Posts Tagged ‘Wogan’

Vox Political on IDS Attack on Workers’ Rights on the Sunday Politics

May 16, 2016

One of the pieces Mike put up yesterday was about IDS’ appearance on Andrew Neil’s The Sunday Politics. The man dubbed ‘Brillo Pad’ by Private Eye put the former Minister in Charge of Murdering the Disabled on the spot by asking him if the government would protect workers’ rights if Britain left the EU. At the moment, European workers, including those in Britain, are guaranteed a minimum set of rights under the European Social Charter. Neil asked IDS if the government would retain the Working Time Directive, paid annual leave, maternity pay and protections for equal pay. IDS’ answer was a piece of deliberate obfuscation. He declared that “All of these were accepted by my existing government, the Conservative government, and I believe strongly that there need to be protections for workers. All of these things in a democracy are debatable and debated.” When Neil asked him further if he would support them, he answered that he would, as they stood right now.

Neil then reminded him that he had voted against the Social Charter in 1992, the Working Time Directive in 1996 and the minimum wage in 1997. He then started to bluster about the need to make workers’ rights more flexible.

Mike in his comment on the article notes that

When Iain Duncan Smith says workers’ rights should be “flexible”, he means employers and businesspeople should have the ability to restrict or eliminate those rights.

He does not mean workers should be able to expand their rights.

That’s why he said: “The Working Time Directive of itself gave little or no flexibility to business and to employers at the time [it was introduced].”

That’s why he said: “UK law would protect what we think is best for the workforce” [bolding mine].

Indeed. When Conservatives and Neo-Liberals, like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown talk about labour ‘flexibility’, they mean removing legal protection on the workforce, and making it easier for businesses to lay workers off, pay them as little as possible, or not pay them at all, if they need to retain their services, but don’t have them working all the time, such as the poor souls on zero hours contracts. IDS said that he supported these protections as they stood, but he certainly gave no guarantee for the future. He said that they, like everything else in a democracy, were up for debate. And his lukewarm statement that the Tories would support them as they are now doesn’t count for anything. The Tories have lied and lied again, and Smith himself has been one of the most mendacious of the lot. He has lied so often, and so badly, that I’ve called him ‘Matilda’ after the unlucky heroine of the poem by Hillaire Belloc ‘Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes’. IDS previous opposition to the Social Charter in 1992 shows you why the Leave Campaign really wants to Britain out of the EU. They object to the Social Charter and the Union’s guarantee of some basic rights for workers. IDS wasn’t the only Tory, who voted against the Social Charter. Many others also did. One even appeared in Wogan to state that he had, but that he liked the EU when it had simply been ‘the Common Market’. They have no real objection to trading with the Continent on its rules. What they really object to is European authorities stopping them from turning this country into the Third World sweatshop IDS and the authors of Britannia Unchained so desperately want it to be.

For more information, see the article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/15/duncan-smith-reveals-hope-to-bin-workers-rights-in-on-air-rant/

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Free Universal Secondary Education – Another Policy Originally from Labour and the Unions

March 16, 2016

Michael Sullivan in his book The Development of the British Welfare State (London: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf 1996) gives due credit to the Conservative minister, Rab Butler, for establishing modern secondary education for all after the Second World War. But he also points out that before the War, this was a policy proposed mainly by Labour and the teaching unions. He writes

As early as 1920, attempts were being made at a parliamentary level to move beyond elementary education for all to secondary education for all. A Departmental Committee of the Board of Education, reporting in this year, argued that the sole relevant criteria for entry to secondary education should be ability (an argument to be echoed more than forty years later in relation to Higher Education by the Robbins Committee. This is of course a position which was not inconsistent with the Labour Party’s plans for secondary education, written for the minority Labour government by R.H. Tawney.

That document argued that secondary education should be provided free for all children between the ages of 11 and 16. It further claimed that an education system divided into superior secondary schools and inferior elementary schools was ‘educationally unsound and socially obnoxious’. (Pp. 44-5.)

The Inter-war movement for secondary education seems to have been driven by a de facto ‘triple alliance’ made up of the Labour party, the teaching unions and the wider trade union movement. Although individual actors in this alliance presented at particular conjunctures, policy plans differing in emphasis and recommendations, the common ground in their approaches I, as we will see below, clear. What we will see emerge is a process whereby the political and professional activities of these organisations, while failing to achieve a wider consensus on all of their gaols, accomplished agreement among opinion-formers and policy-makers on the key issue of secondary education.

Between the publication and acceptance of the Hadow Report and the commencement of the Second World War, each of these organisations acted in ways that put compulsory secondary education on the political agenda and kept it there. A critical moment in this process is represented by the publication of plans for education by the Labour party at the end of the 1920s.

In a major policy statement issued on May Day 1929, a month before the party’s election as a minority government, it had noted that the party ‘has always been committed to securing equal education opportunity for every child’. A key part of the process of achieving this goal was introduce ‘facilities for free secondary education at once’. (p.45)

He notes that free places for poor children were provided at grammar schools, but many working class parents were unable to take them up because of the expense of providing school uniforms, a point Ian Hislop also made several years ago in a programme he made on the history of British education.

A similar position had already been adopted by some of the teacher unions. In 1925, anticipating the emphasis on differentiation that the Hadow Report would subscribe to, the Association of Assistant Masters (AMA) had called for the establishment of secondary education for all. though the sort of school that the AMA had in mind was one with multiple biases catered for on one site, rather than the separation of secondary age pupils into different schools, it was in the forefront of educational and political thinking on this policy issue.

In the late 1920s both the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Labour Teachers contributed to this process of setting the policy agenda. Both of these organisations made recommendations that the provision of post-primary education should be in secondary schools for all pupils. Their preference, like that of the AMA, was for multilateral or multibias schools but the policy principle was clear. Secondary schooling should be provided as a compulsory and free part of a state education system. This principle was clear by the teacher unions in evidence they gave to government enquiries into education in the 1930s. (p.46.)

This should serve to refute at least part of the Tories’ claim that the Labour party and the unions are only interested in wrecking education. On the contrary, they wanted it free for all children, not just those of the middle and upper classes, since the 1920s. Of course, there were some radical, ‘loony-left’ teachers in the 1970s and ’80s, who should not have been let near a classroom. But in general, the vast majority of teachers join the profession not to indoctrinate their little charges with ideas about spreading the Revolution, but simply because they want to stand in front of a whiteboard and teach. And those who do it frequently talk about how immensely rewarding it is.

The Tories, however, have used it as a political football, and the teaching unions as a convenient target for the failings of their own horrendous education policies. And I can remember a time in the 1980s when a group of Tory MPs declared that schools should only teach children the very basics – reading, writing and arithmetic, before sending them out into the world. Presumably anything else was not only too expensive, but also too likely to enable children from working and lower middle class backgrounds to compete with the public school boys and girls they felt should be running the country as their right. I can even remember one very Conservative businessman on Wogan, wincing when Terry showed a clip of him as an extreme Right-wing schoolboy declaring that ‘poor people shouldn’t be educated’. Secondary schooling has shown to be too popular, necessary and successful for the Tories to get away easily with destroying it. But university education, by contrast, has been shown to be a different thing.

As for the Tory party’s attitude now towards schools, they are far less interested in giving children a good education than in packaging the education system up as another income stream for their corporate donors. Remember Nikki Morgan blustering away to breakfast TV’s Charlie Stayt and refusing to answer the question when he asked her how many academy school chains had had to be taken back into state management? She didn’t answer the question, just blabbered on about how it would be wrong to leave failing schools in state management. She also can’t answer the simple maths question of what’s six times seven.

So let’s make it clear: one of the reasons children today have a secondary school education at all is because the Labour party and the teaching unions demanded it.