Tuesday, 10 June 2014

British values..

The findings of Ofsted's three-month inquiry into Birmingham's schools are everywhere.  The detail is, plainly, horrifying. At Oldknow Academy, a primary school trips to churches, Sikh gurdwaras, and synagogues were all phased, out, while the school's Christmas celebrations were cancelled. The school contributed £50,000 to the cost of trips to Mecca, and banned non-Muslim pupils from joining the visits. At Nansen, another primary school, teachers were told that a Nativity play's script must be vetted by the governors and that the use of a baby doll to represent Jesus was prohbited, because Islamic teaching forbids depicting God or the Son of God. Music and art are alleged to have been banned. Park View Academy, a secondary school, introduced a "madrassa curriculum" in some lessons and discouraged boys and girls from sitting together. The Sun carries the number of pupils at the schools concerned: at Nansen, 820 pupils, at Park View, 618 pupils, and at Oldknow: 600 pupils. In response, Michael Gove has announced that all British schools teach "British values" as part of the curriculum.  
All of which makes the conversation about Michael Gove versus Theresa May seem rather small. Yes, there is an element of the tussle which is about what Kevin Maguire yesterday referred to as the "Year AD (After Dave"), as there always is - I think about an hour passed between the Labour leadership election and the first bout of speculation as to who Ed Miliband's successor would be. But at the heart of the matter is what Rachel Sylvester describes today as the division between "croc-shooters" and "swamp-drainers"; those who see government as an exercise in problem-solving and those who see it as a revolutionary enterprise.  Mrs May, of course, is a crocodile-shooter by instinct, while Mr Gove is a swamp-drainer. In his column today, Ben laments a lack of genuine swamp-drainers as far as foreign affairs are concerned: "Britain," he writes, "was once one of the few countries to take its global responsibilities seriously, but now prefers trade deals, the PR allure of "soft power", and a quiet life. We assume things are good, getting better, and will remain as they are, when everything we are supposed to have learnt should tell us they aren't, might not, and won't." Whether you are a swamp-drainer or a crocodile-shooter, the division between the two surely deserves more than a discussion of the merits of Team Osborne, Team May.   As our leader notes today, this is a subject that has been"exercising policy-makers for more than 30 years - and still they have not got it right".
Missing from today's papers is Labour, who, yesterday in Parliament were unequal to the moment. Faced with an issue of utmost importance - that of religious extremism - Tristram Hunt preferred to reassert the primacy of tired old local authority.   A year from an election where Ed Miliband's party's hopes of becoming the largest party are not yet wholly extinguished, when asked about the biggest questions, the Opposition appears to lack either swamp-drainers of vision or croc-shooters of any conviction. 

David Cameron's coalition against Jean-Claude Juncker is building at home and abroad. Frederik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister, believes that the selection of Mr Juncker violates the Lisbon Treaty, and while Mr Cameron's description of the process to select the Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidate) for the European Parliament as "a stitch-up dressed up as an election" may alienate Angela Merkel, it puts him closer to the position of Mr Reinfeldt and others who are lairy of handing overthe power to select the Commission President to the European Parliament. At home, Labour has announced that they now back the PM's efforts. Having already resisted endorsing the PES' candidate, Martin Schulz, on the ground of his arch-federalist views, it would have been surprising to see Mr Miliband's party then vote for Mr Juncker. Voices around Mr Miliband - particularly Lord Wood, his close confidante, and Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary - have thought for some time that Mr Miliband should back up the PM on this occasion. Other Labour figures note that the insistence on a fresh face makes it harder for Downing Street to put Andrew Lansley forward for the Commissioner job. 
Ruh-oh! Last night on Newsnight, Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, said that he had argued for no notice  inspections in 2012, only to be overruled by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove. A senior DfE source described the claim as "wrong", and promised that there would be "more" on the issue soon. If this is the start of another bout of infighting at the DfE, it will do little to create an impression of a government now buckling down and tackling the problem of Islamic extremism in schools.   
Gordon Brown made a rare return to Westminster yesterday, and the fallout from his remarks is everywhere. The campaign to save the Union is patronising and may cause Scotland to leave "by mistake", Mr Brown warns. He's also called on David Cameron to debate Alex Salmond. It's thrown Better Together off course just as the campaign was gaining momentum and morale. It may have been accidental, but many within the Labour Party believe it was a deliberate act of sabotage by Mr Borwn. "Everything has to be done his way, or he tries to dismantle it," one Labour source told James Kirkup. The FT reports, meanwhile, that Scottish voters believe that the nationalist campaign has been more effective than the pro-Union one. For all that, the poll of polls still records a sixteen point lead for the Union and Mr Salmond desperately searching for a game-changer. Like a former Prime Minister suggesting a televised and unpredictable debate, maybe. 
The Liberal Democrats have lost the support of "young people who dream of a better future", Nick Clegg has said. (Looking at the polls, they don't seem to be doing too well among elderly people who yearn for a lost past, either) It's all a result of the "very gory, pretty gritty, often downright unappealing decisions we've had to take to sort out the public finances", he says. If he thought standing down would save the Liberal Democrats, he would, he says. Matt Holehouse has the story
David Miliband was "smart, creative and attractive with a ready smile". Gordon Brown, meanwhile, was "dealt a bad hand" (this is the statesman's equivalent of telling someone they've got nice eyes). Her relationship with William Hague started of cautiously, but, much to her delight, she "found him a thoughtful statesman with good sense and good humour". Recalling her farewell toast from Mr Hague, she refers to him as "the David Beckham of toasts".  The Times has exclusive extractsof Hilary Clinton's memoir of her time as Secretary of State, Hard Choices. 
Ben is away until Monday. I'm in sole charge of the MB for the rest of the week. Tips, press releases, and the rest tostephen.bush@telegraph.co.uk
The Morning Briefing is edited - and this week, written - by Stephen Bush. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram
I'm going with "No":
@PaulFlynnMP: Will Theresa May be remembered for putting ambition above loyalty to her SPAD & Michael Gove remembered for making UK Madrasas possible?
YouGov latest:
Con 31%, Lab 37%, LD 7%, UKIP 15%
In the Telegraph
Benedict Brogan - Britain once strutted the stage, but now it prefers the quiet life
Telegraph View - Thirty years, and they still haven't got it right
Philip Johnston - All pupils deserve a basic set of principles
Best of the Rest
Janan Ganesh - There is more to British politics than base Tory plots
Rachel Sylvester - Swamp-drainers take on the croc-shooters
0930 LONDON: Ofqual give evidence to Commons Education Committee on exams for 15 to 19-year-olds. Wilson Room, Portcullis House, London, SW1A 2LW.
1030 LONDON: Fresh legal challenge over the controversial HS2 high speed rail project. The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, WC2A 2LL.
1200 LONDON AND EDINBURGH: 21-gun salute to mark the Duke of Edinburgh's 93rd birthday
1645 LONDON: David Cameron to meet William Hague and Angelina Jolie re sexual violence in conflict conference. 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA.
1830 LONDON: John Bercow speech on digital democracy. Policy Exchange, 10 Storey's Gate, Westminster, SW1P 3AY. Policy Exchange020 7340 2650.