Is Clegg right to offer flexible parental leave?

January 17, 2011
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wants to give parents the right to share and swap their statutory leave for looking after newborn babies and children. That’s good news for parents, although the new arrangements have to be knocked into shape after consultation with employers and won’t come into force until 2015. Clegg said in a speech on Monday to the Demos think tank that increasing flexibility over parental leave was a priority for him and for the Prime Minister David Cameron. Both have young families and like most fathers these days have taken time out from work following their new arrivals. At present mothers get up to a year’s statutory leave, while fathers only qualify for two weeks. Clegg wants to change that so that parents can divide up this time off as it suits them, even taking the leave at the same time if that is what they want. Unions say the proposals are long overdue, but employers are less keen. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said Clegg’s plan might be politically popular but it “fundamentally ignores the needs of business.” “How is an employer expected to plan and arrange cover with this fully-flexible system,” asked BCC director general David Frost. Have employers got a valid point? Or is it time for business to do more to ensure children see the most of both their parents in their earliest months. Tell us what you think.

BRITAIN/Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wants to give parents the right to share and swap their statutory leave for looking after newborn babies.

Oldham could be shape of things to come

January 14, 2011


As voters drifted towards polling stations on a damp winter’s night in Oldham East and Saddleworth, it was hard to find anyone bursting with good things to say about Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

This may hurt a little

June 8, 2010

Britons are being prepared for the hardest of hard times. Prime Minister David Cameron has warned the public that they will feel the impact of deficit-cutting decisions for years and maybe even decades. Cameron justifies the pain by saying that doing nothing about debt would be disastrous and that Britain will come out of the other side as a stronger country.

Michael Gove’s radical academies plan

May 26, 2010
Gove900The Conservatives’ promise to give parents money to run their own schools won all the headlines ahead of the election. But the coalition’s new education secretary Michael Gove is likely to achieve a much more  dramatic shakeup of education in England with his invitation to all schools to apply for academy status. It means schools opting out of local authority control and becoming independent, but state-funded, institutions. Originally reserved for the most poorly performing schools, Gove is now extending this privilege as a right to 2,600 top rated primary, secondary and special schools. Other schools can apply for the change, and Gove intends his renamed Department for Education to do all it can to help them. It turns back the clock on more than 140 years of local political oversight of school education in England, dating back to the Victorian school boards and the local education authorities that replaced them in the opening years of the last century. John Dunford, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, who has seen regular changes of education policy over the years, believes this time something significant is taking place. “I think it will come to be seen as one of the most radical pieces of legislation for a generation,” he told me. He sees a large number of England’s secondary schools signing up. For many, the clinching factor will be getting hold of the 10 to 15 percent of state funding that local authorities now retain to pay for shared services, which they will see as insurance against an expected tightening of budgets in coming years. Then again, secondary schools are far less dependent on local authority assistance than primary schools, which tend to me much smaller, and are not expected, even by Gove, to be rushing to change status. Concerns have been raised by many, including the Local Government Association, that England is heading for a two-tier education system that will neglect the most difficult and deprived children. But the three school leaders Gove invited to a journalists briefing on his plans dismissed these fears, saying it was the current system that worked against those most in need of extra help. Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation, which runs nine academies in South London, said no longer having to devote staff time to “endless local authority initiatives” meant teachers could focus on what they were meant to be doing – teaching. He said: “This kind of status for all schools in England is the beginning of an education revolution which has the potential to transform the life prospects of disadvantaged children across the country.”


Reality intrudes on new British political order

May 25, 2010

cameron_cleggBritain’s new political order was on display in the House of Commons on Tuesday when Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg squeezed  happily between Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague  on the government front bench.

New politics? Looks like more of the same to me

May 13, 2010

When I interviewed David Cameron earlier this year after an event at Thomson Reuters in which he, George Osborne and Ken Clarke delivered their views on the economy under a “Vote For Change” banner, I suggested that watching three white, middle-aged men talking about what was good for Britain didn’t feel much like change to me. Cameron jokingly replied that Clarke, 69, would be flattered to be described as middle-aged.

Irish lesson for Clegg: get coalition right or face oblivion

May 10, 2010

If the Irish experience of coalition politics is anything to go by, Nick Clegg risks a lot more than unpopularity if he strikes a half-baked coalition deal with the Conservative Party. He also faces electoral oblivion should he fail to win enough concessions and power to carry his grassroots supporters with him.

Coalition talks – a Liberal Democrat explains

May 8, 2010

David LawsTalks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives about arrangements that might lead to the two parties forming the next government took place on Friday (May 7) and will continue on Saturday. Little is being said about the talks by either side, so it seems a good time to revisit a blog and video interview with the Lib Dems’ David Laws on the subject of coalitions I published last September from the party’s autumn conference. Laws is reported to be part of the Lib Dem team negotiating with the Conservatives. BBC’s Newsnight ran an extract from the video interview on Friday evening.

from The Great Debate UK:

Fears of UK hung parliament may be overstated

April 19, 2010

-- The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Ming, coalition plans and the election that never was

September 23, 2009

Menzies Campbell at the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Bournemouth, September 21, 2009. Picture: Tim Castle/Reuter

For many observers it’s the key question for the Liberal Democrats — who they would support in a hung parliament — Brown’s Labour or Cameron’s Tories?