Finsbury I

Finsbury was a radical constituency, electing only one Tory (called Mr Spankie) in its 55 years of existence. Thomas Slingsby Duncombe MP (1834-65) had only needed to canvass the seat by horse “half a dozen times before election”. W M Torrens served from 1865-85, having previously been MP for Dundalk (1848-52) and then stood in Great Yarmouth with Admiral Sir Harry Vane. 
In his book Twenty Years in Parliament Torrens recalled that Vane’s “first article of faith was to go further than anyone else”. Goaded by a heckler, Vane exploded, “What more could I promise, short of undertaking to repeal the Ten Commandments?” They lost. 
 
Torrens expanded the franchise for lodgers who paid more than £10 a year in rent. By 1885, 57,684 lodgers had joined the electoral register.

This article first appeared in the 01 July 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Brazil erupts

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Listen: Schools Minister Nick Gibb gets SATs question for 11-year-olds wrong

Exams put too much pressure on children. And on the politicians who insist they don't put too much pressure on children.

As we know from today's news of a primary school exams boycott, or "kids' strike", it's tough being a schoolchild in Britain today. But apparently it's also tough being a Schools Minister.

Nick Gibb, Minister of State at the Department for Education, failed a SATs grammar question for 11-year-olds on the BBC's World at One today. Having spent all morning defending the primary school exams system - criticised by tens of thousands of parents for putting too much pressure on young children - he fell victim to the very test that has come under fire.

Listen here:

Martha Kearney: Let me give you this sentence, “I went to the cinema after I’d eaten my dinner”. Is the word "after" there being used as a subordinating conjunction or as a preposition?

Nick Gibb: Well, it’s a proposition. “After” - it's...

MK: [Laughing]: I don’t think it is...

NG: “After” is a preposition, it can be used in some contexts as a, as a, word that coordinates a subclause, but this isn’t about me, Martha...

MK: No, I think, in this sentence it’s being used a subordinating conjunction!

NG: Fine. This isn’t about me. This is about ensuring that future generations of children, unlike me, incidentally, who was not taught grammar at primary school...

MK: Perhaps not!

NG: ...we need to make sure that future generations are taught grammar properly.

I'm a mole, innit.