Author Archives: Lee Howgate

Why we need to close schools

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Yesterday the government announced a range of measures to protect the public from the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a former Assistant Headteacher, parent and more importantly son, I am concerned that this has not extended to schools. Here’s why:

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Two cheers for Liberalism: Thoughts from Torbay

What will 2018 bring for my party? That’s a question every local party Chair has probably asked themselves already, as we paused to reflect on the turbulence and mayhem (no pun intended) of 2017.  Local elections will be on many party officers’ minds, as it is in my neck of the woods, where work on finalising our pool of candidates for 2019 is already underway.  The prospect of another General Election- seen by the bookies as more likely in 2019 than 2018- will never be far away.  And Brexit will muddle on while the contradictions of the process become ever plainer to see.

In my Christmas stocking was Nick Clegg’s “How to Stop Brexit”- a gift from someone who truly knows me well.  No sooner had I read it then a new hero emerged to back the Lib Dem call for a referendum on the Brexit deal – in the unlikely form of Nigel Farage.

If ever you wanted proof that the wheels are wobbling on the Brexit bandwagon, look no further.

Farage, (somehow overlooked in the New Year’s Honours…) has spotted something that most Brexiteers have yet to grasp: the need to prepare for Parliament rejecting the government’s Brexit plans on the deal.  He sees, quite rightly, that there is every prospect of Parliament taking back control and refusing a deal that would leave Britain bound by rules it could no longer influence, with reduced trade and uncertain co-operation on everything from nuclear safety to counter-terrorism.

And we know his simple solution- no deal and the disaster of rupturing access to our biggest export market overnight.

That’s why 2018 has to be the year we fight Brexit.  As David Davis said “A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy”.  Plenty of folk thought that taking back control of our fishing grounds, ending payments to Brussels and having an extra £350m a week sounded like a good deal.  As these turn out to be delusions, we should be brave enough to say let’s let the nation think again.  

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Passing the buck: A right fine mess at the Department for Education

Well, there it is. According to the TES, in the brave new world of Justine Greening’s Department for Education, a GCSE pass is now a grade 4. Except when it is a 5, because a 5 is also a pass. And just to remind you, the top grade is a 9, and the bottom grade a 1. Except maybe it’s a zero. Nobody really knows anymore, so don’t feel too left out.

And don’t panic, if you’re a student, a parent or a teacher. Because all will be well. Don’t listen to anyone who complains about the government not knowing what a GCSE pass actually means a mere 6 weeks before the exams. If we all stay united, Britain is unstoppable, remember. It’s just the moaners who bring us all down.

Still sceptical? As well you might be. It’s worth recalling how we ended up here, with the government announcing that a GCSE pass is both a grade 4 and a grade 5 rather like Boris Johnson when he announced he wanted to have his euro cake and eat it.

That’s the problem with nonsense. Like misbehaviour in schools, when one minister gets away with it, the others all start to copy. First it was Boris, then David Davis and Liam Fox with their pirouettes on the Single Market and immigration, and now it’s Justine Greening in education.

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Thoughts on York

So, what was the most enduring memory of the York Liberal Democrat Spring Conference? Tim Farron taking on the Tories in a rousing final speech, or Nick Clegg in blistering form on Brexit? The feisty debate on faith schools, or the brief flirtation with unilateral nuclear disarmament, cunningly timed to coincide with England’s Grand Slam decider?

Or was it York itself, magnificent in the spring sunshine, giving us the perfect backdrop to the #libdemfightback?

Well, for me, the abiding memory is being a part of a vast hopeful army of conference newbies, who, like me, had chosen to get up off the canvas of 2016′s despair and do something- anything- to stop the world lurching into hate-filled extremism.

You can’t bottle “essence of York spring 2017″. But if you could, you might be intoxicated by the scent of a new libdemmery. One that had a heady dose of optimism, energy and hopefulness. But also a hint of something bloody, a visceral sense of patriotism that Tim Farron captured by announcing “I want my country back”.

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