Has the British far-left been dazzled by Catalan independentisme? You wouldn't know it in the UK, but elsewhere in Europe, Catalan separatists are observed with scepticism by progressives. The movement is captained by Carles Puigdemont – the quirky governor from a centre-right party that rebranded itself last year to get rid of embarrassing corruption stories. The international press was drawn to the Catalan crisis like a bear to honey. The topic has a stirring, even revolutionary, appeal. The crisis could often be read as an overdue uprising, in the style of 1956 Budapest. As if Spain were a totalitarian regime, a tyrannical state that hasn't moved forward since 1975. Yet Spanish democracy has frequently outpaced neighbouring France and Italy. On devolution, Spain beats the other two hands down – and all three display huge regional diversity. Italian progressives, in particular, have always looked up to Spain's ability to reform itself – especially during the Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero governments. The British far-left does not acknowledge any of this. It supports Catalan separatism because it goes against a central authority and, by association, it symbolises a struggle against an overbearing Europe, viewed as a turbo-capitalist project by a centralising power. Yet, how strange to see that Catalan activists hankering after independence – many of whom are genuine die-hard leftists – are on the whole pro-European. Something doesn't add up in the international anti-capitalist rhetoric. This inconsistency isn't easy to spot. It's hoovered up by a narrative peppered with heroism. In an attempt to boil down separate crises to a supposed common denominator, the radical analyst Paul Mason wrote recently: “From George Square in Glasgow to Syntagma Square in Athens, there was always a Catalan flag waving above the crowd. “I never understood until now that those flags were an essential part of the story. The 'breakup' narratives of modern Europe – whether they are pulling away from nation states, currencies, free movement zones or the EU itself – are all driven by a central fact: the current settlement does not work.” Of course, no one is questioning Mason's rhetorical skills. They both summarise and prop up the powerful discourse of the British anti-capitalist left. Cheering on others' revolutions is energising. It brings about hope for everyone. People need it. But there are limits. The Catalan crisis is a delicate matter: it's a priceless china shop which no enthusiastic elephant should enter. The same can be said about the Flanders, Corsica, Veneto, South Tyrol and many more. Each very different from the other. Some territories still bear the scars of ugly ethnic confrontations, which Catalans have so far managed to avoid. Communities have worked hard on healing wounds. Compromises were key to many a peaceful settlement. European structures helped, as the Irish know. These are all matters requiring careful, case-by-case considerations. A major upheaval today in Catalonia would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs and tear countless personal affinities, links and even neighbourhoods apart. The Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez recently wrote about the Catalan crisis in El País – hardly an austerity-enamoured newspaper: “Perhaps this is the one thing I don't really undestand: the Barcelona I know has allowed loads of liars and opportunists to set their daily lives on fire, to poison their friendships and family relationships, and spread deep hatred that could surface at any given moment.” But Europe's progressive analyses are best summarised by Der Spiegel: “[They're both] playing the victim,” Claus Hecking and Juan Moreno wrote about the attitude of separatists and the incumbent right-wing Madrid government. “In the middle stand the many Catalans and Spaniards hoping that rationality will return soon.” Let's hope this shines a light for the British far-left. Alessio Colonnelli has written for publications including The Independent, the International Business Times and Open Democracy
Free schools are not helping the children who need them most, a new report has found. The flagship policy of former education secretary Michael Gove has not delivered on any of its promises, according to the National Education Union (NEU), which labelled academies an “expensive experiment”. In 2010, free schools were announced by the Tories as a way to drive up standards in areas where schools were performing badly. The scheme allowed parents, teachers, community or religious groups, charities, trusts and businesses to establish 'innovative' new academies that were independent of the local authority but funded by central government. But according to the first independent report into the scheme – released today by the Education Policy Institute – very few free schools have actually been opened in the last seven years and those which have are a disappointment. Despite all the fuss surrounding the scheme, free schools currently make up only 2% of UK state schools and they are not accessible to two-thirds of the population, who do not live in the catchment area. They are badly distributed around the country and have cost the government too much money, the NEU said. Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The rationale for free schools is flawed. Free schools have created surplus school places in areas where they aren't needed, which isn't a good use of tax payers' money, particularly in the middle of a school funding crisis. “Ministerial claims that free schools perform better cannot be justified, because too few free school have been inspected and inspections have not included the full pupil age range.” Students at free schools are also demographically different to average state school pupils, the report found: Only 24 per cent of pupils attending free schools in the most disadvantaged areas are on free meals, compared to 32 per cent of all state school students. Dr Bousted said: “Free schools in disadvantaged areas fail to take their fair share of poor pupils. And, when first established, they are not popular with parents, with first preferences well behind other types of school. “Theresa May should read this report carefully and reconsider her pledge to establish another 500 free schools. It would be a far better use of public money to rebuild and refurbish existing schools, many of which are in dire need of repair, as these schools have taken the lion's share of the increased numbers of pupils, and will continue to do so.” According to the report, many academies have opened in areas where the schools were already doing well, defeating their purpose. They are the most unpopular sort of school among parents and many pupils to school further away to avoid them. Maybe it's time to scrap the experiment – and the distraction – and focus on investing in our state schools instead. Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.
The two main parties issue new sex allegation rules. The Conservatives also publish a code of conduct. Next, May will move to put pressure on the Speaker over what the Commons itself will do. The Tories and Labour both rushed out tough new rules to investigate sex allegations in a bid to get control of the Westminster scandal. Tory leader Theresa May also published her party's new code of conduct last night for how all members must behave. It included a strident new definition of harassment to leave no room for pervy behaviour. Any minister, MP or activist will be guilty of it if their actions have the effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive situation or environment for them. A single incident of this behaviour would also amount to harassment, it also states. The Sun [list] [*]Tory staffers criticise plan Daily Telegraph [/list] James Forsyth: Why did Williamson leave the Whips Office? Two explanations are doing the rounds in Tory circles for why Williamson has chosen to leave the Whips' Office at such a vital time. The first is he has decided it was time to get out. He has never lost a vote on Government business but with hundreds of amendments put down to the EU Withdrawal Bill, it was getting harder and harder to keep hold of that recordThe more intriguing explanation is that Williamson has decided he needs to start building a public profile for his leadership bid now - and there is no time to waste. This is making ministers and MPs wonder if Williamson has concluded the Prime Minister might not have as long left as some people think. The Sun [list] [*]Williamson's Alan Partridge-style Instagram account revealed that he hadn't paid road tax Daily Mail [*]New Defence Secretary helped derail Ministry of Defence plans to allow a US radar base to upgrade missile defences in Yorkshire as a young campaigner The Sun [*]In defence of Williamson: there are worse things than a novice Financial Times [/list] Soubry claims that there was a further complaint against Fallon. He denies the allegation and says that it is libellous. Michael Fallon had to resign because of his behaviour towards women. One person with great courage made a complaint to No 10 of sexual assault. Theresa May made it very clear she took these allegations seriously and within hours he had gone, Ms Soubry said. Sir Michael said that the claim was not true and was libellous. I've already accepted that I have behaved inappropriately in the past but I have never physically assaulted anybody, he said. He added that no specific allegation was put to him. No 10 declined to comment. There has been no formal report of any alleged misconduct to the police. The Times () [list] [*]Soubry interview in full The Times () [*]Leadsom shopped Fallon to make her unsackable in a reshuffle Daily Mail [*]The Commons leader: deluded, out of her depth, cynical Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail [*]Fallon doesn't blame me for his downfall Julia Hartley-Brewer, Daily Telegraph [*]Former Defence Secretary out and about at the opening of a new girls' school The Sun [*]Sleaze returns to haunt the Tories Financial Times [*]The sex predators of yesteryear Daily Mail [/list] Elphicke is suspended from the Parliamentary Party after a woman makes serious allegations against him. He denies any wrongdoing. It is understood that Conservative Party whips contacted the police after being told of the allegations. They also contacted the woman concerned to say that they were co-operating with the police. Mr Elphicke said that he was unaware that he had been suspended until after the statement had been released to the media. The party tipped off the press before telling me of my suspension, he said. I am not aware of what the alleged claims are and deny any wrongdoing. The Times () [list] [*]What whips do The Times () [*](Bradshaw reports Baker to Standards watchdog over Constitutional Research Council donation) The Times () [/list] Corbyn's judgment questioned over Hopkins' promotion Mr Hopkins was appointed shadow culture secretary in June 2016 following a rebellion by Labour MPs that left Mr Corbyn desperate to fill holes in his frontbench team. Rosie Winterton, then Labour chief whip, is understood to have verbally raised the allegation of sexual harassment against Mr Hopkins with Mr Corbyn's office soon after his appointment to the shadow cabinet. She did not raise formal concerns about the 76-year-old MP for Luton North. Financial Times [list] [*]Lewis under investigation by Labour for giving a woman's bottom a big squeeze [*]Daily Express [*]Labour's Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children suspended after unknown allegation Wales Online [*]Thousands join Scottish Labour to vote in leadership race Herald Scotland [*]Corbyn appears on Gogglebox Daily Mail [*]What was Corbyn thinking when he promoted Hopkins? Sun Editorial [*]Was was Harman thinking when she started repeating anti-semitic jokes? Daily Express Editorial [*]Jewish group calls on Harman to apologise The Guardian [/list]
Labour's Jewish wing produces shocking dossier of party anti-semitism. Quotes include support for the Holocaust. The scale of anti-semitism within Labour has prompted training sessions for 1,200 party members in a drive to stamp out the vile online abuse. Labour's Jewish wing is holding the events that use a slide show of hate-filled messages posted on the internet by the party's own activists. The Daily Mail has chosen to reproduce the comments despite their shocking content in order to highlight the enormity of the problem. Daily Mail [list] [*]City Council to take stand against anti-Semitism Birmingham Post [/list] Charles Moore: This scandal shows that women are now on top. I pray they share power with men, not crush us My generation of men is the first in human history in which male physical strength either in war or in ordinary labour is not at a premium. In many ways, this is an emancipation for both sexes. It has helped bring about a genuine, unforced equality which gives less scope for male boorishness. It benefits both home life and the workplace. It enhances civilisation. The emerging solution to Ruth Davidson's point with which I began is surely power-sharing. I am sorry if this sounds rather wet and middle-of-the-road, but the alternative which we are currently witnessing is detestable. Daily Telegraph [list] [*]I am both delighted that women have seized the moral power and anxious that they use it responsibly and humanely. Janice Turner, The Times () [*]The problem isn't women, it's us Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian [*]May needs to get a grip Peter Oborne, Daily Mail [*]Few MPs are sex pests, many are bullies Katie Perrior, The Times () [*]The Tory benches are fizzing with talent Nadhim Zahawi, Daily Telegraph [*]The Government's behaviour defies common sense Daily Telegraph Editorial [/list] The Budget. Hammond believes too much investment is concentrated on housing He is also due to publish the recommendations of the Treasury's patient capital review, which seeks to find new ways to find finance for innovative ideas and businesses. Economists want money that goes into housing speculation and inflates prices to be diverted into investment in growing businesses. However, there is concern that drastic action when the economy is slowing could cause problems for property owners. The Treasury, No 10 and the Department for Communities and Local Government are struggling to put together a package on housing in the budget. The Times [list] [*]He may hike Insurance premium tax The Sun [*]Hammond and May rowed over the Budget and housing. It was like he felt he had to explain everything to her like a child. The Sun [*]Adrift on housing Times Editorial [/list] Ministerial conduct. Patel accused of breaking protocol over meetings with Israeli politicians. Priti Patel met the leader of one of Israel's main political parties and made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was reportedly discussed. According to one source, at least one of the meetings was held at the suggestion of the Israeli ambassador to London. In contrast, British diplomats in Israel were not informed about Ms Patel's plans. Ministers are by convention supposed to tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas. BBC [list] [*]Johnson backs Patel Daily Express [*]Patel accuses foreign office officials of briefing against her The Guardian [/list] NUT chief attacks Prevent alongside banned teacher who allegedly led the Trojan Horse plot to further hardline Islamism in schools At a packed debate in Birmingham, Mr Courtney shared a platform alongside Tahir Alam, the former chair of governors accused of being the ringleader of the Trojan Horse plot aimed at orchestrating a plan to promote hard-line Islamist religious teaching in schools. Speakers told 300 local people at the meeting, condemned by Birmingham City Council amid fears it would defend those said to have promoted hardline Islamist beliefs, that reports finding there had been an attempt to wrest control of some schools was the Trojan Horse Hoax. Daily Telegraph News in Brief [list] [*]We need a culture change to stop sexual harassment in journalism Hannah Riding, New Statesman [*]It's like the 1990s, but so much worse Alex Massie, CapX [*]What to do about returning jihadis? James Forsyth, Spectator [*]Confessions of a bottom-squeezer Jane Kelly, The Conservative Woman [/list]
It's been a turbulent week in Westminster, but the most significant news for me came on Thursday morning, when Colchester NHS Foundation Trust came out of special measures after four long years, in one of the most remarkable turnarounds the NHS has ever seen. Four years ago, the hospital was placed into special measures amid concerns over high mortality rates and cancer services (see chart below), and problems proved so entrenched that Colchester remained in special measures longer than any other hospital in the country repeatedly being rated as inadequate. Just over a year ago, a new leadership team from a nearby hospital came on board, and the results have been dramatic (see chart above). Where 15 areas were rated as inadequate one year ago, today there are none and three quarters of the 40 areas inspected are now graded as good. The graphs below give you a sense of the scale of the turnaround. These aren't just a few tick-boxes on a regulator's spreadsheet. These changes represent a transformation in local health services for thousands of patients: better cancer care, safer maternity services, and a dramatic change in the quality of care people get in their final days and hours with end of life care going from inadequate in every area to good in every area. Lives saved, better results from surgery, and healthier prognoses: it is hard to over-emphasise the difference that these changes can make to local people. I've now been Health Secretary for more than five years, and perhaps the most important lesson I've learnt in that time is that turning hospitals around is nothing to do with problems with staff, and all about the quality of leadership. The staff in a trust that goes into special measures are exactly the same as the staff when it's come out of special measures. In other words, it's nothing to do with the staff it's all about leadership. Everyone joins the NHS because they want to help people in the most vulnerable moments of their life, when people are sick or dying, so the question is whether you have the leadership that unlocks that basic thing that every single person in the NHS wants to do. Introducing a program of Ofsted-Style ratings and special measures into the NHS was controversial at the time. People said that hospitals were too complex to merit a single rating. Others feared that 'special measures' status would cause hospitals to sink into a spiral of decline, making it impossible for them to recruit and retain staff. In fact, nearly 15 per cent of NHS trusts have now been through the special measures programme. 21 have already come out having recruited hundreds of extra nurses and doctors between them. Seven have gone straight from an 'inadequate' rating to a 'good' rating. And one early study into the impact of the programme estimated that around 450 lives had been saved in less than a year. This is the great Conservative insight into our public services. Not just that every parent or patient has the right to know how good local services are and the ability to choose the right one for them, but that true commitment to our NHS and education system is insisting on high standards for patients in every corner of the country however tough and challenging that might be.
Ashley Fox is an MEP for South West England, and is theleader of Britain's Conservative MEPs. Here in Brussels, brinksmanship is a standard way of doing business and cliff edges are a familiar part of the political landscape. Each year, European Union budget negotiations threaten to collapse until, with financial chaos beckoning, agreement is reached in the early hours of the morning after a marathon round of talks.Important legislation often follows the same pattern, with fierce opposition only melting away at the eleventh hour when miraculous solutions are suddenly pulled out of the hat. There is no reason to believe that Brexit will be any different. So far the pattern has been entirely predictable, with the European Union holding firm in the early rounds as it tries to secure its key priority extracting as much money as possible from the UK. Despite some recent headlines, I am confident we are on course to begin discussions on the implementation period and the future UK/EU relationship in December. If we stop navel-gazing and take time to look at the bigger picture, the signs are clear. While the media concentrated on Michel Barnier's comments about a disturbing deadlock following the October round of talks, they ignored his more important assessment that there is a new momentum and I remain convinced that with political will decisive progress is within our grasp within the next two months. He also spoke of his desire to create a robust, ambitious and lasting partnership between the EU and the UK. After the recent European Council summit Angela Merkel announced that she did not have any reason to believe we are not going to be successful, while even Jean-Claude Juncker predicted we will have a fair deal. In addition, pressure is growing on the EU to move the talks forward, with Kristian Jensen, the Danish finance minister, and Geert Bourgeois, the Flemish First Minister, the latest to speak of the consequences to their national economies if we step over the cliff edge. The Dutch bank Rabobank has estimated that a hard Brexit would knock 4.5 percentage points off the Dutch GDP the equivalent of 35 billion while the German Foreign Ministry is working on proposals for future EU/UK relations that include calls for a comprehensive free trade accord. Key member states are clearly anticipating a future agreement. That is not to say that a final, all -ncompassing deal is assured and undoubtedly there will be further twists and turns along the way. Central to securing an outcome that safeguards the interests of both sides is the ability to keep our nerve, present a united front and, returning to my original point, learn the art of brinkmanship. For the EU to push through anything contentious, the cliff edge must be real, the prospect of failure tangible. To that end, we have to start looking serious about preparing for no deal. The problem we face is that the EU genuinely believes we are bluffing, and this impression is not helped by us setting aside comparatively trivial amounts to cope with a so-called hard Brexit. In his Budget on November 22, Philip Hammond should spend serious money preparing for a no deal scenario. Land needs to be bought for lorry parks in Kent, hundreds of extra customs officers recruited and new computer systems commissioned.If, as I hope and I expect, these measures ultimately prove unnecessary, any money lost will be a fraction of the financial gains from having secured a mutually acceptable deal. On the other hand, if no agreement is reached, whether it be through intransigence, bloody mindedness or the failure of politicians in either Westminster or Brussels to ratify the accord, the outlay will be a down payment that allows us to get ahead of the game. Now is not the time to hold back. Britain needs to show it is serious about leaving with no deal even as it steps up efforts to secure one. We should plan for the worst and hope for the best. To be effective in any EU negotiation, you must be prepared to teeter on the brink of failure to achieve success.