Faith In Politics: Interview with Laura Jones from On Religion magazine
Posts from the ‘Media’ Category
From free school meals to the foreign office: the next generation of mandarins?
Whitehall is on a quest to prove it is not elitist. But would these children be convinced?
Thursday, 30 August 2012
Young Sir Humphrey Applebys they are not. Neither, frankly, do they bear much resemblance to aspiring Malcolm Tuckers – probably for the best.
Nonetheless, the 60 teenagers, looking a little intimidated amid the garish turquoise and gold state rooms of the Foreign Office, are what the civil service believes is its future.
They were chosen from hundreds of applicants across the country for an internship programme with a difference. While many summer schemes are dominated by children of the wealthy, all those accepted are either on free school meals or in line to be the first generation of their family to go to university.
They had been fixed up with two weeks of placements across Government departments – from the Treasury, to the Home Office and even David Cameron’s office – to get a taste of life in Whitehall and a step up on the ladder to a civil service career.
The scheme, now in its second year, has so far had little publicity – but if it works, could fundamentally alter the make-up of the next generation of Whitehall mandarins.
Not that the 17-year-olds initially saw it that way. “I heard about it from one of my A Level teachers,” said Liam Reynolds, 17, from Birmingham. “But I didn’t really apply until the last day because I didn’t think it was a realistic goal. I thought it would be for the upper class.”
Rumanah Patel from Bolton agreed. She has experience of the public school types that she thinks populate Whitehall – and at the start of her placement, still had plans to become a cosmetic dentist.
“I was at a politics conference with school recently and we were the only normal school there. Everyone else was from a private school. The guy sat next to me was like someone who had walked out of an olden-time movie. He was saying, ‘It’s so good to step out of the bubble and meet new people’. I thought, ‘Are you trying to say I’m something from outside the bubble?’ There is a divide. When they come into something like this, they are prepared for it. We’re not.”
To put them at their ease on their first day, Baroness Warsi, the Cabinet Minister responsible for the programme, told a story of growing up in Dewsbury; the child of immigrant parents and going to the local comprehensive school.
“I went to see the careers’ service,” she tells them, “and the woman said to me ‘what is it that you want to do?’ I said I really enjoyed working with people and she said: ‘Well there is a McDonalds opening in town. Have you ever thought of applying there and doing that?'”
“I decided that I didn’t want to flip burgers for the rest of my life. I wanted to do more than that. Sometimes it’s very easy to look at other people who are successful and think they must have had it easy all the way: they were probably born into a more successful family; they probably didn’t have the challenges at home that I did; they probably did not have the barriers I did. But I came to realise that the biggest barriers I had were my own aspirations.”
So two weeks on, what do the teenagers make of life in the civil service and has it changed their minds? Rumanah has been completely converted: “I went in to this talking about dentistry and I didn’t think I was desk person. But now I’ve seen the amount of things that can be done from behind a desk.
“We went to an asylum screening centre. There was this [Chinese] lady and she didn’t speak a word of English, but her husband was English, and he didn’t speak a word of Chinese – and they’d been married for six months.”
Blake Lawrinson from Leeds did a stint in David Cameron’s office, researching the Paralympics and taking part in field visits.
“The definite highlight had to be when I went on a recce – visisting one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe. That was just a completely new experience, and exclusive as well. It was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here’. I pinched myself a bit. I’d love to pursue a career in the civil service – I’ve found that it’s something I really liked doing.”
All those taking part were given references signed by Nick Clegg, advice on applying to top universities, and the promise that they will get extra support if they do decide to pursue a career as a civil servant.
But amid all the positives, there was at least some cynicism that would not appeal to Sir Humphrey.
“Before I came I had this idea that there would be a lot of bureaucracy,” said Liam. “And that’s not really changed – if anything, it’s been reinforced quite a lot. Perhaps civil service cuts are the way to go.”
Published in the Lytham St Annes Express on Wednesday 15 August 2012 by Gareth Vickers
Conservative Party co-chairman and Minister of State, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, visited the county to launch a ‘No Cold Calling’ campaign with County Coun Tim Ashton, the PCC candidate, as well as support his bid ahead of November’s elections.
The pair, alongside Fylde MP Mark Menzies, met residents and outlined their plans for both campaigns.
The Police and Crime Commissioner role allows an elected individual to be accountable for how crime is tackled in their area, with voting taking place on November 15.
Ms Warsi said: “We are here for two reasons, one to launch our ‘No Cold Calling’ campaign and secondly to support Tim’s candidancy ahead of the upcoming elections.
“Tim is a great candidate who we feel will do very well in the area. These positions are the first of their kind, and Tim, who has a strong business background, will be an excellent commissioner if he succeeds in working alongside the heads of Lancashire police.”
Mr Ashton added: “I won’t be in charge of police in the county, but my job is to work alongside them and assist them to do their jobs the best they can.
“The county’s police are some of the best-performing in the country and I want to continue this.”
Coun Ashton’s priorities include crime, supporting officers and protecting frontline policing.
He added: “My role is to hold to account the top people in the force and ensure we remain as one of the best and most respected forces in the country.”
Earlier, the pair met elderly and vulnerable residents in Earby, Pendle, to discuss dealing with cold callers, before travelling to the Fylde coast.
Key tips the trio mentioned included always checking the identity of callers to your home, not keeping cash at home and not agreeing to work as a result of a cold-caller.
Ms Warsi added: “We are taking this very seriously. Cold callers are a big issue, especially in quiet, residential areas like Lytham and Tim and Mark will be working hard to assist residents with such selling tactics.”
Published in The York Press, Friday 3rd August 2012 by Jennifer Bell
A GOVERNMENT minister has vowed to spread The Press’s Think Don’t Swim message as she backed our river safety campaign.
Conservative Party Co-Chairman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi yesterday watched the emotive eight-minute video aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of York’s waterways which The Press launched as part of our river awareness campaign following the death of bartender Richard Horrocks.
The Conservative peer viewed the film in silence in Revolution – close to where the 21-year-old barman drowned after jumping into the water from a balcony a year ago.
When it finished she said: “It is very hard-hitting. With a video like this the message can go viral.”
She pledged to post a link to the video and the video’s message on her dedicated twitter page which has 3,270 followers.
Steve Hughes, managing editor of The Press, said afterwards: “I hope Baroness Warsi’s colleagues share her support for our important campaign and spread the word further about this film. We would love it to be shown in every school and college in the country.”
Baroness Warsi was visiting York as the start of a campaign to meet local conservative police and crime commissioner candidates across the country.
Together with Julia Mulligan, Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidate for North Yorkshire, she visited the Safer York Partnership to talk about local police priorities before visiting the plaque outside Revolution which serves as a memorial to Mr Horrocks’ life, as well as a stark warning to others that a moment of madness could cost a life.
Speaking ahead of Baroness Warsi’s visit earlier in the day, Richard’s mother, Vicki Horrocks, said she hoped the Government would one day give the river safety message the same importance as road safety within schools and colleges across the UK.
Baroness Warsi said she thought the Think Don’t Swim message could be shared by the local safer neighbourhood partnership with other similar cities and areas where the message would be relevant, with the video potentially to be shown in schools, colleges and universities across the country.
“This would be the whole point of local police and crime commissioners to sort out local priorities like this,” she said. “I am a firm believer in this. In a city like York – where I used to live – the river is part and parcel of every day of life.”
North Yorkshire PCC candidate Mrs Mulligan vowed, if elected, to also spread the message of Think Don’t Swim campaign. She said: “I am not an ivory tower sort of candidate. I want to go out and deliver the message and make important issues like this a priority.
“I understand the video has more than 4,000 online views already, but I want that to be more. I want more people to see it and to spread the message. Word of mouth is one of the strongest weapons.”
Baroness Warsi said she believed the PCCs, once elected, would lead to greater transparency, democracy and accountability within the police force.
Mrs Mulligan said: “This is a chance for a fresh start. I think we need to make the police force as open and transparent as possible.”
Published in the Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 12th July 2012
By Baroness Warsi
Earlier this year I stood in the middle of a beautiful, quiet valley in rural Bosnia-Herzegovina. As I do every time I stand there, I asked myself: how could somewhere so peaceful be the site of Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War?
That spot in the Drina Valley is the town of Srebrenica, the place where – 17 years ago to the day – eight thousand Bosnian Muslim men and boys were rounded up and murdered by Ratko Mladic’s Serb troops. Those hills are the place they fled their attackers. The nearby factory is where they sought shelter, and where they met their end.
Today, dignitaries and victims’ families will once again gather in that valley to remember those who died. 520 newly identified victims of one of Europe’s worst massacres will be buried there. The anniversary also gives the wider world a chance to reflect upon the genocide committed in Srebrenica, and our duty to the people of this town.
Our first duty is to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. Seventeen years ago today, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leader, said to the TV cameras: “Here we are, on July 11, 1995, in Serbian Srebrenica, just before a great Serb holy day.” Seventeen years later he is on trial in The Hague, facing 11 charges: of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. As the Foreign Secretary said in the Hague on Monday: “The lesson of the last two decades is that if you commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, you will not be able to rest easily in your bed: the reach of international justice is long and patient, and once set in train, it is inexorable.” There is no expiry date for these crimes, so that even, if like Ratko Mladic, you succeed in evading justice for 16 years, you will eventually be brought to account.
Our second duty is to condemn those who deny the massacre. In 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled that the atrocities carried out by Mladic’s forces constituted genocide. The act was committed with virtual impunity in front of the eyes of the very international community that was there to prevent it, but did not. It failed to act in Srebrenica, as it had failed in Rwanda 12 months earlier. There cannot be true reconciliation until the fact of the slaughter is accepted by all.
Third, we must encourage communities together. Inter-ethnic tensions are stifling regeneration and reconciliation. What Srebrenica needs is leadership in the interests of all its citizens, whatever their ethnicity. It’s a challenge that inspired me to set up a social action venture, Project Maja, in Bosnia three years ago. The sight of Serb and Bosniak volunteers cooperating to create a new IT suite in the local high school shows that the process of regeneration was as important as the outcome, and it was good to return again earlier this year with another project.
Above all, the world’s primary duty is to remember what happened in that Bosnian enclave 17 years ago. That’s why the British Government has supported the establishment of the memorial complex in Srebrenica, contributed to public infrastructure renewal, and supported the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) in its work to identify the remains of those that are still missing.
Of course, the greatest reason for remembering is to ensure the world never lets it happen again. What happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina has shaped events across the world today. I, like many, still carry the guilt. Only last year the UK was faced with a decision whether to act against Colonel Gaddafi as he threatened to massacre his own people in Benghazi. As I sat around the Cabinet table, I thought of Srebrenica.
So as mourners come together today, I hope that we can all renew our commitment to the town and its people so that, one day, Srebrenica will no longer be synonymous with war, murder and suffering, but with optimism, prosperity and hope.
Published on Conservative Home, Monday 9th July 2012 by Tim Montgomerie
Last year Conservative Home noted that party conference was not what it was. It has become expensive and corporate. We take our hats off to the co-chairmen, Sayeeda Warsi and Andrew Feldman for their efforts to address this. We’ve already reported the early bird discounts that were introduced this year to cut the costs of attending this year’s Birmingham event if people booked well in advance. Many of the discounts of that programme are still available.
Sayeeda Warsi is going to be making a sustained effort over the summer to further promote attendance at conference and especially the multiple accommodation and transport discounts. She aims to place a phone call with every Tory Association Chairman (she might not connect with all of them!) to promote the idea that every party member is entitled to attend conference. She is worried that there are still many members who are unaware of rules changes from some years ago and still think that only Association officers can attend. Baroness Warsi will also be using the calls to urge Associations to maintain campaigning efforts. With police commissioner elections looming this is a summer that we have to maintain momentum, she will say.
The third thing that is changing is the introduction of more member-only events at this year’s Birmingham conference. The Prime Minister introduces the idea in the video below…
- There’ll be a private meeting with Lord Feldman and Baroness Warsi discussing ‘the road to 2015’;
- An intimate gathering with Oliver Letwin and ministers will discuss the Tory manifesto for the next general election;
- Stephen Gilbert, the party’s chief campaigner, will give members a preview of campaign tactics.
It may be a work-in-progress. Decline in conference participation won’t be reversed in a single year but It is good to see that there’ll be more meaty politics this October. Book now and book here!
Published in The Sun, myView : Their legacy is our liberty
ARMED Forces Day isn’t just about Britain’s service personnel.
It’s a day which is relevant to every single Briton.
The sacrifices of the Army, Navy and Air Force – past and present, at home and abroad – impact on all of us.
Today I will be thinking of my grandfathers, who fought in the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment and were stationed in Burma and Aden, as well as the millions who fought in the Second World War.
Their legacy is our liberty.
And I will be thinking of our troops out in Afghanistan and their families and friends waiting anxiously at home.
They are creating a safer, more stable future.
I am proud to co-chair a party and serve in a government that recognises the forces’ bravery.
That’s why we doubled soldiers’ operational allowance.
It’s why we are rebuilding the military covenant.
And it’s why we’re determined to give servicemen and women the dignity they deserve.
So let’s make this a day when we think about the daily sacrifice made by our brave men and women.
And let’s fly the Union Jack in honour of our courageous, steadfast, professional, inspirational troops.
They truly are the best of British.
David Cameron is right to criminalise forced marriage. This abominable, inhumane act robs people of their lives
By Sayeeda Warsi published onFriday 8 June 2012 on guardian.co.uk
In deciding to criminalise forced marriage – the act of coercing a person to marry against their will – the government has made a bold statement: that this heinous, inhumane, oppressive act is never acceptable. The decision couldn’t come soon enough. The government’s forced marriage unit (FMU) provided advice or support in almost 1,500 cases last year, but the true picture is thought to be even graver.
One study in 2009 estimated that up to 8,000 women and men, girls and boys could be entering into unwilling unions each year, often being torn from their lives in Britain to live in an unknown land with an unknown spouse.
Shockingly, a third of victims assisted by the FMU last year were minors – schoolchildren who suddenly became spouses either here or abroad – the youngest reported case is thought to have been just five years old.
We must be clear. This is not like arranged marriage, where two parties consent. In forced marriage, to resist betrothal is to risk ostracism, abuse and even murder.
Currently, the law does not go far enough. Forced marriage protection orders were introduced in 2008, but breaching an order is only a breach of civil law. The message this sends out is a dangerous one: it says that Britain equates this enforced matrimony with mere civil misdemeanours. Read more
Published in the Evening Standard, Friday 18th May 2012 by Joe Murphy
Baroness Warsi: Father asked me ‘why be a leader if you don’t take the lead?’
Baroness Warsi may be a Cabinet minister with all the finely-honed minds of the civil service to call upon, but sometimes the adviser she trusts most is simply her dad.
So it was when the horrific details of the Rochdale sexual grooming scandal poured out in a shocking court case this month.
Five white girls, aged 13 to 15, were plied with alcohol, food and money and subjected to multiple sex attacks. The guilty men were Muslims of mainly Pakistani origin, some regarded as pillars of their community.
Shortly after nine men were convicted, Lady Warsi sat down to dinner at her parents’ house and her father asked what the Government was going to do about it. She did not know. The baroness recalled: “Dad then said, ‘Well, what are you doing about it?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s not me, it’s a Home Office issue’.” At this her father, Safdar, gave her a remarkable lecture.
“He said to me: ‘Sayeeda, what is the point in being in a position of leadership if you don’t lead on issues that are so fundamental? This is so stomach churningly sick that you should have been out there condemning it as loudly as you could. Uniquely, you are in a position to show leadership on this.’
“I thought to myself, he’s absolutely right.” Today she has decided to use an interview with the Evening Standard to do as her father advised.
Today, Baroness Warsi joined BBC Radio Leeds presenter Liz Green for her show, One on One. The programme, a series of interviews with famous faces from Yorkshire, allows guests to share their experiences and play some of their favourite music.Catch up with the show here.