Voters are deluding themselves if they believe that fact-checkers have no agenda of their own

It is illogical for the pro-Remain Left to put so much faith in websites that are never truly impartial

The Tories rebranding their official @CCHQPress Twitter feed as “factcheckUK” was undoubtedly a poor decision and a puerile stunt. But that hardly goes to explain the deranged reaction that greeted it, with the story bizarrely treated by the broadcasters as the most important development to come out of Tuesday night’s debate. To get to the bottom of that, we have to consider how and why the concept of the fact-checker came to attain the sacred status granted to it by so many on the pro-Remain Left.

There are any number of websites now devoted to fact-checking. They are particularly prominent…

Tories would be wrong to abandon making the case for free enterprise

The Conservatives’ apparent retreat from their tax-cutting agenda is disappointing, but at least they have the right instincts

The annual conference of the CBI was the venue for the three main party leaders to set out their stalls for the future of business. It was an odd occasion. Boris Johnson chose this forum to announce that the Tory promise to reduce corporation tax further from 19 per cent to 17 per cent had been abandoned, at least for now.

Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, found himself addressing dozens of senior executives representing companies that would be affected by Labour’s mass nationalisations should it win the general election on December 12. For her part, Jo Swinson told the CBI…

The Tories need a radical plan to revive Britain’s ailing A&Es. They should start by being honest

We must start contributing to old age care throughout our lives or the health service will not cope

Those who like their election campaigns traditional had their hearts warmed last week by the argument between the two main parties over the National Health Service.

The old, and entirely spurious, claim that the institution is safe only in Labour’s hands was undermined by the party’s absurd commitment to a four-day week, which would bring an already tottering service to its knees. Tory credibility was also dented by their claim to be building 40 new hospitals, when funding has been agreed only for six, and by the more urgent point that waiting times at accident and emergency departments are the…

Our callous metropolitan bourgeoisie have torn apart Britain’s old loyalties with their malign class hatred

Brexit has exposed Remainers’ contempt for the working classes – who can blame them for switching sides?

It’s certainly true – as everybody says – that Brexit has divided the nation. This is generally regarded as a sad thing: a story of friendships renounced and families locked in unforgiving discord. In truth, as this column has commented before, this apparently bitter phase in our civic life may one day come to be seen as a golden age of popular political engagement when apathy and cynicism gave way to real passion and conviction, when people in the shops and in the streets argued openly about the importance of their institutions and the integrity of those who represented them.

In other words,…

Boris and Jeremy went to meet the voters… and it didn’t go entirely to plan

During the election campaign of 2017, Tory strategists made many mistakes. In their defence, however, they took one decision that was both wise and extremely popular.

They kept Theresa May as far away as possible from the voting public.

While frustrating for the media, it was an arrangement that surely suited everyone else concerned: the public, the Tories, and in particular, I suspect, Mrs May herself. Because, in an election campaign, there are few bigger risks a political leader can take than to pass within 50 feet of an actual voter. Just look what happened today.

Jeremy Corbyn, for example, was campaigning in Glasgow. In a bid to impress the locals, he’d put on a tartan scarf. 

“I thought you’d be wearing an Islamic jihadist scarf!” bellowed a passerby.

Inspecting the floods in South Yorkshire, meanwhile, Boris Johnson found himself repeatedly berated by locals for not having visited sooner. In fairness, he’d visited the floods in Derbyshire a couple of days earlier, and had even mucked in with a mop. Admittedly, his efforts hadn’t been an unalloyed success. In fact, the place somehow looked wetter after he’d finished mopping than it had when he started. 

Unfortunately, while meeting voters represents a grievous political hazard, it’s generally frowned on to spend the entire six weeks of a campaign hiding from them in a cupboard, which is why the cannier politician adopts the following strategy: simply meet the voters in their place of work. As the voters will be under the watchful eye of their bosses, they’ll all be on their best behaviour, and you can drone away at them to your heart’s content without fear of being jeered, booed, or accused of supporting Isil.

David Cameron spent practically the whole of his 2015 campaign giving blissfully uneventful speeches in offices and factories, and this afternoon, having recovered from his experience in South Yorkshire, Mr Johnson gave a speech at a car plant in Coventry. Now, this was more like it. Everyone sat up straight, listened and clapped politely as the Prime Minister ran through his latest gags about his Brexit deal (“It’s ready to go! Just add water! Stir in pot!”) and gravely alerted factory staff to the threat posed by Mr Corbyn and his brand of “Bolivarian revolutionary socialism”.

Mysteriously, his speech did not contain the more personal attack on Mr Corbyn that had been briefed the night before by the Tory press office. As reported in every newspaper, Mr Johnson was planning to call the Labour leader a political “onanist”. In the event, however, no such word left his lips. Asked to explain this curious omission, Mr Johnson turned a light shade of pink, smirked furtively, and murmured that “a stray early draft” must have “found its way” into the newspapers via “a process I don’t pretend to understand”.

Still, credit where it’s due. It’s not often a politician gets a laugh for a joke he hasn’t actually told. 

The key to educational success? Side with the teacher, not your child

It takes a village to raise a child. Parents and teachers should be a team – in total harmony in their shared goal of helping children develop in both learning and life. You should always back the teacher in front of your child. That used to be common sense. Unfortunately, it no longer is. There needs to be a united front where the teacher and parent are seen to be working together, but when I made this simple point on social media this week, I received a blast of online criticism.

This is what can happen in schools: a child is given a detention and says to his parent, “The teacher is picking on me” or “The teacher is racist”. His aggrieved parent marches into school to complain, thinking that they are helping their child.

But stop and think: you want to show your child you are supporting him, but by doing this you are actually undermining him.

Sadly, you have now given your child approval to hate that teacher. Trust between pupil and teacher is crucial if the child is to succeed. Without the parent noticing, their child is now likely to make less effort with their work, will ask fewer questions in lessons and their success in that subject will reduce. Indeed, their happiness at school will likely suffer overall.

Exactly this.

True that schools need to improve but so do parents.

Teachers cannot fight society.

If society wants kids to be able to do what they like, parents refusing to back teachers when kid is disciplined, then teachers will give up.

Society is responsible. pic.twitter.com/Ah28th6hGz

— Katharine Birbalsingh (@Miss_Snuffy) November 10, 2019

The vast majority of teachers are good people doing a hard job, working long hours for not much pay. One of their main motivations is to give your child an excellent chance at life. Setting a detention takes up a teacher’s time. They have to supervise the child after school instead of getting on with their work. They need to log it on the system or ring home.

It’s a hassle – and that’s why teachers often don’t want to set detentions. Parents should hope their child is so lucky to get a teacher who cares enough to set a detention for their child.

Here’s the reality: if you as a parent complain about it, the likelihood 
is that the teacher will drop their standards for your child and stop giving out detentions. Why? Because they don’t want to get abuse from parents. It is easier to just let your child submit mediocre homework or chat at the back of the class. When faced by this combative impasse, detentions stop and the parent 
stops complaining.

Of course, in rare circumstances there might be a genuine safeguarding concern. In that case, as a parent, you might want to have a quiet word with the head. Clearly there are situations that might need investigation and the head is best placed to deal with this.

But I’m not talking about serious accusations of bullying or abuse. That’s a whole different order of magnitude from petty grievances 
and gripes. My conviction is simple: that the overwhelming majority of teachers care for the children in their classes and want them to succeed. Their ability to do a great job is hampered if parents undermine 
them at every twist and turn.

When you go marching in to “give that teacher a piece of your mind”, all you are doing is letting off steam and seemingly taking your child’s side. Yes, teachers make mistakes. But do you really want to win the battle and lose the war? Do not underestimate the power of the relationship between teacher and pupil and how much you as a parent can influence it. Sometimes waiting, biting your tongue and thinking is the best strategy.

It is the same for divorced parents 
as it is for teacher and parent. Both parents need to be in agreement. 
Lack of consistency is like poison to a child. Why do children from broken homes on average underachieve in comparison to their peers who have two parents at home? Because their parents do not present a united front. When children are surrounded by inconsistency and unpredictability, they fall through the cracks.

Children depend on their parents 
to expect the very best of them. 
 Being a good parent does not mean indulging your child’s every whim. 
It means making sensible decisions and pushing back when your child 
is behaving like a child.

Kids are kids. It is what makes 
them so adorable. But a good parent needs to trust their school if the 
child is to succeed.


Katharine Birbalsingh is the headmistress and founder of 
Michaela Community School

Of course the Lib Dems would put Corbyn in No 10 to stop Brexit 

It is a very credible possibility that we could all wake up to the misfortune of another hung parliament on the morning of Friday, Dec 13. Such an outcome is within the margin of error of current opinion polls. Despite standing down in Tory-held seats, Nigel Farage could still produce it by making Conservative gains more difficult than they should be. And the people of Spain have demonstrated that however many times you hold an election – four times in four years in their case – you can still get an even more inconclusive result each time.

Far too little attention has so far been given to what the key arbiters in such a finely balanced situation, the Liberal Democrats, would do with their power. They have been getting away with saying that they are aiming for victory in their own right, and would not support either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn if they held the crucial balance.

Of course, we are all entitled in an election to assert we are going to win. Even the late Screaming Lord Sutch, when he stood against me in Yorkshire, claimed victory was within his grasp before losing his deposit as usual. But in an election where voters are being asked to cast a tactical ballot by many parties, and therefore have to make particularly complicated calculations of the effect of their vote, they are entitled to hear some realistic assessment of what could happen and what each party might do after various outcomes.

The Liberal Democrats are currently the fourth largest party in the Commons, behind the SNP, and even on the most optimistic hopes of their supporters they would become the third. I don’t say that in any dismissive way – they look likely to get more support than last time. But the truth is that they are starting from a dismal 7 per cent of the vote.

Nor would I argue that they are anything other than serious about government. We found in the coalition after 2010 that they were prepared to get their hands dirty, make compromises and suffer the consequences. Indeed, our democracy would be in much better shape if they were the main opposition to the Conservatives, as their equivalents are in Canada, so that we were not faced with a Left-wing extremist unwilling to confront anti-Semitism as the alternative prime minister.

 

So I am not seeking to rubbish them, but just to point out that their position about what they will do after the election is insufficiently honest and not sustainable under scrutiny. Electoral geography means that if they gain seats, they mainly do so from the Tories. And they know that people in those constituencies might be put off by thinking that voting Liberal could produce a Corbyn government.

To counter this, they have been doing everything they can to distance themselves from Corbyn. They have chosen to say they would prefer just to cancel Brexit, to be clearer than Labour’s muddle. Given that they are also expected to propose changing the voting system, an idea rejected in the 2011 referendum, this means that a party with “democrat” in its title wants to ignore both occasions in the last decade when the country exercised its democratic judgment on a single issue.

Their leader, Jo Swinson, has said that she “categorically rules out” supporting Corbyn as PM, since he is “not fit for the job”. Quite. But she has also ruled out supporting Boris Johnson. She is going to become prime minister herself, it is maintained, but this is largely an attempt to avoid answering the question about whom she would put in power. Chuka Umunna, a new convert to the Lib Dems, has said they are setting out to be the largest party, and “it’s up to people to decide what happens after that”.

Yet, of course, it would not be up to “people” to decide the course of a hung parliament – it would specifically be up to Liberal Democrats like him, unless Labour and the SNP had a majority without them. The public deserve to know what they would do, and since they won’t tell us we should try to work it out.

The Lib Dems could go to Boris Johnson and ask him to quit, renounce Brexit or hold a second referendum. That would probably be a short conversation. Then they would go to Labour, perhaps to Sir Keir Starmer, and say they could prop up a Labour government provided it held a new referendum and removed Corbyn.

“No problem about the referendum,” Sir Keir or his colleagues would say, “but even we can’t get rid of our leader, and it’s not for want of trying. And now he’s on the brink of being PM he’s not going anywhere.” The furious Liberals would march out and slam the door. Just as they have been saying, they would not have done a deal with Boris or Corbyn. So there.

And that’s when they would have a very serious problem. Uniquely in history, the ticking clock of Brexit, now set to expire on Jan 31, means that sitting on their hands means acquiescing in what they want least. For a minority Tory government would no doubt attempt to proceed with Brexit. The Lib Dems would therefore soon be back talking to Labour, and a deal between them would emerge.

Together they would vote down the Conservative government. The Queen would send for the leader of the next largest party – Corbyn – to be PM. The Liberal Democrats would say they still don’t “support” him, but have agreed with Labour to hold a new referendum by June 2020 – along with another Scottish referendum needed to buy the votes of the SNP.

In the meantime they would let Labour ministers pass a budget and some of their spending increases, provided it is all negotiated with them. They would defeat any Conservative motion of no confidence. Tortuously, they would argue they were absolutely not supporting Corbyn, but ensuring the second referendum took place. It would just happen to be the unfortunate fact that he was the prime minister, but not, you understand, their fault.

Today’s emphatic statements about what they will not do could in this way be reconciled with what, in practice, they would really do. They can wriggle out of their “categoric” assurances. Liberals winning the election outright is a fantasy. Gaining seats from the Conservatives, resulting in Corbyn in No 10, is the reality. In the 30 days before polling day, they should be forced to come clean.

The choice is clear in this election: Boris’s Brexit, or Britain goes bust under Corbyn

Only the Tories can stave off a ruinous  Remain coalition and Corbyn’s death wish economics

It appears that we might be reaching the Brexit endgame. The British people have endured the political equivalent of “cruel and inhuman punishment” watching their Parliament renege on their democratic contract with the electorate to deliver on the referendum result. Boris Johnson’s success in persuading parliament to have a general election provides Britain with a means of ending a shameful political stand-off that has damaged our nation’s reputation for political competence and stability.

It is clear that a Conservative majority in the next House of Commons will see legislation that will enable Britain…