Faith In Politics: Interview with Laura Jones from On Religion magazine
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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.”
On behalf of the Conservative Party I would like to send my warmest wishes to everyone celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr in Britain and around the world.
Eid is a special time for families and friends to come together to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The significance it places on hope, charity and community is something which unites Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
As we come together to celebrate we must remember the lives of those who are less fortunate than us, in particular those suffering as a result of the brutal situation in Syria.
Once again, I would like to wish Eid Mubarak to everyone marking this special occasion.
On Monday 13th August Cabinet Office Minister, Baroness Warsi, on behalf of HM Government, and in conjunction with the Social Mobility Foundation launched the second annual Whitehall Internship program.
The program, designed to open up internship places for Year 12 students from underrepresented backgrounds, will allow for two week placements in Government Departments such as the Treasury, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office.
Places have been offered to the students from all around the UK.
Speaking ahead of the start of the program, Baroness Warsi said:
“It is vital that we do our bit in Government to give students from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore areas of work they previously thought weren’t open to them. In the past many young people missed out on work experience opportunities simply because they lacked the necessary contacts or faced significant financial burdens. Offering fully funded internships is a great way to start addressing that and it is my privilege to help champion the work of the Social Mobilty Foundation.
“I hope that the two week Whitehall internship will give the students a real insight into working in Government and the confidence to believe that anything is possible.”
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.”
Yesterday, Sayeeda was back on her campaign tour in support of Conservative candidates for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on November 15th.
Supporting Lancashire PCC candidate Tim Ashton, Sayeeda and Tim visited both Pendle and Fylde.
In Pendle, PCC candidate Tim Ashton, Sayeeda, Cllr Joe Cooney and Cllr Keith Bailey, along with Pendle Conservatives launched a ‘No Cold Calling’ campaign.
The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of how to handle cold calling situations on the doorstep. To reinforce this, the campaign has produced ‘no cold calling’ cards which can be displayed in your window to discourage potential callers.
After visiting Pendle, Sayeeda and Tim visited Tim’s hometown, Lytham St Annes in Fylde, to visit a special PCC street stall hosted by local Conservatives to canvas local constituents on their views on local crime issues.
At the stall Sayeeda and Tim were joined by the local Conservative MP Mark Menzies and neighbouring MP and Sayeeda’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Eric Ollerenshaw MP.
Welcoming Tim to his constituency Mark Menzies MP said:
“Tim has a great deal of experience as a councillor and a county councillor,” he said. “He has managed big budgets in his role in charge of county highways and is well equipped to do this job.”
Following the conclusion of the street stall, Tim said he had some positive responses from members of the public.
“It was interesting to hear about people’s experiences and views on crime firsthand,” he said.
“That is what I will be doing throughout the campaign I will be hitting the streets and speaking to real people to establish their priorities for policing in Lancashire.”
Ending her day in Lancashire, Sayeeda said:
“PCCs are nothing short of a policing revolution. These elections will put visible, accountable, local figures in charge of driving down crime. That’s a Conservative concept. It’s why PCCs were in our manifesto (p57!) and it’s why we’re going to be at the forefront of this fight.
Lancashire is a key area and I was delighted to be able to support Tim. He is an excellent candidate and I would encourage Lancashire to get right behind him and return him as their Police and Crime Commissioner on November 15th.”
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.”
Today, Conservative Chairman Sayeeda Warsi launched a three-month tour of the country in support of Conservative candidates for Police and Crime Commissioners. Sayeeda visited York to support Julia Mulligan’s bid to become Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.
Sayeeda visited the spot where local barman Richard Horrocks died a year ago after leaping into the River Ouse, and praised the work of the York Press, which is running a ‘Think, Don’t Swim’ campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of jumping or swimming in the city’s rivers.
Sayeeda and Julia also visited the York Centre for Safer Communities to discuss local crime initiatives with representatives the Safer York Partnership and York Community Watch.
Later, Sayeeda visited Wakefield with Geraldine Carter, Conservative candidate to become Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, to discuss women’s offending with staff at the Well Women Centre, Wakefield.
Baroness Warsi said: ‘Geraldine is a great candidate who is committed to cutting crime and making West Yorkshire’s communities safer.
‘I wish her every success over the course of these elections.’
Ramadan is an opportunity to contemplate, to pray and to give generously, and it is a holy month which I know many Muslims in the UK and around the world will be observing.
On a personal note, it’s an opportunity to focus on what really matters in life, including the importance of family, of communities and neighbours, and of those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
So on behalf of the Conservative Party I want to say to all those starting the month of Ramadan today, Ramadan Mubarak.
Baroness Warsi discusses diverse Britain’s global trading opportunities
Britain’s future trade opportunities lie beyond our immediate neighbours and our traditional trading partners. We need to engage with emerging and expanding economies across the world and I determined to do all I can to support businesses in their mission to branch out in their overseas trade.
Yorkshire is uniquely placed to take advantage of this shift. Places with strong international ties are crucial to our prosperity as a country. For example, last time I was in Bradford I argued that the town – with its diverse demographics and global links – should be at the forefront of seeking out new markets. In particular, Yorkshire and Pakistan have a natural connection through longstanding family and cultural connections and I believe that is something businesses, entrepreneurs and organisations can truly capitalise on.
So I was delighted yesterday to honour my pledge to local businesses by hosting a high-powered ministerial and business delegation from Pakistan to Yorkshire to meet with local businessmen and women. The event, held in Bradford, comes hot on the heels of the delegation’s visit to Scotland earlier this week, where they signed business deals and laid the groundwork for positive cooperation in the future.