Thursday, 30 July 2015

Unison - helping to protect Thatcher's legacy

'We must neglect no opportunity to erode trade union membership'.

That is what Margaret Thatcher said in 1983. She thought that, believe this if you can, Norman Tebbit's approach to union reform was too moderate and more needed to be done to tackle 'the enemy within'. 

More than thirty years on the present iteration of Tories are seeking to pick up Mrs T's mantle with the Trade Union Bill currently before parliament.

The new bill would have delighted Mrs Thatcher. It makes the right to strike extremely difficult, and almost impossible in protected occupations, and as an added bonus it further jeopardises the link between unions and the Labour Party.

The stark fact is that Mr Cameron's anti-trade union bill is going to pass into legislation virtually unchanged and there is one reason for that. The Tories have a parliamentary majority.

There is another simple fact. This legislation wouldn't even be on the table if a Labour government was in office.

But we don't have a Labour government. We could have had one but ordinary people didn't think we spoke for them.

People wanted to vote for our brand of compassion but they didn't think we were competent. We weren't grown up enough to be trusted to run one of the worlds largest economies.

And now we're taking every possible step to ensure they never trust us again.

This leadership election is a defining moment for the Labour Party and trade unions. In 5 years the Trade Union Bill will be the Trade Union Act, who knows what other measures will be in place?

In 5 years Labour need to be a credible electoral force but right now the favourite to take us into that battle is a man who calls organisations with links to terrorism 'friends', a man who wants to compromise our national security by cancelling our nuclear deterrent, a man who wants to raise taxes to provide free higher education to the rich.

Labour has to question how they can become an electoral force once more. Patently Jeremy Corbyn isn't the answer.

Yet ludicrously, unbelievably trade unions are falling over themselves to nominate a man who will guarantee the Tories get more free reign to impose controls and restraints on them.

Before becoming a councillor I worked in and with local government for the best part of 20 years. I've been a member of Unison, and at times a steward, for a significant chunk of that period and since.

I desperately want to see a respectable Labour government in office, a government who can protect the weakest in society but can also unashamedly reach out to aspirational middle England.

It's for that reason that I am dismayed. Unison's National Labour Link Committee have been more than a little myopic, some might say foolish, in nominating Mr Corbyn.

Unison have always been a respected, moderate trade union but senior representatives have fallen into the trap of endorsing a comfort candidate who says lots of nice left wing stuff but who doesn't have the credibility to be visualised by the vast majority of voters as someone who can share a podium with a President Clinton or Bush.

In a few weeks Labour's new leader will be announced.

If and when Unison and other unions get what they wish for they must remember that they are, at least partly, responsible for the next round of legislation hurting their members when the Tories return a bigger majority in a few years time.



Thursday, 23 July 2015

Nice guy Corbyn pushes Labour to edge of oblivion - my Catholic Universe column


I feel that my soul is in danger. I have committed a mortal sin but I just cannot help it. I am deeply envious.
Let me put my offence into context and you may be able to advise whether I will be spending a long time in purgatory or even going somewhere much warmer.
On the morning of Friday 8th May the newly reinstalled Prime Minister was going about his business, visiting Her Majesty and starting to put together his first all Conservative cabinet. Elsewhere in the capital Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg were busy resigning as respective leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats whilst on a cliff top in Margate UKIP leader Nigel Farage was busy doing the same thing.
What came next was an object lesson in how to do things and how not to in party politics.
Despite promising to stand down if his party were unsuccessful before the election Mr Farage’s resignation actually lasted all of four days. Mr Farage withdrew his resignation after it was ‘unanimously rejected by the national executive committee members who produced overwhelmingly evidence that the UKIP membership did not want Nigel to go’.
Unfortunately for Mr Farage a number of other senior figures in UKIP didn’t see things quite the same way which lead to some very unsightly and public bloodletting. The end result however is one where apart from the term ‘doing a Farage’ (to denote someone resigning with very little intention of actually going) entering the lexicon the pre-election status quo has very much resumed.
Hardly a way to manage a smooth transition from one generation to the next.
On the other hand we have the Liberal Democrats, the reason for my mortal sinning.
In what will undoubtedly become a model for installing a new leader we have witnessed a concise but nevertheless full timetable of a couple of months being implemented. We’ve seen two prospective leadership candidates setting out distinct views of the path that their party should take and we’ve witnessed, on the whole, two sets of activists entering into debate without resorting to personal attacks of either the candidates or of each other.
The end result is the installation of Tim Farron, a genuinely decent family man as leader of that much diminished party.
Mr Farron is on record as being a practising member of the Anglican church and is that rarest of political creatures an up and coming politician who wears his Christian faith on his sleeve. Although his faith, particularly after he abstained on the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, has led to questions from some quarters of his commitment to equality rights I know of no one in politics who doesn’t genuinely wish Mr Farron the very best in his leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
The LibDems have proved you can have a smooth leadership process and arrive, at least initially, at a genuinely unifying conclusion.
Which brings me to why I am envious of Mr Farron’s party.
Labour’s leadership process is only half way through. We won’t know who our leader will be until the middle of September and it’s looking increasingly likely that the fallout and recriminations will last long after a declaration has been made.
From the moment Ed Miliband announced his resignation vocal pockets of Labour activists began calling for a candidate from the hard left, high taxation, anti-austerity wing of the party. They feel that the way the public voted in May was not the fault of Labour but that of the electorate. That the answer isn’t to listen to all of those voters who talked on the doorsteps about economic credibility but to shout forcefully that more spending is needed.
Very much at the last minute of the nomination process enough members of the Parliamentary Labour Party acceded to calls for a debate which encompassed candidates from all reaches of Labour’s political spectrum. As a result and despite many of the MP’s who nominated him being very clear that they would not support him in the membership ballot Jeremy Corbyn was included in the short list of four prospective leaders.
And that, dear readers, is very much where the real problems started.
Members of political parties are not ordinary people. They don’t judge a government at election time on overall how well the economy is doing or whether public services are robust, they live politics every minute of every day and more often than not hate the ideologies of the other guys.
Just as many Conservative Party members are far more right wing, string ‘em up or send ‘em home, than most of the electorate many Labour members would like to see wholesale renationalisation and punitive taxation of the rich. The difficulty is that that significant portion of Labour members are mobilising very effectively behind Mr Corbyn, so much so that there is a real chance that he will become leader of his party.
Mr Corbyn has secured the endorsement of Unite, Britains largest trade union, as well as the nominations of more constituency parties than any other candidate.
Even before the possible effects of the Daily Telegraph’s call for Tory voters to sign up as Labour supporters (just £3.00!) to vote for Mr Corbyn with a cry of ‘consign the party to electoral oblivion in 2020 – and silence its loony Left forever’ are taken into account the other campaigns are worried.
Leaked private polling is showing that under the Labour Party’s transferable voting system Mr Corbyn may well be now most popular of the four candidates. It appears that whilst alternative candidates Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are still in with a shout as a result of second preferences Liz Kendall, constantly billed as the Blairite candidate, is out for the count.
However, what makes all of this so much more difficult is the atmosphere that it is being conducted in. In harking back to far darker times which bring forth a least a degree of Stalinesque imagery the Labour Party has a tendency to call for debate to be held in ‘comradely’ fashion and yet camaraderie is far from what is happening in our leadership contest.
Anyone who dares question the appropriateness of Mr Corbyn as leader is branded a Tory by his vocal supporters. Whilst a staff member working for one candidate told me how they were called a traitor at a nomination meeting most of the vitriol however is being reserved for Ms Kendall who despite being a Labour party member for the best part of 30 years, an MP and a shadow cabinet minister is regularly abused by trolls on her social network feeds and I have no doubt at leadership hustings. A significant number of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, although importantly not Mr Corbyn himself, should be ashamed of themselves.
The question of course is why should any of this matter to Universe readers? The answer is simple.
Having an effective, electable opposition – whether you support them or not - is vital. We need a realistic choice in order to keep governments on their toes.
Mr Corbyn seems a decent man, I have never met him, but sadly he is unelectable and the Conservative Party know this. In my forty plus years a left wing government has never been elected in this country. I cannot help but think of the words of Henry Ford when he said ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. Why would anyone think a strident left wing party would change that rule now?
A party colleague put my point in much more human terms when they recently said to me ‘In 1983, when my Dad was out of work with no hope of finding a job, struggling with mum to feed me and my brother and never knowing where the next penny was coming from, a Labour Party that thought it was fine to be unelectable because it was in the right was no good to us. It didn't buy school shoes or put 50p pieces in the electricity meter. We needed a Labour Government not a pressure group. Nothing has changed. The kids eating out of food banks and the pensioners lying on hospital trollies need a Labour Government. I hope party members across the country are thinking about that right now.’ 
Now do you see why I am envious of those Liberal Democrats?

 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Life can be so fragile: this week proved that to me - my Catholic Universe column


This week has been one of those weeks that I have struggled to concentrate.
In my part of the world it has been the last week of the summer term.
For my daughter it’s been a time of saying goodbye to her primary school and getting excited for the challenges that lie ahead of her. Equally it’s been a hard week for my eight year old son who has realised that for the first time ever in September he won’t have an older sister to look after him at school.
For me? As I also work in education it’s been about getting through a hectic activities week and indeed bidding farewell to students and colleagues who I have become very fond of.
Every time my thoughts have turned to this column they have been blocked for one reason or another.
This week I could have written about Greece, an economic disaster that is happening before our very eyes but the truth is there is very little I could add. The Greek people are understandably buckling under a level of austerity which we could only have nightmares about whilst creditors are justifiably concerned that failing to address the root cause of a huge deficit will only lead to greater problems down the road. Add a preening, ineffective Greek Prime Minister to the mix and you have a recipe for financial meltdown.
I could have written about the highly contentious issue of fox hunting. The Conservative government are looking to introduce what amounts to a wrecking amendment to the 2004 Hunting Act which would allow foxes to be flushed out by packs of hounds instead of just the two currently stipulated by legislation. It is argued that the amendment would allow for hunting by the backdoor although in reality it only brings legislation into line with current legislation in Scotland.
Had I written about fox hunting I would have been terribly torn in my view, I hate to see animal cruelty but many farmers insist hunting is a better and far more humane way to tackle what amounts to vermin rather than shooting. Then the whole fox hunting debate has horrible overtones of class warfare which I find completely distasteful, really shouldn’t it be about the best way to deal with a countryside pest not whether the people who do it are ‘posh’ or not?
The truth is that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor was right when he intervened in the argument in 2004 and said, I paraphrase, that there far more important things that government should be spending its time on. Fox hunting is a matter of interest to some but should it really be taking up parliamentary time just two months into a new government when there are far greater issues facing our nation?
So the truth is that I have struggled this week but then, as is often the case, God throws something at you that you simply have to recount.
We discovered about eighteen months after our first son was born that he suffered from food allergies. We had given him a peanut butter sandwich to try and within seconds his whole body had come out in a rash which prompted our very first rush to the hospital.
Over the years that have followed there have been other scares. Regan, our son, was given Kiwi fruit to try at nursery it became apparent that not only was he not keen it also produced an allergic reaction the same as the peanut butter did.
Then there was the time that Regan inadvertently tried ‘Crunchy Nut’ cornflakes because they looked like the normal ones and ‘they don’t really have nuts in do they’?
Over the years the list of food allergies has got longer. It started with peanuts but it soon became kiwi, then egg, shellfish, soya, strawberries, the list goes on and each time we’ve discovered a new food we’ve done our normal rush to the hospital.
Of course as parents we’ve been there to make sure no harm comes to Regan. We have carried the medicine which we have had to use often and the adrenaline injection which, thank God, we haven’t.
We’ve checked ingredient lists and notified restaurant waiters with varying degrees of effectiveness.
We’ve come to hate that phrase ‘may contain traces of nuts’. What do we do? There are no nuts in the recipe but they are occasionally used on the production line and there is a minute chance that a trace of one may have fallen into our sons’ dinner. Countless food items contain that dreaded phrase and if we prevent Regan from eating anything that carries the warning his choices would be massively restricted.
The reality is that over the years, whether it is right or wrong, we’ve taken a pragmatic approach ‘may contain traces of nuts’ and its variants are nothing more than producers seeking to limit liability, I know many other parents of children with food allergies do the same.
We have learned to manage our sons’ allergies. We have come to know that whilst Regan reacts to egg he doesn’t seem to react when it has been cooked thoroughly or that he can eat frozen prawns with no effect as long as the shell is nowhere near them.
But this week, startlingly, out of the blue, we have learned that Regan won’t be in our care forever and that responsibility for managing his allergies will pass to him. It is going to be a very worrying time for us as parents.
This weekend we went out for Sunday lunch and for a change decided to try a Thai restaurant. As usual we went through the list of all of the foods with the waiter that Regan can and cannot eat. The only problem was that we all forgot about soya, it’s on our ‘B’ list things that Regan can eat and even enjoy in small quantities.
We didn’t see it coming when Regan ordered his ‘safe’ starter of duck wraps or that the normal plum sauce had been changed for a miso one. We didn’t know that miso sauce is basically concentrated soya right up until the point Regan started having difficulty breathing whilst at the same time uncontrollably vomiting.
Of course being the laid back 15 year old that he is his emergency kit was left at home; ‘medicines aren’t cool’ and this was the rarest of occasions when neither my wife nor I had our backups to hand.
I have never been so scared or felt so helpless.
We watched our son deteriorate in front of our eyes as we rushed to the nearby urgent care centre and there was nothing we could do to help, to alleviate his symptoms or reduce his pain.
We were lucky. As Regan struggled he was given a strong antihistamine to fight the reaction and he gradually recovered.
But here is the problem. We know at some point it will happen again and that probably the reaction will be worse. We know that chances are we might not be around with our normally reliable backup.
We know that Regan has to start taking more responsibility for his health but we are entering into the danger years when young men with a sense of invincibility don’t tend to do so.
And it terrifies me.
It doesn’t matter that for us it’s food allergies or for other parents it’s asthma or physical disabilities. We spend years bringing up our children hoping that we teach them properly and make them safe and yet in the blink of an eye that responsibility passes on to them and we don’t know if they are ready for it.
We hope we have done things right but how scary will it be to find out?
Of course political debate is important and normal service will be resumed next week but every now and then it’s worth focussing on those things that we can tend to ignore. Our families. We often lose focus of how important they are until we have the type of fright that I’ve had this weekend.
If you have stroppy teenage children, or even incredibly polite ones, or you are a grandparent, uncle or aunt please do take the time this week to tell them how much you love them. You don’t know when you might not have that chance again.
 

 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Councils between a rock and a hard place over fracking - my Catholic Universe column


Back in February 2009 David Cameron then Leader of Her Majesties Opposition took to the pages of The Guardian newspaper, perhaps not a natural ally of his, to talk about localism.
Mr Cameron set out a clear vision for the future, a future where ordinary people got much more of a say about local issues that affect them. The now two-term Prime Minister said ‘Right now most people feel totally insignificant in the political process. Frankly, that’s because – in the current over centralised system – they are insignificant.’
Mr Cameron was right. People did feel powerless when it came to having a say about their local councils and in fairness the coalition government that took up office in 2010 went some way to address that disconnect.
The coalition legislated for local referendums to increase council tax although the rules and cost have meant that in practice such ballots have been rarer than hen’s teeth.
In his proposals for the future of local government Mr Cameron laid out his intention to give councils ‘the general power of competence’, a well thought out right for them to have the same powers to act as of any other organisation rather than constraining them to a narrow set of obligations and constraints specified in legislation. Whilst this power is undoubtedly a good thing for local authorities I’m not sure even Mr Cameron’s most ardent supporters would be able to evidence how this has given local people a greater say in the running of things.
In fact I would venture to write that most people feel they have no greater say now, six years on, then when Mr Cameron wrote his opinion piece back in 2009. With one possible exception.
The truth is that when Mr Cameron started talking about local people having a say most of us took that to mean planning decisions, and if indeed it did mean those decisions the system is desperately failing.
As a councillor who has sat on planning committees at both county and district level I know without any doubt that any planning application from a single residential dwelling upwards will lead to copious objections from neighbours. Whilst the vast majority of us would agree that new houses are needed or that provision has to be made for the traveling community no one wants to live near them.
Some might say that such behaviour is the actions of those fabled ‘not in my backyard’ NIMBY’s, I disagree. I believe it is human nature that we want to preserve the status quo. Most of us don’t like stepping out of a comfort zone and new development next door to us definitely falls into that category no matter what the proposals are.
It could well be the most deprived area of the country faced with millions of pounds in regeneration investment but I can guarantee that neighbour objections would be effusive.
The difficulty being faced is that if neighbour objections are the key to decision making no development would ever take place.
We know that our planet is running out of fossil fuels. Some estimates forecast that the worldwide supply will be fully depleted in 75 years. Only last year the Global Sustainability Institute said that the United Kingdom has just 5.2 years of oil, 4.5 years of coal and 3 years of natural gas remaining.
We know that there is an impending energy crisis and we must take steps to address it. Fortunately for us at least we also know that there are emerging technologies which will help us to do so.
It is vital for our future that investment and development takes place in the fields of renewable energies such as wind, solar or biofuels. It is also imperative that extraction of alternative natural energy sources becomes far more efficient as well as safer.
All of which takes me on to hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ as it is more commonly known.
Fracking is a process of drilling into the earth and subsequently pointing water, at high pressure, at the subterranean rocks which then leads to a release of gas stored in them. In no way am I an expert on fracking but I know it is extremely contentious.
Spending just a few minutes looking around the internet can lead you to some amazing sites including in the US, where fracking has been around for some time, kitchen taps bursting into flame. Closer to home early attempts at hydraulic fracturing were documented as being responsible for earth tremors.
People are justifiably concerned about fracking, they are also justifiably concerned about our future energy supplies. Some very tough decisions have to be made.
Last week Lancashire County Council were asked to grant approval for the drilling of four exploration wells to allow for hydraulic fracturing to take place on the Fylde coast, one of the very first schemes in the United Kingdom.
The application met with massive neighbour and public opposition and despite both legal advice and planning expert recommendations that safety concerns were manageable and permission should be given councillors roundly rejected the application.
The Sunday Times reported Greenpeace as saying the decision was ‘Waterloo for the fracking industry’. Yet there is every likelihood that Cuadrilla, the company making the application, will appeal which could end up costing local taxpayers millions of pounds and their locally determined decision being overturned.
The Catholic Church has long believed in the principle of subsidiarity, the notion that problems should be dealt with at their most immediate level to allow for effective solution.
It can be strongly argued that Mr Cameron’s policy of localism is closely aligned with subsidiarity and indeed it would be difficult to find anyone of any political party strongly arguing against such a principle.
The problem is that sometimes difficult decisions are needed.
For a councillor the easiest thing to do is to side with vocal objectors. These are the people who will vote for you if you agree with them, whilst the silent majority who do not oppose development will seldom if ever vote for you if you didn’t object.
But sometimes, perhaps often, vocal objectors are wrong – they do not see the bigger picture. They do not see that housing is needed in their area, they do not see that industrial units will bring jobs to those who need them and they do not see alternative energy sources are in short supply.
I am a great believer that wise words can often be found in the most unusual places. The comic book character of Peter Parker, alter-ego of Spiderman is told by his Uncle Ben shortly before he is murdered ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Those words in a far more mundane context could be written for local councillors and residents when it comes to planning and the issues facing their communities.
For public objections to mean anything localism should never simply be about jumping to a conclusion of ‘no’ because that is what those shouting loudest want.
Sometimes for the greater good locally unpopular development is needed the responsible thing is for local leaders and residents to say so.

 

 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

7/7, a reflection

I shall never forget getting home from work a decade ago tonight. My wife had never hugged me quite so hard, I don't think she had ever been quite so pleased to see me.

Just 24 hours earlier I had returned home from a long day at a client's office in Manchester and mentioned to her that  as I was tired I had decided to take the early morning train from Loughborough to St Pancras and onward to another customers offices in the East End.

As I rushed out of the house that Thursday morning 15 minutes late I didn't wake my still sleeping wife. She didn't know a finger too keen to hit the alarm clock snooze button had made me change my mind about getting to work, she didn't know that instead of heading to Loughborough instead I got on the M1 at junction 22 and headed south.

By the time I passed Luton the motorway matrix signs were lit up and telling me and every other motorist to 'turn our radios on'. It didn't dawn on me that something was happening that would change our nation forever (or that my wife might be worried about me).

Radio 5 was understandably sketchy that morning and I didn't really start to notice the scale of the tragedy until I was sat in my client's office and what seemed to be a never ending convoy of ambulances, fire engines and police cars started passing by.

By then phone networks were down and there was no way to contact home to tell Clare I was safe. It was only an hour later that panic stricken she had been able to contact my employers who in turn contacted my client.

I have no idea if I had made my train that morning whether I would have been caught in one of the blasts that killed 52 innocent people and ruined the lives of thousands more. The timings suggest I may have been although of course I may have quite easily have caught an earlier tube or could have still been standing on a platform at King's Cross when the explosions happened.

I do know that for a couple of hours my family thought quite reasonably that the worst had happened.

At times life is as much about fortune as it is about hard work. Who can honestly say what would have happened on the road not travelled? or that journey not taken?

That is why we can never give in to those who wish us and our country harm. If we start thinking 'what happens if...' in our daily lives we would never leave our homes. Our whole way of life, our freedom, would be defeated.

Those who died on Thursday 7th May 2005 unwittingly died protecting our freedoms. The freedom to go to work, the freedom to be on time, the freedom to be late.

It is that sacrifice that should never be forgotten and even if, no when, another atrocity eventually happens we as a nation will dust ourselves down and appreciate the freedoms and the loves we cherish so much.

My heartfelt prayers go out to those who lost their lives on that day. My heartfelt thanks go out to those emergency workers who tried to save them.

It isn't a terrorist act that epitomises our nation but how we respond to one. Today of all days I couldn't be prouder of our nation and our pragmatic attitude of ordinary people in the face of such barbarous acts of terror.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Moving the goalposts won't eradicate child poverty, PM - My Catholic Universe column


I remember very well my first day at Catholic primary school. I had moved there at the start of what is now Year 5 from the nearby local maintained school as a result of my lapsed father returning to the faith.
I quickly got used to the routine which started both morning and afternoon with class prayers. In turn students would get to choose what the prayer would be, I quickly learned that when it came to your turn the only correct choice as far as the class was concerned was a swift ‘Glory be’. Heaven forbid, as some overly keen altar server would always do, if the student of the day decided on ‘Hail Holy Queen’ – along with the audible sigh you could literally see the shoulders of every other class member drop by an inch or two.
I got used to school mass on a Wednesday morning and very quickly learned that if you popped into the next door parish church after school it was very likely that our wonderful, and ever so slightly scary, teacher would be there and she would give you 10 merits for your piety.
It was a lovely school with great teachers and a very special atmosphere.
My most vivid memories however, even now, are about football. In the days of separate boys and girls playgrounds we would play in no way what could be called the beautiful game every break and lunchtime.
With an astonishing lack of foresight someone in authority had decided to paint a goal on the school wall at one end of the playground but not to provide a similar one at the other end.
We Year 5 boys quickly realised that two concrete uprights in a rough alignment with the goal at the far end could represent posts, but that was where the problem started. The concrete posts were not the same width as those on the painted goal and so in our minds we would seek to compensate by adjusting the height of the crossbar to makes the area of each goal equal. Obviously because there was no real crossbar all of this height adjustment was a matter of visualisation.
The outcome was, as you might expect, some real humdinger arguments with the goalposts (or at least the crossbar) literally being moved to determine the final score.
When you are nearly 10 moving the goalposts is indeed an actual thing and when it happens you know you have been egregiously wronged, so much so that if the ball is yours you absolutely will pick it up and blooming well take it home with you.
As you get older there is a tendency for us to be more complacent about goalpost shifting. We expect politicians to do it and so we just accept it. As a 10 year old it was easy to understand what was right and what was wrong, maybe sometimes we need to rediscover that sense of righteous indignation?
In the dog days of the last Labour government a piece of legislation entitled the Child Poverty Act was passed. The law stipulated that by the year 2020 the government would endeavour to ensure less than 1 in 10 children will be living in relative poverty.
Relative poverty can be measured quite effectively as any household living on less than 60% of the average income.
We are not talking about families earning big money here, but those living on less than £272 per week before housing costs are even taken into consideration.
Statistics released by government this week, far from working towards what is a largely unambitious target, show that the numbers are relatively static with 2.3 million children right now living in relative poverty. It’s a picture that gets far worse once housing costs have been taken in to account when nearly one third of all children are living in a family unit classed as suffering.
This week reports emanated from government that the Prime Minister intends to repeal the Child Poverty Act as it is, in his own words, ‘absurd’. The Prime Minister cites that a small rise in state pension can affect the median average income.
Whilst Mr Cameron’s position may be factually correct it certainly isn’t something to be proud about. A small increase in income for pensioners still means millions of families, two thirds of whom have at least one parent in work, are really having to make a choice of eating or heating, or figuring out how they can afford to send their child to school (a fact not lost on many Catholic families facing exorbitant costs to allow their children access to faith based education).
This government now free of the reigns of a coalition partner are taking measures, not least of which is the anticipated reform of working families tax credits, which see projections for child poverty rocketing to 4.5 million in less than five years time. Rather than effectively tackling the root cause of the problem however the Conservative government are increasingly insistent on getting rid of the way it is measured.
This week Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said "These figures make grim reading for anyone looking for progress on child poverty.  Because, make no mistake, we are facing a child poverty crisis in the years ahead and the Government is not going to meet the child poverty targets it signed up to. Rather than opening up opportunity, the UK is now going down the road of closing down life chances for hundreds of thousands of children in low income families.
“This child poverty crisis will undoubtedly deepen if the Government goes ahead with plans to cut help for children in low income families and for the low paid.  You don't tackle low pay by making the low paid poorer. You don't tackle child poverty by slashing targeted help for children in low income families and then claiming money doesn't matter.”
There are those that will argue that the last Labour government could have done more to tackle child poverty and they are right. There are those who may well argue that Child Poverty Act was at least in part political shenanigans to make an incoming government look bad and I will not vehemently argue that assertion. But whatever the reasoning the outlook for those at the bottom of our societal pile is getting worse.
It is said that in the days Margaret Thatcher spent in Downing Street the methodology for calculating unemployment statistics changed almost as often as unemployment statistics were reported upon. As the situation worsened quietly statistics were massaged to not look quite so bad.
I believe that at heart Mr Cameron is a man of integrity however as he starts to think about the legacy he will leave Britain with as he stands down at some point in this parliamentary term surely he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who manipulated figures but rather someone who tackled problems?
As I think back to those childhood goalposts I ponder on what we did to stop arguments about whether a shot was in or whether the ball went over and I realise we had a straightforward way of dealing with it. We made sure there was no doubt by aiming directly for the centre of our target.
Perhaps that is what Mr Cameron needs to do? Set about dealing with the problem of child poverty rather than the minutiae of statistical methodologies.
Perhaps there is much we can learn from the simple views of schoolboys?