Government accused of ‘total failure’ to widen elite university access

From the Guardian: Ministers have been accused of a “total and abject failure” to widen access to top universities for disadvantaged students, after analysis by the Labour party found the proportions attending Russell Group universities had increased by only one percentage point since 2010.

Separately, research by a group of Labour MPs suggests pupils from towns are less likely to attend university than those from London, with a nine percentage point gap between pupils from London and the rest of the country, and a 20-point gap between those from low-income families in the capital and in towns.

Labour said the Russell Group, which includes Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, University College London and Imperial College, had failed to recruit students from neighbourhoods where few traditionally enter higher education.

The party’s analysis of the Higher Education Statistics Agency data found the proportion of students from those areas had increased by one percentage point across all Russell Group universities to 6%, less than half that at non-Russell Group institutions.

Labour said it was clear the Department for Education would not reach the target set in 2013 by the then prime minister, David Cameron, to double the proportion of university entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Boris Johnson’s burqa comments bolster his grassroots Conservative support

From The Guardian: Boris Johnson’s support among grassroots Conservatives, already resurgent in the wake of his resignation over Brexit, appears to have been bolstered further by his claim that Muslim women in burqas resemble letterboxes and bank robbers.

Tory activists have claimed that party members admire the former foreign secretary’s “straight talking” on the controversial issue and suggested his words implied he had listened to some of their concerns about community integration.

One senior grassroots activist said the membership was unlikely to be offended by his choice of language. “I doubt it. They’ll know what Boris is doing. They know how he operates – and they like it. The grassroots talk straight and polishing everything with Westminster-speak is not the way they do it. It won’t do him any harm.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]  Below: Guardian cartoon by Martin Rowson

#BorisTheClown: Boris Johnson’s support among grassroots Conservatives, already resurgent in the wake of his resignation…

Posted by Stop The Tories Channel on Friday, August 10, 2018

Budget crisis takes Northamptonshire council into uncharted territory

From The Guardian: The most high-profile symbol of the cuts in Northamptonshire to date has arguably the county’s 36 libraries, 21 of which the council wants to close or sell. There is popular outrage at this, not least in Northamptonshire’s more well-heeled rural areas, making its Tory MPs nervous. The proposal is being challenged in the courts.

Less well known is that 19 of the 21 libraries under threat host early-years children’s services such as mother-and-baby groups and health visitor sessions. These services were moved into libraries two years ago when an earlier round of cuts closed several SureStart centres. Where these services will go now is unclear.

Northamptonshire’s cuts will be felt in even its leafiest and most prosperous areas. Dig into the council’s cuts plans and you find an axe taken to highways budgets – less pothole filling, winter gritting and traffic light maintenance. The council expects legal challenges to these, too.

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All apologies: the many times Boris Johnson has been told to say sorry

From The Guardian: Boris Johnson is no stranger to demands for apologies, with his outspoken remarks repeatedly landing him in political hot water.

In March, the then foreign secretary was forced to eat humble pie after referring to his Labour opposite number, Emily Thornberry, as the “Lady Baroness whatever” in the House of Commons – an apparent reference to the title of her husband, Sir Christopher Nugee.

His comment brought a sharp dressing down from the Speaker, John Bercow, who said his language was “inappropriate and frankly sexist”. A contrite Johnson insisted he had meant no harm and apologised “unreservedly” if he hurt Thornberry’s feelings.

More seriously, he faced calls to resign in November following claims that his careless comments about a British-Iranian woman held in Iran had jeopardised her chances of release. Giving evidence to the foreign affairs select committee, Johnson said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “training journalists” at the time of her arrest, even though she maintained she was on holiday.

Her dismayed family said the error had been seized upon by Iranian authorities as proof that she represented a threat to the government.

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Scottish Tories youth wing chairman caught up in new anti-Semitism row

From The Courier: The chairman of the Scottish Conservatives’ youth wing has been accused of anti-Semitism after using a phrase developed by the Nazis.

James Bundy, an economics student at St Andrews University, posted on social media at the weekend about a BBC package about gender stereotypes and children that the corporation was using “his taxpayers money….to promote cultural Marxism” – sparking a backlash from some quarters.

The tweet was removed after The Courier asked the Tories about it, but Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said it was “utterly unacceptable” for a leading figure within a mainstream political party to “use and normalise” a term which has such anti-Semitic underpinnings.

Cultural Marxism was a conspiracy theory developed in Nazi Germany to demonise Jews, and is a term consistently used by far-right groups such as the BNP.

Norwegian far-right mass murderer Anders Breivik also used the term over a hundred times in his “manifesto” before committing the Utoya Island massacre and Oslo bombing in July 2011.

[Read full article on The Courier website…]

May under pressure over Andrew Griffiths bullying allegations

From The Guardian: Theresa May is under pressure to explain whether she knew about allegations of “extreme bullying” against the disgraced former minister Andrew Griffiths when she promoted him to government within days of becoming prime minister.

Griffiths, the prime minister’s former chief of staff who was forced to resign as a minister for sending hundreds of sexually explicit messages to two women, had been accused of bullying a council leader for several years when May took office in July 2016.

The complaints are understood to include claims that the Tory MP sent abusive text messages to Richard Grosvenor, the leader of the Tory-run East Staffordshire borough council.

Despite the complaint being acknowledged by Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) in emails up to January 2016, Grosvenor said his allegations were never properly investigated.

Six months later, in July 2016, Griffiths was appointed lord commissioner of the Treasury and senior government whip in May’s first government.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Jo Swinson pairing row: Conservatives admit chief whip asked MPs to break arrangements

From The Guardian: The Conservatives have been forced to admit that their chief whip asked MPs to breach Commons voting conventions in knife-edge Brexit votes on Tuesday, as opposition parties demanded he quit and queried the accuracy of the prime minister’s account of events.

Party sources conceded on Thursday night that Julian Smith had asked several Tory MPs to break pairing arrangements but most had refused to do so. The only one who did obey the instruction was paired to a Liberal Democrat MP who was on maternity leave.

They admitted that Smith had wanted some MPs to break “short-term” pairing arrangements, where a Tory is asked to skip a vote because an opposition member is unable to attend for good reason, but had made an error in asking the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, to vote because he was paired with Jo Swinson – who only recently gave birth.

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Tory MP who blocked upskirting bill objects to women’s conference

From The Guardian: Christopher Chope, the Conservative MP who achieved notoriety last month after blocking the progress of a bill to outlaw upskirting, has used parliamentary procedure to obstruct a plan to hold a global women’s conference in the Commons.

There were shouts of “shame” after the veteran MP for Christchurch objected to the motion, read out in the Commons late on Monday, which would have allowed the venue to be used in the autumn for the Women MPs of the World conference.

If these are not objected to, they can be passed with an instant verbal vote. However, when Davies read out the motion, Chope shouted “object”, meaning it could not pass.

The new measure obstructed by Chope proposed allowing the Commons to be used by conference delegates on a non-sitting day in November.

The motion said Women MPs of the World “provides a unique opportunity to gather parliamentarians from across the world to engage in discussions about equal representation and bring about social change”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Boris Johnson flouts MPs’ rules after return to newspaper column

From The Guardian: Boris Johnson has broken rules that prevent former cabinet ministers taking up new jobs for three months after leaving office.

The former foreign secretary failed to get permission from the government’s appointments watchdog for his role as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.

Former ministers should apply to the advisory committee on business appointments (Acoba) before accepting a new role under the ministerial code.

Ministers who have been members of the cabinet should not accept new appointments for three months after leaving office.

Johnson returned to his £275,000-a-year Daily Telegraph column on Monday. He gave it up when he was appointed foreign secretary in July 2016.

A spokesman for Acoba said Johnson had not sought its advice, as required, before returning to the role, the Daily Mail reported.

“Ministers are written to on leaving office to remind them of the responsibility to follow the government’s rules set out in the ministerial code,” a spokesperson said.

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Tory minister resigns after sending constituents explicit messages

From The Guardian: Andrew Griffiths, the minister for small business, has resigned from the government after being found to have sent more than 2,000 explicit messages to two women in his constituency.

The Conservative MP for Burton, and Theresa May’s former chief of staff, released a statement saying apologising for what he had done, after the texts were put to him by the Sunday Mirror.

In the statement, the 47-year-old junior minister said: “I am deeply ashamed at my behaviour which has caused untold distress to my wife and family, to whom I owe everything, and deep embarrassment to the prime minister and the government I am so proud to serve.

He said he would be seeking professional help to address his unacceptable behaviour sending sex texts. “I do not seek to excuse my behaviour and will be seeking professional help to ensure it never happens again.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tory MP Michael Fabricant has apartheid-era South African flag on his mantelpiece

From Channel 4 News FactCheck: Michael Fabricant has been captured on video standing in front of what appeared to be the flag of apartheid South Africa on the mantelpiece of his parliamentary office.

South Africa used the tricolour design between 1928 and 1994, and it was flown throughout the apartheid era, when South Africans were forced to live separately along racial lines and non-white citizens were openly discriminated against.

The flag became a symbol of the apartheid system and was regularly set on fire by protesters in a show of defiance.

Earlier this year, the Nelson Mandela Foundation called for the old flag to be banned from public display after became a feature of demonstrations by white farmers in the country.

The foundation said: “These displays demonstrably compound the pain experienced by millions of black South Africans who suffered under apartheid and continue to struggle under its legacy.”

Asked why he had an apartheid-era South Africa flag on his mantelpiece, Mr Fabricant replied on Twitter: “It’s alongside an old soviet-era USSR Hammer & Sickle flag – just out of shot. The cameraman can confirm. They are places I went on work visits in the 1980s. I am neither a Communist nor a supporter of apartheid.”

[Read full article on Channel 4 News website…]

Five things you need to know about Dominic Raab, the new Brexit Secretary – video

From The Labour Party: A short video introducing the new Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab.

Who is Dominic Raab?

Five things you need to know about Dominic Raab, the man Theresa May has chosen to lead her Tory Brexit.

Posted by The Labour Party on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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