Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gove’

Cameron’s GCSE history fail as he gets facts on Churchill wrong at spring forum

16/03/2013, 01:05:20 PM

Oh dear. What would Michael Gove say? In David Cameron’s speech today to Conservative spring forum, he reaches back into the annals of history to describe how past Tory leaders have supported aspiration.

The speech has been briefed to the media as being about an “aspiration nation” and given its  to the Tory grassroots, who better to cite than Churchill? The prime minister states,

“Great Conservatives down the generations have put those ladders in place. When Churchill invented the labour exchanges that helped people into work. When Macmillan built new homes. When Thatcher fired up enterprise so people could start their own businesses.”

Except when Winston Churchill legislated to create labour exchanges in 1909, he was of course a Liberal MP and President of the Board of Trade in one of the great progressive governments of the last century.

A government that was opposed tooth and nail by er…the Conservatives. A government whose plans for pensions and social insurance in that year’s budget were repeatedly defeated by the House of Lords prompting a constitutional crisis, at the behest of er…the Conservatives.

On the specific issue of labour exchanges, Tory grandee and MP, F.E.Smith, summed up the views of many of his colleagues in 1909,

“Not only will the establishment of labour exchanges not add to employment, but if they are to serve the only purpose which they can economically serve the necessary consequence of their establishment must be actually to diminish employment.”

David Cameron doesn’t  just get his facts wrong, in his speech he is attempting to re-write history, implying by rhetorical sleight of hand the Tories were in favour of an agenda that they actually viscerally opposed.

Following on from his rebuke by the UK Statistics authority for confusing the terms debt and deficit, and his upbraiding by the Office for Budget Responsibility for his misleading words on the impact of austerity on the deficit, this is just the latest in a series of events where David Cameron has been caught out being economical with the truth.

The teaching of history in schools is an issue particularly close to Michael Gove’s heart. Eighteen months ago he described it’s importance in developing the abilities of GCSE students  saying,

“One of the skills I would like to see students develop is the ability to argue and separate falsities from the truth.”

Perhaps a little chat with the prime minister after the next cabinet would be in order.

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Gove’s narcissistic dogma 1 – Evidence 0

28/01/2013, 08:57:26 AM

by Kevin Brennan

Last week’s announcement by Michael Gove that AS Levels would no longer count towards an A Level grade was a classic example of making policy based on dogma not evidence.

Back in 2010 Michael Gove announced his intention to get rid of AS Levels. They were originally introduced to give students a chance to study a broader range of subjects in year 12 (the old lower 6th). Students could decide to specialise in year 13 by dropping one or two subjects, but still have a good AS qualification to show for it. If they carried on, their AS mark could contribute to the final A Level grade in that subject.

One objection to AS Levels was that because of modular testing students in year 12 faced exams very early on, before having matured sufficiently. This was dealt with by getting rid of such early assessments which also discouraged entering early assessments just to ‘bank’ a mark. This was a reasonable reform to AS.

But Michael Gove was left with a problem that despite his stated intention to scrap AS Levels altogether, it was clear that he had very little support for his plans.

The right thing to do would have been to retain AS Levels as modified, but instead he has chosen to render them largely irrelevant by removing their ability to act as a building block to A-Level.


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Finland offers Labour an education model to challenge Gove’s retreat into the past

20/09/2012, 02:59:38 PM

by Robin Thorpe

Regardless of whether Michael Gove had any influence on the recent GCSE results, education should be a major area of debate between the incumbent government and a Labour party aspiring to reduce inequality. Yet the parliamentary Labour party has been remarkably quiet on this issue and seems content to pick fault only with the way that Gove handled the exams debacle.

What I would like to see the PLP do is challenge the coalition on issues that are of real importance to the full spectrum of stakeholders within our public education system; for example a clear definition of what education is for and transparently defined objectives for any reforms that are undertaken.

Let us first consider the issue of examinations and so-called grade inflation; in 2010 the Cambridge Assessment Group reported that

“we found there were different challenges associated with different types of exam but that these are related to the changing purposes of examinations, not a simplistic matter of ‘too easy’ or ‘too hard’.”

The Cambridge Assessment Report was undertaken by a large group of educators, inspectors and assessors over a period of months and considered, amongst other things, the issue of ‘grade drift’.

The report states that “grade drift probably existed, although so many confounding factors made it difficult to isolate and identify. How this might have come about was extensively discussed.

One cause was the constant change to qualifications. Tim Oates suggested that

if you effect continual or inappropriate and unnecessary change of qualifications, it makes holding standards over time extremely difficult”.

Yet despite this report Gove has proceeded to attempt to further modify examinations without first forming a cohesive plan of what and how is to be reformed. One of the first acts of Gove as secretary of state was to cancel the issue of the new (skills-based) national curriculum that was written under the previous government. He then also removed the modular element of GCSEs; a decision that may have been made for good reason but it goes counter to the findings regarding grade drift.  Gove’s most recent proposed change is of course the E-Bacc; a sure-fire way of ceasing grade drift – change the qualification.

The review of the national curriculum now being undertaken is to be welcomed, although I fear I won’t agree with the results. The signs are that a renewed emphasis is to be placed on examinations instead of coursework and that these examinations are to be harder. In Finland, the top-performing European nation in the PISA results, the emphasis on testing has been much reduced; no external testing takes place and schools are free to set their own syllabus from a very simple national core curriculum.


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The night Michael Gove nearly joined the Labour party

21/06/2012, 06:44:41 PM

As Michael Gove reads the headlines tonight he can bask in the glow of a day’s work well done. He ingratiated himself with the Daily Mail with a proper Tory exclusive, serenaded his party’s frothing right-wing and sent the Lib Dems into apoplexies of public rage.

All with a policy that neither he nor anyone in government seriously thinks is going to become law. An entirely confected debate with no other purpose than to help define Michael Gove as the true blue, king over the water.

Which it has.

But it was not always this way. Word reaches Uncut of a very different Gove.

It was October 1997, Conservative conference. The mood was one of shell-shocked despondency. The howling wind and rain of Blackpool matched the demeanour of many of those going through the motions in the Winter Gardens that year.

But for some, things weren’t quite so glum.

Michael Gove for one. He was there, working for the Times, gambolling from reception to bar to reception, fizzing with enthusiasm.

He had seen the light. The light had a name. And that name was Tony.

Gove was full of the joys of the previous week’s Labour conference and the sainted leader of New Labour. He luxuriated in the company of Labour lobbyists who had worked for the party in the recent campaign, quizzing them on their campaign methods and the political faith of their master.

In one exchange at a reception, Gove laid bare his personal theological struggle.


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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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Michael Gove, Nelson Mandela and the King James bible

05/12/2011, 08:23:09 AM

by Stephanie Peacock

It is often said that the only way a politician can leave a legacy is to name a building after himself. I say “him” because, other than a hundred Conservative clubs in the provincial towns of England, I cannot think of a building that carries the name of a former female politician. There is the Centre Pompidou in France, The Reagan National airport. You can’t walk through a Labour borough in London without finding at least one tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Michael Gove, though, got an ‘A’ for originality last week. Michael has created a whole new genre of political legacy. Without any sense of irony, Mr Gove has personalised his very own version of the bible. For ever more, the Michael Gove King James bible will be a sought after piece of ebay memorabilia.

Of course it was Mrs Thatcher who once said that “No-one would remember the good samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well”.  Of all of Mrs Thatcher’s biblical quotes, this is the one that most showed her to be out of touch. The Michael Gove King James bible may be the education secretary’s good samaritan moment: an act of political messaging that spectacularly misses the mark.

Pupils and parents will see this for what it: a misguided and expensive piece Govian spin. According to reports, the gesture could cost the taxpayer £375,000. At a time when dinner ladies are striking over their pension increases this is an appalling piece of mixed messaging. There are a lot of dinner ladies you could make happy with £375,000.


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Monday News Review

29/08/2011, 06:59:45 AM

Ed’s new strategy

Labour is plotting a strategy to portray David Cameron as an old-style traditional Tory – despite warnings it will leave the party at odds with the public on crime, immigration and welfare. A leaked copy of a report ordered by Ed Miliband says Labour should launch a campaign to brand the Prime Minister as being ‘recognisably right-wing’. It accuses the Conservatives of taking ‘major strides back to their ideological roots’ since the election and points to the ‘increasingly shrill language the Tories are using as they vacate the centre ground’. In an analysis that will dismay senior Blairites in the party, the report suggests the Conservatives are too right-wing on crime, immigration and welfare – all areas where polling suggests the public would like to see even tougher policies. – Daily Mail

Labour is developing a new strategy to paint David Cameron as an old-style, traditional Tory, according to confidential documents obtained by the Observer, as the parties prepare to do battle during the coming conference season. The opposition believes the prime minister has abandoned the centre ground in recent months to adopt a more orthodox conservative stance on issues such as law and order, immigration and welfare. They are now set to launch a concerted campaign to brand Cameron as a “recognisably rightwing” leader in a move that will inevitably inflame political debate. The creation of the strategy follows reports last month that Cameron had polled negatively for the first time, with more people saying that the prime minister was doing a bad job than those backing him. The two-and-half-page paper written by the MP Shaun Woodward, a former Tory frontbencher and now head of Labour’s anti-Tory attack unit, and circulated among senior Labour officials, lays bare the areas where the opposition now believes Cameron is vulnerable. – the Guardian

David Cameron is to be depicted as an old-fashioned Tory in a new advertising campaign that is currently being developed by the Labour party, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The campaign is being prepared into the crucial conference season, and the left are beginning to believe that Cameron has left the safe middle ground on issues such as law and order. Recent polls show that the approval rates of the incumbent Prime Minister in the Coalition government have plummeted. More people now disapprove of Cameron in the role than those who continue to support his leadership. There are also criticisms in a two-and-a-half-page document by anti-Tory campaigners that Cameron has abandoned the ‘compassionate conservatism’ stance that secured his party votes in May 2010. Leading policies, such as environmental affairs and preserving the National Health Service, have been ‘sidelined’ in favour of more traditional Conservative priorities. –

Free schools steam ahead

Twenty-four “free schools” are to open next month, the government has announced. The schools – state-funded and set up by teachers, charities, education experts and parents – are spread throughout the country but mainly concentrated in deprived areas with poor records of academic achievement. They have the same legal status as academies and do not have to follow the national curriculum, giving them more freedom than local authority schools. The Department for Education has confirmed that funding for all 24 schools has been signed and agreed. Under the coalition’s plans, the schools will also be able to prioritise the most disadvantaged children in their school admissions arrangements. – the Guardian

Some of the ‘free schools’ are existing schools that are taking up ‘free’ status. These include the Maharishi School, in Lancashire, which stresses the importance of yoga. A particularly vocal enthusiast of the ‘free school’ system is the journalist, Toby Young, who will be setting up his own school in West London. Young’s will have an academically rigorous curriculum, with an emphasis on Latin. Five different faith groups will be getting the chance to run their own state-financed schools. These include the first state-financed Sikh school, two Jewish primary schools, a Hindu school, a Hare Krishna School, and a Church of England school. The capital cost of setting up the 24 schools will range from £110m to £130m. They are a flagship policy from Conservative education policy. However, so far, only 32 of the 323 applications have been approved. – Huffington Post

You didn’t need an enquiry to tell you that

He went from hero to villain as the “Cleggmania” which swept Britain before last year’s election gave way to protests against his role in the Coalition Government. And now the Liberal Democrats have owned up to an uncomfortable truth: that targeted attacks on their leader, Nick Clegg, by political opponents are damaging the party’s electoral fortunes. An official internal inquiry into why the Lib Dems did so badly in this year’s local elections has pointed the finger at advertising campaigns such as one which portrayed the politician as “Cleggzilla”, trampling over public services. The Cleggzilla posters were funded by trade unions opposed to the Coalition’s cuts. Whilst some might argue that it is the job of political campaigners to criticise their opponents, the Lib Dems have cried foul, branding the attacks as “personal and vicious”. The complaint, in a report which will be presented to delegates at the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham next month, risks reopening a public debate into Mr Clegg’s state of mind. Since he became Deputy Prime Minister last year he has brushed aside suggestions that he is “fragile” and suffering from stress. – the Telegraph

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Sunday News Review

12/06/2011, 05:51:37 AM

The real meaning of a U-turn

Education secretary Michael Gove has been accused of creating schoolsfor the middle classes after it was revealed that more than a third of his “free schools” will open in the most affluent areas. The government promised to provide all children with “access to the kind of education only the rich can afford” when it launched the policy of allowing parents to set up schools free from local authority control. However, an analysis of the 32 free schools set to open in the next academic year shows 13 are in the most affluent half of England with only two in the 10% most deprived areas and 10 in the 20% most deprived areas, as ranked by the government’s English Indices of Multiple Deprivation, 2010. Less than a fifth of them are opening in the north of England, while half are set to open in the south and southeast. – the Guardian

Michael Gove said they were “accelerating the pace of reform” and the review was needed because of the growth in academies. Councils provide support services such as special needs education for state schools, but not academy schools. Ministers had said the grant to provide such services would be cut by £148m this year and £265m next year. Mr Gove told the BBC some Labour local authorities were “a bit unhappy” about the pace of reform, but “the truth is at the moment we’re actually providing funding to local authorities and to schools for the same service”. The education secretary said they had to make sure the taxpayer “is not paying twice”. Labour says the decision shows changes are being pushed through too quickly. “This is the third time in a year that Michael Gove has had to U-turn under the threat of legal action,” shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said. “And the reason that it keeps happening is that he is railroading his policies through without proper consultation, without listening to parents, to teachers, to local councillors.” – This Day

Where do we go from here?

Before Ed Miliband appointed Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor, he consulted Tony Blair. Miliband, who has grown close to Blair since becoming leader, wanted to know what the former Prime Minister thought about the move. Would it just lead to a rerun of the Blair-Brown years, with the Chancellor destabilising his boss? Straight after winning the leadership, Miliband made a deliberate choice not to make Balls Shadow Chancellor. He feared that if he did, it would make it harder for him to chart a new course on the economy. But with Alan Johnson, the man Miliband had appointed, resigning because of family matters, the Labour leader had to decide whether to risk open hostilities with Balls by snubbing him again. They have tried to copy the successful Cameron-Osborne relationship by merging their two offices, as the Tory pair did in opposition. But Balls has maintained a room of his own elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster and the two staffs remain far more distinct than those of Cameron and Osborne. – Daily Mail

I am here to defend Ed Balls. The documents published last week are valuable primary sources for contemporary historians, but they do not prove that he was a plotter. There is no email there to Labour MPs frustrated by Blair’s failure to recognise their ability, such as Chris Bryant and Sion Simon, saying: “What about writing a letter to TB to tell him that the game is up?” We know that there was a plot, because Bryant, Simon and 13 others wrote that letter in September 2006, and one minister – Tom Watson – and seven parliamentary private secretaries resigned. We know, too, that Gordon Brown was responsible for it, (a) because he could have stopped it and (b) because it is completely obvious. I have always assumed that Balls knew all about it, and discussed it with Brown and other members of the Stable and Orderly Transition Task Force, but that he did not telephone, text or email possible resigners himself. – John Rentoul, the Independent

They still don’t get it

The row over David Cameron’s ditching of a high-profile female candidate flared up again last night amid claims that a senior Tory official described her pregnancy as a ‘disability’. A furious letter written by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, complaining about his sister Annunziata’s exclusion from the Conservatives’ list of parliamentary candidates, condemns as ‘contemptible’ a remark allegedly made to Ms Rees-Mogg at a meeting last week. In the letter to 10 Downing Street, Mr Rees-Mogg says that the official, Giles Inglis-Jones, told Annunziata – who was eight months pregnant at the time of her crucial selection meeting in February – that ‘he knows all about pregnancy as he has five children’. Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: ‘From my own experience a man’s role and knowledge of pregnancy is somewhat different from a woman’s’, before adding lethally: ‘It was also suggested that Annunziata could have ticked the box for “disability”, but I feel most reasonable people would call that a contemptible suggestion. – Daily Mail

Clegg boasts as Tories grimace

Nick Clegg last night boasted that he had forced David Cameron to ditch plans to bring more ­private firms into the NHS. The Lib-Dem leader’s allies claimed victory saying the PM had performed a U-turn on key parts of his unpopular revamp of the health service after their protests. Mr Clegg’s supporters said Mr Cameron had agreed to rule out any competition in the NHS “based on price” after critics warned it would pave the way for the ­backdoor privatisation of the NHS. But the boast will infuriate Tory MPs and further humiliate Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. – Daily Mirror

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Monday News Review

23/05/2011, 06:45:47 AM

How many re-launches do you need?

David Cameron will today reaffirm his commitment to the institution of marriage and the importance to children of stable relationships. He will accuse the last, Labour government on focusing too much on ploughing money into children’s services, without appreciating that it is stable families who provide the prerequisite for a happy life in adult years. By supporting relationships – preferably within the context of a marriage – the Government will in future put families at the heart of policy making. The Prime Minister’s recommitment to the importance of marriage comes as he uses a major speech to attempt once again to define his crusade of the Big Society. – Daily Telegraph

Strong families are the foundation of a better Britain, David Cameron will say today in a fourth attempt to revive his Big Society project. The Prime Minister will return to the pro-family agenda he championed as leader of the Opposition, arguing that good parents teach their children about responsibility. In a major speech, Mr Cameron will say he is ‘pro-commitment’, adding: ‘I back marriage, and I think it’s a wonderfully precious institution.’ The Prime Minister’s speech is meant as a riposte to critics, including many in his own party, who say the Big Society vision is ill-defined and unworkable.  In his fourth attempt to relaunch the project, Mr Cameron will attempt to broaden its aims beyond encouraging more volunteering and charitable work. – Daily Mail

Following an admission by the minister responsible for running the big society project that the government had failed to explain it, the prime minister will say the initiative runs through all the government’s public service reforms. It also explains why he wants to build a “stronger society” with families at its heart. Cameron will say: “You learn about responsibility and how to live in harmony with others. Strong families are the foundation of a bigger, stronger society. This isn’t some romanticised fiction. It’s a fact. There’s a whole body of evidence that shows how a bad relationship between parents means a child is more likely to live in poverty, fail at school, end up in prison or be unemployed in later life.” Downing Street acknowledges that it has struggled to explain to voters the big society, the central theme of last year’s general election campaign. It is intended to devolve power and to foster a greater sense of responsibility by loosening the role of the state. – the Guardian

Ed warns of ‘a jilted generation’, whatever that is

A generation is growing up in Britain which is in danger of being unable to afford to buy their own homes until they are middle-aged, Ed Miliband is to warn. In a keynote speech at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Labour leader will accuse David Cameron of betraying the young – saying they are being forced to bear an unfair share of the Government’s cuts. He will dismiss the Prime Minister’s claim that the Government is taking drastic action to tackle the deficit in order to ensure that young people growing up now are not left to shoulder the debts of their parents. “The Jam generation” of politicians – like Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne who grew up listening to the iconic band in the 1980s and now dominate government – is, he will say, in danger of creating the “jilted generation”. – Daily Mirror

Shrinking wages and higher debts will force today’s children to wait until their 40s before they can buy their first property, Ed Miliband will warn on Monday. Days before he marries Justine Thornton, the Labour leader will illustrate his fears for future generations by talking publicly for the first time about his children. Miliband’s speech at the Royal Festival Hall in London is designed to develop what he is calling a “national mission” to confront the government’s failings. He believes David Cameron is exacerbating problems such as shrinking or stagnant wages by making deficit reduction his main priority. “I am worried – and every parent should be worried – about what will happen to our children in the coming decades, about what the future holds for us, our children and our country, about what sort of place Britain will become.” – the Guardian

Alex’s big day

Oil revenues will be top of First Minister Alex Salmond’s agenda today when he meets Conservative Chancellor George Osborne as part of talks with UK ministers over the next 48 hours. Mr Salmond is set to present his list of demands to the Chancellor as well as Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, before meeting Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tomorrow. He is to call for changes to the increase on oil revenues announced in the Budget to fund the fuel stabiliser. The £10 billion tax grab by Mr Osborne has, according to oil companies and the SNP, put 10,000 jobs in Scotland at risk with companies choosing to invest elsewhere. – the Scotsman

He will take time out after talks with Chancellor George Osborne to address the Foreign Press Association, before meeting Energy Secretary Chris Huhne this evening. Tomorrow he will have wide-ranging discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. A Government spokesman outlined the agenda: “The meetings are expected to cover a range of issues including: how the UK Government’s Scotland Bill legislation can be improved to strengthen the Scottish Parliament’s economic powers; Scotland’s £200 million Fossil Fuel Levy funds; electricity market reforms; and industry fears over the recent North Sea oil and gas tax hike and the Scottish Government’s alternative proposals which would protect exploration and development activity.” Mr Salmond said: “The priority of the new Scottish Government, for which we carry the overwhelming mandate of the Scottish people, is to ensure we strengthen the Parliament’s ability to build sustainable economic growth and create jobs and future prosperity from our nation’s great resources”. – Daily Herald

Gove’s ‘dog eat dog’ education plan

Restrictions on the expansion of the most popular state schools will be lifted, allowing them to take on more pupils, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has disclosed. The move will mean that more parents will win places for children at their first choice of school, Mr Gove said. However, it is likely to increase the financial pressures on struggling schools because funding is determined by the number of pupils they have. The changes, which will apply to all state schools, will be outlined in a revised school admissions code to be published this summer. The Government suspects that local authorities sometimes prevent good schools from raising their intake because it becomes harder to sustain weaker schools when pupil numbers drop significantly. – Daily Telegraph

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Saturday News Review

02/04/2011, 06:59:02 AM

AV campaign heats up

David Cameron has stepped up his attack on the alternative vote backed by Nick Clegg, describing the system as crazy and reminding voters that his deputy once regarded the reform as a “miserable little compromise”. He did so as the yes campaign prepared today for a celebrity-backed launch and a poster campaign beginning on Monday designed to argue the voting changes will make MPs work harder by needing to win 50% of their constituency’s support. The comedian and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard and European and world championship gold medal winner Kriss Akabusi today launch the yes campaign, with the referendum five weeks away.Other celebrities to come out in favour of the yes campaign include broadcaster Jonathan Ross, actors Nick Hoult and David Schneider, and comedian Chris Addison. – the Guardian

David Cameron last night condemned plans to scrap Britain’s historic first-past-the-post voting system as “crazy”. In his most passionate intervention yet in the electoral reform debate, Prime Minister David Cameron rubbished the proposed Alternative Vote system backed by Labour and the Lib Dems as “undemocratic” and a recipe for a “politicians’ fix”. And he risked worsening tensions within the coalition Government by mocking Nick Clegg’s switch to supporting AV. The Deputy PM had called it a “miserable little compromise” before the last election.Daily Express

‘Miserable excuse’ of an EMA replacement

Listening to Education Secretary Michael Gove on his cut-price replacement for the education maintenance allowance, I nearly burst a blood vessel. It wasn’t so much his plans, which mean thousands of students aged 16-19 being deprived of  state support, but the fact he said: “We’ve got to fix our broken education system.” What an insult to the army of teachers and students whose work and dedication over the past 13 years have seen more schools than ever labelled “outstanding”, more pupils passing five GCSEs at grades A*-C and more students going on to higher education. You haven’t done your homework Mr Gove. Go and stand in the corner. – Daily Mirror

The Government announcement this week of a £180 million bursary scheme to replace the scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) demonstrates that it is beginning to realise its mistake in cutting support for the most disadvantaged students (“Rethink in cash help for students”, Mercury, March 29). However, what the Government has offered is totally inadequate. For example, 75 per cent of students at Gateway College, in Hamilton, were eligible to receive EMA. Under the new system, they estimate that only 40 per cent will be able to receive any financial assistance. With nearly two million young people in the UK not in employment, education or training it is vital that the young people of Leicesterare given every opportunity to improve their social mobility. – Leicester Mercury

Boris Johnson has been in talks with the education secretary, Michael Gove, after calling on his Tory colleague to review the government’s policy on financial support for poor 16-19 year old students. The mayor said he fears young Londoners from low-income backgrounds could drop out of education altogether and see their life chances “radically diminished” as a result of a cut in funding. Johnson became the most senior Conservative figure to speak out against ministers’ decision to replace the £560m education maintenance allowance (EMA) budget with £180m for the new 16-19 bursaries, when he appeared on Question Time on Thursday night. – the Guardian

David ‘Keys’, sorry Willetts whips up a gender storm

Feminism has set back the cause of social mobility by decades, a senior minister has claimed. Universities Minister David Willetts said feminist policies had inadvertently halted the improvement in the life chances of working-class men and  widened the gap between rich and poor. He said feminism was the ‘single biggest factor’ in the decline in social mobility since the 1960s,  adding: ‘Feminism has trumped egalitarianism.’ – Daily Mail

The countries with the highest levels of social mobility are those with the highest levels of gender equality. David Willetts’s claim that feminism is to blame for the decline in social mobility has caused no shortage of outrage this morning. His thesis is that middle class women, who otherwise would have been housewives, snapped up university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to working class men. But to my eyes, there’s a basic empirical problem with his claim. All of the available data on the subject shows that the countries with the highest levels of social mobility are those with the highest levels of gender equality. The 2010Global Gender Gap Report, which ranks countries according to how well they “divide resources and opportunities amongst male and female populations”, puts Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden at the top, with Britain lagging behind in 15th place (a fact that suggests, pace Willetts, that the “feminist revolution” has some way to go). – New Statesman

Anger as NHS reforms steps up

The constituency offices of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley have been daubed with graffiti by anti-NHS reform activists. Cambridgeshire Police are investigating the incident at Hardwick last night when red paint was thrown at the building and “Hands off our NHS Tory scum” written on a wall. Protesters left a letter demanding to be treated as “patients, not consumers” and said: “We are taking action to fight this attack on the welfare state.” The incident happened as unions today stepped up protests against the Health and Social Care Bill which they say will lead to the NHS being privatised. – Daily Mirror

He still hasn’t got on that bike

Lord Tebbit insists on adding a tie to his outfit. “I can’t have a go at David Cameron and the bloody tieless and gormless lot and then not wear one in the photo.” He turned 80 on Tuesday, but he will not let his standards slip. Did the Prime Minister send him a card? “No he didn’t,” he says with an impish smile. “But then I didn’t send him one either.” He says he is more of a Conservative than David Cameron. The Big Society is just a “buzzword. It’s a logo looking for a product”. He wants to turn the party back to being nationalist and jokes that he would like it to go into coalition with the UK Independence Party. Chuckle. Lord Tebbit has written to the Prime Minister several times about issues, and while he always gets a reply, “sometimes I have had to give him a reminder to”. By contrast, when he wrote to Nick Clegg before the election — to tell him he how much he agreed with the necessity to raise the threshold of income tax — “I had a nice letter back”. As a joke I ask if he has more admiration for Mr Clegg than Mr Cameron, and am astonished when he says, “Yes, in a way, because I think he has pushed his agenda quite hard. I think Clegg is probably more politically motivated than Cameron.” Damning for them both. – Daily Telegraph

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