The Legacy Left by Grenfell Tower

The following 200 word short supplements appear exclusively in the print editions of the Evening Telegraph every Monday in June.


The Legacy Left by Grenfell Tower [22/06/2020]

The scenes at George Square in Glasgow last week reminded us there is a simmering layer of tension which, with the correct measure of provocation, will erupt onto our streets. It only takes one act of authoritarian injustice, which is precisely what George Floyd’s killing was, to stir the hornet’s nest again. The demonstrations will inevitably now retreat as that layer of civil discord remains embedded in the fabric of society.

Following the referenda of 2014 and 2016, political leaders lamented the debris of division that was left in their wake. Forgive me, perhaps it is my relative youth, but I must have missed this historical moment of national unity. Whether Catholic or protestant, nationalist or unionist, royalist or republican, one of the features I love about being a Scotsman is our capacity for robust yet civil discourse.

However, there is one division in this country which should never be overlooked nor accepted and that is the yawning chasm between the beneficiaries of austerity and prosperity. Last week marked the three year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. While protestors across the world have toppled the statues of historical oppression, Grenfell Tower still stands as the symbol of modern-day inequality upon the London skyline to remind us of the only monument ever erected for those living in poverty.


The Coronavirus, Cummings and Keir Effect [15/06/2020]

While he was Prime Minister, the late Harold Wilson once stated that a week is a long time in politics. If that is true then the last month has been a turbulent season for the long-term electoral prospects of the governing Conservative Party. It was
revealed last week that their unassailable lead in the polls has been decimated over their perceived handling of coronavirus pandemic as well as the actions of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s special advisor Dominic Cummings.

Another factor that has played a role in recent polling has been the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer. Less adversarial and more pragmatic than his predecessor, Starmer has proven himself a composed and formidable leader of the opposition. At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, an increasingly hirsute Boris Johnson appeared strained in his response to questions over everything from public demonstrations and his handling of Covid-19 to free school meals.

A YouGov poll conducted at both the beginning of May and June revealed those who supported Boris Johnson had dropped by 14% and those who believed he was doing a bad job increased by 15%. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer’s approval ratings rose by 8% placing him five percentage points ahead of Boris Johnson. Could the coronavirus, Cummings and Keir effect together be the kryptonite the Labour Party has been seeking to weaken the Conservative agenda?


Immigration Returns to the Political Agenda [08/06/2020]

If a pandemic has any political utility, it is the ability of political leaders to bury bad news by introducing policies they hope might be obscured by the viral fog, thus avoiding the scrutiny of opposition parties and the media. For example, the Scottish Government introduced the proposed Hate Crime Bill in April, which drew more negative attention than those in Holyrood had anticipated.

However, in Westminster, Home Secretary Priti Patel also drew attention when she presented a bill for her proposed new immigration system following leaving the EU. Patel introduced plans for a points-based system that places EU and non-EU citizens on an equal footing. In May, the House of Commons approved the principles of the law by 351 votes to 252 and the details of the legislation will now be scrutinised by MPs.

Most political commentators agree immigration was a crucial issue in the UK vote to leave the EU, specifically south of the border. It became a burning UK political issue in the decade prior to the EU referendum following the assimilation of 13 mostly ex-soviet nations and an increase in the UK population of six million since 2001. The question is whether or not this legislation will lay the issue of immigration to rest.

I suspect not.


A Whole New Model of Education [01/06/2020]

Schools in England are scheduled to return today but it is uncertain how seamless that return will be. The resumption of education has been a tricky one as some head
teachers with union backing have resisted reopening although the Association of School and College Leaders supported plans having been able to meet with and seek reassurances from the UK Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer.

I was sent a social media link last week with pictures taken by an English school teacher who spaced out each desk by two metres with hazard tape. However, the link vanished and the images did not resurface. However, it is safe to say they were jarring for my wife and I, who have a four-year-old child scheduled to start school in August and has missed out on several months of vital social interaction at nursery.

Given education is a devolved matter, Scotland has taken a different route and a phased return will commence in August. However, the commencement is exclusively for primary one pupils meaning our four-year-old, who would have returned with the full assurance of being with her big brother and sister under normal circumstances, will be alone and like a guinea pig for a whole new way of doing education.