Worried Will Young

The best of the politics blogs as brought to you by Paul Evans

Too schooled for cool

When faced with the dilemma of my education, my parents poured over the prospectuses for Poshington College and Gasworks Comprehensive. After much anguished hand-wringing, they came to the right decision. David Cameron has been similarly wrestling with the knotty issue - and has now decided to send his sprogs to London comps (“pathetic!” barked the rather mean Labour Boy).

While the headlines focussed on Cameron's announcement regarding his own offspring, he and Michael Gove were also unveiling policy of substance – most eye-catchingly, encouraging the institutions of civil society to establish schools. Will Rhodes felt that a cross-party consensus on the future of state education is necessary to make any long-term reforms effective – and that local authorities are a malign force in the governance of comprehensive schools, explaining: “I don’t care what the LEAs say - they are as politically motivated as the parties who are kicking them around”.

Letters from a Tory was impressed by the idea of “state funding supporting independent public service providers in the name of social justice,” but concerned that Dave was creating a rod for his own back.

“You turned your nose up at around 15 primaries near your West London home to send your five-year-old daughter to an Anglican state school because you wanted to do what’s best for your children,” he recalled.

But while Cameron's pledge might be interpreted as an act of expedient solidarity with the increasingly hard-up middle classes, the role of his wife Samantha should not be underestimated. As Sam Coates noted some weeks ago on his Red Box blog – she is something of an enthusiast for state education.

In the same week, the Lib Dems unveiled their own education proposals, including a commitment to cut class sizes to 15 and more detail on the party's plans for a Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged children. Islington candidate Bridget Fox joined her party leader for the policy launch at a North London school. She later blogged that Clegg had cracked “that'll put them off,” in response to learning that pupils were to visit Westminster to learn more about politics. Never a truer word said in jest...

What have we learned this week?

On Facebook, Nick Clegg shows his yoof cred by embracing the '25 random things' meme. We learn that his great-great aunt dated HG Wells and that he once wrote a (“terrible”) novel. It couldn't have been worse than Iain Duncan Smith's 'The Devil's Tune,' surely.

Around the World

To New Zealand, where Jafapete on the left of centre Kiwipolitico has been reflecting on Waitangi, the national holiday marking the conclusion of the treaty which made the Maori people British subjects.

Jafapete expressed concern that the idea of national unity is: “often used to conceal the very real differences between the haves and the have nots in society,” while the Green Party's frogblog was impressed by the tone in which the day was observed, citing a: “civil debate about the appropriateness of our national anthem, our flag and our other national symbols without any of the polarising name calling I would have expected in the past”.

Videos of the Week

M.I.A remains pretty hot stuff and she got more records than the KGB. Heavily pregnant (indeed, actually due), her 'Paper Planes' (which samples the Clash's 'Straight to Hell') was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys.

M.I.A's father was a pro-Tamil independence activist and she has not been shy in using Tiger imagery – prompting one of the more interesting pop rows of last year, when Sri Lankan-American rapper DeLon accused her (through the medium of the “diss video”) of supporting terrorism - allegations which drew an angry rejection of the charge.

Quote of the Week

“You always know when someone is struggling because they say they are "worried". Will Young was "worried" about every issue, it seemed.”

Iain Dale blogging on the week's BBC Question Time.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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How will Theresa May meet her commitment to low-earners?

The Prime Minister will soon need to translate generalities into specifics. 

The curtailed Conservative leadership contest (which would not have finished yet) meant that Theresa May had little chance to define her agenda. But of the statements she has made since becoming prime minister, the most notable remains her commitment to lead a government "driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours." 

When parliament returns on 5 September, and the autumn political season begins, May will need to translate this generality into specifics. The defining opportunity to do so will be the Autumn Statement. Originally intended by George Osborne to be a banal update of economic forecasts, this set-piece more often resembled a second Budget. Following the momentous Brexit vote, it certainly will under Philip Hammond. 

The first priority will be to demonstrate how the government will counter the threat of recession. Osborne's target of a budget surplus by 2020 has wisely been abandoned, granting the new Chancellor the freedom to invest more in infrastructure (though insiders make it clear not to expect a Keynesian splurge).

As well as stimulating growth, Hammond will need to reflect May's commitment to those "just managing" rather than the "privileged few". In her speech upon becoming prime minister, she vowed that "when it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you". A natural means of doing so would be to reduce VAT, which was increased to a record high of 20 per cent in 2010 and hits low-earners hardest. Others will look for the freeze on benefit increases to be lifted (with inflation forecast to rise to 3 per cent next year). May's team are keenly aware of the regressive effect of loose monetary policy (low interest rates and quantitative easing), which benefits wealthy asset-owners, and vow that those who lose out will be "compensated" elsewhere. 

A notable intervention has come from Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative chair of the Treasury select committee. He has called for the government to revive the publication of distributional analyses following Budgets and Autumn Statements, which was ended by George Osborne last year (having been introduced by the coalition in 2010). 

In a letter to Hammond, Tyrie wrote: "I would be grateful for an assurance that you will reinstate the distributional analysis of the effects of the budget and autumn statement measures on household incomes, recently and mistakenly discontinued by your predecessor." He added: "The new prime minister is committing her government to making Britain a country that works 'not for a privileged few, but for every one of us'. A high level of transparency about the effects of tax and welfare policy on households across the income distribution would seem to be a logical, perhaps essential starting point." 

Whether the government meets this demand will be an early test of how explicit it intends to be in reducing disparities. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.