Labour’s 2017 Manifesto – progressive, sensible, positive

Have you had a look at  the detail of Labour’s manifesto (click here ) for the 2017 General Election. It’s extremely good. Who knew?

 

At 122 pages it’s a long read.. maybe that’s why there’s been less coverage of the overall manifesto than there should have been.  Here’s my precis of some of the key points:

  • A UK wide constitutional convention, to engage the UK in wide consultation about improving the way our democracy works.
  • A progressive energy and environmental strategy, targetting 60% energy from renewables by 2030, investment in renewable infrastructure, no fracking, banning neonicotinoid insecticides which threaten the bee population, reductions in one-use plastic waste, clean air strategy … many other positive policies.
  • Credible economic investment and taxation polices underpinned by a Fiscal Credibility Rule, policed by the independent scrutiny of the Office for Budget Responsibility
  • A £20bn Scottish Investment Bank to invest in infrastructural improvements, part of a similar UK wide investment policy, linked to a restructuring of our financial services based around the Nordic model.
  • Respect for socially responsible business and graduated taxation of business, reflecting the needs of small business to reinvest.
  • Moderate tax increases for those able to pay to ensure books are balanced and in equality does not rise to levels which threaten social cohesion.
  • Changed priorities within the Brexit negotiations to ensure that UK remains in the customs union, has access to the single market, maintains important EU employment and environmental protections and maintains international academic co-operation through University and HE collaborative research and teaching
  • Investment in cultural capital (a major earner for the UK) in media, arts and creative industries.
  • Commitment to working in partnership internationally, on issues of defence, security and positive international relationships – with a continuing commitment to investment in international development to improve the lives of the poorest and work towards achieving the UN’s ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.
  • All of this alongside all the usual Labour commitments, as you would expect, to improved health care, educational investment, dignity in old age, equalities and so on …..

It’s a surprisingly good package, well presented within an overall umbrella of Labour values – to build a strong sustainable society, based on democratic values of equality (not absolute equality no person to fall below a threshold level), individual freedom and agency, and social and environmental sustainability. It is the most socially progressive of any of the parties (save the Greens) and contains significantly larger environmental commitments than previous Labour manifestos, reflecting a recognition that long-term economic and social justice demands a sustainable approach.

Have a read (here) ! Go on! It’s not what you might expect, given what the media have been saying so far. You might actually like it!

 

The Referendum result and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

My letter to Jeremy Corbyn today.

Jeremy

Thank your for this letter expressing your intention to continue as leader of the once great Labour Party.
I have been a party member in Scotland, and loyal supporter through thick and thin, radical and centrist leadership, since the mid-1970s.  I believe it was a big mistake for the party not to focus in the General Election last year on the constitution of the UK and in particular its unrepresentative voting system and broken constitution.  The Scottish referendum, and now this one, demonstrate that the relationship between citizen and elected politicians has been weakened in recent years, and that many of those who supported Labour in the past feel adrift in a new globalised neo-liberal economy and alienated from a political class that cannot project a vision worth collective struggle and sacrifice.
In not tackling the weakness of the constitutional arrangements which give voice to the aspirations and hopes of the people as a whole, the biggest issue facing the UK, the party let down all progressive=thinking people and got the result it deserved – a divided Tory Government elected by a minority of the British people. This divided, weak government has now done its best to divide the Union and to divide Europe. The referendum result will sow seeds of dissension and international hostility, and fan the flames of competitive nationalism, in the longer term, with consequences which it will be hard for progressive-minded people across Europe to resist. It is a result for the narrow-minded, the racist, the xenophobes and the self-interested across Europe.
Your failure to articulate clearly the importance of European peace and collaboration among nations left a large hole in the centre in the Labour campaign. Your weak and effete leadership is one of the reasons that the vote has been lost – you have failed to connect with the post-industrial working class in places like Sunderland, Sheffield and the Welsh Valleys.
I am seriously considering giving up on the Labour movement which gets weaker and more divided under your leadership. If I leave I will be joining the Green Party. My decision will be made as events unfold over the next few months.
I believe you need to hear what the parliamentary party are saying to you and to move aside.
The longer you are our leader, the worse the situation will be for both Labour and the UK as a whole. If Nicola S gets her wish for another referendum, it is now quite likely that I will vote ‘Yes’..
Yours sincerely

Daniel Murphy


Date: Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:33:46 +0000
To: lornshillht@hotmail.com
From: theteam@labour.org.uk
Subject: Yesterday’s European referendum

Dear Daniel,
After yesterday’s European referendum, politicians of all parties must listen to and respect the vote. Millions of voters have rejected a political establishment that has left them behind. Communities that have been hardest hit by government cuts and economic failure have voted against the status quo.The first task is to come together and heal the divisions. Our country is divided and things need to change. Politicians on all sides must respect the decision of the British people.

Ours is the only party that can meet the challenge we now face. Labour is best placed to re-unite the country. We can do so because we didn’t engage in project fear, and because we share people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. That was why we put a case for both remain and reform.

I will be making clear to both Remain and Leave voters that Labour will fight for the exit negotiations to be accountable to an open, transparent parliamentary process. And we’ll do everything to secure the best deal for the people of Britain at every stage.

We cannot leave it to the Conservative Party – who have shown time and time again that they can’t be trusted to stand up for working people.

The Prime Minister has resigned and the Tories are deeply divided at a time when the country needs to come together and we need stability to head off economic crisis.

I want to thank all our campaigners, from Alan Johnson – who chaired Labour’s campaign – to our whole Shadow Cabinet, and to members in constituencies across the whole country, for their tireless campaigning and commitment to social justice.

Labour was created to serve people in their communities and workplaces. We need to put that historic purpose into action now and campaign to protect and represent the people we serve.

Yours sincerely

Jeremy Corbyn

Leader of the Labour Party

Colours of the Alphabet – you must see this film @alphabetfilm

On Wednesday evening, I went through to Glasgow to watch this film. It was so wonderful, in so many ways, I just have to blog about it.

It was beautiful – beautifully shot, beautiful children, beautiful colours, beautiful subject.

It was moving – about families, about growing up, about education, about how people learn who they are and what their lives are for.

It was funny – watching little children at play, at work, just being their wonderful selves.

It was thoughtful and thought provoking – there are messages, overt and covert, in the film – about language, about poverty, about ambition, about how different life is or could be without today’s technology, consumerism and media influences.

It was great entertainment – so much to enjoy and so much to think about.

Watch the trailer here:

It was also educational – what is, or should be, the proper relationship between ‘home language’ and the language of education and to what extent should all languages, however small, be protected/funded/written. What are the barriers to learning associated with language (took me back in my thoughts, as so often in my teaching career, to the work of Bernstein, Class Codes and Control ( see here ) and more recently Michael Young’s restatement of the importance of ‘powerful knowledge’ (see below) and the work of Elizabeth Rata http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01411926.2011.615388:

“Limiting the curriculum to experiential knowledge limits access to a powerful class resource; that of conceptual knowledge required for critical reasoning and political agency. Knowledge that comes from experience limits the knower to that experience. The shift to localised knowledge fixes groups in the working class to a never ending present as schools that use a social constructivist approach to knowledge in the curriculum fail to provide the intellectual tools of conceptual thinking and its medium in advanced literacy that lead to an imagined, yet unknown, future.”

In the concluding discussion (as it was a premiere, part of the Glasgow Film Festival ,the producer, director and Liz Lochhead were there for a chat and questions afterwords, to give us some insight into the production and its meanings), it turns out that the first draft of the film ran for three hours featuring six of the children – I can’t wait for that director’s cut when it comes out on DVD (producer, please take note!).

Michael Young on the importance of ‘knowledge’:

http://www.shiftingthinking.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/1.1-Young.pdf

also here:

 

Water Footprint: we all have one. What’s yours?

water footprint‘Carbon footprint’ – the legacy of carbon released into the atmosphere that we leave to our descendants, the people and the planet of future times – is a term we have become familiar with over the past three decades as the science of climate change has moved out of the labs and pressure group handouts into common civic understanding, if not yet common civic action. It perfectly captures the idea that long after we have passed by, the impact we made on the planet and its biochemical systems remains.

The haunting metaphor of the ‘footprint’ – which brings to mind those massive dinosaur prints preserved in stone as a record of their time, millions of years ago – has also been applied to the legacy of a variety of other aspects of human consumption and waste, not least our use of water. New Scientist recently covered current thinking on the ‘water footprint’ in a two page interview with Arjen Hoekstra, a Dutch professor of water management (click here ).

Of course, here in Scotland, we have no shortage of water, so it’s hard for us to imagine that however much we use we are going to have a negative impact on human life in the future, but our ‘water footprint’ is not just what we consume in our own homes, gardens and work. A large part of our ‘footprint’ is elsewhere, left by the production in other parts of the world of the goods we consume here. Three quarters of the water footprint of people who live in the UK is outside the UK, in the countries where the goods and food we consume originate. Whereas our water cycle as an island on the edge of the Atlantic ensures that whatever we put back into the rivers and water table from our use of water will eventually fall back down on us (in fact climate change projections suggest parts of the UK will be wetter longer term in the future), in many parts of the world, water reserves used in agriculture are not being replenished.  Around 90% of humanity’s global water footprint comes from food production and around a third of that comes from animal feed production.  So next time you’re checking those food miles, and the contribution they make to your carbon footprint, just add in your water footprint as well.

More on this from National Geographic here and from the Water Footprint Network .

water footprint

 

What has the EU ever done for us….

I am copying here a Facebook post from Donnachadh McCarthy to ensure gets maximum exposure.

In the week when the UK’s five extremist right-wing media billionaires won their battle to waste our time, money and political capital on a EU referendum, I thought it a good time to post the great letter by Simon Sweeney in the Guardian, which he kindly allowed me to reproduce in my book, “The Prostitute State – How Britain’s Democracy has Been Bought”:

“What did the EU ever do for us?
Not much, apart from: providing 57% of our trade;
structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline;
clean beaches and rivers;
cleaner air;
lead free petrol;
restrictions on landfill dumping;
a recycling culture;
cheaper mobile charges;
cheaper air travel;
improved consumer protection and food labelling;
a ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives;
better product safety;
single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance;
break up of monopolies;
Europe-wide patent and copyright protection;
no paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market;
price transparency and removal of commission on currency exchanges across the eurozone;
freedom to travel, live and work across Europe;
funded opportunities for young people to undertake study or work placements abroad;
access to European health services;
labour protection and enhanced social welfare;
smoke-free workplaces;
equal pay legislation;
holiday entitlement;
the right not to work more than a 48-hour week without overtime;
strongest wildlife protection in the world;
improved animal welfare in food production;
EU-funded research and industrial collaboration;
EU representation in international forums;
bloc EEA negotiation at the WTO;
EU diplomatic efforts to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty;
European arrest warrant;
cross border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling; counter terrorism intelligence;
European civil and military co-operation in post-conflict zones in Europe and Africa;
support for democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond;
investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital.
All of this is nothing compared with its greatest achievements: the EU has for 60 years been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed.
It furthermore assisted the extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships, now EU members, since 1980.
Now the union faces major challenges brought on by neoliberal economic globalisation, and worsened by its own systemic weaknesses. It is taking measures to overcome these. We in the UK should reflect on whether our net contribution of £7bn out of total government expenditure of £695bn is good value. We must play a full part in enabling the union to be a force for good in a multi-polar global future.

Simon Sweeney,

Lecturer in international political economy, University of York”

Please share – the anti-EU campaign will have the full force of Murdoch’s and the other 4 extremist right-wing media billionaires papers whose agenda is to destroy all our human rights.

As I wrote in The Prostitute State, over 80% of UK papers are owned by five extremist right wing media billionaires: Rupert Murdoch, (Sun/Times), Barclay Brothers (Telegraph), Richard Desmond (Express) and Lord Rothermere (Daily Mail).

Murdoch is Australian living in New York, Rothermere lives in France, the Barclay Brothers in the tax havens of Monaco and Guernsey. All of them use tax haven entities to avoid UK taxes.

So key question is in light of the above list, why have these billionaires for decades tried to destroy the EU’s democratic institutions?

Together we can take him/them on and beat him/them.

peace love respect
Donnachadh McCarthy

12717159_10208416889083920_246419915212917652_n

‘Everyone’s Future: lessons from fifty years of Scottish comprehensive schooling’ – some key quotes.

9781858566672-114x170

Some quotes from the book:

By 1997, there was widespread civic acceptance in Scotland, confirmed by responses to the 2002 National Debate, of the local authority comprehensive six-year school, albeit modulated by parental choice, as the best model for state secondary school education (Munn et al., 2004). This was in marked contrast to England, where in 2001 Alastair Campbell, the Labour prime minister’s spokesman, famously predicted that ‘the day of the bog-standard comprehensive school is over’, thus associating comprehensive schools with mediocrity (Clare and Jones, 2001). There was no appetite in Scotland for ‘opting out’. The focus was on making local authority schools more ‘effective’.p23

CfE is, in reality, a curriculum for 3–15. The previous examination system, which had dominated the 15–18 school curriculum, with Standard Grade and Higher Still courses running both in sequence and in parallel, was simplified by the new exam arrangements, but there was no attempt to overhaul, or even subject to critical scrutiny, many of the existing irregularities of curriculum design and practice in the Senior Phase. p31

Comprehensive education in Scotland has promoted equality…..Equality of opportunity has been expanded through the provision of a broader range of curriculum options, abolishing overt discrimination by gender and extending the range of post-compulsory pathways …Comprehensive reorganization removed some barriers, such as school selection and the more divisive aspects of curriculum and examination systems. But it did not abolish wider social inequalities, or the selective function of schooling, the main factors restricting equality of outcome….Comprehensive education in Scotland has, however, promoted greater equality of value. Pupils who would once have been marginalized as ‘non-certificate’ are now full members of the moral community of the school. p197

Improvement needs to be defined in terms of all of the aims of a comprehensive system.
Current models of improvement – nationally and internationally – are dominated by comparisons of pupil and school performance in standardized tests. While a comprehensive school system that aims to provide a broad general education for all of its young people and which values them equally needs to define improvement in terms of performance, it should also include a wider set of factors involved in balancing liberty, equality, and fraternity in fair and just communities. So too should it include a greater range of contributions to civic health than those that define the individual solely in relation to ‘performance’ in pre-specified competitive tasks. System improvement needs to be specified and evaluated across a wider range of outcomes than test performance alone.  p203

Book Launch

9781858566672-114x170

Everyone’s Future

Lessons from fifty years of Scottish comprehensive schooling

This (click on the word!) is how I’ve been spending a lot of my time the past few months!

‘This is a must-read for those of us who have lived the theme of this excellent book. It is even more so for those who in their lifetimes could have an impact on the future direction of education in these isles. It is an excellent account of Scottish education over these fifty years and is a fitting tribute to one of Scotland’s foremost academics. Insightful, enlightening, thought provoking and very challenging, its timing in the development of Scottish education could not be better.’

Ken Cunningham, CBE FRSA, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland

‘This book revitalizes the debate about comprehensive education by going back to first principles –equality, liberty and fraternity – and examining the Scottish education system in the light of them. In doing so it provides new insights into the concept and the difficulties of realizing it in the 21st century. It is a fitting tribute to an inspirational colleague Professor David Raffe.’
Professor Ann Hodgson, UCL Institute of Education

It is fifty years since comprehensive education was introduced in Scotland, England and Wales. But while the ideal of comprehensive education has been largely abandoned in England, comprehensive schools are alive and well in Scotland and command public support.

This long-term overview of the development of the Scottish system, with contrasting accounts from England, Northern Ireland and Wales, concludes that comprehensive schooling, linked to underlying democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity, has made a positive difference to the development of contemporary Scotland.

Drawing on a wide range of research, documentary and policy evidence, the book provides a critical account of developments in curriculum and governance and the impact of comprehensive schooling on its students’ outcomes, social class and gender inequalities. It exploits a unique series of surveys to give voice to young people and their increasingly positive attitudes to school, especially among the less academic. But the Scottish system’s success is still only partial.

Looking forward, the book outlines lessons from the Scottish experience both for Scotland and for other countries considering how best to educate young people of secondary-school age. A valuable resource for students, teachers, academics and policymakers.

– See more at: https://ioepress.co.uk/books/schools-and-schooling/everyones-future/#sthash.03erjp6O.dpuf