Academies and Free Schools – A failed experiment in education

by Naomi Fearon

PowellAs of June 2015 there are over four thousand academies in England. Originally introduced by New Labour back in 2000 in order to support failing schools in socially deprived areas, academies have long since remained a controversial topic. Touted by governments as the miraculous magic answer to improving standards and loathed quite rightly by teaching unions opposed to their undemocratic nature and the neo-liberal free market approach they are constructed around. ‘Academies equals success’ has been the long repeated mantra for many years now, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is the only approach to education and LEA controlled state schools have been an all-round epic failure, yet statistically does this add up? Continue reading →

#JezWeCan: The Jeremy Corbyn social media campaign

by Ben Sellers

leonoraSocialists don’t normally go in for miracles. Yet the way some people have reacted to the incredible success of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, you’d think we’d witnessed some sort of supernatural event. How on earth did Jeremy go from rank outsider in June to a landslide winner just three months later in September? Of course, with time, people will analyse the ‘perfect storm’ which has propelled Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the party, and conclude (quite rightly) that the factors were complex and varied. But one element which has had little coverage so far, but will in my view stand out when people have the time to reflect, is the unprecedented social media campaign – the biggest such operation for a single politician this country has ever seen. I’m not about to declare that it was ‘Twitter wot won it’, but it was certainly a central factor. Continue reading →

Bank regulation 8 years on, why has next to nothing been done?

by Michael Meacher

The real root probleBanking trade screensm with regulating the banks is that the politicians are hand in glove with them. The Tories don’t even want to regulate the finance sector so long as it provides them with half their annual income year after year, not just the banks themselves, but the hedge fund billionaires as well. Worse still, no attempt whatever has been made to deal with the fundamental point of corruption – that whatever the big 5 banks do, they will be protected by the ‘implicit guarantee’ that the government will save them from themselves and bail them out because they’re ‘too big to fail’, too valuable an asset to lose, too crucial a part of running the State, etc. Risk-taking at a bank that will always be saved is like playing Russian roulette, but with someone else’s head. Continue reading →

Cameron talks New Labour, but acts old Tory class warrior

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

New Labour CameronSome journalists are incredibly gullible. On the basis of his rhetoric, Dan Hodges tweeted “Could someone on the Left tell me which part of David Cameron’s speech I’m meant to disagree with.” How about Dave’s outright porkie concerning Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on the assassination of Osama Bin Laden? Seeing as Dan’s less a journo and more a well remunerated “opinion former“, what does a proper one think? Will Jane Merrick of the Indy on Sunday writesLabour’s gigantic problem: why did I, from a Liverpool comp, who voted for Blair & never voted Tory, agree nearly every word of PM’s speech?” Seduced by words, it’s never occurred to Jane that what the Tories say might be quite different from what they do. Continue reading →

Putting the Political back into Political Economy

by Ewan Gibbs and Nathaniel Blondel

Corbynomics1The reaction to John McDonnell’s announcement that he would aim for a balanced current account, whilst maintaining borrowing for capital investment, revealed a recurrent fault line within left-wing economic thought. At its most banal McDonnell was accused of signing up to George Osborne’s ‘austerity charter’, whilst more sophisticated critics argued such policies would weaken demand and harm economic growth. This article will not address the technicalities of figures and whether Labour should borrow limited amounts rather than aim for a balance (see a critical account here). Instead we will focus on the key political division the fallout from this announcement has revealed, and what it says about the character of ‘Corbynomics’, and the barriers it faces. Continue reading →

Scrounging off the state? When Ian Duncan Smith put his wife on the parliamentary payroll

by James Elliott

IDSThere is an unsavoury episode in the parliamentary history of Ian Duncan Smith that he will be hoping people will have forgotten. This concerns Dr Vanessa Gearson, who IDS appointed as his Chief of Staff for part of his time as Tory Leader (prior to this Dr Gearson worked as Private Secretary to the Chair of the Tory Party).

On 16th October 2003, Dr Gearson gave a long and very detailed written statement to the House of Commons Select Committee on Standards and Privileges. This concerned “the matter of the investigation into the employment of Betsy Duncan Smith”. Dr Gearson had been surprised to discover that Mrs Duncan Smith was employed for 25 hours a week at £18,000 per annum, paid for out of IDS’s Parliamentary Office Costs Allowance. Continue reading →

What is behind Osborne’s move to the centre-ground?

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

George Osborne greenish hueIs the loss of Lord Adonis from the Labour side of the Lords really a coup for George Osborne? Not really. A tsunami failed to erupt from the impact point in the cross benches, sweeping away the shiny new works of our equally shiny new leadership. The political damage is limited because he’s not terribly well-known even among Labour members, let alone the electorate. And because, as a peer, he is fundamentally unaccountable. Besides, Adonis has form for trading in party memberships; and he’s more a technocrat than a politician. This is a man who likes to do things, so had Osborne made the offer to head up his new infrastructure super-quango, I would have been very surprised had Adonis refused. Continue reading →

Corbyn’s National Education Service will not be won without a fight

by James Elliott

MarsdenThe issue of tuition fees has been thrown into the spotlight since party conference, after comments made by the new Higher Education, Further Education and Skills shadow minister and MP for Blackpool South, Gordon Marsden, that “nothing is ruled in, nothing is ruled out” on university funding.

I attended the fringe meeting, and while it is a shame that so many other important educational issues do not make the headlines, such as the Tories’ destructive proposals for a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ or the lack of funding for postgraduates, as usual it is fees which make the news.

The Times Higher Education broke the news, shortly followed by the Guardian‘s education correspondent and then the story became distorted by the Financial Times, who ran the headline, “Corbyn shelves proposal to scrap tuition fees.” Continue reading →

How Labour should deal with the Fiscal Responsibility Act

by Michael Burke

Corbyn at PMQsJeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are frequently in advance of many of their supporters on economic matters, including their supporters in academia and economic commentators. They are correct to argue against permanent budget deficits and in favour of the central role of public investment as the path out of the crisis, identify People’s Quantitative Easing as a useful policy tool, and to question the ‘independence’ of the Bank of England. They have faced unwarranted and confused criticism on all of these from some on ‘the left’.

The recent indicators point to a slower pace of economic activity and the Tory government is about to embark on Austerity Mark II, in nominal terms exactly the same level of cuts and tax increases as the £37 billion George Osborne announced in 2010. As the Tories have little popularity (the second lowest popular share of the vote for any government) it has been necessary for this project that there is a pretence that this is not a return to austerity, after the boost to consumption that helped the Tories get re-elected. So, there was the fiction that recently there was a ‘One Nation’ Tory Budget, that Osborne was ‘stealing Labour’s ideas’ and similar nonsense. Continue reading →

Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith should be made to answer tax avoidance allegations

by James Elliott

GoldsmithOn Friday came the least surprising political announcement at the end of a summer full of surprises: That Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, would be the Tories’ mayoral candidate in 2016.

Goldsmith won 70% of the 9,227 votes cast in the primary, more than the other three candidates (Syed Kamall, Stephen Greenhalgh and Andrew Boff) combined. This has rightly angered the TUC, who have blasted the Tories, asking, “If online balloting is good enough the Conservative Party, why can’t working people use it?” in reference to the Tories’ continued opposition to the use of online ballots for strikes. Continue reading →

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