Comment Plus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The Tea Party: lofty ideals, grubby facts (Guardian)

Far from being a grass-roots movement, the orginal "tea party" was brewed up by wealthy merchants, writes Tristram Hunt. Today, once more, corporate elites are winding up an angry populace.

2. Gordon Brown needs to focus fast on what women really want (Daily Telegraph)

The defection of female voters to the Tories could lose the government this election, says Mary Riddell. In order to win women back, Brown should avoid gimmicks and giveaways and focus on protecting public services.

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3. Cameron should be offering hope, not pain (Financial Times)

Philip Stephens argues that David Cameron's biggest mistake was to join George Osborne in promising a new "age of austerity". Until then, the Tory leader had defined himself as a centrist post-Thatcherite, more keen on healing society than on slashing public services.

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4. Polls do much more for the pollsters than for the public (Independent)

It would be marvellous to have an election campaign free of opinion polls, writes Dominic Lawson. The uncertainty about the outcome would likely produce a sharp rise in turnout and more discussion of the real issues.

5. It takes more than Play-Doh to plug a deficit (Times)

The Budge deficit cannot be reduced by cutting back on middle-class perks alone, writes Rachel Sylvester. The scope and remit of public services may have to change so they can stay universal.

6. Is this Labour's death rattle or a rare new optimism? (Guardian)

Michael White explores whether Labour's plans for high-speed rail and a national care service prove that the government has not run out of steam.

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7. Spare us from politicians and their "difficult decisions" (Daily Telegraph)

Politicians should simply say, in concrete terms, what their policies are and what the consequences will be, rather than using the disingenuous phrase "difficult decisions", says Michael Deacon.

8. Our attitude to kids shows we need to grow up (Times)

Our society's failure to treat child offenders as children feeds our vengeful instincts towards young killers and rapists, argues David Aaronovitch.

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9. The only question asked of Nick Clegg (Independent)

The national media are only interested in asking Clegg one question: what would you do in the event of a hung parliament? But, says Steve Richards, he does not know the answer and will not know it until the election is over.

10. Bubble or not, China's rise is real (Financial Times)

China's political system may be inherently unstable, writes Gideon Rachman, but the country has emerged as a far more serious challenge to US hegemony than Japan ever was.

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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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