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Showing posts from June, 2013

Iran's Election Requires Positive US Response

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When Iran last held an election – four years ago, as its constitution demands – protests greeted the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmahdinejad which went on for days and even led to some expectation in the West that a long awaited “green revolution” might be at hand.The U.S., under its relatively new and apparently liberal president, played a careful role, keeping public comments low-key in order not to further inflame a clearly delicate situation.President Obama was clear that there was to be no US intervention, and he faced a predictable round of right-wing criticism for his temperance.
Yet there is a case for seeing Mr.Obama’s earlier restraint as a necessary factor in this year’s victory of a would-be reformer in Iran.Using the voting booth – something western audiences could sometimes be forgiven for thinking that Iran doesn’t possess – the Iranians have now given their presidency to Hassan Rouhani, a reform minded cleric.
Mr. Rouhani may seem an unlikely reformer, and there are those…

Betraying the Bright

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How often is it possible to bemoan the same problem and consistently avoid the obvious solution?Plenty, it would appear, if the problem is how to support bright children in the state education system.
Ofsted have today reported that thousands of bright youngsters are failing to achieve their potential in secondary schools.They have issued some shocking figures.Take English.Of the children who achieved Level 5 in English (the highest level) in their primary schools and went on to the standard non-selective secondary school, 62% failed to gain a grade A or A* in the subject at GCSE.Even taking into account the natural decline in learning that some children experience in the secondary school years, that is a lamentable figure.
More than a quarter of previously high attaining pupils failed to gain a grade B or A in Maths or English.The bright, eager primary school pupil with ability to nurture is being betrayed by what Ofsted have described as a “culture of low expectations” in secondary…

Conservatism and the State

Peter Oborne is a must-read journalist and author.  His books on modern politics - "The Triumph of the Political Class" and "The Rise of Political Lying" - were compelling indictments of the modern polity from an erudite, informed and maverick observer, while his most recent book, "A Dangerous Delusion", bravely and honourably seeks to correct years of misinformation about the threat of a nuclear Iran.

But Oborne is first and foremost a conservative who understands conservatism better than most of its professional practitioners in parliament, and his recent Telegraph article is a masterly survey of what's right and what's wrong with the Cameron government.  Oborne understands the Conservative relationship with the state, when he writes:

"Conservatives understand that there is a great deal to be said for leaving things alone. They respect the wisdom of the past, the necessity to preserve inherited institutions, and the rule of law. 

This…

One Nation Conservatism

Further to the rather frustrated post below, I did blog a slightly more detailed response to Damian Green's Macmillan Lecture on the TRG's Egremont blog.

One Nation Conservatism's Crisis

It's come to something when the best defence that can be mustered of One Nation Conservatism is that it encourages aspiration by stopping people living on benefits.  I'm not sure if that had been the limit of its inspiration it would ever have made the extraordinary impact it did from Disraeli to Heath, but that seems to have been the message from the TRG's Macmillan event on Tuesday evening.  There was a definite desire amongst some of the audience for a more forthright defence of One Nation than was available from MP Damian Green, and one of the most eloquent interventions reminded us of the still pitiable existence of a substantial group of marginalised people in poor areas of the country, prompting the question of what Conservatism has to offer them.

One Nation Conservatism was once a clarion call for action.  Now it seems to simper in the face of neo-liberalism.  When Ken Clarke finally goes, I do wonder if there will be anyone left still bothered to wave the flag fo…

Another Doctor Needed

Not for the NHS, of course, but for the sci-fi perennial Dr Who.  As a not-quite-obsessive but nonetheless keen fan over the years (a good bulk of its 50 year run alas!) Matt Smith's announced departure has of course prompted excitement and anticipation.  A few musings on his successor on the other blog.

MPs We Deserve?

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They've not got much of a reputation at the moment, these MPs we send to Westminster.  And the fact that the lobbying scandal has engulfed three Lords and only one Commons member in its current round doesn't seem to have helped the elected lot one jot.

Now the government, in its customarily ham-fisted way, has tried to use the scandal for the cynical purpose of a bit of anti-union legislation.  Ian Dunt, editor of politics.co.uk, called this a "disreputable" move.  Rafael Behr was even more scathing in his rather lyrical tweet:


But perhaps most refreshingly came the reaction from Tory MP and certified maverick Douglas Carswell.  He questioned whether the lobbying scandal had really generated concerns about trade unionism, as well as asking whether or not it was the lobbyists or the lawmakers who required a bit more oversight.  Take a look at this series of his recent tweets, and then remind yourself that he's an MP:


Carswell - along with MEP chum Dan Hannan - is…