Tristram Hunt is in trouble with his old school. Photo: Getty
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Tristram Hunt's headmaster gives him a telling off for his private school plans

"Offensive bigotry."

It is a source of constant joy to Conservative politicians picking apart Labour's education policy that the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, went to a private school. And now his education is coming back to bite him yet again, as the headmaster of his old school, University College School in Hampstead, gives him a telling off for his new proposals.

This week, Hunt unveiled Labour's new plans to force private schools to partner with the state sector or lose £700m in tax relief. And his former headmaster, Mark Beard, isn't happy about it. Writing in the Telegraph, he said:

Dr Hunt’s proposals are deeply depressing – and not just because of the questionable legality of a government in effect removing charitable status for political reasons. (Did he nothing learn from Michael Gove’s abortive attempt to make Ofsted inspect independent schools?) His position is that, if they are unwilling to do more to help the state sector, independent schools will be treated as purely commercial enterprises. Why, then, should they not behave as such? Treat private schools as pariahs and you remove any pretence of encouraging them to play their part in society.

 . . . rather than relying on independent schools to solve the problems of the 93 per cent of pupils in the state sector, isn’t it time for Labour to come up with some helpful and forward-thinking initiatives, rather than espousing the old “them and us” propaganda?

He also told the Telegraph Hunt's plans espouse "what some might deem an offensive bigotry".

Detention!

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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