Sponsored Post: Nick Brook: The new Ofsted framework requires improvement

Schools have changed a lot since we were pupils. But the way in which they are held to account hasn’t moved on very much in a quarter of a century.

Nick Brook is the Chair of NAHT’s Accountability Commission, and is the deputy General Secretary of NAHT. This is a sponsored post by NAHT, the definitive voice of school leaders.

John Major’s government created Ofsted 25 years ago to get a better grip on school inspection. Then, school failure was considered endemic in the system. In the quarter of a century since, school standards in this country have been transformed. Now, nearly nine in ten state-funded schools are rated good or better by Ofsted.

Yet despite having one of the most highly regulated education systems in the world, England continues to struggle to compete educationally with the best countries in the world. There is increasingly a consensus that the way in which we are holding schools to account is also holding schools back from making the journey from good to great.

In 2018, the school leaders’ union NAHT enlisted the help of leading educationalists and academics to form the Independent Commission on Accountability. They reviewed evidence to determine how well accountability arrangements were working in the interests of the country, schools and pupils; and set a new direction for the future, consistent with our ambition to have an education system to rival the very best in the world.

In September last year the Commission published the report, Improving School Accountability. They concluded that the approach that had lifted the system to good would not succeed in driving schools on to great, and that there is strong evidence to say that we need to rebalance holding good schools to account with helping them to improve.

The Commission highlighted seven ways that current arrangements are doing more harm than good, finding that, even in some of the best schools, fear of inspection was skewing priorities, driving a compliance culture and limiting ambition.

This week, Ofsted is proposing new arrangements for inspecting schools from September this year. Ofsted’s new vision is contained in a weighty, but flawed document. It recognises many of the challenges set out by the Accountability Commission but is disappointingly limited in their response to them.

At best, it is a step in the right direction when we needed a leap.

There is widespread doubt about whether Ofsted can provide the level of assurance schools and parents need. The Public Accounts Committee made this conclusion towards the end of last year.

The new framework has not remedied this.

Contained within the new proposals is a desire to rely less on test data when making judgements and focus inspectors more on what is taught and why. This is absolutely the right thing to do.

But as so much of what is proposed is open to interpretation, schools may be left second guessing what they are supposed to do to be seen as successful. Not only that, there is a very real risk that relying on the subjective views of inspectors will lead to more inconsistent judgements. This will make it even more difficult for parents who want to be confident that the information they use to make important decisions about their children’s future is fair and comparable.

Ofsted continues to struggle to distinguish clearly between Good and Outstanding schools. In parts, evaluation criteria appear vague to the point of unusable, or lack real depth. Take, for example, the new category of Leadership and Management. The distinction between “good” and “outstanding” leadership has been whittled down to three additional criteria: that leaders ensure teachers receive highly effective professional development; that meaningful engagement takes place with staff to identify workforce issues; and that staff well-being is good.

These are no doubt worthy things, but represent a depressingly unambitious view of what the best leadership in our schools should be. Compare this to the current framework and it appears that we are moving backwards. This further supports the view of the Commission that under the weight of accountability we have lost sight of what great leadership is.

A test of any education system is how well it serves its poorest pupils.

A child’s background, or family or postcode should not make a difference. But it is a fact that teachers and leaders are put off teaching in schools serving disadvantaged communities because they simply do not believe that they will be treated fairly by the inspectorate for doing so. Despite the desire of the Chief Inspector to address this we see little to suggest that these proposals go far enough to remove the disincentive to work in the most challenging schools.

Inspection arrangements that have lifted the system to good over the last 25 years will not push us on to great over the next quarter of a century and we risk becoming anchored to average internationally unless there is some loosening of the strait-jacket on good schools.

Ofsted’s new plans ought to be a moment to celebrate an improvement on current arrangements; a welcome re-think of what is required for the 21st Century. Instead, in its current form, this proposal from Ofsted will cause widespread concern amongst school leaders.

However, this is a consultation, so a lot can change. Our ambition – for an education system that rivals the best in the world – will not be achieved overnight, but it is well within our reach.We’re at a turning point, so we need to make sure we get it right.

The findings of NAHT’s Improving School Accountability report are a good place to start.

Dutch Parliamentary Brexit-watchers roundly condemn flippancy towards British people

As everybody reading the excellent study of history since Caesar’s times of the North Sea trade by Oxford historian and former BBC journalist Michael Pye, “The Edge of the World: How the North Sea made us what we are” can attest, the trade relations between the British/English and the Dutch (Frisians) Celtic tribes was the […]

As everybody reading the excellent study of history since Caesar’s times of the North Sea trade by Oxford historian and former BBC journalist Michael Pye, “The Edge of the World: How the North Sea made us what we are” can attest, the trade relations between the British/English and the Dutch (Frisians) Celtic tribes was the beginning of 20 centuries of close economic and ethnic ties. The DNA of inhabitants of areas from Kent to York is indistinguishable from that of people living in Friesland and Holland in the Netherlands; and Frisian is halfway the English and Dutch language. Migration and trade in wool, cloth, grain, herring, etc., been going on, even when Napoleon didn’t want it to (1803-1813); John Locke wrote important (Liberal) books seeking shelter here.

Ever since the 4th Anglo-Dutch war (1780-’84), the Dutch have recognised the British as their senior and vital partner in those economic and cultural relations; and the Dutch pressed general De Gaulle to admit England in the EEC for those same reasons.

But one aspect of how the Dutch see the British people and British politics has been fundamentally changed by the way the UK has been handling the Brexit problem, from the Referendum campaign in spring 2016 to the present day. That can be concluded by what 3 of the 4 official “Brexit Watching delegates” of the Dutch parliament said on Dutch public radio on Wednesday, 14th of January 2019; coincidentally those 3 were from parties of the present Dutch government coalition, so important advisors of both parliament and government.

The reason the Dutch insisted strongly on London joining the EEC and Maastricht’s EU was the pragmatic, sober, professional way British politicians and Cabinet ministers handled British national and regional interests in their European dealings; a very similar attitude and behaviour to the way we Dutch attend to those (Dutch) matters. That similarity has sadly almost disappeared, the three parliamentary Brexit Watchers concluded today.

Kees Verhoeven, the D66 MP famous for his “Love Actually” video addressed to Theresa May I wrote about here last December and July, Christan Democrat Pieter Omtzigt (also member of the Assembly of the Council of Europe) and VVD (=NatLib; car-loving Liberals) MP Anne Mulder (a Srebrenica military veteran) were unanimous in their damning verdict of especially pro-Brexit British MPs and ministers (Johnson, Davies).

All three Dutch MP’s were astounded and quite disturbed by the flippant, “Don’t believe those experts they’re just ignorant Cassandra’s” attitude they encountered in frequent visits and discussions in political London since early 2016; their unanimous verdict is that British Brexiteer politicians were playing personal career politics and ignoring vital interests of British (and regional) enterprises and (British and European)  individuals living and working in Britain.

The fact that in the BBC evening news and Newsnight, on the evening of the thunderous rejection of May’s Brexit deal, both Tory and Labour frontbenchers stuck to their dogmatic scripts about how to handle Brexit, with no realistic idea or plan what to do next, seriously undermined the trust Dutch politics and government put in those big parties and eventual governments centered around those parties.

The same goes for VNO-NCW (our CBI), and health, science, academic and other experts working with British counterparts and British enterprises, by the way. You keep hearing the phrase “Let them eat cake” (describing British policymakers’ and authorities’ attitudes)  in comments from all those Dutch circles. This is no way democratic governments and politicians should handle the interests, feelings and needs of their citizens and voters. Foreign inhabitants feel a distinct “hostile environment”.

Talking to Mr. Verhoeven, he agreed with me that only the LibDem politicians have properly put the British (and their constituents’) interests first, and have been putting forward realistic ad acceptable propositions and policies about “remaining”, in order to reform the EU so that all EU citizens, especially in neglected regions of all our countries, feel part of a civilised, attentive and caring political and economic (national and EU) community.

But hey, D66 and the LibDems are close sister parties, so he and myself could be biased in that respect.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

Government wins confidence vote and begins cross-party Brexit talks

The Government yesterday won a vote of confidence by 325 votes to 306, with the support of DUP MPs. Following the vote, Prime Minister Theresa May invited the leaders of the opposition parties to meet with her to “identify a way forward [on Brexit] that can secure the backing of the House.” However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “Before there can be any positive discussion about the way forward, the Government must remove clearly, once and for all, the prospect of… a No Deal exit from the EU.” May held her first meeting yesterday evening with the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru, and said she was “disappointed that the leader of the Labour party has not so far chosen to take part, but our door remains open.”
Speaking elsewhere, May said of the possibility of extending Article 50, “The Government’s policy is that we are leaving the European Union on the 29th of March. But the EU would only extend Article 50 if actually it was clear there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal.” This came after the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, told the BBC yesterday, “We’re clear we won’t be delaying Article 50, we won’t be revoking it…What we need to do is to find a way that [the Brexit] deal or some part of it or an alternative deal that is negotiable can then be put to the European Union.”
Separately, a Downing Street spokesperson yesterday ruled out the possibility of being in a customs union with the EU, saying, “The principles that govern us as we go into these talks is that we want to be able to do our own trade deals, and that is incompatible with a customs union.”  The Times reports that the Cabinet Office Minister, David Lidington, will lead cross-party Brexit talks on behalf of the Government.
Open Europe’s Henry Newman told BBC News, “This was a decisive vote for [the Prime Minister] and Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy of calling this vote actually backfired… Which leads to the question of what is Labour’s policy on Brexit,” adding, “If Corbyn backs a second referendum Theresa May can present herself as the only party leader backing Brexit, which puts her into a much better position than she was yesterday.” Open Europe’s David Shiels told BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra programme, “There are not many options for [May] except starting cross-party talks,” adding, “The survival of the government depends on the support of the DUP and there is no clear alternative option that could command the support of the House.”

The post Government wins confidence vote and begins cross-party Brexit talks appeared first on Open Europe.

Government wins confidence vote and begins cross-party Brexit talks

The Government yesterday won a vote of confidence by 325 votes to 306, with the support of DUP MPs. Following the vote, Prime Minister Theresa May invited the leaders of the opposition parties to meet with her to “identify a way forward [on Brexit] that can secure the backing of the House.” However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “Before there can be any positive discussion about the way forward, the Government must remove clearly, once and for all, the prospect of… a No Deal exit from the EU.” May held her first meeting yesterday evening with the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru, and said she was “disappointed that the leader of the Labour party has not so far chosen to take part, but our door remains open.” Speaking elsewhere, May said of the possibility of extending Article 50, "The Government's policy is that we are leaving the European Union on the 29th of March. But the EU would only extend Article 50 if actually it was clear there was a plan that was moving towards an agreed deal.” This came after the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, told the BBC yesterday, “We’re clear we won’t be delaying Article 50, we won’t be revoking it...What we need to do is to find a way that [the Brexit] deal or some part of it or an alternative deal that is negotiable can then be put to the European Union.” Separately, a Downing Street spokesperson yesterday ruled out the possibility of being in a customs union with the EU, saying, “The principles that govern us as we go into these talks is that we want to be able to do our own trade deals, and that is incompatible with a customs union.”  The Times reports that the Cabinet Office Minister, David Lidington, will lead cross-party Brexit talks on behalf of the Government. Open Europe's Henry Newman told BBC News, "This was a decisive vote for [the Prime Minister] and Jeremy Corbyn's strategy of calling this vote actually backfired... Which leads to the question of what is Labour's policy on Brexit," adding, "If Corbyn backs a second referendum Theresa May can present herself as the only party leader backing Brexit, which puts her into a much better position than she was yesterday." Open Europe's David Shiels told BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra programme, "There are not many options for [May] except starting cross-party talks," adding, "The survival of the government depends on the support of the DUP and there is no clear alternative option that could command the support of the House."

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, Henry Newman: Twitter, BBC Radio Ulster

  • Chancellor seeks to reassure businesses that MPs will stop a No Deal Brexit

    The Telegraph reports on a Treasury conference call, leaked yesterday, in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, told business leaders of 330 firms that a No Deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” and possibly lead to Article 50 being “rescinded” within a matter of days. Hammond was explaining how a No Deal scenario could be prevented by next week’s backbench Bill. He suggested that the bill could force the Government to extend Article 50 and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a No Deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to No Deal under any circumstances.”

    Source: The Telegraph

  • Commons Brexit committee recommends indicative votes on way forward

    In a report published yesterday, the House of Commons Exiting the European Union committee has called for a “series of indicative votes” in parliament to identify a way forward that would be supported by a majority of MPs. The report states, “The most important question to be considered by the House in generations cannot be determined simply by the running down of the clock. This would lead either to a default exit with no deal, or to the House being offered a Hobson’s choice of the deal currently on offer or no deal. If Parliament cannot reach a view in time, then the House should be able to express its opinion on extending Article 50.”

    Elsewhere, 71 Labour MPs signed a letter yesterday calling for another referendum on Brexit.

    Sources: Exiting the European Union Committee, The Times

  • Electoral Commission drafting contingency plans for Brexit delay

    The Electoral Commission is in the process of devising contingency plans to hold a second Brexit referendum and to participate in the upcoming European parliament elections if Brexit is postponed. A spokesperson for the body said, “As part of our contingency planning, we are making certain preparations that will enable us to swiftly take the necessary action should circumstances change and these elections need to be held.”

    Elsewhere, the Times reports that EU officials are looking at the possibility to extend the Brexit process until 2020. A European source is quoted as saying, “There is work going on to see how Article 50 can be extended beyond the European elections. Any extension can only be a one-off so after the defeat it looks sensible to go for a longer period.” The paper also quotes a document with legal advice which states that UK MEPs would be allowed to stay in the European Parliament without elections.

    Meanwhile, a French government source is quoted in Le Monde saying, “An extension of Article 50 would be examined by Europeans if it is accompanied by a plan, a strategy.”

    Sources: The Times, The Times, Le Monde

  • BoE governor: Expect continued market volatility after Brexit deal rejected by MPs

    The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, yesterday told the Treasury Select Committee, “The markets and the country are looking to parliament for direction” after MPs voted down the Brexit deal earlier this week, adding that “one would expect continued volatility.” Carney also noted that the rise in the pound following MPs’ vote was caused by markets predicting a lower chance of the UK exiting the EU without a deal.

    Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that senior figures in the City of London are calling for the UK to seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process.

    Sources: Financial Times, Financial Times

  • Handelsblatt: EU countries willing to make concessions on the backstop if Ireland supports them

    German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported yesterday that Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries are willing to make further concessions on the backstop if Ireland supports them. Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday restated the Irish Government’s commitment to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, adding, “What is required is for Britain to essentially decide what kind of Brexit it wants.” Elsewhere, the Belfast Telegraph reports that, following a press briefing, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was accidentally overheard saying that there could be a need for customs checks on goods travelling from the UK to the Republic of Ireland in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

    This comes as the spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday said that the German government would address questions about extending the Brexit deadline when the UK government states what it will be doing next. Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that Austria would endorse extending time for Brexit negotiations to avoid a No Deal scenario, though he underlined that the current deal would not be renegotiated.

    Meanwhile, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier yesterday said, “When parliament needs more time, then this is something that will have to be considered by the European Council, and personally I would see that as a reasonable request.” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will meet with ministers this morning with the purpose to study a possible “acceleration for administrations to be ready in case of a No Deal withdrawal of the UK.”

    Sources: Reuters, Irish Times, Belfast Telegraph, Reuters, Reuters, Financial Times, Le Figaro

  • Greek PM Tsipras wins vote of confidence

    The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, won a parliamentary vote of confidence yesterday following a dispute over the name change of Macedonia. Tsipras won 151 votes in the 300 seat chamber, in which his left-wing Syriza party holds 145 seats. Tsipras had called the vote himself after his junior coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, quit the government over Tsipras’ deal with Macedonia, under which the Balkan country will be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia.

    Source: Politico

The post Government wins confidence vote and begins cross-party Brexit talks appeared first on Open Europe.

Newslinks for Thursday 17th January 2019

Softer Brexit 1) Will May pursue it with other parties – and risk splitting her own? “Cabinet divisions over whether… Read more »

Softer Brexit 1) Will May pursue it with other parties – and risk splitting her own?

“Cabinet divisions over whether Theresa May should soften her Brexit deal to attract Labour support burst into the open yesterday. David Gauke, the justice secretary, broke ranks to urge the prime minister not to be “boxed in” by her red lines. Brexiteer cabinet ministers, however, want Mrs May to offer Tory rebels a way back next week with a vote to limit the length of the backstop and promise to secure a Canada-style trade deal… After the confidence vote Mr Gauke was joined by Amber Rudd, work and pensions secretary, who said that “nothing is off the table”. Pressed on whether the government could back a permanent customs union, Ms Rudd said: “Everything has to be on the table because the priority is to find a negotiated settlement so we can leave the European Union.” Asked if that would split the Tory party, she said: “I certainly hope not. I don’t think it would.”… Other cabinet ministers believe that Mrs May should harden her stance with Brussels and present a non-binding plan B motion on Monday that would enable her to prove to Brussels that there is a workable majority for a deal if they give ground. The ministers, understood to include Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Liz Truss, acknowledge that Mrs May has to offer cross-party talks but believe a Brexit deal is only possible with Tory and DUP votes.” – The Times

  • Leavers fear the Government will pursue a softer deal – The Sun
  • May refuses to rule out staying in the customs union… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but then she does – The Guardian
  • Remainer Lords will hijack Trade Bill – The Sun

More:

  • Prime Minister faces fresh calls to sack Chief Whip – The Sun
  • Tory rebels split six ways – The Times
  • EU indicates it could accept a delay – FT
  • Duncan Smith predicts movement from Brussels – Daily Express
  • Gove has signed ‘obituary’ with attack on Brexiteers – Daily Telegraph
  • Cameron admits he regrets ‘chaos’ – The Sun
  • DUP would be ‘open’ to time-limited backstop – News Letter

Comment:

  • May’s deal is dead, and so is no deal – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Decision time for Javid and Hunt?

Softer Brexit 2) Hammond tells business leaders that No Deal is off the table

Philip Hammond told business leaders that the “threat” of a no-deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” within days and potentially lead to Article 50 “rescinded”, a leaked recording of a conference call reveals. The Chancellor set out how a backbench Bill could effectively be used to stop any prospect of no deal. He suggested that ministers may even back the plan when asked for an “assurance” by the head of Tesco that the Government would not oppose the motion. He claimed next week’s Bill, which could force the Government to extend Article 50, was likely to win support and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a no-deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to no deal under any circumstances”. A recording of the call, passed to The Daily Telegraph, recounts how the Chancellor, Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, spent nearly an hour talking to the leaders of 330 leading firms. They included the heads of Siemens, Amazon, Scottish Power, Tesco and BP, all of whom warned against no deal. The disclosure reveals the close nature of the relationship between the Treasury and some of Britain’s biggest businesses, and how they appear to be working in tandem to block a hard Brexit. It will also add to suspicions that Mr Hammond has been orchestrating attempts to soften Brexit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Dozens of business leaders call for a second referendum – The Times
  • Full transcript of the Chancellor’s phone call – Daily Telegraph
  • Business fears ‘catastrophic’ no deal – The Times
  • Dover bosses insist the lorries will keep rolling – The Sun

More:

  • Irish watchdog urges UK auditors to prepare for no-deal departure – FT
  • SNP guilty of ‘crooked politics’ over second vote – Daily Telegraph
  • Ireland accused of ‘hiding truth’ about border checks – The Times
  • Irish border admissions caught on tape – News Letter

Comment:

  • Forget the Remainers’ forecasts, we don’t need a deal to trade – Roger Bootle, Daily Telegraph
  • What business leaders said, perhaps – Matthew Vincent, FT
  • Breathtaking ignorance of rent-a-quote MPs – Jenni Russell, The Times

Editorial:

  • Call which shows Parliament could commit a great betrayal – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: The defeat of May’s deal was a consequence of half a decade of negotiation failure

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Ici Londres – If the EU won’t delete the backstop, then ready yourselves for No Deal, argues Hannan

Softer Brexit 3) Sebastian Payne: May will now pivot towards it

“Although a no-deal exit on March 29 remains the default outcome, it is ultimately unlikely to happen. Faced with that prospect, diehard Tory Remainers, such as former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, could well abstain in a future confidence motion to bring down the May government. Such a move would wound or destroy their political careers, but enough Remainers feel strongly enough that they would act to avoid a calamitous no-deal scenario. But pursuing a softer Brexit risks ripping apart the Conservative party. For many Brexit-supporting MPs, the prospect of striking free trade deals is one of the most enticing opportunities of leaving the EU. Remaining in the customs union makes that impossible. Brexiters such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg will not tolerate this, nor would much of the party’s membership. If Brexit goes in this direction, a political realignment on the right of British politics, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century, becomes a very real possibility. Mrs May is facing a huge choice. Does she decide to put country before party by pursuing a softer Brexit that can pass through parliament but break the Tories? Or does she prioritise the political party she joined as a teenager and has poured her life’s work into and take a stance that harms the country? The high drama we have seen in Westminster this week may, in fact, only just be starting.” – FT

  • Thanks to May’s bungling of Brexit, divisions over trade could split the Tories – Liam Halligan, Daily Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister has one last throw of the dice – Philip Stephens, FT
  • Tory Remainers have a duty not to destroy their party – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • It’s now or never, May must compromise on Brexit – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Europe is in no fit state to handle the risks of its own brinkmanship – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • Unless we grab May’s deal, we won’t be leaving at all – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • Only rupture with the EU will alter the failed status quo – Larry Elliott, The Guardian

>Today: Stewart Jackson in Comment: Don’t pivot to the Customs Union, Prime Minister – it could destroy the Conservative Party

Moment of unity as Tories rally to defeat no-confidence motion

“Theresa May was fighting last night to break the Brexit deadlock after Jeremy Corbyn rejected her offer of cross-party talks to reach a deal that would pass the Commons. The prime minister invited Mr Corbyn and the leaders of Westminster’s main opposition parties to talks at No 10 immediately after surviving the first no-confidence vote for more than a quarter of a century. She appealed to opposition MPs to work with her on a revised deal that was “negotiable” and would win the support of a majority of MPs. The Labour leader resisted the overture, however, insisting that Mrs May abandon a no-deal exit before the start of any “positive talks”. His spokesman later accused the prime minister of “blackmailing” the country with the threat of a chaotic departure. Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Vince Cable, did attend Downing Street within hours of the invitation. Other leaders were expected to follow suit for what Mrs May’s allies promised would be substantive negotiations on a compromise deal over the coming days and through the weekend. In a statement last night Mrs May said she was “disappointed” that Mr Corbyn had chosen not to join the talks, adding: “Our door remains open.” No 10 softened its stance on the content of the discussions, opening the way to a substantially softer Brexit. Only a second referendum or the removal of a no-deal exit appeared to be off the table.” – The Times

  • Gove mounts blistering attack on the Labour leader – The Sun
  • The Prime Minister survives, but is snubbed by Corbyn over next steps – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain remains in deadlock – The Guardian
  • Hague says crisis could yet lead to a general election – FT
  • Polling shows voters opt for May, but even more don’t know – The Times
  • DUP confirmed as kingmakers – Daily Telegraph
  • Leaders rehearse election scripts in confidence debate – The Times
  • Support for politicians plummets as chaos reigns – Daily Express
  • I will never back Corbyn for Prime Minister, says Hermon – News Letter

Comment:

  • Why an election may be the only way to save Brexit – Gisela Stuart, Daily Telegraph
  • Vote highlights new constitutional mess – Catherine Haddon, The Times

>Yesterday:

Watchdog prepares for second referendum

“Britain’s election watchdog is drawing up contingency plans to hold a second referendum and to participate in the forthcoming elections to the European parliament if Brexit is postponed. EU and UK officials are privately examining what might happen if an extension to Article 50 were agreed that lasted beyond the present European parliamentary session. A number of the UK’s 73 seats have been reallocated in anticipation of Brexit for the elections in May but the EU would be open to legal challenge if British voters were not represented in the parliament while the UK was still an EU member. If the government withdrew Article 50 before May the UK would also have to have representation in the parliament. A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission, which regulates UK elections and referendums, said they were taking all eventualities into account. “As part of our contingency planning, we are making certain preparations that will enable us to swiftly take the necessary action should circumstances change and these elections need to be held,” she said. “We maintain contingency plans to ensure that the commission has made all appropriate preparations to deliver a referendum should there be one.” The spokeswoman denied that any work had been done on potential questions for a referendum, adding that this would only happen once parliament had submitted its own form of words.” – The Times

  • Labour MPs tell their leader to support a ‘People’s Vote’… – The Times
  • …but others are opposed to one – Daily Express
  • MPs pre-empt leader as 71 declare support – The Guardian
  • Corbyn humiliated for ‘fence-sitting’ on Brexit – The Sun
  • ‘Guerrilla billboards’ give Brexit a pasting – The Times

Comment:

  • Advocates of a ‘People’s Vote’ need to remember Corbyn’s Eurosceptic record – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour must pursue a better deal, not a second vote – Owen Jones, The Guardian
  • Corbyn’s clique are the old guard Brexiteers – David Aaronovitch, The Times

>Yesterday: Left Watch: On Brexit, Labour is working hard to remain absolutely, certainly, unequivocally… undecided

Hinds to lobby Treasury for multi-year education funds

“The education secretary, Damian Hinds, is to lobby the Treasury for a multi-year funding settlement for education in England similar to the 10-year package announced for the NHS, MPs were told. Hinds, appearing before parliament’s education select committee, said he would make a “a very compelling case” for more funding in this year’s spending review, agreeing that something similar to the recent NHS long-term plan was needed. The cabinet minister’s pledge came as he was put under pressure by his fellow Conservative MPs, with Robert Halfon, the committee’s chair, telling Hinds: “We’d like to see you get up with a 10-year plan and make sure that education gets the funding that it needs for the future. Is that likely to happen?” Hinds replied: “It will happen, I’ll be putting a strong case and, I think, a very compelling case for education.” William Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove in Manchester, made an impassioned plea for Hinds to convince the Treasury to boost funding. He said: “Why is it that schools in my constituency, which have been some of the most poorly funded over decades, say to me they haven’t got enough revenue for what they need? When the chancellor, with a typical tin-eared phraseology of his, says that there is £400m for ‘little extras’ and capital funding, that is not well received by schools.”” – The Guardian

Lord Forsyth leads attack on Government over ‘stealth taxes’

“Brits are being ripped off by the Government hiking a raft of stealth taxes by the “unfair” Retail Price Index rate of inflation, peers have warned. The Lords Economic Affairs Committee said rail fares, student loan interest fees, road tax and beer and tobacco duty are rising by more than 1 per cent higher than they should be. This is because these taxes rise in line with the higher RPI rate of inflation, whereas the Government uses the lower CPI measure when setting the value of its pay-outs such as benefits. The report said this “error” was “untenable” and was creating clear “winners and losers”. The report said UK statistics watchdog must address this “flaw” or risk being in breach of its duties to safeguard the quality of official statistics. The report also said the UK Statistics Authority’s refusal to correct “error”. Committee boss Lord Forsyth said the inconsistency was “simply not fair”. He demanded the Government stop ripping off commuters, students, motorists and drinkers by agreeing on a single measure of inflation for both taxes and pay-outs. It is estimated the error – which has artificially increased the rate of RPI – has boosted holders of inflation-linked government bonds to the tune of around £1 billion more a year in interest. But it is costing commuters and students dear, as RPI is used to calculate annual increases in rail fares and student loan pricing.” – The Sun

  • Ministers criticised for ‘sneaking out’ pension announcement during Brexit drama – The Times

MPs demand restrictions on export of plastic waste

“The world must stop treating seas as a sewer and Britain should play its part by ending the export of plastic waste to countries that may dump it in the ocean, MPs say. Plastic makes up 70 per cent of litter in the ocean and the amount could treble within ten years unless urgent action is taken, according to a report by the Commons environmental audit committee. The committee urged Britain to push for a “Paris Agreement for the sea”, a reference to the international deal secured in 2015 to tackle global warming. Mary Creagh, the committee’s Labour chairwoman, said: “Our children deserve to experience the wonders of the ocean but climate change poses a triple whammy of threats from ocean warming, deoxygenation and acidification, which are decimating marine life… The committee recommended a ban on exports of waste to countries with poor recycling infrastructure and urged ministers to publish plans for more domestic recycling facilities to be funded. The MPs also called for a ban on plastics that are difficult or impossible to recycle and said that ministers should bring forward the government’s target date of 2042 for achieving zero avoidable plastic waste.” – The Times

Sturgeon promises independence timetable in ‘weeks’

“Nicola Sturgeon has said Theresa May is “deluding herself” by trying to persist with her Brexit red lines, and suggested details of the timetable for a second Scottish independence referendum would be revealed within “weeks”. The First Minister was at Westminster to meet with SNP MPs, and said an extension of Article 50 and a People’s Vote were the only realistic options to break the Brexit deadlock. However, she added: “I’ll say more about the timing of a referendum in the next matter of weeks. I want to see the UK stay in the EU, I think that would be best for the whole of the UK… even when Scotland is independent, that serves our interests best as well. That’s why we’re backing the People’s Vote, the second EU referendum. But if that’s not possible, in terms of our wider interests, the chaos and the fiasco of the last couple of years have shown that the worst thing for Scotland is to be thirled to Westminster when it’s making such a mess of things. We’d be far better off in charge of our own affairs.” The First Minister spoke to the Prime Minister by telephone late on Tuesday, following the unprecedented Commons defeat of the government’s Brexit deal by a margin of 230 votes.” – The Scotsman

News in Brief:

  • Would Norway break the stalemate? What the polling tells us – Tim Bale, The Conversation
  • Fear and loathing define Labour’s Brexit struggle – Alan Lockey, CapX
  • Disastrous May has botched it every step of the way – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Boles’s plan is certainly crazy. But it just might work – Nikki da Costa, The Spectator
  • Democracy is in danger as our political leaders seek to subvert the Leave vote – Sheila Lawlor, Brexit Central

Parliament debates Mental Health First Aid

The Backbench debate on incorporating Mental Health First Aid into First Aid At Work legislation is scheduled to take place this morning in Parliament. The Government statement on this is here, with a debate pack pdf link at the bottom entitled, “Mental health first aid in the workplace”. One of the reasons I entered politics, […]

The Backbench debate on incorporating Mental Health First Aid into First Aid At Work legislation is scheduled to take place this morning in Parliament.

The Government statement on this is here, with a debate pack pdf link at the bottom entitled, “Mental health first aid in the workplace”.

One of the reasons I entered politics, as a career musician, was my concern over mental health care and the lack of provision for those experiencing mental ill-health.

In March 2015 I successfully amended Liberal Democrat party policy on Mental Health to include incorporating mental health first aid into physical First Aid at Work courses.

I then worked with Norman Lamb MP in 2016 on an Early Day Motion proposing to change the law so that mental health first aid was required under Health & Safety legislation.

Norman and I attended Mental Health First Aid training together and we are both Mental Health First Aiders. I am so pleased to see that our work has led to cross-party support of this initiative. I very much hope the Backbench Business debate today leads to changes in First Aid At Work legislation. It is imperative that mental health first aid be given equal footing to physical first aid in the work place.

* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.

Decision time for Javid and Hunt?

They are very unlikely indeed to succeed May if they nod reluctant assent to any scheme to sign up to Customs Union – which might not succeed in any event.

One can see how it could happen.  David Lidington will mastermind a negotiation with Labour Soft Brexiteers and others.  Michael Gove will provide Eurosceptic cover, and make the case for what emerges on Today and in the Commons.  The negotiation will settle on formal Customs Union membership, or something so close to it as to make no difference.  In the passive way that so defines her, Theresa May will swallow it.  Lidington will tell her that, if she doesn’t, she will lose a no confidence vote, with a tiny band of fixated Remainer Conservatives, perhaps led by Dominic Grieve, abstaining – and so making the difference.  Philip Hammond and other Cabinet Soft Brexiteers are already pushing this outcome and briefing bigger business to this effect.

On this site today, Stewart Jackson sets out the risk of such a course – nothing less than splitting the Conservative Party from top to bottom.  The most crucial Tory actor in the talks with other parties and politicians is thus neither Gove nor even Lidington, but Julian Smith – though he is only one voice in that three-man team appointed for talks.

Such a formal endorsement of a softer Brexit – further concessions to Customs Union membership and new ones to Labour’s social model – would bear other perils, equally dramatic though less profound.  First, even tacking on to it more alignment with the Single Market, thus bringing the proposed treatment of Great Britain into line with that of Northern Ireland, might not satisfy the DUP, which is a Leave party.  Second, Jeremy Corbyn might not swallow this softer Brexit, even if it satisfied his party’s conditions for a deal.  It would cramp a hard left Labour Government’s room for socialist manoeuvre.   And he is temperamentally inclined to oppose the Tories at all costs. Furthermore, a Norwegian option is not compatible with ending free movement, to which lots of Labour MPs are opposed.  One can see how a coalition of the Labour front bench and the ERG might find ways of sinking any such softer Brexit.

This morning, some are claiming that the Prime Minister is about to make exactly such a pivot – with the EU, that “rules-based organisation”, then rewriting the Withdrawal Agreement (which its pro-Remain British fan club currently tells us is impossible) to deliver the compromise.  Others say that she won’t.

The most likely course still is that she hopes to continue her chicken game and suck politicians from other parties into supporting her deal.  Another way of viewing the possible three man negotiating team is that Gove would act as a restraint on Lidington, teaming up with Smith to block any move towards formal Customs Union membership.  The Environment Secretary is not currently a contender for the Conservative leadership, but though he is unpopular in the country he is indispensible in the Commons, as his swashbuckling performance in yesterday’s no confidence debate reminded us.  And he is the most creative head of any Government department.  He is the Government’s most eloquent voice and the Cabinet’s lead swing voter.  A crushing weight of responsibility is descending on his shoulders.

Talk of Cabinet Ministers leads us to the Cabinet Leavers – those who voted for Brexit in the referendum: Steve Barclay, Liam Fox, Chris Grayling, Penny Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom, Geoffrey Cox.  Unlike Dominic Raab and Esther McVey, they didn’t resign over May’s deal (Barclay of course was not in place then).

There were arguments for and against them doing so.  But it is indisputable that formal Customs Union membership is incompatible with the Conservative manifesto, any prospect whatsoever of deep and meaningful trade deals with non-EU countries, and the Brexit vision for which they campaigned.  A big moment may be approaching for them, too – as well as for those who didn’t back Leave in the referendum but are now sympathetic to a Canada-type future, such as Liz Truss.  She seems to have future leadership ambitions. There’s no doubt at all that Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt do so.  But were they to nod reluctant assent to a Customs Union scheme, it is very unlikely indeed that whatever would be left of the Conservative membership would choose either of them to replace May.

Stewart Jackson: Don’t pivot to the Customs Union, Prime Minister – it could destroy the Conservative Party

Breaking her promise in such a way would enrage many voters, divide her Party, and cost the nation dearly in lost Brexit opportunities.

Stewart Jackson was MP for Peterborough 2005-17 and Chief of Staff to David Davis 2017-18.

As expected, Jeremy Corbyn’s No Confidence motion tabled yesterday served to unify and focus the Conservative Party on the existential danger, not just to our party but to the whole country, of a red in tooth and claw Labour government. In that sense, it rather backfired.

Perversely, it has ramped up the pressure on Corbyn to enunciate a clearer position in response to the defeat of the Prime Minister’s unlamented Withdrawal Agreement, between the Europhile majority of his party pressing for extension or revocation of Article 50, a Norway model soft Brexit, or a second referendum, and the millions of Labour voters who supported Brexit. I cannot see that Corbyn will move much, because he still commands the trust and support of the Labour membership and influential figures like Len McCluskey and because he believes that the EU is a plutocratic capitalist cartel dedicated to neoliberalism and doing the bidding of rapacious multinationals – a view he’s held since about 1983.

Labour’s introspection has bought the Prime Minister some breathing space. Although as a result of John Bercow’s decision to disregard Commons precedent and rip up the rule book to allow the Remain ultras like Dominic Grieve to circumscribe the Government’s room for manoeuvre in last week’s business motion, she has only four more days to outline what her Plan B might be.

My own view is that her tenure is strictly time limited, but my instinct is that she probably has one more pivotal Commons vote left before the pressure from the 1922 Committee and the Cabinet for her to step aside and let another leader take over will become insurmountable.

She’s been lucky, too, this week with her Remain opponents. Remain true believers are as fractious and impatient as anyone else – witness the spat between Nick Boles and Grieve over which (wrecking) Bill to present in the Commons – Boles’s quirky EU Referendum (No2) Bill or Grieve’s second referendum Bill? It’s a microcosm of the fight between the Norway crowd and the ‘Peoples’ Vote’ (sic) supporters. Neither has or likely will have a majority in the House of Commons, and Boles’s effort seems to have blown up on the tarmac via a big raspberry from the Liaison Committee. Nevertheless, the aim of most of their advocates is to delay and then kill Brexit.

For all that, Theresa May would be wise to avoid jumping out of the frying pan of a calamitous Commons defeat into the fire of a full-blown Tory civil war. The lack of a clear policy position after Tuesday’s vote appears to have emboldened some of the Cabinet to disregard even further collective responsibility. They now argue – both in code (“reaching out to other parties”) and explicitly – for a deal with Labour, involving reneging on our explicit 2017 General Election manifesto commitment to leave the Customs Union. Indeed, to the contrary, some ministers are wholeheartedly embracing the idea of one. This was always the position of people like Greg Clark and Philip Hammond, but they now feel they have license to sell this unappetising prospect in plain sight.

‘Pivoting’ towards the Customs Union would be a very bad idea for a number of reasons. Labour have no coherent Brexit policy and the customs union demand is only the least worst part of an incredible smorgasbord of opportunistic waffle. The Opposition really isn’t interested in anything but precipitating division and open warfare in our party, and certainly not in developing a coherent and pluralistic policy which can pass the Commons. Secondly, a customs union as a discrete policy is a terrible idea, as consistently and eloquently argued by Greg Hands – primarily because it would undermine a key rationale by Leave voters for supporting Brexit, the aim of allowing the UK to strike new, lucrative global trade deals after our exit from the EU.

Most acutely, Conservative MPs should understand the peril of shredding a policy which the Prime Minister has publicly endorsed over 30 times, when faced with a Party membership and wider electorate warming to No Deal/WTO and still irked by the debacle of Chequers and the Withdrawal Agreement. A Party faithful willing to believe that we can still strike a Canada Plus style deal with the EU. And why wouldn’t they? This week David Davis, Dominic Raab, Arlene Foster and Peter Lilley launched A Better Deal, which offers a reasonable alternative strategy for the Prime Minister when she returns to Brussels in a few days’ time. Together with enhanced No Deal planning, it is at least as good as any other course of action, not least because it was the basis of the Prime Minister’s policy outlined at Lancaster House, Florence and Mansion House and at last year’s General Election.

Fully conceding on the Customs Union would be such an egregious capitulation that it would endanger our local government candidates in May, and were we foolish enough to extend Article 50 to necessitate by Treaty obligation participation in the EU Parliament elections (as Boles’s bill demands), it would invite a populist upsurge of unprecedented severity.

Conservative Associations are much less deferential, more activist, and frankly more Eurosceptic now, and they’d scarcely wear such a retreat from our solemn promises. MPs who supported it would struggle to justify their decision. Remember, recent polling shows that people’s attachment to getting Brexit comfortably outstrips their attachment to even the best and most diligent local MP, and to political parties generally.

Finally, it’s as well to consider Scotland as a terrifying morality tale. In 2010, Labour polled 42 per cent there and took 41 seats – most of them won very handily. Just five years later, motivated by bitter disappointment in the wake of a fractious and unpleasant referendum campaign and a feeling that “the Establishment” had cheated them of their dreams of self-government and independence, a significant bulk of their hitherto most loyal voters turned on their own party, leaving that party with just one seat and less than a quarter of the votes.

Couldn’t happen again? Don’t bet on it.

If May takes the path of least resistance by adopting the Customs Union post-Brexit to get any deal through the Commons, she risks not just a terrible party schism but electoral Armageddon.

Garvan Walshe: The defeat of May’s deal was a consequence of half a decade of negotiation failure

Why should the EU offer any more to an inconstant departing member, which can’t be relied on to deliver ratification of any agreement?

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the British Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy.

Dominic Cummings imagines politics to be a branch of physics. There’s one respect in which he’s right, which goes by the unpleasant jargon-word entropy.

The word is ugly and so are its consequences. Entropy is a deeply depressing concept. It’s like a transaction tax applied by the universe on every conversion of energy. It’s why your car gets hot and your fridge makes noise. All that energy from petrol or electric power is dissipated into heat and sound waves. Once it has been so dissipated, it can’t be marshalled back into a useful form. It’s been spent.

The battle over Brexit has been a giant exercise in the production of entropy, the conversion of political energy and ideas into a disorganised and ineffective stalemate.

It is the result of a gross miscalculation of the amount of power available to the British Government. Unable to admit to itself the scarcity of available means, no leader or faction has been able to apply them to achieve any useful result. The result was a defeat for the Prime Minister’s deal so heavy that had it been a cricket score her team would have been forced to follow on.

From David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech in 2013 to the Prime Minister’s inept selling of her Brexit withdrawal agreement, through the ERG’s misfiring leadership plot, and Jeremy Corbyn’s failed attempt to bring the Government down, nothing – least of all May’s disastrous 2017 election – has worked. Political energy has been wasted. Political capital squandered.

Cameron imagined that British membership of the organisation was so important to the rest of the EU that they would grant an exemption from freedom of movement to keep the UK in. Instead they saw it as one opt-out too far. What he was offering was tantamount, from their perspective, to leaving the EU; this rendered Cameron’s threat to leave if he didn’t get what he want moot. If you don’t let me leave, I’ll go isn’t a strong negotiating position.

The Brexit negotiations themselves suffered what might be politely called a clash of negotiating cultures — a flexible British (and Irish) style, where everything is pinned down at the last minute; and a systematic Germanic one, where you work things through issue by issue.

In this May, at least, understood some limits. Ending free movement entailed leaving the Single Market. Remaining in good standing in international law meant continuing to pay bills already agreed. She failed only on the border in Ireland, where the EU acted to defend the interest of its member, the Republic of Ireland, at the expense of the country that was leaving.

British commentators usually considered informed (most recently Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group), have continually misunderstood the EU’s position. They simply haven’t adjusted to what it means to be outside the European tent. Considered on its own, it might indeed be in the economic interests of some powerful member states to push Ireland around. But considered as part of the EU system itself it would be very dangerous. The EU is not an intergovernmental organisation of sovereign states. It was created in order to restrain the rivalry of the big countries which had destroyed Europe twice in the early 20th century. Brexiteers find that a reason to leave, which is fair enough. What’s not reasonable is to pretend the organisation they want to leave for those reasons doesn’t behave as if it’s motivated by them.

This does not mean that big member states don’t have more power: they do. But they have less than size would suggest, and in exchange for giving it up they gain stability. In practical terms it means the small states gang together, and the Commission sets itself up as their protector. Were Ireland’s interests to be overridden today, what about Latvia’s tomorrow, or Portugal’s in five year’s time?

Faced with this, the confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party was a huge mistake. Embedded in the DUP’s soul is fear that Britain will sell them out. The normal tricks of parliamentary management available to soothe the egos of Tory MPs (the Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh, anyone?) — knighthoods, special envoy positions, the prospect of ministerial promotion — don’t work. A convoluted diplomatic text, produced by urbane Whitehall officials and their equally urbane counterparts at Dublin’s Iveagh House, is not seen by the DUP as an elegant compromise, but a plot at their expense. It is perhaps tragic that they attach themselves to an Albion they know is perfidious, as though an abusive relationship with Great Britain is the only one they know; and because leaving the UK cannot, by definition, be an option. Thus their tradition of obduracy is well justified, because it’s all they have.

It is fatal, however, that the only way to obtain a Brexit that meets the DUP’s requirement to avoid economic differentiation between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and the EU’s requirement (and also British government policy) of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, is to keep the UK in the Single Market. And while concerns about rule-taking have some weight, it is May’s insistence on ending freedom of movement, words she had inserted into the political declaration, that makes such an arrangement impossible.

There is still hope in Westminster that the EU will come back with some more concessions,or at least more time. What is not appreciated is that the all-UK customs union offered in the Withdrawal Agreement is such a concession. Why should they offer any more to someone who can’t deliver? And more time could even be counterproductive. Britain needs the pressure of a deadline. Given a can on a road, it will not be able to resist the temptation to give it a hefty kick.

Yet if it is a principle of physics that some energy must always be wasted, dissipated into heat and noise, it is a principle of conservatism that decisions and actions have consequences. The decisions — to demand an exemption from free movement; to leave the EU; to have a confidence and supply deal with the DUP; to both require and forbid a hard border in Ireland and to base a negotiation strategy on the hope that the EU would put leaving Britain’s interests ahead of those of its own member state — have been made. It’s now time to take the consequences whatever they turn out to be.

Gary Porter: Self-build and custom build will become increasingly important to ways to deliver the new homes we need

In the UK we have lost the capacity for individuals to provide or commission homes individually tailored to their needs. But it aligns with the core Conservative belief in freedom.

Lord Porter is the Chairman of the Local Government Association.

Whilst you would be forgiven for thinking that Brexit is currently crowding out everything else, important work in other public policy areas is still taking place.

Housing is one of the Government’s key domestic priorities and a number of important announcements have been made over the past six months, including the scrapping of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), the announcement in the Budget of an extra £500 million for the Housing Infrastructure Fund (taking the total to £5.5 billion to unlock 650,000 new homes) and the publication of the Social Housing Green Paper.

These are all positive announcements and provide the opportunity for central and local government to work together to support new and innovative ways of delivering the different types of housing that the nation so desperately needs.

For their part, councils are committed to delivering housing that is a world away from the monolithic council estates of yesteryear. Whilst there are many different ways of doing so, I want to focus here on two options that are often overlooked: self-build and custom build.

Following the commitment in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto, the Housing and Planning Act (2016) introduced a ‘Right to Build’ whilst the Housing White Paper reasserts the Government’s commitment to support the self and custom build sectors.

The Government also supported Richard Bacon MP’s Self Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill. Following its Royal Assent in 2016, local planning authorities in England are required to establish local registers of custom builders who wish to acquire suitable land on which people can build their own homes and to have regard to the demand for this on their local register.

In 2016, 12,800 custom or self-build homes were completed – an increase of five per cent on the previous year – accounting for ten per cent of private housing completions. However, this is a much lower rate than other European countries: for example, in Austria they represent 80 per cent of completions whilst in Berlin alone some 190,000 dwellings have been constructed by self-build and custom- build groups.

What is fascinating in Berlin is that the municipality – the local council – actively seeks to help. For example, a group of parents will come together and tell the council that they want to build a block of apartments with a garden in the middle and a school. The parents have a shared interest in developing something that meets their children’s needs and the council responds as positively as it can.

Other countries have clearly maintained their historical commitment to self-build, whilst here in the UK we have lost that capacity for individuals to provide or commission homes individually tailored to their needs. However, these forms of building align with the core Conservative belief that government should provide people with the freedom necessary to allow them to pursue their goals.

Put simply, as we seek to address our nation’s housing crisis through new and innovative ways of building I believe that self-build and custom build will become increasingly important and that it will be Conservative councils across the country who will be leading the way in delivering housing which matches the specific and unique needs of families in their areas.