Posts Tagged ‘children’

Of course we need to support those 3,000 Syrian children looking for a home. We helped put them there

27/04/2016, 06:05:27 PM

by Rob Marchant

There are some times when Labour and the Tories divide on party lines, not because merely they are whipped differently – or that they have dark and evil hearts, see Uncuts passim – but simply because they have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

What might seem a no-brainer to ordinary folk – the desperate plight of children alone in the world and bearing no responsibility whatsoever for their fate – becomes a point of immovable principle to a pig-headed Tory party caught in a moment of blind, anti-immigration frenzy. And it is sadly difficult to think this is unconnected to the current turbulence within the party over its perennial, navel-gazing obsession, the EU. Along with Labour MPs, a few noble souls defied the Tory whip, but mostly the vote was a shabby affair on the part of the governing party; the parliamentary equivalent of a mumbled excuse.

No, if you need an example of why this country needs a Labour government, it was given to you on Monday night without too much fuss.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, having suffered a rather difficult few months, largely paralysed over how to respond to its politically disastrous new leadership, finally showed what it was made of and supported Lord Alf Dubs’* amendment. An amendment requiring the government to accept the 3,000 homeless, stateless and unaccompanied Syrian children into the country.

Bravo, PLP. Bravo. It was a good thing you did on Monday night, even if it ended in honourable defeat. We should, however, just remember one, painfully ironic thing.

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Rationally, it shouldn’t matter that Liz Kendall has no kids. But it does.

08/07/2015, 03:18:08 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of all the reasons to support the admirable Yvette Cooper’s Labour leadership bid, her domestic arrangements seem one of the more trivial. Yet, this is apparently enough to seal the deal for Bishop Auckland MP, Helen Goodman.

She wrote an article the other day suggesting she was backing Cooper because “as a working mum, she understands the pressures on modern family life.” (Apparently this is the same Helen Goodman who wrote this passionate feminist critique of the Blue Labour traditional view of women’s roles, criticising its adherents for “harking back to a Janet and John 1950’s era”. But I digress…)

Her piece and its sentiment have been replayed as a coded attack on the childless Liz Kendall, who, ergo, cannot understand ‘the pressures on modern family life.’

Does it matter whether the next Labour leader has children or not? Most reasonable people would suggest not, but Labour politics is awash with identity politics. The party has all-women shortlists for selecting all its political representatives because it is said to matter that ‘our politics looks like the electorate’.

Indeed, not content with addressing the shortfall in female public representation, there are now growing calls for the introduction of BME shortlists for the same reason. (And not content with representation on the grounds of gender and race, Andy Burnham has even raised the issue of the Labour frontbench not having enough regional accents).

And as this leadership contest wends its way through a long, bored summer, there is a strong prospect that two men – Burnham and Tom Watson – will become leader and deputy leader in September, a prospect that bothers some, who see it as a step backwards in terms of gender balance.

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From “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher” to “Michael Gove, toilet snatcher”

28/02/2012, 07:00:05 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

First the Tories gave us “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher”, now a new generation of school children are to become victims of “Michael Gove, toilet snatcher”.

Children’s charity Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence (ERIC) is fighting government plans to axe the requirement for a minimum of one toilet for every 20 pupils with their “Bog Standard” campaign. Cutting standards of sanitation and hygiene for children is part of the department for education’s contribution to the government’s “red tape challenge”. The consultation period on scrapping provisions in the School Premises Regulations (1999) closed in January and the changes will become law in spring.

While Michael Gove has targeted children in his Thatcherite crusade to remove statutory safeguards, teachers’ toilet facilities will remain protected under Workplace Regulations from 1992 which are the responsibility of the department for business, innovation and skills.

School toilets have a big impact on health and well-being. But many schools are failing their pupils with poorly maintained, dirty and smelly facilities.  Research carried out by ERIC and online campaigners Netmums has found a quarter of pupils in England’s schools avoid using toilets because they are so dirty.

The consequences for children of not being able to go to the toilet are severe with issues of soiling and bullying making school life a misery for many. Lobbying parliament on Tuesday, ERIC will target government ministers, MPs and Peers with a petition from angry parents demanding action.

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The Con/Lib government aren’t playing fair by cancelling the playground programme, argues Pat Kane

17/08/2010, 11:41:32 AM

Michael Gove’s cancellation of the playground building programme last week is no surprise to those familiar with the Gradgrindery of his general educational philosophy, history and Latin lessons. But however unlikely its success, it is worth remembering just what a triumph the programme was for the outgoing new Labour administration.

It is true that when the then children’s secretary Ed Balls announced close to christmas in 2007 that over £200 million was to be earmarked to build 3,500 playgrounds, and then followed it through in the subsequent two years, advocates of play were pinching themselves.

New Labour, with various invocations of a renewed work-ethic for the work-shy and a notoriously exacting measurement culture in education, did not seem the most propitious sponsor of the value and benefits of play; oblique, messy and experimental as play is. Ed Balls did not join up his thinking when he rejected the Cambridge Primary Review in 2009, which showed conclusively that an extended period of kindergarten-style play up to the seventh year was the best developmental start for school children.

But there it was; alongside play initiatives from the lottery fund and echoed throughout the devolved parliaments, a commitment to building playgrounds as a step towards rethinking how we regard the activity of children in our public spaces, town and cities. It’s tempting to say that in a similar way to our shifts on climate change the scientific consensus on the health, the cognitive and social benefits of more play in our lives; both for children and adults, was becoming indisputable.

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