Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Barnet Eye Manifesto for Education, Mental Health, Music and Sport

So a General Election is upon us. Whilst I suspect that Brexit will be the major topic, it shouldn't be. There are actually far more important matters, that affect the day to day lives of all of us, that are being totally ignored. Whilst it may be tempting to vote purely on the matters of Brexit, if any party gets a majority, that will be done and dusted in a couple of months, whereas we will have five years of a government that will effectively have had a policy free blank cheque election. The job of bloggers like me, is to make sure that everyone in the country recognises that if any of the parties get in with a majority, we will all have to live with that for five years. The irony is not totally wasted on me that we had a stable period of government for five years under the coalition and then total chaos from 2015 once the Conservative Party secured a majority. What has happened since 2017 is nothing short of scandalous and I passionately believe that MP's should be compelled to repay their wages for the period, as they've done anything but govern.

A friend collared me yesterday and asked what I thought about the election. He was doubtless expecting a diatribe about Brexit. He stated that he was shocked by my response and asked why I wasn't standing for Parliament. The answer is simple, I've got a business to run and people who rely on me. So what did I say?

The sad truth is that the country is in a mess. This is the fault of the Labour Party, The Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionist Party. I think you can accredit blame in that order as well. The problems started in 1997. Tony Blair was elected with a massive majority and had the mandate to sort the country out. What did he do (ably assisted by Gordon Brown). He committed the Labour Party to the Conservative's spending plans. He blew the chance to renationalise the railways, even though the Railtrack fiasco and the problems with franchising were there for all to see. He lead us into an illegal war in Iraq that has left the Middle East in flames and lead to untold misery. Those are the things we talk about, but it is the things we don't talk about that have really screwed us over. Blair brought in PPI to build hospitals and schools, which has been a budgetary disaster. The Labour party brought in tuition fees, which has been one of the most corrosive and destructive taxes imaginable, if we are trying to build a modern, knowledge based economy. The OFSTED system has made schools into exam factories that have put huge stress on pupils and teachers and we have a mental health crisis.   Labour were seduced by rich sponsors into supporting the concept of academies, this started the process of fragmentation of the Education system.The Labour government did nothing to stem the sell off and development of playing fields, nothing was done to improve sports provision that helps build fitness and self esteem. The music and creative sectors were left to rot. The Labour government had no policy for promoting UK music, protecting studios and venues, beyond inviting Oasis around for tea. Music is an area that generates £4.5 billion for the UK economy, but received no support from Blair or Brown. Music in schools languished.

Then in 2010 we had the coalition. I joined the Lib Dems and stood as a candidate for council attracted by the tuition fees pledge. 2010 produced a hung parliament, the Tories and the Lib Dems jumped into bed. The Tories attitude to education was that the system needed to be smashed into a million pieces, with only the wealthy cushioned from the effects. All of the policies of Labour that so damaged the education system were not abandoned, but ramped up. University fees were trebled, Academies were pushed harder than ever, Free Schools encouraged, but money was not made available to support all of this, so we now have a situation where every school in London has a budget crisis. I know this, I am the chair of a trust that helps fund a local state sector school. Our former headmaster even went public on the matter. I resigned from the Lib Dems as a result of the University fees policy change. I think the Lib Dem MP's who supported it got what they deserved in 2015. Had I known what David Cameron had in store for us, I'd have held my nose, stayed and taken the brickbats, because once the Tories got a majority, we all found out that he wasn't the man we thought. He will go down in history as the man who destroyed the UK, if we see a Boris majority. Northern Ireland and Scotland will leave the Union and we will find ourselves as a little England in a very hostile world. Will we have a society that is able to face that challenge? Modern economies rely on the skills and education of their workforce and yet we have a deliberate policy of deskilling our young people.

Theresa May did the seeming impossible task of being an even worse PM than Cameron. To the shock of many, she gambled  on an election and lost. She then drafted in the DUP, who supported her, in return for a large cash bung. Since the 2017 election, there has been no real government, no reform, no new policies. School budgets have deteriorated, but the government has done nothing. Money has been put into treatment for mental health, but no one has dared ask why it is so much more prevalent and what we can do about it. As for sport, the Football industry has been all but taken over by gambling companies. Premiership stars earn millions a year, but school kids are having their pitched torn up. Grassroots and yout football is neglected. As for music, there was an enquiry last year by Parliament into live music. Sadly much of this concentrated on the issues around secondary ticketing resellers. Little of substance has happened. Labour's London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has done nothing for live venues. He appointed Amy Lame as the night economy Tsar, but clubs and venues are still shutting and nothing happens.

And then in the summer Boris took over. If we are being fair, we can't judge him as a PM as he's lost just about every vote he's had and has not actually tried to do anything other than focus on Brexit and General elections. As I predicted, he'd go for a general election as soon as he could, before the public realised he was a phoney and a fraud. I personally feel that he should have put his deal to the electorate in a confirmatory referendum. If as the Brexit supporters claim, there is a democratic mandate, that would be that. With that out of the way, a general election would be appropriate, based on how we deliver a post Brexit successful economy (or a remain if people have changed their mind).

It is clear to me that Boris wants a blank cheque and little discussion of the policies that will shape the future. I have been working on my own manifesto for Education, mental health, music and sport. These policies are simple and deliverable and will make us a stronger, happier country. These are based on the fact that I run a successful business, have three children who have been through and are going through University, employ people, chair an educational trust and have worked in the music industry for 40 years.

The UK will not succeed, unless we ensure that our children receive a suitable education. This is at every level, nursery, primary, secondary, university, post graduate and adult learning. Ultimately a country cannot succeed if it does not properly fund education. The harsh truth is that we need to pay more tax to support all of these. Even if you have no children, you will need doctors, carers, engineers, gas fitters etc. Parents subsides the old age of the childless, a fact that few seem to recognise. Last year, we paid over £24,000 in University accommodation fees for our three children. I am lucky that I can afford it, but many can't. As a society, we shouldn't be taxing young people via fees. There are ways to soften the blow. I'd give tax breaks to companies that fund students and employ them. Companies that take students on placements etc should be given every incentive. We also need to pay teachers more. You may say "How can we afford to do this?" I would say "How can we afford not to". And to those who say "Why fund arts degrees?". My answer is that the UK is the world leader in creative industries. My nephew is the director of the Clangers. He did 3D animation at Westminster University. He has a shelf full of BAFTA awards. You don't get that studying accountancy and his work has generated millions. We need a Royal commission to look at our schooling system and how we can make it work for everyone. I don't support the Labour Party's plans to abolish Private Schooling. There is a role for it, but reforms are needed in this field. I do not really see why the richest people should benefit from the tax breaks such schools get as charities. I would ensure that the richest parents pay a private education tax. They can afford it. Anyone with an annual income of over £500,000 should not be getting disguised tax breaks. It is important to get these schools to give scholarships to bright children from homes that can't afford to pay.

Mental Health.
We need a holistic policy. We need to understand the triggers and we need proper diagnosis and early treatment. We need to remove the stigma. I believe that if we identify people who are developing issues and treat them early, it will save the economy billions. The causes are many and varied, but as someone who knows of several young people in our family and friends circle who have committed suicide, it is not trivial and needs addressing.

The UK Music Industry contributes £4.5 billion to the UK economy. This can only continue, if there is a constant supply of fresh talent. I would urge everyone to read the aims of the Save London Music Campaign. This addresses some of the challenges to live music in London. But we need so much more. We need to reverse the cuts to music education budgets, we need to open up the teaching of instruments to all. We need to recognise the mental health benefits of playing and listening to music. We need to protect our world leading position. But most of all we need a dedicated minister for Music, who knows what they are doing and understands the industry.

Lets hope England win the Rugby World Cup on Saturday. Rugby is thriving locally due to Saracens and the local clubs. This is a great model of how professional clubs can work with the local community. Sadly the Premiership of Football does not have the same agenda. Some clubs are good, some not so. Given the huge sums of money in Football, the clubs should pay a 5% levy to support grassroots and youth football. This should not be administered by the FA but by local authorities, who manage most pitches etc. This should be ring fenced and not replace the existing budgets. I would also ban advertising by betting companies. Gambling destroys lives. If grown ups are stupid enough to want to gamble, that is there business, but the wall to wall ads on TV during football games etc are corrosive and dangerous. It may bring money into the clubs, but gambling is not an industry that is good for society. It may bring some short term pain for clubs, but in the long run, society will benefit.

Do you agree?


Eaton Rapids Joe said...

I have a few points to quibble.

"Ultimately a country cannot succeed if it does not properly fund education." is a "push" solution and will result in the waste of many scarce resources. A system that ensures that talented young (and not-so-young) people are pulled into the fields that will benefit society is more important than the gross resources poured into education. Do we really need more people with advanced degrees in videography and Social Justice?

The big disconnect in mental health is getting the patients to comply with treatment. You mention a "holistic policy" but you avoid discussing the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

CalvinCasino said...

Yes I absolutely agree with everything that you have stated in your blog protest Roger.