The next prime minister…..

The last couple of days my newsfeed has been full of people celebrating the fact that Michael Gove is out of the running for Prime Minister. The majority of those people are teachers and I guess it is understandable that they feel that way. Gove was a very divisive Education Secretary; he spent a lot of his time setting schools and teachers up in competition against each other while the majority of us like to work together in collaboration with one another. He also referred to many of us as “Enemies of Promise”, “The blob” and many other insulting things. This has led to many people despising him and everything he says or does. I take a different approach – I’m certainly not a fan of his and I very much despise some of his policies, but there are others that I approve of. You can read my review of his tenure as Ed Sec here.

That said, two weeks ago the idea of Gove leading this country would have appalled and disgusted me. Today the news that he won’t be leading it has thrown me into a pit of despair. Not because I have any real faith in his ability to create a fairer, more equal society, or a strong economy or anything else, but because he was by far the least worst option.

Now we face the certainty that our next Prime Minister will be either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom, and that terrifies me.

Theresa May has spent her tenure at the home office espousing her feeling that we should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. She has repeatedly lied about issues regarding it and her recent U turn on the topic reeks of an attempt to detoxify her brand. She also voted to repeal the Human Rights Act and voted against making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. Andrea Leadsom’s voting record on these issue is almost identical as are Gove’s.

May has repeatedly voted against equal rights for homosexuals, voting against repealing section 28, voting against allowing homosexual couples to adopt and voting against allowing gay couples to use artificial insemination to conceive. She did manage to vote for equal marriage rights, but given her voting record on other acts of equality it would not be a big jump to assume that this was more down to following the government line as home secretary than being in favour of it.
Leadsom has been absent, or abstained, on all votes pertaining to equal rights, citing that she is against such things as Equal Marriage because she feels that it “hurts Christians” – something that I take exception to. Marriage in this country legal enshrines those involved into a relationship and bestows upon those involved certain legal rights, and no one should be excluded from that. Her argument seems to be that marriage “belongs” to Christians, however the idea of marriage actually pre-dates Christianity – a fact that clearly shows her ideas are nonsensical. Gove on the other hand was consistent in his votes for gay rights, voting for them at every vote he was present for.

All three candidates voted to cut benefits repeatedly, across all sectors. They all voted for lower taxes for the very rich (over £150,000 salary) but for raising regressive taxes =such as VAT and Fuel tax which hit the poorer sections of society much harder than the rich. The all voted together on the rest of the main policies, such as privatising Royal Mail, privatising the health and education services, restricting legal aid etc. I guess you would expect all this as it is a main part of tory ideology! Interestingly Gove and May voted for and against EU integration where Leadsom – “star of the leave campaign” always voted for increasing EU integration. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, none of them supports assisted dying for the terminally ill.

What’s clear is that we are going to have a new prime minister, that prime minister will be a tory and will be a tory who sits considerably further to the right than David Cameron. Cameron moved his part from the realms of Thatcherism towards the “One nation Conservativism” that Disraeli had been fond of. Signs suggest that Gove has an egalitarian side and may have kept this up. May and Leadsom, however, do not. Whichever one wins we will see a lurch back to the right, to Thatcherism.
I think there is a horrible irony that when our new prime minister is in place she will be the second female prime minister, but she will also be the prime minister who is most against equality since Thatcher. The progress this country has made towards equality since 1997 will stop. I just hope that we don’t move backwards.

Sources:

Voting records from – http://www.theyworkforyou.com

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British Values

I’m getting a bit sick of hearing the phrase “British Values”, it’s such a none phrase but it’s seemingly everywhere at the moment. First the government were prescribing that they must be taught in schools, then we were told immigrants must sign up to them and yesterday I saw someone on the news saying that the Muslim faith needs to abide by them. But what even are they? According to ofsted they are:

Democracy
The rule of law
Individual Liberty and Mutual Respect
Tolerance of different faiths and beliefs

Democracy

I’m told that one of the core British Values is democracy. Which is a bit of a joke,  if we’re being honest. We don’t even live in one! We have some element of democracy to our constitutional monarchy but the system isn’t truly democratic.

We have an elected first house, so that’s a good start, but then we have an upper house filled with unelected landed gentry, appointed supporters of this and previous governments and bishops. A true democracy would have a wholly elected second house.

Then there’s the head of state,  again an unelected position that gives the hereditary power to veto any government decision.

If democracy is a true British value, can we have one please?

The rule of law

This is a ridiculous statement. We have laws in this country, but so does almost every other country. We certainly didn’t invent the rule of law and I’d wager that the majority of those in the country who don’t respect the rule of law are brits. This is a noble value,  but not one we can claim a monopoly on.

Individual liberty and mutual respect

So the Conservative government believe that we should teach this as a value and encourage newcomers to our country to buy into it, yet are currently implementing the snoopers charter, the biggest threat to individual liberty ever seen? Am I the only one who smells hypocrisy there?

As for mutual respect,  senior tories have labelled teachers “dealers in despair” and “enemies of promise”. They’ve attacked the workforce and worker’s rights and shown no respect for people in poverty.

I’d agree these are great values to hold, I just  wish the government that preaches them would hold them.

Tolerance of different faith and beliefs

I’ll just let that one sink in. The British government want incoming faiths to change their practices to uphold British Values, and one of those values is to tolerate different faiths and beliefs.

The phrasing of it is ridiculous. Tolerate means to put up with something, surely we should be celebrating the fact that the UK is diverse and multicultural?

I was abhorred recently by the viral video that showed three 13 year olds beating up a 12 year old, but I was more abhorred by the way people used it to try and stir up racial hatred. I’ve worked in schools where the student population was 99% white, and schools that show a roughly even split between white and Asian students. I’ve known this type of attack to happen more than once, and the majority of the time it is white on white. Often over a girl, more often because someone grew up on the wrong, but neighbouring, housing estate.

The sad truth is that many British people won’t tolerate other British people who hold the same faith or belief because they are from somewhere different. The EDL protests against mosques and synagogues show that too many British people don’t hold this so called British Value, the prime ministers recent comments about a return to our “Christian heritage” and the law that bans a Catholic from holding the office of prime minister suggest that as a society we’re far from secure in this British value.

All four of these suggested British Values are fantastic to aspire to, and I’d love to live in a society that upholds them. Unfortunately I don’t,  but I do live in Britain,  so I’m left questioning,  “are they even British Values?”