ARE WE TO BE CONDEMned?

THE NEW POLITICS : LED BY CLONED, CONSENSUAL AND CIVILISED, PRIVATELY SCHOOLED, PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS – ALL WEALTH, STYLE AND NO SUBSTANCE?  AND IN TRUTH NO VISION?

Thanks to Kev Henman and Sue Atkins for drawing our attention to the notion of the CONDEMN pact!

1. THE END OF THE RAINBOW Jasmine Ali of the Local Government Unit reports from inside the corridors of influence. She begins: This morning my colleague and I met with civil servants in Sanctuary Buildings. During the meeting an army of people in overalls descended and started pulling down the animations of children on ladders and vehicles. The civil servants looked on as they started dismantling the famous DCSF rainbow. It had been ripped down before, shortly after the launch of the Children’s Plan. Ed Balls liked it so much, he demanded its re-installation.

She notes the following early policy proposals:

  • Promoting the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over curriculum; and that all schools are held properly accountable
  • A ‘significant premium’ for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget funded by reductions in spending elsewhere
  • Scrapping the Contact Point Database
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission
  • Ending the detention of children for immigration purposes
  • Reductions to the Child Trust Fund
  • Referring Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged under 25 to a new welfare to work programme after a maximum of six months
  • Higher education proposals will await Lord Browne’s final report into funding

Is the list of compromises made thus far quite the reactionary fare some might have predicted?

2. As for Youth Work  and Youth Services, Ravi Chandiramani notes the following tensions between the partners.

Joint working

Here, the Tories want some degree of retreat, while the Lib Dems want to go the other way and bring in plans to deepen integrated working.

The Conservatives regard Labour’s Every Child Matters reforms as fine in principle but they regard the joint working arrangements that it has brought about as overly bureaucratic in practice. So they want to repeal the obligations on local areas to have children’s trusts in place and for local authorities to publish children and young people’s plans.

The Lib Dems by contrast want to strengthen joint working arrangements so that housing authorities have a duty to co-operate in children’s trusts, which would compel housing professionals and planners to consider the interests and welfare of children in their decision making. They also propose that practitioners have secondments in other areas of children’s services, so that for example, a children’s social worker gains experience of the challenges of being a youth worker and vice versa.

Youth services

The Conservatives’ flagship policy for young people is the National Citizen Service for 16-year-olds, a two-month outward bound and residential scheme. Apart from that, the Tories have little to say about supporting young people through positive activities. They have expressed deep scepticism about the effectiveness of local authority youth services and want more youth programmes to be run by the voluntary sector.

The Lib Dems’ commitment to young people might lack a showy policy but does appear more comprehensive. They adopted a youth policy document, Free to be Young as official party policy in the spring. They want to merge funding for out-of-school activities for young people into one easy-to-access fund and guarantee youth projects their money; set up a cross-departmental young people’s committee to inform youth issues in government; and make youth services a statutory responsibility of local authorities.

3. Perhaps inevitably the first pronouncements from the NYA and CHYPS stress the preventative rather than educational character of Youth Work.

Prevention still makes economic sense, say youth service leaders

4. I don’t know how many people have spotted that Julie Hilling,  a former President of CYWU and a youth worker in Wigan for twenty years,  has made it finally into Parliament.

“Labour held on to Bolton West with a wafer-thin majority of 92 following a recount. Jubilant Labour supporters cheered as Julie Hilling was declared winner with 18,327 votes in the seat formerly held by Cabinet Minister Ruth Kelly, who stood down.”

Our paths first crossed in around 1980 when I was External Examiner to a post-graduate qualifying course at Manchester Polytechnic, where Julie was a challenging and questioning student. She spent much of her career in Wigan working at the pioneering Twist Lane Young People’s Cooperative,- in the early years alongside Roy Ratcliffe [see below].  She became a major figure in the CYWU, being its elected President from 1991-1999. By the end of this period she was out of step with the Doug Nicholls, the General Secretary and his Executive, particularly over her staunch advocacy of the caucus structure created and adopted in the early 80’s. Increasingly her thoughts turned to the prospect of entering Parliament, but she was frustrated at many a turn. Across this period her socialist feminist principles seemed to be increasingly at odds with the New Labour project. We met last about five years ago in a Wigan pub, where I was presenting a  savage critique of the Green Paper,Youth Matters. She appeared sympathetic to my argument, but continued to defend Labour, pinning her hopes on what she saw as Gordon Brown’s socialist commitment. I am not sure where she stands now. However a sobered party, claiming that it wishes to put behind it the mistakes of New Labour in a desire to become Next Labour, ought to be willing to listen to the insights of a former leading figure within Youth Work. With this in mind I am approaching Julie to see if she is willing to be interviewed by the IDYW Campaign. Watch this space.

5. Roy Ratcliffe, former Treasurer of CYWU and, in Doug Nicholl’s words, one of the few dedicated individuals, [who] saved the union from a bitter end in 1985, has sent the following sweeping analysis of the post-election situation.  Writing from a classical Marxist perspective, which rejects the distortions of Stalinist and Leninist orthodoxy, Roy challenges us to look beyond the immediate considerations of which management team is in power. He ends by observing, that, despite the depth of the crisis facing humanity:

Meanwhile the self-serving politicians of our ‘hung’ parliament will continue to become comfortably well-off as they negotiate, this or that perk, protect this or that privilege, accept this or that ministerial post, respectfully doff their caps to the international financial  usurers and also ‘hope’ that they can convince working people to continue to believe – that we just couldn’t manage without them.

On Trojan Horses and Elephants: Roy Ratcliffe

In his final paragraph Roy refers to the refreshing possibility opened up by the Chavez project. Many of our supporters might well have little sense of this proposal.  Addressing delegates at the International Encounter of Left Parties held in Caracas, November 19-21, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez stated “the time has come for us to convoke the Fifth International.” Faced with the capitalist crisis and the threat of war that is putting at risk the future of humanity, “the people are clamouring for” greater unity of left and revolutionary parties willing to fight for socialism, he said.  I have a lot of problems with this call, not least that yet again it comes from above, from a self-styled vanguard leadership. Nevertheless the extent of the crisis facing us does demand global cooperation and organisation across all  those of us, who wish to control our lives in concert with one another. Such questions may seem too big for the world of youth work.  Yet this is not the case. Youth workers cannot talk of combating oppression, of  protecting the environment without being involved in the wider struggles to challenge injustice and exploitation. It is in this sense that some of us see the IN DEFENCE campaign as being more than a defence of a type of work,  more a contribution to the recreation of a  vibrant social movement focused on youth.

6. To return to the post-Election situation more specifically, there is as ever renewed talk of democracy. In this short video Tony Benn, the veteran campaigner and a Labour MP for more than half a century, and the newly elected Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, answer questions from young people about the state of democracy today.


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