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Hughes a riskier appointment than Hezza

Posted on 29 December 2010 | 1:12pm

There is nothing wrong with governments looking to politicians not actually inside the government, but broadly supportive of it, to do a job of work for them.
So Michael Heseltine as an advisor on growth, manfully filling a gap left by poor Lord Young, who seemingly had to go because he said what he thought, and created a modest media storm, fair enough. I always had a bit of a soft spot for Hezza from my journalist days, when he was good company, a good story and a good source. He is looking a bit older these days, but I have always felt we do not use older politicians as well in Britain as, say, the Americans, so I don’t doubt he will be dusting down a few of those ideas from the days when the Tories discovered there was a city in the North West called Liverpool.
Less convincing is the sudden appointment of Simon Hughes as an advocate – much better than czar – on access to higher education. I have also had a bit of time for Simon. But of the two, I confidently predict that despite Hezza’s past habit of storming out, it will be Hughes who does so first.

  • Robert Jackson

    Staying with the BBC news story of the day – Francis Maude extolling the virtue of charitable giving and Tory hopes that we’ll do more of it from our incomes soon to be eroded by 20% VAT and impoverished public services.

    One very significant contribution the government could make would be to take organisations such as the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) under its wing, meeting their running costs.

    That would end the iniquity of CAF witholding quite large sums from charitable donations simply to meet its own running costs.

    A charity I have been involved with dropped CAF from collecting its subscriptions for this very reason. It cost us too much.

  • Quinney

    At the end of the day Ally, Heseltine butchered the coal mines and their communities. One day we’ll have to open them back up to meet our energy shortages due to Thatcher and Co burning up the North Sea gas reserves to kill the mining industry.

  • Richard

    If the ridiculous aspiration of 50% of school leavers going to University had been replaced with the proper provision of apprentiships and technical education, University funding could have been held within reasonable limits. At £6,000 to £9,000 pa fees it will become more elitist than ever.
    It will take more than Simon Hughes to convince students from poorer backgrounds that such potential debt may be worthwhile.
    New Labour should be ashamed at the original introduction of the fees policy, as history has proved that once on the books all such “taxes” only rise!

  • Quinney

    Labour did bring back proper apprenticeships through Ivan Lewis MP when he was at education, I believe the figure was @200,000. If we do want to expand this though we have to have a proper industrial policy which took 10 long yrs to develop under Labour. There is an opportunity to develop green industries eg the government should insist that all wind turbines are UK made from UK components. That would enable factories to be built in local areas, where workers can use public transport to get to work. Apprenticeships could be used to get kids in work learning proper trades that would benefi them for life.

  • Janete

    Have to agree Quinney. Labour made a good start in launching apprenticeship programmes but we need a wide ranging policy plan to ensure decent work opportunities for all our young people. To allow British businesses complete freedom to bring ready trained labour from abroad to avoid the costs of training British youngsters is unacceptable and leaves large numbers of especially non-academic kids without hope for the future. I don’t think there is anything wrong with 50% of young people going to university providing standards are maintained, but I feel this should be in the context of overarching provision to include apprenticeships and technical skills development for all who want it. I think funding and loans should be provided on the same basis as for university graduates (but not at the current ridiculous £9000 per year cost).

  • Olli Issakainen

    Britons never had it so good?
    It is true that some people – not savers – have benefited from low interest rates. Average interest on variable rates fell from 5.91% in 2008 to 2.72% in 2010. But savers outnumber mortage customers.
    Inflation in Britain is now 3.3% against the target of 2%. In 2011 Britain will suffer from rising inflation and sluggish growth. Borrowing is still escalating with debt rising.
    With inflation above the upper acceptable level of 3%, base rates will soon rise from the historic low of 0.5%. They will eventually normalize between 4-5%.
    British households have £1,200bn of mortage debt. Two-thirds of borrowers are on variable rates.
    The UK economy could face a new slump during 2011. We could see a quarter of negative growth. There could be stagflation.
    During November, government borrowed £23.3bn – much more than expected.
    Next year there will be problems in eurozone. It seems now clear that Greece will at some stage go bust.
    In Britain there will be cuts and job losses. Seven million homeowners will be at risk when the interest rates rise. The BoE will not be able to help Mr Osborne with new round of QE because of high inflation.
    Unemployment has risen to more than 2.5m. CIPD says that 200,000 jobs could be shed in 2011. Unemployment will rise from 7.9% to 9%, 2.7m.
    The policies of George Osborne are not working. His plan is based on private sector creating 2.5m new jobs! And he boasts of not having a plan B.
    VAT will rise to 20%. Increases in wages will be small.
    A plan for growth is needed. Governments can only cut their expenditure – not deficits. Whether the deficit goes down depends entirely on how the rest of the economy reacts to cuts.
    In 1980 Mrs T insisted that the lady was not for turning. But as Ed Miliband has stated, the scale and the pace of the cuts are wrong.

  • Quinney

    Bang on there Janete, I’ve worked with loads of lads who were struggling academically but were brilliant with their hands. We also need to start respecting genuine tradesmen (and women) and pay good wages, that way youngsters will want to learn a trade instead of just thinking it’s a grubby, dirty manual job.
    As usual the Germans have ridden out the global recession better than anybody, this is the country that kept manufacturing, didn’t allow jobs and factories to go overseas, pays good wages, has workers on the boards and always looks long term. Ed Milliband can learn a lesson by looking at how they do things in Germany.

  • Gilliebc

    I agree with Richard that the figure of 50% of school leavers going to university was and still is ridiculous, for obvious reasons!
    I believe this figure was introduced to help cover-up the true unemployment figures at the time. This procedure was first used in the 1980’s by the Thatcher government.
    I’m very much in favour of our genuinely brightest young people from all walks of life receiving a university education, no one would surely want to see a return to the days when doctors for example, were superior toffs. Some of whom revelled in their power of life over death or vi’ce ver’sa. But, that’s another story/can of worms.
    Paying for a university education is the problem. Able students from middle and upper class families, should be able to manage the tuition fees, I would have thought. But, it’s the genuinely bright, gifted and able students from ordinary working class backrounds who will need financial assistance, from somewhere or other.
    This figure of 50% is going to have to be revised down though, because most of us tax-payers are not stupid enough to help put this number of people through university. I would guess that at least 15% or possibly more, of these students would never have qualified for a university place before the dumbing down of the exam system, and as for some of the totally ridiculous courses on offer, well, they are unnecessary and have to be got rid off. As far as I can see, a university education is to further educate our brightest young people, in order that they can make a worthwhile contribution to society in the future. University should not be a place to dump people of merely average intelligence, as a short term political fix.

  • Gilliebc

    Completely agree with your post Quinney.

    Mr. Campbell, regarding your blog, I would simply say Heseltine, is as hard as nails and should not be “woken-up” again. As for Simon Hughes,
    he always struck me as a bit of a t*t, quite frankly.

    I’m guessing this post may not get past the moderator/s, Mr. Campbell, because my very tame comments re: Vince Cable several days ago did not get posted. Are you moving more to the centre in your political views AC ?
    Deeply thoughtfull intelligent people do change their views even if only slightly, over the course of a life-time. People that never change their views on anyone or anything are, I would venture to suggest, narrow minded and blinkered individuals.

  • Janete

    I am reluctant to criticise the Labour government as I think they achieved a great deal, which will only be properly appreciated when the country has again suffered under the Tories. But I think our outlook tended to be too middle class in some policy areas.

    The drive to improve literacy was a good and laudible initiative but it seemed to lead to a downgrading of other skills and abilities. 16-19 FE and adult education funding was linked, too tightly, to achievements in literacy or numeracy, so that achievements in manual or technical skills were devalued. Students at my local college risked failing courses in ‘wall and floor tiling’ or ‘plumbing’ because their literacy skills were weak. Colleges all over the country were perverting courses in subjects like IT or Art to force students to develop their literacy skills whether they wanted to or not, rather than to recognise these discrete skills as valuable in themselves. I even met a man who was sacked from his job as a care worker because he couldn’t read and write well enough to pass the written elements of the compulsory NVQ.

    If Labour is to reconnect with our core supporters in time for the next election, we have to appeal to all sections of our society, including the view from a working class perspective. Apprenticeships, skills development and decent jobs within reach of less academic people are essential.

    We have seen another recent example of this preferred ‘middle class’ view in the debate about later retirement ages. A graduate may not begin their working life until their mid twenties, and follow this with a fairly sedentary career. Retiring at 68 or 70 may be reasonable under these circumstances. Not so desirable for a working class lad who goes into the building trade at 16 and we should not expect him to do a physically demanding job for 52 years or more.

  • Nick

    as a tory i agree