With the honourable exception of the pupils who have to take their GCSEs in a climate of ill-informed hysteria, there is something for everyone in the Birmingham schools story. It is evidence of too much and too little central control. Religious schools are part of the problem and part of the solution. Responses by politicians tell us something (or nothing) about the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Labour.
On Monday, Ofsted published details of its inspections of 21 schools in and around Birmingham. The schools inspector found five of the schools to be “inadequate”, its lowest of four possible overall ratings. Deploying various euphemisms about a lack of “safeguarding” and failures in “governance”, Ofsted alleges that it discovered evidence that pupils were being exposed to extreme Islamic views, or at the very least, that they were not being encouraged to be tolerant. In some cases it received evidence from teachers who said that incompetent school governors with radical views were playing increasingly influential roles in the running of the school. Read more
The table below shows the latest results from NatCen’s semi-regular polling of English attitudes towards how Scotland should be governed. Only about one in five say Scotland should be independent. I suspect this is more likely to reflect indifference more than a passionate belief in the union. Either way, the results don’t suggest that the coverage of the referendum has led to an increase in sympathy for the Nationalist cause among those living south of the border.
“Devolution will be and is the salvation of the UK”, Tony Blair said in 1999. Fifteen years later, as Scotland prepares to vote in the referendum on its independence, some might say devolution will be turn out to be Britain’s downfall. But that is not stopping politicians from giving the former prime minister’s gambit another try.
On Monday, the Conservatives became the third of the three main Westminster parties to publish proposals for powers that could be devolved to Scotland in the case of a No vote on September 18. In part this is belated realpolitik. Further devolution, rather than independence or the status quo, is not on the ballot paper. In hindsight, Prime Minister David Cameron may come to see that decision as myopic. It is an option that remains popular with Scottish voters, as politicians from both sides know.
The prime minister’s short-termism notwithstanding, the Conservative offer should be seen as part of a response to longer-term trends. Centrifugal forces are undermining British cohesion. Scotland is the most obvious manifestation of this trend but it is also apparent in Wales, Northern Ireland, and don’t forget, England. Read more
I recommend following Election Data; he makes cool maps like this:
It takes data from the latest ICM poll on Scottish independence and applies them to a map of Scotland’s regions. The numbers refer to what share of the electorate say they do not know how they will vote on September 18. There are maps showing the spread of the Yes and No vote on Election Data’s ever-informative Twitter feed.
The highest shares are found in the borders and in Glasgow but as pollsters have tried to explain before, geography isn’t the best way to split the undecided vote. Better to look at a person’s interest in politics (the apathetic being generally more persuadable) and, intriguingly, gender. The latest Ipsos Mori poll showed a 50:50 Yes- No split among men but women voting 2:1 in favour of keeping the union. Read more
Regardless of what Scots vote for in the independence referendum on September 18, Scotland will have more power over its own affairs by the end of the decade. That is the inexorable consequence of the report on devolution published today by the Conservative party, the latest from one of the main Westminster parties into what further powers Holyrood would be granted even if Scots were to vote No. Read more
Two miles from the Newark campaign office of the United Kingdom Independence party, neat rows of white headstones mark the graves of soldiers.
The first names sound stoutly English: Harper, Russell, Gibson and Woodley. The next inscriptions commemorate dead Poles: TJ Szmajdowicz, for example, who was killed on October 29 1940, aged 21. Read more
‘England to flop as Brazil triumphs, Goldman Sachs analysts claim;
Telegraph.co.uk, May 28
I thought Brazil’s economic growth was slowing down.
Goldman is referring to the football World Cup.
Why would it do that?
If you are being cynical, then perhaps it is because nearly everyone likes football and nearly everyone dislikes bankers. But it could also be because it is a bit of fun. Read more
They live in a town in the central belt, a few minutes off the M8 motorway that runs between Glasgow and Edinburgh. On the rare occasions when they talk about their national identities, they say they feel both Scottish and British; they cheer for Mo Farah and the Scottish football team. They are instinctively cynical towards politics and pay it scant attention but the referendum coverage has been unavoidable. Traditional Labour voters, they broke with the party in the Scottish elections of 2011, when she opted for the Scottish Nationalists and he stayed at home. She liked what the SNP had to say about childcare while he could not trust any pledge. Like up to one-fifth of Scots, they have yet to make up their minds about independence. Read more
On Wednesday, Alex Salmond said that Scottish households could expect an “independence bonus” of £2,000 by 2030 if they voted Yes in the referendum in September. What is the first minister talking about? And does this seem likely?
These questions matter. Voters’ perceptions of the economic consequences of independence will be crucial to the outcome of the vote in four months’ time. This is especially true of undecideds. The UK government understands this. Elsewhere on Wednesday, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, presented a report that claimed Scots benefit from a “UK dividend” worth about £1,400 each. Read more
Supporters of the United Kingdom Independence party are in the right place if they ever have to fulfill their pledge to protect Britain’s borders. The map below from Robert Ford and Ian Warren depicts the parliamentary constituencies where there are relatively large shares of UKIp-leaning voters. The darker the shade of purple, the higher the number of would-be Farage supporters, the psephologists say.
The consequences of this geography on the general election are unclear. (One could add that it will all come out in the Wash.) Labour and the Conservatives may have lost similar numbers of votes to UKIp, according to Steve Fisher, a political scientist. Whether Mr Farage’s party loses their support in equal measure at the general election will help determine whether he can affect who forms the next government.
The political map can also tells us something about how Britain is changing. Nigel Farage’s party is relatively popular on England’s coasts; its target seats at next year’s general election are mostly southern and eastern littoral constituencies. This is partly down to demographics. In these areas live above-average numbers of what Ford calls the “left behind”: older, white working-class voters with less formal education.