Policy

Why I Would Divert Childcare Funds to Sink Estates

29 Jan 2013 at 08:44

OK, you might say I don’t have a right to a view on this. I’m male, gay, and don’t have children, but I am a taxpayer, so that surely gives me a right. Anyway, deep breath, here goes.

Why, dear reader, why is it that middle class parents think that the rest of us should subsidise their childcare needs? When people have children, don’t they consider these issues before they decide to have them? If not, why not? It may seem a callous thing to say, but if you can’t afford to have kids, don’t have them. But surely that’s the responsible thing to do. Middle class parents who don’t think about how they will need to change lifestyles are just as irresponsible as the mythical single mother who deliberately gets herself pregnant to get a council flat. In fact, they are worse. At least the single mother is capable of rational choice.

So when I hear Children’s Minister Liz Truss bleating on about how she can’t find a nursery place for love nor money my sympathy is somewhat limited. Why? Because her solution seems not only to be to encourage private providers to provide more places, it is for the government to provide more subsidy. And in that, she is supported by the Prime Minister. I just don’t see that government has a role here beyond imposing minimal regulation on private sector nurseries. Fine, if the government wants to get into the nursery provision business, let it do so but charge commercial rates.

The aim of encouraging women back into the workplace may be a laudable one, but isn’t encouraging mothers or fathers to stay at home to rear their children an equally laudable one. [cue feminist outrage]? it is stay at home mothers and fathers we should be supporting – parents who put their children before their careers. They are the ones who are making the real sacrifices, but do they ever get a mention in this debate? Very rarely.

Listen, I’m not having a go at parents who through economic necessity have to go back to work as soon as they have a child. But I am having a go at middle class yummy mummies and daddies who seem to think it is their God given right to have children and hang the consequences for the rest of us. it is not government’s job, or the taxpayer’s job to solve their self made problems for them.

If we have extra money to spend to improve the life prospects of children let’s spend it where it is really needed – in the sink estates. That’s where the real childcare problems are. Give the money to Louise Casey. She’d spend it far more wisely than well meaning Department of Education civil servants.

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Books

Book Review: West Ham - The Inside Story by Tony Cottee

28 Jan 2013 at 22:18

I think if any West Ham fan were asked to compile a list of their Top 5 greatest ever West Ham strikers, Tony Cottee would more than likely feature alongside Geoff Hurst, Syd Puddefoot, Vic Watson and Iain Dowie. OK, maybe not Iain Dowie.

When I saw that Cottee had written a new book I assumed it was merely an update of his autobiography published back in 1995. So I bought it anyway even though I only expected a couple of new chapters to bring his life up to date. Boy was I wrong. It’s a whole new book, covering the last 18 years of his life. It covers the fag end of his playing career in Malaysia, Leicester and Norwich before moving on to his ill fated six months as player/manager at Barnet. He writes movingly about the difficult transition from top class player to journeyman pro winding down his career, and the awful realisation that through little fault of his own, his managerial reign at Barnet would prove to be the first and last time he had the chance to manage a football club.

This is not a particularly polished book. It’s published very cheaply on very shiny paper with far too many photos mixed into the text. It’s not edited that well either, but somehow none of this matters because it’s so authentic. Cottee isn’t a bad writer and can certainly hold the readers attention and he comes into his own when he starts discussing what turns out to be the main theme of the book – how we tried to buy West Ham and install himself as chairman. I reckon I know quite a bit about the recent history of West Ham, but I hadn’t realised how close Cottee came to achieving his goal, and as he relates, had West Ham not not been promoted in the playoff final of 2005, it’s likely that the name above the Chairman’s office at Upton park would be Cottee not Gold or Sullivan.

Cottee hated what he saw happening to the club he supported as a boy. He felt Terry Brown the then chairman, was resting on his laurels and fat salary (£492,000 if you please). The club wasn’t operating as it should commercially, the wrong managers were being appointed and they were buying the wrong players. So Cottee set out to do something about it. He tells the tale in exhaustive detail, naming names and shaming those who he sees as guilty parties. For a footballer with no background in finance to get so close to successfully buying West Ham tells you something about his gutsy determination. Despite Terry Brown constantly shifting the goalposts – and price – Cottee persevered and whenever his bid suffered a setback, he bounced back. But the one thing he seems to have lacked was perhaps the most important thing – a sense of media nouse. Cottee went through the whole episode operating by the maxim ‘least said, soonest mended’. He didn’t go public with his bid and as a consequence was outmanouvred not just by rival bids but also by Terry Brown’s media operation, which sought to do him down at every opportunity. Had Cottee gone public at the right time and solicited the support of West Ham fans I suspect his bid would have been unstoppable. Instead, he was shafted not just by Terry Brown, but by the Icelanders.

The Icelanders? I hear you chorusing. Yes, because the main point of this book is to show us, the loyal West Ham fans, that it was Cottee who actually gave them the idea of buying the club in the first place. They had agreed to put up money to back Cottee’s bid, but over time, they sought to edge him out of the equation. Once they realised that Terry Brown wouldn’t do business with Cottee he was well and truly shafted. Was he naive? Probably. Did he trust one or two people – like Keith Mills from Seymour Pierce – too much? Absolutely.

I’m not going to go into any more detail because I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet, but suffice to say after reading it you will change your opinion of quite a few people at the heart of the club over those years.

One question he didn’t really answer, though, is why didn’t he try to buy the club again in 2010, or at least attempt to become part of the Gold/Sullivan bid? He clearly enjoyed good relations with them both.

Perhaps I will ask David Sullivan in our next interview.

Anyway, do buy Tony’s book. It’s published in paperback at £14.99, but you can buy it for under £9 from Amazon HERE

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News Story

Jerry Hayes Has a New Blog

28 Jan 2013 at 11:42

One of the most popular contributors to Dale & Co was the former Conservative MP Jerry Hayes. He really built up a loyal following, and I am delighted to tell everyone that he now has his own blog, which you can find HERE

Well worth bookmarking.

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CNN Interview on Theresa May's Travails

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Policy

The Cleggs Should Send Their Child to the School of Their Choice - No One Else's

27 Jan 2013 at 22:08

Despite what people seem to think, I did not go to a private school. I went to Saffron Walden County High School which was a secondary modern turned comprehensive. My parents wanted me to go to some minor private school in Cambridge. I passed the entrance exam, but I kept asking them: “Why do I have to go to a different school to my friends? Why?” Eventually I wore them down. In all honesty I should have gone to the local grammar school in the nearby village of Newport, but I stupidly and deliberately messed up my 11 plus. And on such vagaries was schooling decided in those days. Anyway, let me get to the point.

Nick Clegg is coming in for a lot of criticism for having the temerity not to rule out sending his son to a private school. As far as I know Clegg has never suggested that private schools should be outlawed, or criticised anyone else for sending their child to one. He’s certainly not in the same position as Diane Abbott. So if he wants to do it, it’s a matter for him and his wife and no one else.

We need to get away from imagining that all people who send their children to private schools do so for class reasons, or just because they are rich enough to. On my radio show this morning I took a call from Sarah in Croydon whose daughter wasn’t allocated a place at a local school and by the time she was, it was so far away it was totally inappropriate. She reckoned she knew lots of parents who were in a similar situation and had to scrape the money together to send their kids to a local private school. In other words, the state system had totally failed them. Depending on where you live, it can certainly happen, and as a parent you face a choice. Move house or pay up for private education. In an ideal world no parent would face that conundrum.

So it isn’t difficult to see why Michael Gove wants to expand the academy network and encourage schools to leave LEA control. Local Education Authorities have failed generations of children. But to think, as some civil servants seem to, that the answer is direct control from Whitehall is surely to misread the needs of children. I like academies and free schools because they are able to operate independently, or semi independently from state control. Yes, the state provides the money, but in the end it must be down to local schools, head teachers, teachers and parents how the money is spent. Grant maintained schools were great innovation of the 1990s and we need to learn some of the lessons of their success.

In Finland, I was told this morning, private schools have been abolished and there is a uniform system of secondary education. How ghastly. Variety is the spice of life and I have no objection to different kinds of schools operating side by side. The key is that parents have a proper and real choice about where they send their children. The Cleggs should have that choice, and so should everyone else.

We will know state education has succeeded when state schools have lifted their achievements to a level where they are comparable with most schools in the private sector. Interestingly, this is happening in some areas. The standard of state education in many areas of London has been transformed in recent years. Those lessons need to be learned elsewhere.

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Iain interviews Donald Trump

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: James Graham

27 Jan 2013 at 20:38

Hey, journalists: when you say “X” is the UK Obama for no reason other than that he’s black, don’t you feel even a little bit … dirty?

James Graham, 27 Jan 2013

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UK Politics

Forget Gay Marriage, It Must Be Equal Marriage, And This Bill Is Deeply Flawed

26 Jan 2013 at 17:25

Apparently we are supposed to call it equal marriage, not gay marriage, but just as the government makes clear it is determined to push ahead with legislation, we learn that the resulting marriages won’t be quite so equal after all. In fact, gay people who marry will have rather more rights that straight people. Trust civil servants to bugger the whole thing up, if you’ll pardon the phrase.

Apparently civil servants haven’t been able to come up with a definition for consummation for gay people as they don’t know how to define gay sex. So consummation won’t be a requirement for gay people in order for them to considered to be fully married. Well that’s a relief for all the ‘tops’ out there in the world of gaydom, I suppose. So, one up for the gays.

Secondly, and I suppose it flows from the above, if you can’t consummate, it therefore means you can’t commit adultery. So for gays it means that adultery can’t be cited as a reason to get divorced, This is madness. It therefore follows that if a straight married man has it away with a man, the wife can’t cite it as adultery, although to be fair I guess it would qualify as ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

It makes you wonder whether civil servants are purposely trying to make this as difficult as they can for the government. I would happily advise them on what can be considered ‘gay sex’ if they really can’t work it out for themselves. I might draw the line at showing them though.

And all this is in addition to the fact that gay people will still be able to get civil partnerships but straight people won’t. I never used to think this was a real issue, as I thought registry office weddings were the equivalent, but apparently they are not. Other countries, including Holland, have civil partnerships for straight people, so I can’t see the issue in doing it here. And it would please Peter Tatchell. :).

Equal marriage really must mean equal marriage. The Bill as currently presented seems to deeply flawed and provides any MP even slightly sceptical of it with plenty of reasons to vote against. What an absolute travesty.

So, Maria Miller, what are you going to do about it?

UPDATE:I can’t quite understand why but some people seem to have deduced from this that I am against gay marriage. Not a bit of it. I am fully in favour. But it really must be equal marriage.

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UK Politics

Is David Cameron Just an Enoch Powell Tribute Band?

25 Jan 2013 at 22:26

  • Courtesy of Grant Tucker’s book collection!

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Gossip

The Mystery of Michael Portillo's Continuing Conservative Party Membership

25 Jan 2013 at 21:43

I think Michael Portillo had a rush to the brain on ‘This Week’ last night. He denied absolutely that he was still a member of the Conservative Party.

How very odd then that a senior party source maintains his membership is still active and that he diligently renews it every year by direct debit.

#justsaying

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Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: Michelle Obama

25 Jan 2013 at 16:23

We all believe that no one who serves our country should have to fight for a job once they return home.

Michelle Obama, 1 Jan 2013

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UK Politics

Why I am Falling Out of Love With Politics

25 Jan 2013 at 15:40

Last night I watched the second half of Question Time and then This Week. Midway through this week I began to realise how little political to-ing and fro-ing means to me any longer. I tweeted that maybe I was seeing politics and politicians in a similar way to the general public for the first time. I suppose it’s been a process that has been going on for two years, ever since I decided to abandon any future attempts to get into Parliament.

I think doing my LBC show has also been an influence. Watching Question Time I wanted to throw something at the screen. And it wasn’t just Ben Bradshaw’s constant hypocrisy that got me going. The journalist, Angela Epstein, who I can’t say had ever come across my radar before, was just vacuous in the extreme. Nothing worth saying at all. Ian Hislop did his usual playing to the audience, Anna Soubry was just plain irritating, constantly appearing to talk down to the audience without actually meaning to, and Ming Campbell did his best to be above the fray but it didn’t quite work. But the reason this programme has gone down hill is that its host, David Dimbleby seems increasingly to think the programme is all about him. It isn’t. And his constant attempts to mirror a tabloid journalist and paint all politicians in a negative light are becoming just plain tiresome.

This Week wasn’t much better. Alan Johnson spent the whole programme trying to avoid taking a position on anything. He ought to be reminded that’s what he’s there to do. Portillo sat there loftily, talking down to us and subliminally assuring us that he knows best about everything. Even when his powers of prediction were exposed as risible by Andrew Neil, he didn’t even have the good grace to admit he had been totally wrong. He just sneered at Cameron, as he usually does. Neil Hamilton’s film was risible and the ensuing debate with Shirley Williams was mind numbing.

Laura Kuenssberg was the only bright spot in 45 minutes of utter tedium. At the end of it, I just thought to myself that maybe the reason I grew so irritated by both programmes was because I just don’t appreciate politics in the way that I used to. Maybe others in the Westminster Village still think these programmes rule the political roost and are captivated by them. I no longer am. But it’s not just them. I watch PMQs and I find the level of debate, if you can call it that, embarrassing. I watch political interviews with cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers and despair of the vacuity of the questions and answers. Perhaps I now understand what most voters think of the same things.

It’s also the standard of political journalism and comment that turns me off. Take this morning’s comments about the fact that David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson spent some of last night in a Swiss pizza restaurant. Here’s the Mirror’s James Lyons…

And there were plenty more like that. Are people seriously saying that politicians should hide themselves away in their hotel rooms? I suppose James Lyons would have then made a fuss about the room service bill. Just imagine if they had been out in a posh Davos restaurant.

Our public life is being corrupted by a permanent sneer and cynical outlook by those who report on it. Yes, to some extent it’s the fault of those who serve in public life. The trouble is that the way politics is now reported in the print and broadcast media, it’s a wonder anyone wants to go into it. And this is why increasingly we will get a political class made up of geeks and obsessives. Normal people, people who actually want to do good, will turn their efforts elsewhere, and who can blame them?

I look at some of my friends who got elected in 2010 and wonder what’s happened to them. Several of them are so far up their own arses that they don’t even bother to reply to text messages any longer. Now that one or two have becomes ministers they’re so very important (at least in their own eyes) that they forget about those who helped them get there.

I remarked to someone a few weeks ago that in 25 years of being involved in politics, I could probably count on the fingers of two hands the number of real friends I have made in the political arena. That perhaps says just as much about me as it does others, but It just shows how transient political relationships can be. People befriend you when they think you can be useful to them. As soon as you can’t, they drop you like a stone. Perhaps I have done it myself. I’d like to think not, but I can’t look myself in the mirror and say it categorically hasn’t happened.

Politics is like a drug. It’s very difficult to pull yourself away from something which is capable of giving you the equivalent of a massive adrenaline rush. I suspect I will never lose an interest in politics. But I know now that I am falling out of love with it.

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