If I were you David...

Ali Miraj, who was kicked off David Cameron's candidate A-list in July, imagines what he would do if

Ali Miraj, who was kicked off David Cameron's candidate A-list in July, imagines what he would do if he were Tory leader including going on a people management course

In an effort to put the difficulties of recent months behind me I intend to take the following steps:

First, I will shake up the Shadow Cabinet as follows. William Hague will be moved to Shadow Chancellor and made Deputy Leader. George Osborne will take up the role of Party Chairman.

This should not be seen as a demotion but rather as an indication that I wish my modernising agenda to be stamped on the party and the party should know that the George has my ear at all times.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind will be brought back to the front bench as Shadow Foreign Secretary. He is a man of huge experience and stature and boy do I need some of that.

David Davis will remain at the Home Office as he is doing a sound job. All members of the Shadow Cabinet will be confined to one outside interest as I cannot afford to carry part-timers. We must have, and be seen to have, a hunger for government. I can’t seem to find Lynton Crosby’s number but I will ask Michael Howard to get it for me as I want him to run the general election campaign. I will get my secretary Kate, to book me a people management course at Henley Business School so that I can avoid another Quentin Davies/Graham Brady situation arising.

Second, candidate selection will be reviewed. At my meeting with John Maples on Tuesday I decided that in future, no candidate will be allowed to stand for a marginal or safe seat unless they have previously fought a parliamentary election. If people want to become MPs, it is not unreasonable that they should serve their apprenticeship and show their commitment by fighting an unwinnable seat.

Conservative Associations in all remaining safe seats that become available between now and the end of the Parliament should be forced to select from a priority list of the top 50 candidates. This list will be made up on the basis of experience, commitment and talent. There will be no fixed proportion of women and ethnic minorities as it is clear that more than enough will make it on merit alone. As these vacancies arise, I will personally call the constituency Chairman to remind him/her of the responsibility the Association has to choose the best candidate for the job, not the one it feels most comfortable with.

Third, I will champion the idea of people having greater power over their own lives. To demonstrate my seriousness, I will not engage in rhetoric but will vigorously promote the introduction of citizens’ initiatives whereby any member of the public can promote a law and provided they manage to secure the necessary threshold of public support through a petition, the proposal will be put forward as a people’s bill as part of the Queen’s speech. A list of such people’s bills will be debated in each Parliamentary session. I will also call for greater use of referenda and will keep up the pressure on the Prime Minister to hold a referendum of the new European treaty and for another on whether English MPs should have the sole right to vote on English issues.

Fourth, the security of the nation will be my top priority. This will be achieved through two complementary means. On the one hand, a crackdown on preachers of hate within Britain and on the other, the pursuit of a sensible foreign policy that seeks to work with other nations and allows the rule of law, free speech and democracy to grow organically within countries rather than us trying to force these upon them. Part of our approach will be to ensure that all citizens understand what it means to be British and we will have no hesitation in engaging in intellectual battle with those who seek to undermine this great country of ours by preaching subversion.

Fifth, the NHS will be run properly. There will be no more talk of clients and customers. Respect for the doctor/patient relationship will be restored. There will be an end to deskilling whereby specific tasks are stripped out and performed by individuals who are not trained doctors. Treating human beings will never be akin to producing cars on a factory production line. A winning culture will be created through the introduction of performance related bonuses and responsibility will be clearly defined. The balance between Chiefs and Indians will be redressed.

Sixth, proper educational standards will be reintroduced. A-levels will once again be the gold standard of British education and AS levels will be scrapped. There will be no modular sitting of exams. The coursework element within subjects will be drastically reduced to a level of no more than 20% apart from specific exceptions such as design and technology which are labour intensive. School teachers will be allowed to impose discipline as they see fit and “golden hellos” will be paid to teachers who choose to work in the most challenging inner-city schools. All teachers will receive government assistance in obtaining housing close to their place of work that is affordable to buy and to run. The present government’s 50% target for children going to university will be abolished. The money saved from this will be redeployed into vocational training schemes which will be rigorous, demanding and will result in a nationally recognised qualification. Vocational standards and training programmes will be developed with the help of industry bodies.

Finally, I must finish reading Alistair Campbell’s, “The Blair Years” and console myself that although it is tough, I can still make it to number 10.

Ali Miraj has been a broadcaster and has stood twice as a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

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The SATs strike: why parents are taking their children out of school to protest against exams

Parents are keeping their children away from school to highlight the dangers of “over testing” young pupils.

My heart is beating fast and I feel sick. I force myself to eat some chocolate because someone said it might help. I take a deep breath and open the door…

The hall is silent except for the occasional cough and the shuffling of chairs. The stench of nervous sweat lingers in the air.

“Turn over your papers, you may begin.”

I look at the clock and I am filled with panic. I feel like I might pass out. I pick up my pen but my palms are so sweaty it is hard to grip it properly. I want to cry. I want to scream, and I really need the toilet.

This was how I felt before every GCSE exam I took. I was 16. This was also how I felt before taking my driving test, aged 22, and my journalism training (NCTJ) exams when I was 24.

Being tested makes most of us feel anxious. After all, we have just one chance to get stuff right. To remember everything we have learned in a short space of time. To recall facts and figures under pressure; to avoid failure.

Even the most academic of adults can find being in an exam situation stressful, so it’s not hard to imagine how a young child about to sit their Year 2 SATs must feel.

Today thousands of parents are keeping their kids off school in protest at these tough new national tests. They are risking fines, prosecution and possible jail time for breach of government rules. By yesterday morning, more than 37,000 people had signed a petition backing the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign and I was one of them.

I have a daughter in reception class who will be just six years old when she sits her SATs. These little ones are barely out of pull-up pants and now they are expected to take formal exams! What next? Babies taught while they are in the womb? Toddlers sitting spelling tests?

Infants have fragile self-esteem. A blow to their confidence at such an impressionable age can affect them way into adulthood. We need to build them up not tear them down. We need to ensure they enjoy school, not dread it. Anxiety and fear are not conducive to learning. It is like throwing books at their heads as a way of teaching them to read. It will not work. They are not machines. They need to want to learn.

When did we stop treating children like children? Maybe David Cameron would be happier if we just stopped reproducing all together. After all, what use to the economy are these pesky kids with their tiny brains and individual emotional needs? Running around all happy and carefree, selfishly enjoying their childhood without any regard to government statistics or national targets.

Year 2 SATs, along with proposals for a longer school day and calls for baseline reception assessments (thankfully now dropped) are just further proof that the government do not have our children’s best interests at heart. It also shows a distinct lack of common sense. It doesn’t take a PhD in education to comprehend that a child is far more likely to thrive in a calm, supportive and enjoyable environment. Learning should be fun. The value in learning through play seems to be largely underestimated.

The UK already has a far lower school starting age than many other countries, and in my opinion, we are already forcing them into a formal learning environment way too soon.

With mental health illness rates among British children already on the rise, it is about time our kids were put first. The government needs to stop “throwing books at heads” and start listening to teachers and parents about what is best for the children.

Emily-Jane Clark is a freelance journalist, mother-of-two and creator of stolensleep.com, a humorous antithesis to baby advice.