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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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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