Tag Archives: david laws

An interesting observation from David Laws

Biteback has recently published David Laws’ Coalition Diaries, 2012-15. They are well worth a read.  Unlike his Coalition book published last year, these contemperaneous diaries aren’t nicely organised into different subjects and you tend to get more of a flavour of the frustrations and emotions that were going on at the time.

I am wending my way through the 560 page volume and will drop you the odd snippet while I read.

John Rentoul seems to be doing the same, on Twitter. He posted an account of a meeting between the Tory Chief Whip Sir George Young and Tory Ministers which …

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LibLink: David Laws: It’s time for Theresa May to ditch grammar school plans

David Laws, our former Schools Minister now heading up the Education Policy Institute (which used to be the CentreForum think tank) has been writing for the Observer. He’s driven a coach and horses through the Government’s case for grammar schools, which he says even fails to convince Education Secretary Justine Greening.

It is one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster that education secretary Justine Greening is not the biggest supporter of the policy that is now the social mobility “flagship” of Theresa May’s government – expanding the number of grammar schools.

Greening must be aware of the clear UK and international evidence that selective education both fails to raise overall standards, and undermines the prospects of poor children. Education Policy Institute researchers last year analysed the government’s own schools data and drew two key conclusions. First, that almost no children on free school meals get into grammar schools – a risible 4,000 out of more than eight million pupils in the whole of England. Second, that although there is a small benefit for pupils who are admitted to selective schools, this is offset by the worse results for other pupils in areas with a significant number of grammar places.

He outlines how he poorest children will be the worst affected by the move to grammar schools:

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LibLink: David Laws – UK reaches socially acceptable limits of austerity

David Laws has written an article in the Financial Times, but you have to be a subscriber to read it.  We will give you a flavour of the piece here so you can decide whether to subscribe (the trial version is £1 for 4 weeks).

In May 2010, as the chief secretary in the UK’s coalition government, I warned that the choices available to us in Britain’s biggest postwar spending squeeze lay between the unpalatable and the disastrous, and that we were moving from an age of plenty to an age of austerity.

It has not been a bad prediction, by political standards.

At that time, public sector austerity was both necessary and deliverable. Necessary, because our budget deficit was an eye-watering £163bn, in excess of 10 per cent of gross domestic product. Deliverable, because the UK had only just ended an unprecedented expansion of public spending under the Blair and Brown governments.

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David Laws and Paul Marshall boost Michael Gove’s leadership bid

I’m finally getting round to reading David Laws’ Coalition. I’m getting a very strong impression from Laws’ account of his time as Schools Minister that he found Michael Gove, and in particular his adviser Dominic Cummings, to be pretty exasperating. It was slightly surprising, therefore, to see Laws write a column for the Times (£) basically suggesting that Tory  MPs should keep in Gove in the leadership race.

He goes out of his way to back up Gove’s account of last week’s Boris-related shenanigans, when most of us think that he couldn’t just have decided on the spur of the …

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Laws: Cameron was frightened of Boris

David-LawsI just happened upon the tail end of Michael Crick’s Channel 4 programme about the relationship between Cameron and Boris. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of it. The programme contains an interview with David Laws in which he says that Cameron and Osborne were always very sensitive to what Boris was doing. Asked if he thought Cameron was frightened of Boris, David said “Yes.”

He also savaged the Prime Minister for putting the country through this referendum, taking such a huge gamble with the nation’s future,   purely to try to deal with the age-old split in his party.

Michael Crick wrote about his programme for the Radio Times site:

Some see Johnson’s declaration in favour of Brexit as another calculated move, albeit a huge gamble – one that almost matches Cameron’s big risk in holding the referendum in the first place. The friends and allies of 2005 are now seemingly adversaries to the death, as Cameron increasingly came to fear Johnson as the only man who could really destroy his leadership.

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Let’s express the passionate commitment of our united party

‘Divided parties don’t win elections.’ Those were the words of newly-elected London mayor Sadiq Khan, recorded in Saturday’s Guardian (14.05), asking his Labour Party for unity. Of course, if true the saying should equally apply to today’s Conservative Party, with its bitter infighting even at Cabinet level. Liberal Democrats can offer a saying arguably more telling – ‘A small party can help a divided major party form a governing coalition.’ A year after the Coalition Government ended, the road to 2020 may lie wide open.

We are a small party now, but we are not a minor party. Unlike other small parties we have many hundreds of councillors in England, with 45 more elected this month as our Fightback kicks in, and we have a voice and an impact beyond our eight MPs and our cohorts in the House of Lords. Liberalism has a proud history of almost 170 years of progressive service to the British people, reaching its latest peak with five years of shared power within the Coalition.

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David Laws highlights continuing threat of forced academisation

David Laws is quoted in today’s Independent. The former Schools Minister is discussing a Centre Forum analysis of the Government’s education white paper.

Centre Forum says that the Government’s alleged u-turn will just mean that the process will happen anyway as local authorities are taken out of the picture if it’s not viable to run schools if, for example, a critical mass has converted to academy status.

New analysis of the revised strategy, however, suggests this will have accumulative effect on schools – as more schools are converted, more local authorities will be taken over as a result.

In effect, 100 per cent of schools will still be converted into academies by the year 2020 as planned.

David Laws, Executive Chairman of CentreForum, who published the report, said: “Our initial analysis shows that their proposals for new ‘triggers’ that lead to forced academisation in a local authority will in all likelihood lead to thousands of schools becoming academies as a result.”

The think tank said the analysis was dependent on the Government’s definition of what constitutes as an “underperforming local authority”, however – a concept which has not yet been defined by the department.

“The definitions are vague,” the report noted, “and our own analysis has shown that relatively small changes could have implications for hundreds of schools.”

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LibLink: David Laws – The road to student retention

David Laws has been writing for Times Higher Education focussing on the worrying number of disadvantaged students dropping out of higher education:

The UK government’s target to double the number of disadvantaged young people going to university by 2020 is laudable. Access to higher education offers a platform for young people to succeed and is central to establishing a meritocratic society.

Nevertheless, while access provides the foundations, it doesn’t build the house. If we’re really serious about meritocracy, we have to be ever vigilant about what happens to young people once they are at university too.

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Review: Coalition, by David Laws

Coalition: The Inside Story of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government (Biteback; £25)

David Laws CoalitionIf journalistic reportage is the first rough draft of history, then the politicians’ memoir has a good claim to be the second — at least as far as contemporary political history is concerned.

Few are better placed to give the inside account of the UK’s first national coalition in living memory than David Laws. Laws was at the heart of the coalition before it had even been conceived, as part of a small Lib Dem team preparing for a hung parliament, and was then one of four Liberal Democrats to make up the party’s negotiating team when possibility became a reality in May 2010. From thereon in he bore witness to every significant decision made over the next five years, even though two of those years were ostensibly spent on the backbenches.

Laws has two other advantages, too. The first is the intelligence and insight that has earned him respect across the Lib Dem party — even from those with whom he often disagrees — and beyond. The second is his proximity to Nick Clegg, who allowed Laws access to his papers from his time as deputy prime minister in the preparation of this book.

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In conversation with David Laws

The former Liberal Democrat MP and government minister discusses his new book about the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, says what he would do differently in hindsight, and looks into his crystal ball to see what the future holds for the party…

Your new book about the Coalition has certainly made a few waves following its Sunday newspaper serialisation – the right kind of waves?

I think inevitably there is a temptation in the press to shed light on things which are currently topical, such as Tory divisions on the referendum. But the primary reason I wrote the book was to give an accurate, historic account of the Coalition and a proper explanation of our part in it – and if the serialisation results in more people reading the book, so much the better.

It sounds like you’re, by and large, proud of what the Lib Dems achieved in government?

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A surprising gap in David Laws’ knowledge

Last night, Biteback Publishing held a party to celebrate the launch of David Laws’ book, Coalition.

The Times (£) has an amusing anecdote from the event:

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What Cameron and Osborne said about Vince Cable’s proposals on corporate transparency

Given this week’s coverage of the so-called Panama Papers — the cache of 11.5m confidential files from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca — this week, it was interesting to come across this account in David Laws’s book, Coalition, from a meeting in 2013:

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Ethnic minority pupils outclass white British pupils

 

There are some interesting nuggets of information in CentreForum’s Annual Report on Education which was published today.  Amongst other things, it identifies a north/south divide in attainment at secondary school and notes that there is still a significant gap between the achievements of disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

I am particularly pleased to see how well London pupils are doing. It wasn’t that long ago that London secondary schools were seen as failures. The London Challenge was an ambitious programme set up in 2003 to combat this and as a result some inner London local authorities went from being amongst the worst performing to the best performing nationally.

But the finding that has been picked up by the media relates to the performance of white British children. It seems that when they start school these children are ahead of their fellow pupils, but by the time they reach 16 they are well below average compared with other ethnic groups.

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David Laws’s ‘Coalition’ – the coverage

David Laws CoalitionDavid Laws’s account of his and our party’s time in government, Coalition, was published earlier this week by Biteback, having been serialised in the Mail on Sunday.

Keep an eye out for a review here on LDV soon, but in the meantime here’s a round-up of what others have been saying.

The BBC have put together this film featuring former Lib Dem advisers Polly Mackenzie and Phil Reilly, and David was on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

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David Laws on Marr: I want to expose how NHS chief was leant on to encourage debate on NHS funding

It’s the second week of David Laws’ coalition revelations serialised in the Mail on Sunday. This week we have him telling us that:

To take them in turn:

You have to wonder why we bought and publicised the £8bn figure, too. It’s all very well for David Laws to tell Andrew Marr today that Norman Lamb was always sceptical about it, but I seem to recalls making a massive thing about how we were the only party who was going to meet the £8bn request in full. If we knew that the figure was nonsense then, why on earth did we not say loudly and lay out the choices that the nation faced in a much more realistic way?

On Marr, David Laws emphasised how the Lib Dems helped IDS veto Treasury requests for further welfare cuts, confirming that Osborne saw it as a cash cow.There are problems with this analysis, though.  Danny Alexander seemed to be hand in glove with Osborne on a lot of this stuff, at one point calling people affected by the Bedroom Tax “bedroom blockers.” Also, a lot of the really awful ideas, from the rape clause to the capping at two children were IDS’s idea.

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Monday morning cheer – better than David Laws and Pingu

I hate this time of year. I do not like getting up in the dark, nor do I like it being dark before 4:30 pm. Cold weather, slippery pavements, driving rain, wind and all sorts of Winter nastiness conspire to make me want to hide away for 3 months, or run off to sunnier climes.  Maybe one of these days, I will.

To cheer you up this Monday morning, here is a picture that is guaranteed to make you smile. It’s even better than this old favourite:

David Laws and Pingu

 

Here’s Willie Rennie getting up close and personal with one of Canine Concern Scotland’s wonderful therapets. 

These therapets visit places like care homes and hospitals so that people who can’t have a pet full time can experience the companionship and comfort a dog can give.

Willie Rennie caught up with one:

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LibLink: David Laws: George Osborne needs to prove his cuts won’t stall improvement in education

As Schools Minister, David Laws introduced the Pupil Premium, extra money for disadvantaged kids in school to help close the attainment gap.

He has written for the Independent to say that the Government needs to do more to ensure that people have a route out of poverty:

The Government also needs a new drive to raise educational standards, and to keep the focus on improving attainment for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – those who are much more likely to end up in poverty and on benefits. We are not going to address poverty and create opportunity while 60 per cent of young people from poor households fail even to achieve the old and unambitious target to secure five GCSEs at C grade or higher, including English and Maths. This figure is a national disgrace.

The last Government had a strong record on education – with the introduction of the Pupil Premium, swift action to tackle failing schools, and the clean- up of English’s discredited qualifications system. But there is nothing at all to be complacent about. If the country’s main anti-poverty and pro-opportunity strategy is now to rely on education and work, then we have got to do an awful lot more and more intelligently

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Nick Tyrone leaves CentreForum to become Chief Executive of British Influence

Nick Tyrone has left the CentreForum think tank, where he was Executive Director, to become Chief Executive of  British Influence. His old job has been split in two.

Anthony Rowlands will continue as Executive Director, Head of Resource and Operations while Natalie Perera, who previously worked in both the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office, joins the think tank as Executive Director, Head of Research. This is welcome, but the organisation still has a long way to go in getting anything like decent gender balance. Four out of its five trustees are men and its advisory board has 21 men and 3 women. Given that they are developing policy ideas, it’s difficult to have confidence that they will fully have tested the impact of their ideas on women and girls.

UPDATE: Natalie was quick to come back to me on Twitter about this:

Former Liberal Democrat MP for Yeovil David Laws remains the Executive Chairman, overseeing an extensive programme of work on education, mental health and justice reform.

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Liberal Reform announces new Advisory Council and housing focus

Liberal Reform advisory councilAs part of the next stage of our development, Liberal Reform has set up an Advisory Council representing a broad group of campaigners and policy experts to advise the elected Board and help ensure our broad Liberal heritage is represented in the party.

I’m delighted that the following prominent Liberal Democrats have agreed to join the Council, with more to follow: Norman Lamb MP, Jeremy Browne, Baroness Jenny Randerson, David Laws, Miranda Green, Julian Astle and Baroness Kishwer Falkner.

Since Liberal Reform was formed a few years ago it has become clear that there is a real appetite in the party for balanced four-cornered Liberalism — personal, political, social and economic — and that all of these elements are needed for us to rebuild the party as a radical, progressive force.

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David Laws peerage “blocked” – plus new Liberal Democrat House of Lords members speculation

David Laws speaking at Lib Dem Spring conference, Liverpool 2008

The Times (£) reports that former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has nominated former Yeovil MP, David Laws, for elevation to the House of Lords. However, it adds:

His nomination for a peerage was blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, chaired by an independent peer, Lord Kakkar.

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David Laws joins CentreForum as Executive Chairman; Nick Tyrone becomes Executive Director

News reaches the Voice from CentreForum, the liberal think tank:

David Laws speaking at Lib Dem Spring conference, Liverpool 2008CentreForum are pleased to announce that David Laws, former Minister of State for the Cabinet Office as well as Minister of State for Schools, is joining the liberal think tank as Executive Chairman, overseeing a new body of work on education policy. This is part of a move by CentreForum to refocus on the core work of the think tank, which will be education and children’s mental health going forward, although projects will continue to be undertaken in other policy areas in which liberal solutions are called for.

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Five Liberal Democrat ex-MPs turn down the ermine

Honourable mentions for Messrs Cable, Laws, Alexander, Baker and Hughes who have, according to the Guardian, turned down or said they are not interested in offers of peerages in the dissolution honours:

Four senior Liberal Democrat politicians defeated in the general election, including former business secretary Vince Cable, have turned down offers of a peerage from Nick Clegg in the dissolution honours list. It is understood that David Laws, the former education minister, Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, and former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander have also decided to reject a chance to sit in the House of Lords.

The Lords is likely to be a battleground for the government since the Conservatives do not have an overall majority in the upper chamber, even though in practice there are strict limits on how far peers can resist central planks of legislation agreed by the Commons. The Liberal Democrats currently have 101 peers, Labour 214, the Conservatives 178 and crossbenchers 224.

Hughes, a former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who lost his Southwark and Bermondsey seat to Labour, told guests at a recent birthday party: “I don’t believe in an unelected second chamber. When you see the list I will not be on it. I am not going there.”

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The place to go for all things Education – LDEA’s new website

If you are a parliamentary or council candidate and you want to find out more about Lib Dem education priorities and 2015 manifesto policies, you can now go to the shiny new Liberal Democrat Education Association (LDEA) website.

Whilst we have achieved a lot in this government including £2.5billion of pupil premium, free school meals for infants, a new progress-based measure to replace the A*-C metric and our programme for 2-year olds, many challenges remain. Teacher morale is low, mainly as a result of the Govian years of a lack of trust and respect for the profession coupled with a target-driven, data-led culture which has increased workload substantially. Although standards have risen in some areas, provision in many rural areas and seaside towns is poor. A punitive approach by Ofsted has made the role of headteacher even more demanding and contributes to recruitment challenges for senior positions. Education funding remains under threat, with neither the Tories nor Labour committing to protect the schools budget.

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LibLink: David Laws – Tories will cut schools spending by a quarter

Writing in today’s Telegraph, David Laws says that Tory plans will mean huge cuts to spending on schools:

The Conservatives are offering unfunded tax cuts, meaning they will have to go on making deep cuts to public spending – by far more than is necessary to balance the books.

This would be a huge threat to all we are achieving on education.

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Devolution must go beyond Westminster

Yesterday in parliament, William Hague announced four options to address the “English votes for English laws” issue. They are:

  1. Barring Scottish and Northern Irish MPs from any role in English and Welsh bills and limiting England-only bills to English MPs
  2. Allowing only English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs, to consider relevant bills during their committee and report stages, where amendments are tabled and agreed, before allowing all MPs to vote on the final bill
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A longer read for the weekend… David Laws on ‘Education: Lessons from this parliament and directions for the next’

david laws centre forumDavid Laws, Lib Dem minister for schools, delivered a keynote speech at CentreForum this week, ‘Education: Lessons from this parliament and directions for the next’.

As the title suggests, it was a reflection on the Coalition’s policies, and in particular the Lib Dems’ achievements. But also a look forward to what he sees as the major educational issues and what Lib Dems should be seeking to do in the next parliament.

You can read the full text over at CentreForum’s site here. But here’s an excerpt in which David looks to the challenges of the five years to come…

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Opinion: The Immigration Premium: A positive approach to immigration

This concept of an Immigration Premium was developed after watching Nick Clegg struggle to counter Nigel Farage on the subject of immigration in the European election debates. The UKIP leader is correctly able to state that we have an open door policy to European Immigration and hundreds of thousands of people arrive year after year, putting immense strains on housing, education, healthcare and other infrastructure elements.

The Immigration Premium turns this problem on its head. New immigrants (identifiable by NI number) have high levels of employment and through sheer weight of numbers make a major contribution to the exchequer both through direct taxes and indirect spending. In fact, immigration is a major factor in the economy’s return to growth. The Immigration Premium identifies additional tax revenues generated by immigration and directs additional funds to the geographic areas and services most directly affected by sudden influxes of large numbers of new people.

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David Laws on Lib Dem plans for the General Election

Yesterday Nick Clegg officially launched our pre-Manifesto, which will be debated at Federal Conference next month. David Laws was asked by the BBC about the costings, and he said:

We will publish the figures before the next election, but what Nick Clegg did say today is that the proposals that are in our pre-manifesto that we published today are considerably less expensive than the manifesto that we stood on in 2010. I personally am confident that if we were a Liberal Democrat government by ourselves, and we didn’t have to negotiate with other parties, then all that we’ve put in our pre-manifesto is actually deliverable.

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Conference agenda published; deadline for amendments and emergency motions extended

Party members should last night have received an email from David Laws with an update on next month’s conference. The majority of the agenda and the directory have now been made available on the party website (some items will be published following the rescheduled launch of the pre-manifesto next Monday).

To reflect the delayed publication the deadline for the submission of amendments and emergency motions has also been extended to Wednesday 24 September.

Here’s David’s email in full:

Important documents for the Glasgow Conference, including the Agenda and Directory, have just been made available on the party website – please click to see them.

The Pre-Manifesto, which I have been leading on as chair of the Manifesto Group, will now be published next Monday along with the policy papers on Public Services and an Ageing Society (which also include some of the same new policy proposals)

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Opinion: Need, not a magic number, should determine size of the state

Union flag photo credit: Some rights reserved by ianonlineIronically, one of strongest views expressed about the size of the state in The Orange Book was by Vince Cable, subsequently more usually associated with wanting more state spending during the recession but at the time of The Orange Book wishing to see a cap introduced on the level of state spending.

Jeremy Browne has more recently talked of wanting to reduce the size of the state to around 35-38% of GDP but more significant has been David Laws’s comments which in effect put any push by people such as himself in the party for reducing the size of the state into the deep freeze. He attacked the Conservatives, saying:

“Their desire to shrink the state by continuing to cut spending long after the deficit has been cleared trumped their rhetorical commitment to expanding opportunity for young people. Clearly a political dividing line on fiscal policy matters more to them than the effort to reduce poverty and expand life chances.”

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