Stewart Jackson: Why is a Tory Government risking criminalising professionals – and the health of young people too?

21 Feb

Stewart Jackson is a former Conservative MP and Special Adviser, and is the Founder and Director of UK Political Insight.

Given the precarious position that the Prime Minister finds himself in, one has to rank the Government’s commitment to legislate for the so-called Conversion Therapy Bill “in spring 2022” as particularly brave, foolhardy or tin-eared.

The need to engineer a rapprochement with the Conservative Parliamentary Party is inconsistent with such a divisive and unnecessary measure.

It appears to be driven by a desire to placate the shrill zealotry of Stonewall – now discredited by its absolutist stance on trans rights, and estranged from many former LGBT supporters with whom, along with other critics, it seems unwilling to engage.

Indeed, the Bill seems to be a solution looking for a problem. In a meeting with religious leaders, the Government Equalities Office, which is sponsoring the Bill, failed even to identify what the legal definition of “conversion therapy” actually is, according to one of those present.

Those advocating the changes are desperate to avoid scrutiny and rush through the legislation. Nonetheless, the Government extended the consultation on the Bill until earlier this month after threats of judicial review.  It takes a unique talent to unite the fractious Tory tribes against these proposals.

Those concerned by aspects of the Bill reportedly include Damian Green, Chairman of the Conservative One Nation Group; other former Ministers, such as Jackie Doyle-Price; such middle ground stalwarts as Pauline Latham and Sir Robert Syms; and social conservatives such as Miriam Cates, Sally-Ann Hart, and Tim Loughton. Not to mention peers, faith groups, charities, the Economist and, most recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The ECHR has rightly highlighted  the need for proper pre-legislative scrutiny, and has warned against the unintended consequences of rushed legislation.  Supporters of the measure have also failed to take into account evolving research from the United States on paediatric and youth gender dysphoria, and that fact that the Government’s own Cass Review on gender identity services for children and young people will not be published until this summer.

In a nutshell, there is concern that rushed and poorly drafted legislation will threaten the basic tenets of fairness, freedom of speech, religious belief and tolerance, and the professionalism and autonomy of a number of caring sectors – such medicine, nursing, therapy, pastoral care and youth work and education.  Not to mention parents and guardians, all of whom risk being criminalised by poor legislation and activists with a narrow and extreme agenda.

For there is a real possibility that certain types of private consensual and routine conversations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity will become subject to criminal sanction.  And that it will not be possible for those charged with helping children and young people in particular to have open and explorative discussions about sexual identity and gender issues.

Thus, in the case of gender dysphoria, legitimate alternatives to radical and life changing pharmaceutical and surgical interventions could effectively become illegal. Do we want primary legislation that prevents clinicians from offering their patients the best treatment for their unique medical issues? As Baroness Jenkin has said: “when a child is suffering, it is crucial that they are allowed time, space and supportive therapy to discover why they feel the way they do.”

Such a bar would impact on young people with mental health problems and suicide ideation. Some of the alternatives would be irreversible. Government pledges of a “common sense” approach will count for very little if the legislation enacted is interpreted in a draconian manner.

These deeply flawed proposals arose from the well-meaning intentions of the May Government, and are now driven by a small claque of social liberals in 10 Downing Street – irrespective of the fact that there is already, and rightly, widespread opposition to physical and mental coercion based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, and tough legislation in place to combat it. In this respect, the UK has always been a pathfinder internationally. Who wouldn’t want to protect vulnerable people from bullying and coercion?

There is also real possibility that the Bill will fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights in regards to Article 8 (Respect for Private and Family Life) and Article 9 (Freedom of Thought, Belief and Religion).  And that the Government may find itself liable for punitive damages in future litigation arising from the practices sanctioned by the Bill.

Like other May Government landmines – think Stop and Search, Windrush and the Northern Ireland Protocol – ideas touted as common sense and the right thing to do can obscure intractable issues and bring about unintended consequences.

All in all, there is no compelling case for this new legislation, or even persuasive evidence that it is actually required.  And the Government’s failure to outline a proper case for it hasn’t helped to dispel fears of a fait accomplis, with MPs being railroaded to an arbitrary deadline.

The Prime Minister has enough on his plate already. He needs the courage to reject this proposal, and face down a tiny minority, most of whom would never vote for him and his party, not least for the health of his battered administration.

Robert Halfon: How my new Bill can protect millions of pupils and students from the disaster of future school shutdowns

3 Nov

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Between the start of the pandemic and July 2021, British children were out of the classrooms for almost half of the available school days, wielding a hammer blow to their education and wellbeing.

Educators and school staff made a herculean effort throughout the pandemic to react to evolving circumstances, but as we all know, the classroom is the best place for our children to learn and develop to reach their full potential.

This is why today, I am introducing a new 10 Minute Rule Bill to protect millions of pupils and students from the disaster of future school shutdowns.

The Bill has the backing of Children’s Commissioners past and present, as well as two former Children’s Ministers – Edward Timpson MP and Tim Loughton MP. Dame Rachel de Souza commented, “we must do everything we can to keep children in school and this Bill provides the opportunity to do just that.” Anne Longfield noted, “Never again must schools have to compete with pubs, theme parks and Primark to open…We should be in no doubt that keeping children in educational settings is a priority so I support this Bill.”

I also appreciate the strong support of UsforThem parents group for this Bill alongside all their campaigning to keep schools fully open for all our children over the pandemic.

My Bill seeks to define schools and education settings as “essential infrastructure” alongside other premises such as power stations, hospitals and food retailers which are fundamental to the smooth running of the country, and to our daily lives.

The Bill will also introduce a ‘triple lock’ of protections to safeguard against any future school closures, except in cases of extreme emergency.

The triple lock would require the Government to seek the advice of the Children’s Commissioner on the necessity of closing schools, hold a debate and vote in Parliament to agree the measure, and then seek the further advice of the Children’s Commissioner and a further vote by Parliament every three weeks to place a strict time-limit on any future disruption.

We rightly follow the science and advice from SAGE and the JCVI when it comes to our health, so it is only logical that we must also follow the advice provided by the Children’s Commissioner and those with the best interests of our children at the heart of their mandate.

But let me be clear. I am not a lockdown sceptic – I am a school-down sceptic.

School closures have contributed to a widening attainment gap, a worsening mental health crisis, not to mention numerous safeguarding hazards and diminished life chances.

Even before the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their better-off peers by the time they took their GCSEs. But school closures have turned the attainment gap into a chasm.

Research published by the Education Policy Institute has shown that by March 2021, the average learning loss for primary school pupils in maths and reading were 3.4 and 2.2 months respectively. For disadvantaged pupils, this was even greater, with 4.2 months lost in maths and 2.7 months lost in reading.

Moreover, it is estimated that school closures will cost our young people between £78 and £154 billion in lost earnings over the course of their lifetimes. And these figures represent an optimistic outlook. If we allow ourselves to consider a more pessimistic view, lost earnings could be as much as £463 billion.

Report after report speaks to these harms, but they were not an unfortunate inevitability of an international public health emergency. Our children have missed more than double the amount of school than children in other countries.

Children in Belgium missed just four per cent of their school days. In Sweden, education settings remained physically open to under 16-year-olds throughout the pandemic. In fact, British children have missed more school than any other country in Europe except Italy.

The facts speak for themselves and testify to what we know instinctively as parents and human beings.

A tablet is no substitute for in-person schooling. A laptop cannot replace the enriching and skills-building environment that a school community provides. A screen cannot replace the social interaction and friendships that are the essential building blocks of childhood.

Schools represent the North Star for children’s prospects and life chances. They provide structure, they provide a safe space to support children’s positive mental health and they provide a vital sanctuary for vulnerable children. What could be considered more “essential” than this.

It would be inconceivable to close power stations, hospitals and food retailers during a time of crisis. And rightly so – they are the lifelines to our communities. It is time we treated our schools with the same reverence – both in word, and more importantly, in deed.

We must learn from our experiences over the course of the pandemic to make sure that we prioritise children’s education moving forwards. We owe it to our young people to safeguard the educational futures that Covid-19 put on hold. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.

McVey, Walker and Wragg. The most rebellious Conservative MPs in our survey of major votes.

22 Jun

Last week, ConservativeHome published a list of the 49 Conservative MPs who voted against the Coronavirus Regulations. As we said at the time, it was the biggest Covid rebellion since December 2, and a reminder that even if a Government has a huge majority, it can easily be rocked about by unprecedented events (a pandemic).

From 2020 and 2021, we have been keeping track of rebellions. It’s worth adding that rebellions can take various forms – Chris Green resigning as a ministerial aide, for instance – and that there have been many minor ones, so there may be one MP who is technically the most rebellious on less prominent issues. However, for the purpose of one article we’ve focused on major voting events. So who exactly has pushed back the most?

First of all, here is a list of the rebellions we tracked – with a nickname and link to recap on what each was about:

And without further ado, we can reveal that Esther McVey, Charles Walker and William Wragg are joint first in our “most rebellious MP” league table – with nine rebellions to their names. Here’s how they rebelled.

Esther McVey:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Curfew
  5. Lockdown
  6. Tiers
  7. Third lockdown
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus regulations

Charles Walker:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Genocide Amendment
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus regulations

William Wragg:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Curfew
  5. Lockdown
  6. Tiers
  7. Genocide Amendment
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus Regulations

MPs who have rebelled on eight occasions:

Graham Brady:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Philip Davies:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Richard Drax:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Andrew Rosindell:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Genocide Amendment
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Desmond Swayne:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

MPs who have rebelled on seven occasions:

Philip Hollobone:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Tiers
  5. Genocide Amendment
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus Regulations

Tim Loughton:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Genocide Amendment
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Anne Marie Morris:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Henry Smith:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Robert Syms:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. 10pm curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

MPs who have rebelled on six occasions:

Peter Bone:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

Christopher Chope:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Coronavirus Act 1
  6. Coronavirus regulations

David Davis:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Tiers
  4. Genocide Amendment
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

Stephen McPartland:

  1. Huawei
  2. Lockdown
  3. Tiers
  4. Third lockdown
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

John Redwood:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

David Warburton:

  1. Huawei
  2. Tiers
  3. Third lockdown
  4. Genocide Amendment
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations
Some more notes:
  • We have stopped with MPs who have rebelled a maximum of six times during this period (out of 10 in total).
  • It’s interesting to note that some “familiar faces” when one thinks of a Tory rebel aren’t included in our league – Mark Harper, for instance, who leads the Covid Recovery Group.
  • Lastly, there are some new faces to our rebellion list: Siobhan Baillie, Karen Bradley and Miriam Cates were some of the MPs to recently vote against Coronavirus regulations.

The 29 Conservative MPs who supported the China genocide amendment

23 Mar
  • Adam Afriyie
  • David Amess
  • Bob Blackman
  • Crispin Blunt
  • Peter Bone

 

  • Andrew Bridgen
  • Reman Chishti
  • Christopher Chope
  • David Davis
  • Richard Drax

 

  • Ian Duncan Smith
  • Mark Francois
  • Nusrat Ghani
  • Sally-Ann Hart
  • Philip Hollobone

 

  • Jeremy Hunt
  • Bernard Jenkin
  • Andrew Lewer
  • Julian Lewis
  • Tim Loughton

 

  • Craig Mackinlay
  • Kieran Mullan
  • Caroline Nokes
  • Matthew Offord
  • Andrew Rossindell

 

  • Bob Seely
  • Derek Thomas
  • Charles Walker
  • David Warburton

The 33 Conservative MPs who rebelled over the Genocide Amendment

19 Jan
  • Ahmad Khan, Imran
  • Amess, David
  • Blackman, Bob
  • Blunt, Crispin
  • Bridgen, Andrew

 

  • Crouch, Tracey
  • Davis, David
  • Djanogly, Jonathan
  • Duncan Smith, Iain
  • Ellwood, Tobias

 

  • Francois, Mark
  • Ghani, Nusrat
  • Gillan, Cheryl
  • Gray, James
  • Green, Damian

 

  • Hart, Sally-Anne (pictured)
  • Hoare, Simon
  • Hollobone, Philip
  • Jenkin, Bernard
  • Latham, Pauline

 

  • Lewer, Andrew
  • Lewis, Julian
  • Loughton, Tim
  • Mackinlay, Craig
  • Nokes, Caroline

 

  • Richards, Nicola
  • Rossindell, Andrew
  • Seely, Bob
  • Tugendhat, Tom
  • Wakeford, Christian

 

  • Walker, Charles
  • Warburton, David
  • Wragg, William

Today’s genocide amendment had no relation whatsoever to recent votes on Covid – or other major rebellions that this site has been chronicling.

But there is considerable overlap between the rebels on those lists and on this one.  And even newcomers to our records such as Sally-Ann Hart and Nicola Richards have voted against the Government previously (though rarely).

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the amendment, lists of those defying the whips now have a certain predictability.

Albie Amankona: It’s time for a Conservative approach to anti-racism

30 Oct

Albie Amankona is co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality (CARFE).

As we mark the end of Black History Month in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests, it has become clear that the wrong types of arguments for racial equality in the UK have been getting too much attention.

As a black Conservative activist, I was proud to hear so many of our MPs passionately share their commitment to racial equality in the historic Parliamentary debate on education and BAME history.

Notably, Steve Baker, who announced his position as Chairman of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality (CARFE), co-founded by myself and Siobhan Aarons. Together, we are building a Conservative approach to anti-racism; so far over 20 MPs and dozens of activists from all wings of the party and across the country have pledged their support, including Jeremy Hunt, Tim Loughton, and Robert Halfon.

Most fair-minded people agree with the statement that black lives matter, but disagree with the ideology of the organisation Black Lives Matter. They will agree that racism is not an issue of left and right, but an issue of right and wrong.

So why has it become so divisive? Few who garner media attention are making pragmatic, fact-based and effective arguments for racial equality. It’s time to build a Conservative approach to anti-racism which acknowledges injustices, but is based on the principles of patriotism, liberty, individual responsibility, the rule of law, equality of opportunity and growth-based prosperity. 

What many commentators miss is that the “all white people are racist”, Critical Race Theory inspired, anti-free speech, anti-police, anti-British type of anti-racism is never going to win the hearts and minds of the British people.

It is in no-one’s interest for 87 per cent of the population to feel guilty simply for being alive and for 13 per cent of the population to feel that the other 87 per cent unconsciously hate them simply because of the colour of their skin. But it is a fact that for many people, racism is a sad reality of life.

Proof of this includes the fact that 50 per cent of young offenders incarcerated are BAME, 40 per cent of the UK’s poorest households are black households, the risk of death in childbirth for black mothers is five times that of white mums and black people of working age are twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. 

Now is the time to redress the balance, redraw the boundaries of the debate and articulate a new approach. Conservatives have always been champions of justice and we must double-down on fighting inequality through classical liberal principles. The alternative is a diluted version of Labour’s “white-apologist” approach which serves no-one but the metropolitan liberal elite debating at dinner parties, posting black squares on Instagram and denouncing Churchill.

As the only serious party which supports the principle of free speech, ours has the most power to lead a rational debate on race; Labour has made its mind up. In its eyes, Britain is a bigoted country, which has done more harm than good in the world. The party fights against American food imports, but accepts without question the wholesale adoption of American theories on race. It perceives BAME voters to have no personal responsibility and of needing infinite government hand-outs and safe-spaces.

None of this is true and frankly, the findings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into the Labour Party proves that its approach to anti-racism is far from perfect.

As Conservatives we must seize the opportunity to lead this debate, to ask those uncomfortable questions, find those difficult answers and implement effective solutions which will have a meaningful impact on Britain’s minority citizens.

We are the party for all and were elected to serve all, so this endeavour could not be more Conservative. We are calling on all Conservative activists and parliamentarians to join ussign our pledge and support our campaign.

Together, we can build our own common-sense approach to anti-racism and a country that all of our children, whatever their hue, will be proud to call home.

The forty-two Conservative MPs who voted against the Government on the 10pm curfew

13 Oct
  • Ahmad Khan, Imran
  • Amess, David
  • Baker, Steve
  • Baldwin, Harriett
  • Blackman, Bob

 

  • Blunt, Crispin
  • Bone, Peter
  • Brady, Graham
  • Chope, Christopher
  • Clifton-Brown, Sir Geoffrey

 

  • Daly, James
  • Davies, Philip
  • Davis, David
  • Davison, Dehenna
  • Doyle-Price, Jackie

 

  • Drax, Richard
  • Fysh, Marcus
  • Ghani, Nusrat
  • Green, Chris (pictured)
  • Hunt, Tom

 

  • Latham, Mrs Pauline
  • Loder, Chris
  • Loughton, Tim
  • Mangnall, Anthony
  • McCartney, Karl

 

  • McVey, Esther
  • Merriman, Huw
  • Morris, Anne Marie
  • Redwood, rh John
  • Rosindell, Andrew

 

  • Sambrook, Gary
  • Seely, Bob
  • Smith, Henry
  • Swayne, rh Sir Desmond
  • Syms, Sir Robert

 

  • Thomas, Derek
  • Tracey, Craig
  • Vickers, Matt
  • Wakeford, Christian
  • Walker, Sir Charles

 

  • Watling, Giles
  • Wragg, William

Plus two tellers – Philip Hollobone and Craig Mackinlay.

– – –

  • Seven Tory MPs voted against the Government on renewing the Coronavirus Act.
  • Twelve voted against the Government over the rule of six.
  • Now we have 42 this evening – enough to imperil the Government’s majority in the event of all opposition parties that attend Westminster voting against it too.
  • Fifty-six signed the Brady amendment, but it was never voted on, and wasn’t a measure related directly to Government policy on the virus.
  • We wrote last week that Conservative backbench protests would gain “volume and velocity”, and so it is proving.
  • There’s a strong though not total overlap between these lockdown sceptics and Eurosceptics.
  • We count eight members from the 2019 intake – and a big tranche from pre-2010 intakes.
  • Chris Green resigned as a PPS to vote against the measure.
  • He’s a Bolton MP and there’s clearly unhappiness there about these latest restrictions.

Fight crimes not Grimes

11 Oct

The Metropolitan Police are doubtless pursuing Darren Grimes as the publisher of the David Starkey interview as well as the interviewer.  That doesn’t make the decision any less sinister.

Such non-Conservatives as Tim Farron and Nick Cohen suggest that the Met’s decision to interview Grimes under caution is wrong.  Our readers are likely to agree.  So we won’t waste words attempting to talk them into a view they hold already.

Instead, we ask for the Met to be held to account for its push to curb free speech.  Did Cressida Dick approve the decision?

If she did, she needs to explain why it doesn’t represent a vendetta by the force against an innocent man who won in court against the established might of the Electoral Commission.  If she didn’t, and the officers have never heard of Grimes (or the Commission either), she should make it clear why they are pursuing him.

It will be claimed that this decision is an operational rather than a strategic matter, but there comes a point when the first blurs into the second.

Is it now Met policy to muzzle free speech, and intimidate journalists in this way.  There are three potential sources of accountability: the Mayor of London, the Home Secretary, and the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Sadiq Khan will do nothing.

Priti Patel has tweeted for freedom of speech, but has fallen into the trap of seeing this incident as an operational matter only.

She should haul in Dick for an interview without coffee, and get the bottom of who in the Met made this decision, and why.  We gather that Tim Loughton, a member of the Select Committee, intends to raise the case when it meets this week.  Good for him.

Meanwhile, Karl Turner, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Legal Aid, tweeted: “Freedom of speech Darren doesn’t afford people the freedom to make racist remarks or generally offend”.

But its inherent to free speech that it will sometimes offend, and it’s important to note that at least one member of Keir Starmer’s front bench either doesn’t get the point, don’t understand it, or don’t care.  The tweet has since been deleted.

The last word on the Met’s decision belongs to Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who tweeted the following yesterday:

-“Hello? Police? I think there’s a burglar in my house…”

-“Sorry, we’re a little busy right now.” -“

…and the burglar just muttered something that sounded a bit like “All lives matter.””

-“We’re on our way.”