Wednesday 8th May 2013
At first glance, I was disappointed to read David Cameron's letter to Conservative MPs, pooh-poohing the idea that a referendum bill should be brought forward in this Parliament committing the next to holding an In/Out EU referendum. "For the Government to be able to bring forward the type of legislation you propose, we would require the agreement of our Coalition partners which, as things stand, is not forthcoming," he wrote. So much for Douglas Carswell's prediction on Newsnight last night that today's Queen's Speech might include a reference to just such a bill.
However, Cameron was careful not to dismiss the idea out of hand. On the contrary, he said the proposal "requires careful consideration". That suggests that if a Conservative MP introduces a private members' bill along these lines, Cameron might support it. (Hard to see how he could oppose it, given his commitment to holding a referendum in the next Parliament.) Indeed, such a bill could be brought forward by a backbencher even if he or she isn't lucky enough to win the ballot at the start of the next Parliamentary session guaranteeing that their bill is debated. The Conservative Whips' Office could decide to allocate time to a backbench Conservative MP's referendum bill willy nilly. (To read more, click here.)
Thursday 2nd May 2013
How I get away with including my wife and children in my columns – they never bother to read anything I write
People often ask how I get away with writing about my wife so often. Doesn’t Caroline mind being cast as the matronly foil to my errant schoolboy? I’d love to say that she perches on my shoulder, chortling with pleasure as she vets every word, but the truth is she never bothers to read any of my stuff. That’s how I get away with it.
The same is also true of my children, which is just as well considering the things I write about them. In last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph, for instance, I wrote a 1,600-word essay about why men with demanding jobs are less likely to complain about their “work-life balance” than high-flying career women. The answer, I said, is that most fathers of young children aren’t too fussed about missing out on those “special” moments, such as their five-year-old’s debut in the school play. As the father of four kids under 10, I’ve had quite enough of that particular “magic”, thank you very much. I would prefer to spend [itals] less [itals] time with my children, not more. (To read more, click here.)
Thursday 2nd May 2013
Guardian columnist Martin Kettle compares our free press to union barons and the NRA. Has he gone nuts?
Martin Kettle, the Guardian's excitable columnist, has written a very odd piece this morning in which he compares Britain's newspaper industry to the National Rifle Association. Below is my fisk of his column.
For 20 torrid years, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, "Who governs?" – parliament or trade unions – was the central issue in domestic politics. In 1969 Harold Wilson's Labour government tried, in Barbara Castle's In Place of Strife white paper, to bring the unions within the law. The unions, and a significant part of the Labour party, fought off the attempt.
See where he's going with this? Trade unions = the press, In Place of Strife = The Leveson Report and the Labour Party = the Conservative Party. Who governs Britain today? Why, the press, of course. Bizarre. (To read more, click here.)
Wednesday 1st May 2013
You don't need to be a clairvoyant to know how Grant Shapps will spin Tory losses on Friday morning. It's a reasonably safe bet that the Tories will lose control of some county councils to Labour, thanks to Ukip's strong showing, particularly in the Midlands and the North. (The latest ComRes poll puts Ukip on 22 per cent.) Shapps will say this proves that if you vote purple, you get red.
Will that be sufficient to persuade former Conservative voters to return to the fold in 2015? My colleague Dan Hodges has come up with a formula he applies to all opinion polls known as Hodges Poll Rule: "Drop Ukip to six per cent, give rest to Tories. Take LD up to 15 per cent, take from Lab. That's the real poll result." To see how this works, take the latest Sun/YouGov poll which has the Cons at 30 per cent, Lab at 39 per cent, the LDs at 11 per cent and Ukip at 14 per cent. Apply Hodges Poll Rule and we get the following: Cons 38 per cent, Lab 35 per cent, LDs 15 per cent and Ukip six per cent. Somewhere short of what's needed to secure the Tories an overall majority, but not as bleak as the current polls predict. (To read more, click here.)
Saturday 27th April 2013
I’m often asked by programmes like ‘Women’s Hour’ and ‘Loose Women’ if I want to be the token male in a discussion about “work-life balance issues”. Some all-conquering female CEO of a Californian Internet company has just written a book about the difficulties of “having it all” and they want to know if I’d like to put the male point of view. After all, don’t men with successful careers also worry about not spending enough time with their children?
I always say no. That’s partly because, for me, the difficulty is the other way round. I worry about not spending enough time on my career. As a freelance journalist who works from home, I’m lucky if I can carve out 10 minutes in the day < away> from my children. It doesn’t help that I’ve got four of them, all under ten. Trying to convince them that making real money is more important than playing Monopoly is extremely difficult.
But there’s another reason I avoid such discussions, one that’s difficult to admit to in public. And it’s this: I don’t really enjoy spending time with my children. That sounds brutal, but I don’t think it’s just me. I think it’s true of most men, at least when their children are as young as mine. Few fathers would fess up to this in front of their wives, but in private, amongst themselves, the main topic of conversation is the sheer horror of having to look after young children. (To read more, click here.)
Friday 26th April 2013
The highlight of the year I spent as a post-graduate at Harvard was a speech given by the writer Tom Wolfe to the graduating class of 1988. His theme was the decline of Christianity in America and the extraordinary freedom that had given rise to. Until quite recently in American history, he argued, people’s personal behaviour had been circumscribed by their sense of right and wrong, which was largely dictated by the morality associated with various puritan sects dating back to the first European settlers. When it came to sex, for instance, their choices were limited by a fear that certain practices would cause irreparable spiritual harm. Not any more, said Wolfe. America had embraced an “anything goes” philosophy and that had resulted in unprecedented levels of freedom, particularly in the sexual arena.
Wolfe predicted that puritanism would reassert itself in the form of a resurgence of Christianity, but he was only half right. Twenty-five years later, many aspects of puritan morality have indeed made a comeback, but they are cunningly disguised as secular liberalism. (To read more, click here.)
Thursday 25th April 2013
Robert Redford calls for more Woodward and Bernsteins. Unfortunately, in the post-Leveson climate, Deep Throat would probably be arrested
It's good to see that Robert Redford has called for a revival of investigative journalism. He's just made a documentary about the Watergate scandal called All the President's Men Revisited and says "we need a lot of people like Woodward and Bernstein" today.
Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen in Britain thanks to the chilling effect of the Leveson Inquiry. Earlier this year, David Hencke – currently Political Journalist of the Year – said he thought Leveson's proposals would "damage" investigative journalism (hat tip Dan Hodges). Hencke's biggest scoop was exposing the cash-for-questions scandal in 1994 which led to the closure of Ian Greer Associates and resignation of two junior ministers. He now doubts that would be possible.
"When I did the cash-for-questions investigation I held a lot of material on Ian Greer Associates for a long time – in fact, when I think about it, it took about three years to get that story cracked,” he told Press Gazette. “And if Leveson had existed, or the recommendations existed, I think it would have seriously damaged the holding of this information and would have possibly allowed Ian Greer Associates to get away with it.” (To read more, click here.)
Wednesday 24th April 2013
No one expects the Conservatives to do well in next week's local elections. But are the results likely to be so bad that they lead to a renewed bout of speculation about David Cameron's leadership, as some backbench Tory MPs predicted earlier this year?
First, the bad news. In 2009, when elections were last held in the relevant 2,362 seats, Labour only polled 23 per cent of the vote, leaving them with 255 councillors. The Conservatives, by contrast, polled 38 per cent and ended up with 1,477 councillors. Of the 27 county councils up for grabs, the Tories currently control 26 of them. So Labour is starting from a very low base. Professors Rallings and Thrasher from the University of Plymouth – generally regarded as the most reliable soothsayers when it comes to local election results – predict Labour will gain 350 seats and the Tories will lose 310.
However, there are several reasons why the results may not be as bad as expected. (To read more, click here.)
Monday 22nd April 2013
The Twitterati reacted with typical ignorance to Liz Truss's interview in the Daily Mail in which she called for a more traditional, French approach to nursery education. It was Truss's comment that toddlers are "running around with no sense of purpose" in some English nurseries that seems to have wound them up.
Anand Shukla, the chief executive of the Daycare Trust, tweeted: "Just what sense of purpose do we expect toddlers to have?" (To read more, click here.)
Saturday 20th April 2013
The Headmaster of the West London Free School recently asked the governors if it would be possible to come up with a relatively short statement of what's meant by a Classical Liberal Education that could be included in the Staff Handbook. This is a phrase we've often bandied about, but never tried to define before – at least, not beyond shorthand phrases like "the best that's been thought and said".
I produced a first draft, circulated it among the governors, and then produced a second draft after input from several governors, particularly Dr Jonathan Katz, a lecturer in Classics at St Anne's College, Oxford and the former head of Classics at Westminster.
It is now up on the school website and, having been approved by the Head, will shortly be included in the Staff Handbook. (To read more, click here.)
<< Older Blog Entries Blog Archive Newer Blog Entries>>
© 2004 - 2013 Toby Young