Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Remainers, be careful what you wish for: another referendum could lead to an even bigger win for Leave

My brother – not a working class, uneducated bigot but a bourgeois psychologist with three degrees – wanted to vote Leave, as I, his more intellectually challenged and impetuous younger sibling with a mere two degrees, indeed did. Our parents, who own a small but thriving business, also voted to exit the European Union, having rightly concluded that they were deceived and voted on a false prospectus back in 1975. My brother, though, being risk averse and understandably concerned, decided, on the basis of the scare tactics employed by the Remain campaign, to go with the status quo. He wanted out, but voted in.

How many more people did the same? I wonder. I suspect a not inconsiderable number. So as the Remainers continue to whinge and moan and blame the Leave victory on some kind of false consciousness afflicting the ignorant working classes, I'd like them to consider my brother, a middle class, highly educated professional who, I would contend, represents millions of people persuaded, by fear, to vote Remain at the last moment, when they really wanted out.

Two pillars of the Remain campaign’s post-referendum narrative thus begin to crumble. First, not all Leavers were working class – code for thick, uneducated and bigoted. Secondly, when one considers our natural human inclination to avoid change and take the safe option, especially when 'experts' warn us of the adverse consequences of that eminently avoidable change, many of those who chose to remain did so out of fear, not some ideological and moral commitment to the EU project.

If these reluctant Remainers voted the way they genuinely wanted to, the chasm that already exists between the governed and the elite would have been even more pronounced and, most importantly, more accurately reflective of public opinion. 17.5 million? The real figure’s much higher.

This brings me on to the media’s woeful and dangerously one-sided take on last Thursday's events. Whether you subject yourself to BBC, Sky, Channel 4 or ITV News, the analysis is the same: Leave voters are overwhelmingly uneducated working class bigots opposed to any form of immigration but, having seen the error of their ways, they would now vote to Remain if granted a second referendum.

Of course, these contentions are self-evidently contradictory: thick xenophobic racists do not ordinarily change their minds in the space of five days. One thing you can't accuse them of is fickleness. But that doesn't really matter: as long as Leave voters can be smeared as unworthy of the vote, easily manipulated and regretful now that the full implications of their decisions have been laid bare, the outcome can be brought into question and perhaps, after weeks and months of relentless bullying, overturned. We may yet remain after all, they hope.

Personally, though, I suspect that like Project Fear before the campaign, Project Smear will have the opposite effect. People like my brother - sick and tired of the lies and unrelenting bullying from a media and political establishment seething with 'egg-on-face'-induced anger - if asked to go to the polls again, would probably vote Leave. It’d be an even bigger victory than last Thursday. Remainers, be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The ‘London Effect’ won’t last

It has been characterized as a tale of extraordinary success. As a consequence of enlightened and collaborative leadership unleashed by the New Labour-initiated London Challenge and the current government’s radical extension of Lord Adonis’ Academies policy, when it comes to our most disadvantaged children, inner London’s schools, after years of lagging behind, are now outperforming those found in the rest of the country.
 
In 2013, 48 per cent of children on free school meals in inner London obtained five or more A* to C grades at GCSE or their equivalent (including English and maths) – up from 22 per cent in 2002 – compared to just 26 per cent outside London – up from 17 per cent in 2002. It is indeed a considerable achievement.
 
But is it down to Labour’s London Challenge, the proliferation of academies or, as a report by the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics suggests, a combination of factors, including the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority, gradual improvements in primary education since the mid-90s, more vigorous inspection regimes and greater parental choice enhanced by increased competition between schools?
 
Simon Burgess, an economics professor at Bristol University, doesn’t think so. He cites immigration and the ethnic makeup of inner London’s schools as the decisive factor. ‘The children of recent immigrants typically have greater hopes and expectations of education,’ he argued in a Guardian comment piece back in November 2014.
 
As a teacher in an inner London, ethnically diverse and multicultural school – and having taught for most of my career in places outside London, where the white indigenous population still predominates – I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Burgess’ explanation.
 
Inner London’s schools have benefitted enormously from high levels of immigration. My school, for example, has large and increasing numbers of bright, highly motivated young migrants, most of whom are hardworking, courteous, unashamedly moral and desperate to succeed.
 
It has indeed been a welcome culture shock. I’m used to chairs flying past my nose, not pupils requesting extra homework; surly parents covered from head to toe in tattoos, arguing and swearing about how I pick on their faultless little angels, not respectable looking foreigners evincing their unqualified gratitude. It really is quite a pleasant surprise.
 
That said, I do fear for the future. In fact, I’m not a betting man, but I’d be willing to put money on the so-called London Effect not lasting. But you sounded so upbeat, I hear you say.
 
Well, regrettably, that’s where the good news ends. Just like other schools around the country, including my previous employers, our senior leaders continue to encourage pupils to challenge the authority of their teachers through crazy initiatives like ‘Restorative Justice’ and, as a consequence of a misguided commitment to moral relativism – a doctrine that makes virtues of excuse-making, low expectations for our most disadvantaged kids, ambiguity and inconsistency -, they’ve effectively abolished rules and promoted amorality. Our success is indeed entirely dependent on the cultural provenance of these fantastically committed kids. It’s nothing to do with the school, whose leaders continue to do everything in their power to subvert and extinguish the traditional values that make these pupils so successful.
 
And as our leaders continue to infect our newcomers with the values of a valueless, non-judgemental society, they too – just like their wretched white contemporaries who’ve been cruelly left to rot on the scrapheap of life – will eventually descend into an amoral abyss that inevitably leads to misery and failure.
 
Mark my words: the London Effect won’t last.