UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from FaithWorld:

Anti-Muslim bias now the social norm, UK cabinet minister says

warsiPrejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in Britain, says the Conservative Party's chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Warsi, a Pakistan-born minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet, will say in a speech at the University of Leicester on Thursday evening that dividing Muslims into "moderate" and "extremist" fuels intolerance, according to prepared remarks published in the Daily Telegraph. (Photo: Baroness Warsi at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, October 3, 2010/Toby Melville)

"It's not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of 'moderate' Muslims leads; in the factory, where they've just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: 'Not to worry, he's only fairly Muslim,'" according to the first Muslim woman in a British cabinet. "In the school, the kids say: 'The family next door are Muslim but they're not too bad'. And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: 'That woman's either oppressed or is making a political statement.'"

There are 2.9 million Muslims in Britain, almost 5 percent of the population, according to an estimate last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Britain has regularly been a focus of Islamist militant plots. In the worst attack in the country, suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London transport network in July 2005.

Michael Gove’s radical academies plan

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- 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.”

Gove900

The 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 far more dramatic shake-up of education in England with his invitation to all schools to apply for academy status, given that parent-run schools are only likely to form, at most, a small part of the overall system.

from MacroScope:

Britain heading for rude awakening?

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There is a divisive election ahead for Britain, the threat of a ratings downgrade on its sovereign debt and a deficit that has ballooned into the largest by percentage of any major economy.  UK stocks, bonds and sterling, however, are trundling along as if all were well. What gives?

For a fuller discussion on the issue click here, but the gist is that all three asset classes  are being support by factors that may be masking the danger of a broad reversal. UK equities have been driven higher by the improving global economy, bonds held up by the Bank of England's huge buying programme and sterling by valuation and the distress of others.

from Mark Jones:

A Google election?

The return to work on Monday prompted the launch of the main UK political parties' pre-election campaigns and the indications are that social media is likely to play a big role in the run-up to the general election.

David Cameron kicked off the Conservatives' Draft Health Manifesto with a very neat 'ask Cameron' feature making use of Google Moderator -- something I'd not heard of before but previously used by Conservative MP Giles Chichester in the runup to the Copenhagen climate summit.

Expenses row saps Brown’s authority

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It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Gordon Brown setting out a plan to overhaul MPs’ unpopular allowances and announcing it on YouTube too.

A week later the plan has unravelled in the face of opposition protest and internal Labour party misgivings. The upshot is more bad press and the feeling that Brown’s authority has been further undermined.

Abandon Northern towns for the prosperous South?

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mersey.jpgEven the report’s authors say the idea may sound barmy.

But the Policy Exchange, a right-wing thinktank, says it was serious when it called on the government to stop spending money trying to regenerate struggling northern cities and use the cash instead to help their residents relocate to the southeast.

Its report says it is unrealistic to expect cities like Liverpool, Hull and Sunderland to ever regenerate properly. 

Does Glasgow spell the end of Gordon Brown?

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gordon.jpgGordon Brown has woken to some unhappy headlines during his year as prime minister but the verdicts on newspaper websites following Labour’s shock defeat in the Glasgow East by-election were probably the worst he has faced.

“Disaster” was the description of the Daily Mail and The Independent after one of Labour’s safest seats fell to the Scottish National Party. The Daily Telegraph called it “Humiliation for Brown” while “Catastrophe for Labour” was The Guardian’s verdict.

Work for dole?

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purnell.jpgWork and Pensions Secretary James Purnell wants long-term job-seekers to work for their state benefits.

If they have been jobless for a year, they will have to do four weeks of community work with a government-backed private or public body. After two years, they will have to take a full-time job.

David Davis – what the papers say

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david.jpg Leader writers applauded the shock value of David Davis’ resignation but were divided over his motives and predicted the potentially shambolic by-election to come would damage the Conservative party.

With the LibDems already having said they will not field a candidate on July 10 and Labour still mulling the options, the papers raised the spectre of Davis campaigning alone against fringe parties like the Monster Raving Loonies and a motley crew of publicity-seekers.

A courageous decision?

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daviddavis1.jpg“Courageous” is how Conservative Leader David Cameron described the decision by his shadow home secretary, David Davis, to quit his parliamentary seat and force a by-election over the issue of pre-charge detention.

Davis says he will contest the seat to take a stand on the erosion of civil liberties caused by the proposal to extend to 42 days the time police can hold terrorism suspects without charge.

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