Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Two British conservatives to watch: Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Gove

Here’s an article from the UK Telegraph about Iain Duncan-Smith.

Excerpt:

I’ve known Iain for many years since my days working for Lady Thatcher back when he was party leader. Few British politicians understand the Special Relationship as well as IDS, and he has made a concerted effort to cultivate ties with leaders in the United States, frequently visiting Washington over the past decade both in opposition and in government.

It was refreshing to see a British official showing leadership on an issue that few Washington politicians have seriously addressed since the reforms of the 1990s. His message was a compelling one – that Britain (and for that matter the West as a whole) is facing up to the biggest cultural challenge of the early 21st Century – dealing with “entrenched and intergenerational worklessness and welfare dependency.” In his speech he attacked “an obsession with inputs – with pouring money into social programmes so that governments are seen to be doing something,” a sentiment that tens of millions of Americans would heartily agree with:

So we are now faced with a fundamental challenge. Levels of social breakdown high and rising. Millions of people stuck out of work on benefits. Millions not saving nearly enough for their retirement. And politicians – of all hues – addicted to spending levels as a measurement of success, rather than life change as a measurement of success.

These are areas ripe for reform – but how do you reform when there is no money? The answer – you change the way you reform. Not just cheese-slicing, but recalibrating whole systems so that you change behaviours, and change the culture that allowed spending to get out of control in the first place.

With good reason IDS consistently ranks at the top of ConservativeHome’s poll of cabinet ministers, with an approval rating in the latest survey of 84 per cent. Together with Michael Gove (who currently ranks second), he has been the most consistently impressive minister in Cameron’s government. It is not hard to see why he is so popular with the grassroots. Duncan Smith is a conviction politician offering clear-cut conservative solutions to major problems, emphasising individual responsibility, a strong work ethic, and traditional values as opposed to big government meddling. His welfare reforms are a major step in the right direction, and the most radical since the system’s creation in the 1940s. They deserve widespread support, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Iain Duncan-Smith stands for pro-family policies and welfare reform. What does Michael Gove stand for?

Here’s an article about him in the UK Daily Mail. (H/T Dina)

Excerpt:

One Cabinet minister is increasingly standing apart from the crowd. Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to bring back O-level-style exams.

Although this brave proposal is popular with parents across England, it is not uncontroversial. It takes us back to a system that separated academically gifted children from those with different aptitudes.

But I would argue that the abolition of O-levels in the Eighties was actually an early sign of the culture of dishonesty in our national life.

Britain fell into the grip of a dishonest kindness. We started to hand out good exam results like sweeties — regardless of whether pupils had really learnt anything at school.

We told ourselves that it didn’t matter whether parents spent their time working with their children or just letting them lounge in front of the TV.

We allowed school-leavers to think that a life on benefits was socially acceptable when it’s actually a place where they would easily rot and never fulfil their potential.

The statistics that poured out of the schools system suggested that all was well, however.

Like tractor production data from the old Soviet Union the latest exam grades were always better than last summer’s.

We were told to rejoice but employers and universities saw through the big lie. They complained that the children graduating from Britain’s schools lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills. Britain started sliding down the international league tables that compared the abilities of children in China, Germany, Korea and Britain.

Michael Gove is the first Education Secretary to say that enough is enough. He has said he’s not afraid to preside over a drop in exam grades. They’ll look less good, he concedes, but they’ll be more honest.

The teaching unions that have presided over the ‘All Must Have Prizes’ system will fight him tooth and nail. They want to protect their jobs-for-life regime where bad teachers are rarely sacked but are instead allowed to damage countless pupils’ life chances, year after year.

Gove is undeterred. He’s ready to close down a system where children who can’t manage their times tables are studying for exactly the same exams as those who are on track to study physics at Oxbridge.

[...]The compassionate politician who cares about equality of opportunity won’t accept this status quo, and will point out that the current system is dishonest. It puts children with very different abilities through the same sausage machine and then pretends that those who get ‘F’ or ‘G’ grades have still passed.

Michael Gove wants academically gifted children to be stretched by studying O-levels.

He wants other children to have a more appropriate educational experience, albeit an equally rigorous and demanding one.

This Government’s investment in high-quality apprenticeships and a new generation of technical colleges is early proof that it is serious about restoring the standing of vocational education.

Michael Gove’s specialty is education reform – he wants to stop the left from bashing kids into the same mold, regardless of their individual abilities and aptitudes.

Those are the two guys to watch. They’re not perfect, but they are the two best in the UK, in my opinion.

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