both groups were less overall than had been previously published. The results are published in The Lancet Oncology.

Alfred, 84, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013 took part in the trial and received SBRT. He said: “Overall – and not something I’d usually associate with cancer treatment – it was a breeze. I didn’t have many symptoms afterwards and was able to get back to my life. In the six years since, I’ve not had to have any further treatment.”

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Study lead Dr Nicholas van As, from The Royal Marsden, said: “Developments in radiotherapy such as SBRT mean we can target tumours much more effectively. It is reassuring to see from this trial that SBRT does not significantly impact patients’ quality of life in the short term, compared with the current standard of care. Using SBRT to deliver this treatment would mean that patients could be spared numerous visits to hospital, allowing them to get back to their lives sooner.”

He said the results are “promising” as for the first time it shows in a large patient group that giving five large doses of SBRT is safe in the short term. The researchers will not know for another few years about the long term side effects and outcomes of treatment, Dr van As said.

Study author Dr Douglas Brand, who presented the results at the American Society for Radiation Oncology Annual Meeting, said: “If the data on longer-term side effects and efficacy are also positive, we expect our trial could be practice-changing. This would enable us to deliver curative treatment over fewer days – meaning that men would get the same benefit from their radiotherapy while having to spend less time in hospital.”

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