Monday 9 March 2015

Two (more) daft ideas from the Tories.

Deciding what is the most damaging legacy of the Thatcher years makes an interesting area for debate.  Is it:

  • the lingering divisive effects of the miners v the police;
  • deregulation, particularly of financial markets;
  • the "right to buy" council houses;
  • privatisations;
  • the Falklands War;
  • the emasculation of local government?
All of these have had a negative effect on the quality of our society, but high on my list would be the "right to buy."  Like the other policies, this has backfired badly.  Meant to create a "property owning democracy" (and in the process turn us all into Tory voters) a huge proportion of the "bought" council houses are now in the hands of private "buy to let" landlords.  This, along with the refusal to permit councils to use the "right to buy" receipts  to finance the building of more social housing, has meant a serious reduction in the social housing stock and is thus responsible in large measure for the present housing crisis.

So how incredible that,  while experts in the housing field are calling for an end to the right to buy, or at least its suspension,  Ian Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, is leading the push to extend the right to buy (at a substantial discount) to tenants of Housing Associations.  Even dafter (though it is so incredible it may be a hoax) the Daily Mirror reports that Smith wants to gift (sic) their  house to any council tenant who has been on benefit but gets a job and remains in it for a year.

This gives a whole new meaning to election bribery.

Equally illogical is David Cameron's determination to create more so called "free" schools on the spurious grounds that where they exist they improve the quality of surrounding schools.  The evidence is that the existing "free" schools are no better than any other (for what it's worth, of the 73 free schools inspected by OFSTED 18 were rated as outstanding, 22 were inadequate or required improvement  and three have been closed down or taken over.)

In practice these schools create havoc with local authority attempts to plan intelligently for by providing  school places where they're not needed, largely  to satisfy the aspirations of pushy parents who want schools in their own image,religious organisations which want to push their beliefs at the state's expense, or commercial organisations wanting to get their foot in the door ready for when running schools for profit becomes permissible.

An afterthought: if local authorities are not deemed  fit to be trusted with running schools how come powers are to be devolved to Manchester to run almost everything else, including the the NHS? 


  1. Worst legacy of the Thatcher years: the destruction of the hallowed principle that those born in the United Kingdom (British natives in the literal sense) are British (Citizens, earlier called British Subjects).

  2. Thanks. I didn't know that. Can you give some details?

  3. The British Nationality Act 1981 redefined British Citizenship. Anyone born in the United Kingdom before the Act came into force on 1st January 1983 was (and is) British (there were some more complex rules about those born outside the UK). After 1st January 1983, those born in the United Kingdom are only British from birth if one or both of their parents* had "settled status" (permanent permission to be in the UK, including Citizenship). Otherwise birth in the United Kingdom conveys no permission to be in the UK whatsoever- such persons are born "illegal immigrants"- this is true even when their parents have temporary permission to be here.

    *biological mother and husband of the mother at time of birth. Subsequent amendments allowed for recognition of biological fathers where the mother was unmarried, but not of biological fathers where the husband of the mother at time of birth was not the biological father.

    1. Quite apart from the basic injustice, this causes a number of technical problems when the status of a child's parents at time of birth is uncertain. For example, in European law, "settled status" arrives automatically on completion of 5 years exercising treaty rights. How is a child supposed to work out whether or not their estranged parent was exercising treaty rights for 5 years before they were born? Worse still can occur where someone is born to a British parent but then that parent's citizenship is nullified (which means retrospectively declaring them never British)- the child is then also retrospectively declared never to have been a citizen...

    2. Thanks for those very full explanations. The Act seems like a blow to both the mobile and the marginal.