David Cameron – 2011 Press Conference with the South African President

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Below is the text of the press conference between the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the South African President, Jacob Zuma, held on 18th July 2011 in Pretoria, South Africa.

President Jacob Zuma

Prime Minister, and ministers present, members of the media, I’m sure today as you know we are observing the birthday of our former President Nelson Mandela, and we all have to do 67 minutes and I hope you are doing the 67 minutes already here this morning as you are talking to us. But thank you very much.

We have met with the Prime Minister and we have welcomed him, very happy that he’s here with a very huge delegation, business delegation. I’ve had discussions on a number of issues, on trade matters in particular that featured very strongly in our delegations with our ministers, and we believe that the trade between the two countries is going very well but we still believe there’s much room for us to improve on what we are doing and we hope that our business people will certainly do so.

Very happy also on the support that has been given by the United Kingdom with regard to the tripartite trade area that has been opened in the continent of Africa. Almost more than half of the population of the continent is operating together, which is in keeping with today’s manner of doing things. You can no longer depend on your own borders and say that you are the only one important. We’ve got to deal with others. We discussed that very, very well and we are on the same view on that one.

Of course we also discussed international issues and some of the issues that featured in our discussions, one of them is Libya. We discussed the views of the AU, which I was able to put across to the minister and the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister also put the position of the EU which is a position we all know as well. We discussed, but all of us feel that you need to resolve the Libyan question. How to resolve the Libyan question? That’s a matter that we think we need to talk about all the time, but it is an important issue and I was very happy to hear in some greater details how the EU look at the matter and I think we’re able to make the Prime Minister appreciate also what the AU looks at the matter. I think the discussion has helped really to make both of us understand where we come from.

We also talked about Zimbabwe. As you know, Zimbabwe will not be out of any agenda because it has been there for a number of years. It has been very difficult to deal with but we are making progress. I was able to report to the Prime Minister how far we’ve gone on this issue and what we expect, and we think we’ll be able to come back very well. So it has been a good meeting.

We are very happy that the Prime Minister came on this important day which is a historic day for us where we celebrate with our icon, Madiba, and I think the Prime Minister will have an opportunity also to do something, maybe 67 minutes somehow, to be part of the process but absolutely we are thrilled. We think this has been a very timely visit, working visit, by the Prime Minister. It will certainly take our relations very high level and we are happy also to see you guys in great numbers. This makes it even more important. Thank you very much, sir, thank you.

Prime Minister

Well, thank you. Thank you very much, President Zuma, for your very kind welcome this morning. The relationship between Britain and South Africa is strong but we are both committed to making it stronger still. And engagement between Britain and Africa as a whole I believe is more important than ever. In some parts of the continent we face the challenge of a starving Africa. In others – like here in South Africa – we are confronted by the opportunity of a booming Africa, and I want Britain to play a leading part in both of those situations.

First, on the terrible situation in the Horn of Africa. It is becoming increasingly clear that what we’re seeing today is the most catastrophic situation in that region for a generation. My development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, was there over the weekend and has briefed me here in South Africa in detail this morning. Tens of thousands may have died already, many of them children under five. And if we have learnt anything as a global community, it is that when we face this kind of crisis we must take urgent and decisive action. Britain is mobilising an extra £52 million of aid package for Somalia, Kenya and the refugees in the Ethiopian and Kenyan camps and I would urge those who are still considering their response to act without delay.

Second, we must also though seize the opportunity of a booming Africa where trade and growth can lift millions out of poverty and where Britain too can benefit from seizing the chance to increase its trade and investment. That is why I brought a top-flight delegation of British businesses to Africa and I wanted to come, Mr President, to South Africa first because this is the gateway to that new economic future. Britain is already South Africa’s biggest long-term foreign investor. Our trade is worth £9 billion a year and exports of British goods to South Africa in the first third of this year are up nearly 50% compared with the year before.

But President Zuma and I want to go further. Today we reaffirmed our commitment to double our bilateral trade by 2015 and we also talked about the great project to open up trade within Africa in which you have played such a huge part. An African free-trade area could increase GDP across Africa by as much as US$62 billion a year. That is $20 billion more than the world gives to Sub-Saharan Africa in aid. We had a good discussion today about how we can build on the tripartite agreement and I’ve set out how Britain will support this, investing in projects to build the key trade corridors and simplify and speed up border crossings.

As the President has said, we also had important discussions on developments in the Middle East, in North Africa and in Zimbabwe. We share the same strategic vision. We believe that people’s legitimate aspirations for a job and a voice must be met with reform and openness, not with repression and violence.

On Libya, I thanked President Zuma for South Africa’s support in securing United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 and for his leadership in the African Union on this vital issue. Now, it is no secret that we have disagreed on some aspects of how to respond to violence in Libya but we are agreed on the immediate imperative that all sides must take every effort to avoid the loss of civilian life. We agree on the process needed, that the only safe and peaceful solution lies through a political transition, led and owned by the Libyan people and backed by the United Nations. And we agree on the ultimate destination: that Gaddafi must step aside to allow the people of Libya to decide their own future in a democratic and united Libya.

On Zimbabwe, we discussed how much we welcome the efforts of South Africa and the South African Development Community to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. We support the efforts to agree a robust electoral roadmap in Zimbabwe based around a reformed constitution and credible elections. And as that roadmap delivers real political change, so Britain is ready to revisit the restrictive measures that have been put in place.

Finally, Mr President, let me say what a great honour it is to be in South Africa on President Mandela’s birthday. President Mandela is an inspiration to the world and as we celebrate his birthday and look back at just how far South Africa has come, so I believe we can look forward with confidence to an even better future for South Africa and her people. Thank you.

President Jacob Zuma

Thank you very much.

Question

Prime Minister, first of all what is the difference between Sir Paul Stephenson employing Neil Wallis to do his PR and you employing Andy Coulson to do yours, apart from the fact that Andy Coulson is the one who has resigned over phone hacking? How do you respond to Sir Paul’s very barbed resignation statement making this point last night? Do you accept his claim that you would have been compromised if he’d told you about his links with Neil Wallis? Do you believe that the position of Assistant Commissioner John Yates is tenable? And finally, with so much that is going on in the United Kingdom at the moment, was it really wise to come to Africa on this trip?

And Mr President, can I ask you about Libya? David Cameron has made it very clear that Colonel Gaddafi must go, he must go now, he cannot be part of any political solution. Do you agree with him?

Prime Minister

Lots of questions; let me try to answer all of them. First of all, I think it is right for Britain to be engaged with South Africa and to be engaged with Africa as a whole. There is a huge opportunity for trade, for growth, for jobs – including jobs at home in the UK – and I think it is right for the British Prime Minister to be out there with British businesses trying to drum up export support and growth that will be good for both our countries.

I’d like to thank Sir Paul Stephenson for the great work he has done in policing over many, many years in the Metropolitan police force and elsewhere. And as I said to him on many occasions, but including on Tuesday night, the Metropolitan Police Service inquiry must go wherever the evidence leads. They should investigate without fear or favour. I have said that repeatedly, and it’s absolutely vital they feel that.

But I would say that the situation in the Metropolitan Police Service is really quite different to the situation in government, not least because the issues that the Metropolitan Police Service are looking at and the issues around them have had a direct bearing on public confidence into the police inquiry into the News of the World and indeed to the police themselves.

And for my part, what I would say is this: that we have taken very decisive action. We’ve set up a judicial inquiry that can look at all aspects of this issue. We have helped to ensure a large and properly resourced police investigation that can get to the bottom of what happened and the wrong-doing, and we’ve also demonstrated pretty much complete transparency in terms of media contact. We’ve also – I also – answered questions at length in the House of Commons last week, I don’t think leaving any question unanswered. But there are of course important issues today with the Home Secretary’s statement and there’ll also be Select Committee hearings on Tuesday. And I think it may well be right to have Parliament meet on Wednesday so I can make a further statement, update the House on the final parts of this judicial inquiry and answer any questions that arise from what is being announced today and tomorrow.

Above all, what I would say is that what matters most is that we ensure very swift and effective continuity at the Metropolitan Police Service so they do not miss a beat in terms of carrying out these vital investigations into what happened in the media and also what happened in the police service. And I have been in touch with Theresa May both last night and this morning and I know she’s having urgent conversations with the Mayor of London, with the Metropolitan Police Authority, so that every step can be taken to ensure continuity. That seems to me the thing that matters most of all.

And just to finally end of this point about the trip, just because you’re travelling to Africa doesn’t mean that you suddenly lose contact with your office. As I said, I’ve had discussions with my own office but also clearly with the Home Secretary to make sure that not only does the Metropolitan Police Service not miss a beat in this vital work, but the government is pressing ahead on all of the fronts that it needs to as I set out in my statement last week.

Question

And John Yates?

Prime Minister

That is going to be a matter of course for the Metropolitan Police Authority; I think it is very important they carry out their work and there will be further meetings about that later today.

President Jacob Zuma

With regard to Libya and whether Gaddafi should go or not, our view is that firstly the Libyan people stood up to protest against the system and demanded change and I think everybody has supported the people who are demanding change so that there should be a democratic government.

What happened in the process, a conflict emerged where violence has been used and of course, once there was a fight, the AU took a very clear position that military intervention would not solve the problem; you needed political intervention. The AU has worked out a clear roadmap of what needs to be done and in the process of this it has interacted with the Libyan people. Both sides have been interacted with: on the Gaddafi side they accepted the AU proposals; on the NTC side, whilst accepting it they felt they have got a condition to put that Gaddafi must first go. That, I think, is the nub of your question.

We feel, as they African countries, the Libyan people must decide their destiny; they must negotiate and they must discuss any demand, any condition that is put forward. Gaddafi, on his side, has said he is not going to be part of the process that discusses the change in Libya; he will give it a chance. And he has accepted that anything including his own future.

So our view, from the AU point of view, is that what happens finally to Gaddafi must be as a result and an outcome of the Libyan people. Libyan people must decide this in the processes that bring about a new kind of dispensation in Libya. The view put by the NTC, I think supported by Europe, is that Gaddafi must go. Our view is that you need to negotiate how Gaddafi must go, where he must go, why he must go, and these issues must be put on the table. The Libyan people must decide and finally say, ‘We don’t want this system, we do not want this leader.’

I think that is where the differences are, but at the end we need to see a democratic Libya and we think that there is an element of what happens to a man who has ruled Libya for 42 years, and the demand is that he should go now, and we are saying it is not very easy to get the results before negotiating. That issue must be part of the issues on the table that must be decided, because if he goes now you have not even discussed and agreed on the conditions; where must he go, how must he go, what will happen to him at the end? That must be a product of negotiations. That is the position of the AU.

Question

Prime Minister, Sir Paul Stephenson said that you have been compromised in your relationship with Andy Coulson and your friend Rebekah Brooks has been arrested. Do you think your position has been compromised? And is it now time to draw this trip to an end and for you to go back home and answer questions?

Prime Minister

First of all, let me deal with the visit to Africa. I think it is important for the Prime Minister to get out there with British business at a time when we need investment and growth and jobs back at home to see our exports expand, to open up new markets, to seek new contracts and new deals. That is what I have done in India, what I have done in China and now I am here in Africa. I think it is a good thing to do and I am going to press ahead with that. I think it is a worthwhile thing and Britain should not be put off that.

On the issue of the police investigation, I could not have been clearer that I think this police investigation needs to go wherever the evidence leads; the police should investigate this without fear or favour. I have said that publically many times, I have said it privately to the Metropolitan Police many times, and that is the job that they must do. Clearly it is now going to be taken on under new leadership and it is absolutely vital that the transition is as smooth as possible so they don’t miss anything in the vital work that they are doing.

But I would argue this point: in terms of Andy Coulson, no one has argued that the work he did in government in any way was inappropriate or bad. He worked well in government, he then left government. There is a contrast, I would say, with the situation at the Metropolitan Police where clearly at the Metropolitan Police the issues have been around whether or not the investigation is being pursued properly and that is why I think Sir Paul reached a different conclusion.

So I do not believe the two situations are the same in any shape or form and I think if you look at what the British government has done it has been very decisive in setting up the judicial inquiry, in making sure the police investigation is properly funded and carried out, in being transparent in all of the press contact we have had, and in answering questions from Parliament and others. That is why I am asking Parliament to sit an extra day on Wednesday so that I can make a new statement adding to the details of the judicial inquiry, answering any questions that come up from today’s announcements or indeed from tomorrow’s announcements.

Because what the government wants to do here is what I think the whole country wants to do, which is to make sure we sort out this issue, we have a proper police investigation, a proper inquiry into what went wrong at News International and News of the World, and proper arrangements for the future so that the contact between journalists and politicians is far more transparent than it is today. I have led the way in that by publishing all of the contacts that I have had with editors, proprietors, managers and the rest of it since the election in May 2010.

Question

Prime Minister Cameron, on the Libyan question, NATO has ignored calls by the AU for a ceasefire to stop bombardment of targets in Libya to give way for political negotiations. Do you think that the country’s bombardment is still justified to this end, given the fact that it has now resulted in civilian casualties?

And to President Zuma, how are you going to be spending your 67 minutes today?

Prime Minister

First of all, on the point about a ceasefire, it is open to Gaddafi at any time to deliver a ceasefire by stopping the attacks on his own people, by withdrawing from the towns and cities that he attacked, and by returning his troops to barracks. He has occasionally announced a ceasefire, but all the time he is announcing it he is still shelling, killing, maiming and murdering his own citizens.

That is why there is a UN Security Council Resolution and that is why not just NATO allies but also Arab countries like the Qataris and others are involved in stopping those attacks on civilians. I think the President and I have spoken very frankly about this issue, about the areas where we agree; we both want to see a democratic Libya, its future decided by her own people, we both want to see an end to what we agree have been outrageous attacks by Gaddafi on his own people, and we both want to see a future for Libya that does not include Colonel Gaddafi.

The difference is that the President sees that as the outcome of a political process whereas I believe for a political process to work it has to be the starting point. That is the difference between us, that is the gap, but we have had very good discussions and I think a much better understanding of each other’s perspectives and understanding of these issues.

President Jacob Zuma

Before answering your question, just to comment also on what the Prime Minister has said. Absolutely, yes, we differ there. Also, we differ from the point of view that there is a need that violence must give way to negotiations, that as long as this violence – which includes bombing – does not stop, we will take a long time and we might devastate Libya. But if we allow the peace process, which is very clear, which involves the global players – AU, UN, EU, NATO, everybody – we don’t think we could fail to find a mechanism that could in fact have a ceasefire that could exist and be respected, and monitored by all while it is allowing the process to debate all the necessary issues, including the future of Gaddafi.

That is where we differ, but otherwise we all agree that we need change in Libya, we need a democratic government and we also support the call for Libyan people to have change in their country. Now that there is conflict, what do you do? The AU says, ‘Here is a roadmap, let the roadmap take the dominance.’ That is a point we think we still have to talk about and see whether we couldn’t close the gap, because it is necessary for us to do so for all of us.

This is one of the issues that has become a global issue, and therefore all of us should try to agree and persuade the two sides to be able to meet and talk and find a solution. And we could even have talks in different stages to discuss the obstacles, even before discussing the substantive issues which might include the demand whether Gaddafi goes or he does not.

I think the engagement between AU, UN and Europe is going to be very important to help the Libyan people who have locked horns in the manner in which they have, because we could help them to lessen the damage of the country and the destruction, the death of the civilians, and put in the political processes.

With regard to spending my 67 minutes, I will be in Liliesleaf Farm where I will start, where I will spend my 67, and I will end up by visiting Madiba at Qunu today to go to him to say ‘Happy Birthday’ and give him a present. Thank you very much.

David Cameron – 2011 Speech on Education

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Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to Norwich Free School in Norfolk on 9th September 2011.

Good morning and welcome, and thank you, Tania [Sidney-Roberts, principal of the Free School, Norwich], for that introduction.

I have to say that listening to you this morning has been completely inspiring.  Here we are in a completely new school, only open for five days, and you seem to have parents that are contented, you have got children that are learning and happy and safe, you have got massively oversubscribed, and many people wanting to send their children here, and already the head teacher said to me she is contemplating doing it all over again.  So, this is incredibly welcoming to Michael Gove and I to hear what a success this is proving to be, and we hope it is going to be replicated many, many times up and down the country.

Because this free school, like all the others, is born of a real passion for education – a belief in its power to change lives.  It’s a passion and a belief that this coalition absolutely shares.

We want to create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure.  Yes, this is ambitious.  But frankly, today we’ve got to be ambitious.  We’ve got to be ambitious if we want to compete in the world.  When China is going through an educational renaissance, when India is churning out science graduates, any complacency right now would be completely fatal to our economic prospects.

And we’ve got to be ambitious, too, if we want to mend our broken society.  Because education doesn’t just give people the tools to make a good living – it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens.  So, for the future of our economy, and for the future of our society, we need a first-class education for every child.

Now, of course, everyone is agreed about that.  The trouble is for years we’ve been bogged down in a great debate about how we get there.  Standards or structures?  Learning by rote or by play?  Elitism or all winning prizes?  Frankly, I think these debates are now over, because it’s clear what works.  Discipline works.  Rigour works.  Freedom for schools works.  Having high expectations works.  So now, frankly, we’ve got to get on with it, and we don’t have any time to lose.  Because every year that passes without proper reform is another year that tens of thousands of teenagers leave school without the qualifications they need.

So, there are three very bold things we’re doing.  One: ramping up standards, bringing back the values of a good education.  Two: changing the structure of education, allowing new providers in to start schools, providing more choice, more competition, and giving schools greater independence.  And three: we are confronting educational failure head-on.  This morning, I want to take each one in turn.

First, ramping up standards.

Now, a lot of people think this is all or mostly down to money, and yes, money is vital.  That’s why, despite all the pressures on the public finances, this government is protecting the current schools budget. But improving standards is not just about spending.  It’s not just about spending more.  Frankly, if it was, we’d have solved all the problems by now.  No, it is also about the values you bring to the classroom and it’s here we’re wasting no time in putting things right.  We believe that children need to grasp the basics at an early age.  As Michael Gove argued very powerfully last week, ‘You cannot read to learn until you have learnt to read.’  But today, one in six children leave primary school unable to read properly.

So, we’re acting.  We are bringing to a close the wrong-headed methods that have failed thousands of children, and we are making sure every school has the resources and every teacher the training to deliver effective synthetic phonics teaching in the classroom.  That is the method that is proven to work and that is how we can eliminate illiteracy in our country.  We also believe that when a child steps into the classroom, the most important thing that will determine their success is who the teacher is.  But in the past, I don’t think this country has done enough to attract and keep the best talent.

So again, we are acting.  When it comes to attracting them, we’ve expanded Teach First.  This is the programme that takes our best graduates and puts them straight into the classroom.  772 graduates are starting work this term – that’s 200 more than last year, including, for the first time, 85 in our primary schools.  What’s more, from next year, we want to introduce bursaries worth £20,000 for every maths or science graduate who has a first class degree who goes into teaching.  I believe that’s going to be a real incentive for the very brightest to teach our most important subjects.  And in order to foster talent, we’re planning to give schools more freedom to set their own pay structures, giving the teachers who add the most value the biggest rewards.

Now, of course, the flip side of this is that head teachers should also have the power to get rid of those who underperform as well.  So we’re going to make that easier too.  Now, I know this is difficult, but frankly, if it’s a choice between making sure our children get the highest quality teaching or some teachers changing career, I know what I choose.

Another value we passionately believe in is discipline, and we’re acting on it.  New powers for teachers to search for phones, video cameras, BlackBerrys – in fact, anything that is banned by the school rules. New rights for teachers to impose detention on the same day the rules are broken, rather than currently, where you have to give parents notice in advance.  New clarity on whether a teacher can physically intervene to maintain order.  We have made clear that no school should have a ‘no touch’ policy.  If the teacher feels they need to physically restrain a child, they should be able to do so.

But restoring discipline is also about what parents do.  We need parents to have a real stake in the discipline of their children and to face real consequences if their children continually misbehave.  That’s why I have asked our social policy review to look into whether we should cut the benefits of those parents whose children consistently and constantly play truant.  I know this would be a tough measure, but we urgently need to restore order and respect in the classroom and I don’t want ideas like this to be left off the table.

There’s something else we believe: that every child is different, with different interests and different talents.  That’s why we’re setting up university technical colleges, with longer hours, longer terms, a stretching technical curriculum and all the discipline of the workplace.  We are also setting up new studio schools, offering a unique way of learning rooted in the real world, with a tailored curriculum to those who will benefit from more practical learning, with support from skilled craftsmen and work experience with local employers.

But if you ask me, the most important value that we’re bringing back to education and the classroom is a commitment to rigour: rigorous subjects, tested in a rigorous way.  Because however well students perform in their exams, we cannot deny the reality of the past few years.  The number of people taking the core academic subjects, they went down.  The voices from business concerned about the usefulness of some of our exams, those voices grew louder.  Now, we are determined to stop this slide and already we’re making an impact.  Our new English Baccalaureate – the set of core subjects that colleges most like and employers most want – means that this September, for the first time in years, the proportion of pupils who are studying history, geography, a language and three sciences at GCSE, the number of those pupils is increasing.  What’s more, our curriculum review will mean we are really demanding in what we expect our children to learn: things like a real grounding in algebra in maths; the essential laws of science; the great works of English literature.  These should not be the preserve of the few; they should be there, taught for everyone.

And when it comes to testing them, we will be equally demanding.  We’re stopping modules, which let our children take and re-take exams throughout their GCSEs, and we’re making sure they take all their exam papers at the end of the course.  And we’re also making sure spelling, punctuation and grammar are properly taken into account when the marks are dished out.  This is vital.  It’s something that happens in the rest of your life, where you are judged on how you spell and the grammar you use in the letters you write, and what on earth are we doing if we don’t teach that right at the start, at school?  In every way we can, we are going to make our education system as robust as possible, with fewer, more rigorous exams, so it has the full confidence of employers, not just at home but around the world.

Everything I’ve spoken about so far is all about driving up standards.  But I think the truth is this: the way we make sure these things happen in every classroom, in every school, is also by changing the way education is delivered in our country.  It’s about changing the structure of education.  It’s about spreading choice, about giving schools more independence, and recognising the need for competition, so we create real and permanent pressure in the system to encourage schools to drive improvements every year.  And that is what we’re doing, and that is why it is so important to make this speech today, here in a free school.

Because instead of parents having to take what they are given, we are giving them real choice in where their child goes to school, and we are backing that decision with state money, also with an extra payment for those from the poorest backgrounds.  And to make that choice really meaningful, we are making everything that matters about our education system transparent.  The exam results of every school published.  The effectiveness of teaching published.  Truancy rates published.  It will all be there online so people have the information to choose.

There are also new freedoms for schools to turn into academies and improve standards the way they see fit, whether that’s through more extra-curricular activities or longer school days.  We know that schools want this.  In just a year, the enthusiasm of heads has meant we have created almost 1,000 new academies, and we know this works.  Just look, for instance, at St Alban’s ARK Academy in Birmingham.  When that school was under local authority control two years ago, 31 per cent of pupils got five good passes at GCSE including English and Maths.  Now, just two years later, that number has more than doubled to 68 per cent.  And what about the Harris Academy in Peckham, one of the most deprived parts of our country?  It has managed to increase the percentage of its pupils getting five good passes at GCSE, again including English and Maths, from 5 per cent to 50 per cent.  These are, I think, staggering figures, and I think they put beyond doubt this argument that academies, that independence, that choice really, really works.  Indeed, every single one of the schools that Lord Harris has taken over gets at least an additional 20 per cent or more young people to pass five good GCSEs compared to the record when it was run by the Local Authority.

Added to this choice and freedom, we are also bringing in the dynamic of competition.  This is in part what our free schools revolution is all about.  We’ve said to charities, to faith groups, businesses, community organisations, head teachers: come in and set up a great new school in the state sector.  And the response has been overwhelming: 24, including this one, opening this September.  We have got more than 200 applications for next year, and I believe this taken off in a way that no one predicted or no one thought possible.

Now, of course, as with any bold policy, free schools are not without their critics.  But let’s just look briefly at the arguments that are being used against them.  Some critics say these schools aren’t democratically accountable.  I would say: yes, they are.  They are accountable to every parent who chooses to send their child to that school.  Some critics say we don’t new schools; we just need to make existing schools better.  But I think this misses the point entirely, because free schools aren’t just giving parents who are frustrated with their local school a new chance of a better education.  They also encourage existing schools in the area to compete, to raise their game.  I expect that’s exactly what we will see right here.

And then some critics say free schools will harm the poorest.  I believe that is nonsense, and the evidence bears this out.  Half of the first tranche of free schools are in some of the most deprived parts of our country.  Isn’t the reality this: those opposing free schools are simply defending the establishment – the status quo – and a status quo that has failed too many pupils and infuriated too many parents for too long.  Those who support free schools are on the side of parents, charities and committed teachers who are trying to make things better, on the side of choice, freedom and competition that will really drive up standards in our education system.

By raising standards and changing structures we have a profound impact across our education system.  But inevitably, and we know this from history, some schools will slip through the cracks.  That is why we’re doing the third thing I mentioned at the beginning.  We are intervening to sort out failure wherever we find it.  For a long time in our country there has been a scandalous acceptance of under-performing schools.  It’s the attitude that says some schools – and let’s be frank, people normally say this about schools in the poorest areas – will always be bad.  I think this is so wrong.  It meekly accepts educational failure as a fact of life, and I think that is patronising nonsense.

So as I’m in a school today, let me, as it were, spell it out.  There will be no more excuses for failure with this government.  We are being more honest about what constitutes a failing school and we are being more radical about how we are going to deal with them.  The last government deemed a secondary school to be failing if five good GCSE passes were achieved by less than 30 per cent of their pupils.  We thought that was far too low, so we’re raising the bar.  By the end of this Parliament, an underperforming, failing school will be deemed one where less than 50 per cent of pupils are getting five good GCSEs. And we’re introducing tough benchmarks for primary schools too.  For the first time, unless 60 per cent of their pupils achieve the accepted level – Level 4 – in English and maths at Key Stage 2, they will also be judged to be failing.

As well as being clearer about what constitutes failure, we’re acting more decisively to deal with it.  We are going to be demanding an improvement plan from the governing body or local authority in control of every failing school.  And if that plan isn’t good enough, we will be insisting on fresh, established leadership to turn that school around, whether that is from local academies or even private schools.  Our plans mean by the end of next year, we will have transformed around 150 secondaries and 200 failing primaries into academies.  And today we’re considering whether we need to go further and faster.

Because the truth is this: it is not just failing schools we need to tackle.  It is coasting schools, too: the ones whose results have either flat-lined, or where they haven’t improved as much as they could have done.  Just take this fact.  Take two schools: Burlington Danes Academy and Walworth Academy.  They are both in relatively deprived parts of inner London.  They have got a very high proportion of children on free school meals.  But you know what?  Last year, 70 per cent of children at Walworth and 75 per cent of children at Burlington Danes got five or more good GCSEs including English and Maths – 70 and 75 per cent.  Deprived areas of London, high levels of free school meals – that is what they achieved.

Now, compare that with Surrey and Oxfordshire – the two counties that Michael and I have the privilege to represent in Parliament.  Only 16 secondary state schools in these two relatively affluent counties did better than those two inner-city schools.  Let me put that the other way round: more than four out of five state schools in Surrey and Oxfordshire are doing worse than two state schools in relatively deprived parts of inner London.  That must be a wake-up call: a wake-up call to parents, to teachers, that there is a huge opportunity, not just to raise standards in our inner cities, which we are doing and is absolutely vital for social mobility, but an opportunity to raise standards right across our country.  In many parts of our country where people think the schools are doing a good job, they are, but they could be doing so much better.  That is what those figures tell us, and this government wants to drive that change.

Why is there this difference?  Why are these schools not doing even better?  As I have said, with us – and we see this, frankly, as parents, as well as politicians, Michael and I – we want to see every school striving for excellence.  And let me be clear that we are looking at raising the official standards, below which no school can fall, even further.  So, be in no doubt: where there is failure, we’re confronting it; where there is complacency, in coasting schools, we will help deal with it.  And where there is excellence in education, whether it is an academy school, a local authority school or a private school, we are absolutely determined to celebrate that excellence and to spread it.

So, I hope I’ve conveyed to you today this government’s level of ambition.  A belief in excellence, a complete intolerance of failure, and an ambition that every child is taught to the best of their abilities.  And to those who say this is unrealistic or impossible, I say this is perfectly realistic; it is totally possible.  Britain is a modern, developed country.  If they’re seeing excellence in standards in cities like Shanghai, why can’t we see that in cities like London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham?  If they’re soaring up through the world rankings in countries like Estonia, why can’t we soar up the rankings right here in Britain?  If they are making huge strides in science and maths in India, what on earth is stopping us?  We’ve got the resources, we’ve got fantastic teachers, and as I’ve tried to demonstrate today, we know what works in improving education.  Now all we need is the will and the energy to make that happen.  I can tell you that this government under this Prime Minister has got that will and that energy and passion to help make it happen.  Thank you very much indeed for listening.

Question

Prime Minister, I welcome your comments about freedoms given to schools. I also understand with freedoms there is also the rigour of the accountability measures.  The English Baccalaureate is a very particular measure and I can understand English and Maths and science; I do wonder whether RE should be included within the English Baccalaureate as a humanity for the purposes of that qualification?

Prime Minister

Well, you’re not alone; in fact there’s been a concerted write-in campaign to Members of Parliament from churches, charities and others suggesting this. I don’t have a closed mind on this.  But the balance here is to have something in the English Baccalaureate which is, as I said in my speech, is those set of subjects that colleges really want to know about, that employers are enthusiastic about to have a sort of quality benchmark going through the system.  There’s a balance between that and then achieving what many different groups want: ‘Well, can we have this subject in or that subject in?’  So I think we can keep an open mind, but I think it was right to start with a pretty strict list of subjects that, as I said, most colleges and employers say, ‘Well, those are the absolutely essential ones I want to know about’.

Question

Thank you, Prime Minister.  What a refreshing pleasure to hear you.  Foundation and Aided National Schools Association would like to commend you for the autonomy you’ve already given converter academies.  We’d like to recommend even greater autonomy, perhaps thinking about a national funding formula.

Prime Minister

Yes.  Now, this is a very difficult issue.  On a sort of logical level it’s very easy because I think Michael and I, the coalition, everyone wants to see a really simple way of funding schools so that head teachers know what the amount per pupil is that follows the pupil through the door.  That’s for many reasons.  One is we should be trusting head teachers with the money for how it should be spent rather than endlessly giving them lots of segmented grants.

Secondly, it gives them certainty.  If you know, as in this school, 24 children coming into your reception every year, you know how the build-up of per-pupil money is going to grow.  Fairness: it seems fair, doesn’t it, that every child is worth the same amount of money and so every child should get the same amount of money following them through the door of their school.  So the theory of more per-pupil funding, more clarity about education funding, I’m absolutely on board for.

The problem is that obviously you inherit a system that has had a million and ten different things done to it over the years, lots of different grants, lots of different calculations, lots of different funding formulas and so you don’t start with a blank sheet of paper.  But what I can say to you is that the idea of trying to make sure that the amount of funding per pupil is very clear, very transparent, very clear for the future, we’re absolutely on board for that and we’ll go on consulting and talking and listening about how the funding formula should work and the things that need to go into that funding formula, because clearly different areas do have some different needs.

I talked about levels of deprivation.  There are extra challenges in an inner-city school than there are, say, in some of the schools in my consistency, which is why I come back to this point about how remarkable it is that some of these inner-city schools are doing as well as they are.

Question

Thank you, Prime Minister. With all these different new types of schools – studio schools, the UTCs, the free schools opening up – I was just going to ask if there is going to be any encouragement or incentives for further partnership with schools working together.  It feels a bit like a free for all at the moment and I was wondering if there was going to be any incentives in the future.

Prime Minister

Absolutely, that’s a very good question.  There are two sorts of partnership, aren’t there, in a way?  There’s those partnerships that sometimes government has some brilliant idea and says we’re going to force you all into a partnership and tries top down to tell you all what to do.  We’re not really in favour of that sort of partnership; we prefer the bottom-up sort of partnership where schools come together and decide to work together for a particular reason.

And I think when you look at the academy programme, for instance, you’re now seeing chains of academies – I mentioned the Harris Academies, the ARK Academies – you’re beginning to see really effective partnerships form.  Because they’re driven from what people want from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down, they’re stronger.

And I think what we have to do is work out what our responsibility is.  It’s to fund education properly.  It’s to drive through this rigorous standards agenda that Michael’s department is doing.  It’s to open up education so that new ideas and new schools can emerge and come through.  And then it’s to be totally intolerant of failure; it’s to refuse to accept that a school should go on failing year after year the parents and the pupils.  Those are our duties and I think it’s perfectly all right to encourage partnership working and to discuss with you the sorts of ideas of things that might work.  But in the end the most enduring partnerships will be those that are formed from the bottom up.

I spent some of yesterday with The Girls’ Day School Trust, a classic example of a sort of chain of schools that’s very effective in the private sector.  I think we’re beginning to see some of those sorts of partnerships in the public sector, but let’s let them grow and develop of their own accord.  But we won’t stand in your way if you have good ideas for that sort of working.  We’ll help you to achieve that rather than put bureaucratic steps in your way.

Can I thank you all again very much for coming?  Can I thank Tania for hosting us?  Can I wish you well?  I think it’s an incredible enterprise that you’ve embarked on.  Walking around the school today was inspiring.  Above all talking to you and listening to you is inspiring. Thank you very much indeed.

David Cameron – 2011 Speech in Moscow

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Below is the text of the speech made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in Moscow on 12th September 2011.

It’s great to be back in Moscow.  I first came to Russia as a student in the year between school and university and I took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Nakhodka to Moscow.  I went on to the Black Sea coast and when I was there two Russians, who spoke perfect English, turned up on a beach that was reserved for foreigners.  They took me out to lunch; they took me out to dinner.  They asked me intriguing questions about life in England, about what I thought about politics.  And when I got to university I told my tutor about this and he asked me whether I thought it was an interview.  Well, if it was, it seems I didn’t get the job.  My fortunes have improved a bit since then and so have those of Russia.

Moscow today is vibrant.  Gone are the utopian slogans and the empty streets and shops.  Today, Moscow is a bustling, colourful city that never sleeps.  Russians have far more freedom to travel and the internet offers the ability to communicate with the world in a way that would have been unimaginable back then.  Perhaps above all, there is a new energy here and with it a real sense of pride in Russia’s identity.

Now, the relationship between Britain and Russia has improved too, certainly since the tense period of the Cold War, but there does remain the strong sense that we are still competitors.  We both want the same things – prosperity, security – but we often behave as if we think we have to compete with each other in order to get them.  As if Britain’s prosperity comes at the expense of Russia’s and vice versa.  As if Britain being more secure means Russia being less secure.  As if every issue must involve one of us winning and the other losing and the only question, therefore, is who wins and by how much?

Now, my message today is very different to that.  Yes, of course, I accept that Britain and Russia have had a difficult relationship for some time and that we should be candid in areas where we still disagree, but I want to make the case this morning for a new approach based on cooperation.  Right now, we both face enormous challenges, from providing for our ageing populations and securing sustainable economic growth to protecting our countries against a global terrorist threat.  The countries that will be successful in the 21st century will not be those that hunker down, that pull up the drawbridge, that fail to overcome their differences with others.  The successful countries will be those that work together and look to people like you – young, ambitious, with a national pride but a global vision – to help shape their future.

So we face a choice: we can settle for the status quo where in too many areas we are in danger of working against each other and therefore both losing out, or we can take another path that is open to us – to cooperate, to work together and therefore both win.  Today, I want to make the case that – let me try this again carefully – Вместе мы сильнее: together we are stronger.  I studied economics not languages at university.  I think that’s probably apparent.  So let me start with the economy.

Now, some people talk about trade as a competition in which one country’s success is another country’s failure.  That if our exports grow then someone else’s will shrink.  But the whole point about trade is that we are baking a bigger cake and everyone can benefit from it and this is particularly true, perhaps, of Russia and Britain.  Russia is resource-rich and services-light whereas Britain is the opposite.  In fact, Britain is already one of the largest foreign direct investors in Russia and Russian companies already account for around a quarter of all foreign initial public offerings on the London Stock Exchange.  So we’re uniquely placed to help each other grow, but much of that growth won’t just happen of its own accord.  I believe we have to help make it happen by working together in three ways: first, by creating the best possible business environment for trade and investment; second, by developing our partnership in key growth sectors like science and innovation where Britain and Russia have particular complementary strengths; and third, by working together on the global stage to help create the stability and security on which our future prosperity depends, and I want to say a word briefly about each of those three.

Both our governments need to remember that businesses don’t have to invest in either of our countries, they choose to and we need to help them make that choice.  That means ensuring the effective and predictable rule of law, not least so that companies can be confident that payments will be made promptly and that contracts will be enforced.  It means getting to grips with our national finances so the budget deficits don’t undermine confidence and macroeconomic stability.  It means creating a workforce with the skills and creativity to compete in the 21st century.  And it means getting our tax rates low and competitive, minimising the burden of regulation so that business and entrepreneurship can flourish.

This has been a real priority for me since I took office over a year ago.  Britain has taken some really tough decisions to get to grips with a record budget deficit and we are working hard to create the best possible environment for business.  We are creating the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20.  We are cutting the time it takes to set up a new business and we have issued a ‘one in, one out’ rule for regulation so that any minister who comes to me wanting to bring in a new regulation has to get rid of an existing one first.  Today, I believe Britain offers Russia the strongest business environment in Europe and the lowest barriers to entrepreneurship almost anywhere in the world.

We want to work with you to help strengthen Russia’s business environment too, so more British businesses can invest here, creating more jobs and better value products for Russian consumers and therefore more prosperity for all of us.  UK goods exports to Russia are already £3.5 billion; that is up 50% on the last year alone and they’re growing by almost two-thirds in the first half of this year.  We want to do everything we can now to build on this and take our trade and our investment to a new level.

That is why we will support Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation and it’s why I’ve brought with me such a strong British business delegation with companies like BP that is responsible for Russia’s biggest foreign investment.  Today, we are signing new deals worth £215 million, including Kingfisher opening nine new stores over the next three years, an important collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Rosatom on civil nuclear cooperation.  At the same time, we’ll also be – we will work to give small and medium-sized companies the chance to trade.  We should remember that it will be these companies not the biggest companies that will provide the lion’s share of the growth and jobs of the future, and what I said about choosing to invest and choosing to stay and the need for effective and predictable rule of law to ensure payments applies particularly to those small and medium-sized companies.

But opening up trade and investment is not enough on its own.  As governments, we need to support the innovation and entrepreneurship that can drive growth.  Vital to this, as Prime Minister Putin has said, are breakthrough ideas in science and technology.  In this UK-Russia Year of Space we are already seeing the foundations of great cooperation in medicine and satellite technology which is improving global disaster monitoring and earthquake predictions.  Go into a Russian secondary school this month and, for the first time, there are plastic display computers robust enough to be dropped on the ground, funded by RUSNANO and developed by Plastic Logic, a spinoff from Cambridge University.

Today also sees the launch of Pro Bono Bio, the result of a two-year Anglo-Russian project to create a new international pharmaceutical company with a unique humanitarian mission, offering free drug donations to Africa based on the sales of its products in Western Europe.  I believe we can do even more in this vital sector and many of you can play a role in helping us to do so.  In the UK, we are creating a tech hub, a Silicon Valley of our own in East London.  Here, President Medvedev has founded the Skolkovo Innovation City.  World-leading British universities including Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial and Glyndŵr in Wales will be working with Skolkovo on lasers, optics, nuclear and energy efficiency.

Of course, it is not just science and technology.  There are a whole range of sectors where we have complementary strengths which can boost our mutual prosperity, from supporting the modernisation of Russian railways to working together in the run up to the London Olympics and the Sochi Winter Olympics, where British companies are already working on the main stadia.  Cooperation rather than just competition is the way to stronger growth and prosperity for us all.

But we do not just share bilateral interests between Britain and Russia.  At the G20 we share an interest in strong and sustainable global growth.  We must address the economic and financial imbalances that brought the global economy to its knees only three years ago.  Russia and Britain can work together at the G20 to promote the global economic stability on which we all depend.

So how Britain and Russia work together really matters for the prosperity of all our people and the same is also true for security.  On geopolitics, many of our interests are actually much closer than we might think.  Whether we are talking about Islamic extremism, nuclear proliferation, counternarcotics, climate change, Britain and Russia actually share many of the same concerns.  Moscow and London have both been victims of horrific terrorist attacks.  We need to unite against the threat of terrorism and the warped ideology that underpins it, we need to work together with our international partners to prevent countries like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and as new technologies develop to allow us to defend ourselves better against the threat of ballistic missiles from rogue states, we need to cooperate to ensure they make us all safer, not compete against each other in a new arms race.

We have shared interests in stability in the Middle East and North Africa too.  I know we have not always agreed, Britain and Russia, about how to achieve that stability.  Let me put my cards on the table: the view I have come to is that the stability of corrupt and violent repressive dictatorships in Middle Eastern states, like Gaddafi’s in Libya, is a false stability.  The transition to democracy may well have its difficulties and its dangers, but it is not only the best long-term path to peaceful progress, it is also a powerful alternative to the poisonous narrative of Islamist extremism that had poisoned so many young people’s minds.

I believe that Britain and Russia and the whole international community have a role to play in helping to support peace, stability and security across the Arab world.  Of course there are sceptics in both our countries who will doubt that we can ever get beyond the competitive ideological instincts of the past.  There are two groups in particular which I want to take on today; there are the Britain-sceptics, those who think that we will always clash because Britain cannot be trusted and that we will use the disagreements of the past as a pretext to put Russia down.  And then there are the Russia-sceptics, those who say that Russia should not modernise, should not innovate, should not open up to the outside world because modernisation will undermine stability and prosperity.

To the Britain-sceptics I say this: yes, there remain difficult issue that hamper mutual trust and cooperation, there are extradition cases Russia wants to pursue and we still disagree with you over the Litvinenko case.  On that, let me say this: our approach is simple and principled.  When a crime is committed that is a matter for the courts; it is their job to examine the evidence impartially and determine innocence or guilt.  The accused has a right to a fair trial, the victim and their family have a right to justice, it is the job of governments to help courts do their work and that will continue to be our approach. So we cannot pretend these differences do not exist.  We need to keep working for an honest and open dialogue to address them candidly, but at the same time we have a responsibility to recognise the many ways in which we do need each other, to end the old culture of tit for tat and find ways for us to work together to advance our mutual interests.

Now, to the Russia-sceptics who believe that modernisation will undermine stability and prosperity, I say take another look.  Modernisation is the only way to guarantee stability and prosperity.  President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have been clear about this too.  Prime Minister Putin’s strategic goals for 2020 make clear the importance of effective market and government institutions.  President Medvedev has emphasised his focus on tackling corruption as being fundamental to Russia’s progress.  Back in June he said that Russia’s focus needs to include, and I quote, ‘Real progress in fighting corruption, establishment of a modern police force and other law enforcement agencies, and efforts to make the judicial system more effective.’

Let me say, from my own experience I have no illusions about how hard these issues can be.  In Britain we have our own serious challenges too.  The rule of law is vital; vital for foreign investment, for entrepreneurship and innovation, for people to be encouraged to start their own businesses.  They need to have faith that the state, the judiciary and the police will protect their hard work and not put the obstacles of bureaucracy, regulation or corruption in their way.

I have talked to many British businesses; I have no doubt about their ambition to work in Russia and it is also clear that the concerns that continue to make them hold back are real concerns.  They need to know that they can go to a court confident that a contract will be enforced objectively and that their assets and premises won’t be unlawfully taken away from them.  In the long run the rule of law is what delivers stability and security.  I believe the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress and political openness to go step in step together.

When people get economically richer they make legitimate demands for political freedoms to match their economic freedoms.  And as they start to benefit from a free media, guaranteed human rights, the rule of law, and a greater stake in how their society is run so they will have the confidence and energy to invest in a new cycle of innovation and growth.  And that is something I believe to be true in every part of the world.

So I believe we can prove the sceptics wrong.  We can rebuild the relationship between Britain and Russia, working together to develop a modern and ambitious partnership which will help both our countries achieve a more prosperous and secure future.  Of course none of this will just happen; a new partnership requires bold decisions, it requires a commitment from both countries.  I am here today to make that commitment on behalf of Britain and I hope that Russia will match it.  In the last twenty years Russia and Britain have both come a long way but each largely on their own.  In the next twenty years I believe we can go very much further as we prove – and let me end trying once again – that Вместе мы сильнее.  Thank you.

Question

Prime Minister, at what time and what stage of your life did you make up your mind to become a politician and why?

Prime Minister

Very good question. Certainly when I was here in 1985 when I was a student I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a politician; I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  So there was for me no blinding moment when I thought, ‘That’s it, I want to be a politician’.  I think there was a growing view that the most important thing you can do in life is public service and politics is a good way of being in public service.  You’re both grappling with the big issues and problems that affect your country and your world but also you’re working with people and working for people at the same time.  And I worked for a Member of Parliament also between that year of school and university and saw a little bit about what politics involved and that triggered a growing interest that grew as I went through university and left university and then I decided I wanted to try myself to be in politics.  But as they say: if you go into politics, you should always have a second career as well just in case it doesn’t work out.

Question

Many people who got an English visa always say that this procedure is very difficult.  Is it possible to simplify this procedure in the nearest future?

Prime Minister

That’s an important issue, the whole issue of visas between Britain and Russia.  I’ve been looking again at the statistics and there’s not a big difference between the number of visas that Britain issues to Russians and the number of visas that Russia issues to Britain.  And actually there’s not a big difference either in the prices that we both pay.  So of course we have to have effective border controls, both our countries.  We have to have an effective way of making sure that we have our borders under control.  We always can look at ways to make sure it is faster, more efficient but I think I’m right in saying that over the last year something like 96% of the visas that have been asked for by Russian citizens have been granted and I think most of them have been processed within 15 days, so we’ll always look at having an effective procedure but I think you’ll find the two systems are really quite similar for travel both ways.  But I’m sure it’s one of the many issues that I’ll be able to discuss with your President when we meet later today.

Question

I’ve heard a little about the Big Society and I’m wondering how successful it’s been so far in the UK.

Prime Minister

Thank you.  Well, this is a very simple idea which I think can apply all across the world which is that we often think that only governments can deliver the things that we need: whether it is education; whether it is help for people who are in trouble; whether it is rehabilitation for drugs.  We often turn to government immediately to say ‘what’s the government doing?’ The whole idea behind the Big Society is to say actually when you look at many of these problems that need solutions, we often find it is churches, charities, voluntary bodies, community groups, people coming together to come up with new, innovative solutions that works best.  So the Big Society is all about saying, ‘How do we take that excellent practice that already exists and try and encourage it; try and boost it; try and help it deliver more; try and get rid of all the barriers in the way of voluntary bodies, charities, churches, community groups doing more.’

And that is what we’re doing in the UK.  We’re encouraging volunteering; we’re encouraging the voluntary sector; we’re trying to cut all the bureaucracy that gets in the way of people wanting to help each other.  And then we have one or two specific things that we’re doing that we believe will make a big difference.  So for instance we are establishing a Big Society Bank because if you ask charities, churches, voluntary groups ‘what is it that stops you doing the brilliant thing you’re doing in one area in lots of areas?’ They will say that unlike businesses, ‘We can’t get hold of loans, we can’t get hold of funding, we only get the money for one year – we need proper money so that we can expand our brilliant school or our drug rehab project or our community project’ and so this Big Society Bank will be able to lend them money so that they are able to expand and replicate what they do in many different parts of the country.

And why I think the Big Society concept will be taken on by many other countries in the world is that I think we all face two of the same problems.  Firstly, there is a limit to the amount of money that government can spend and raise to solve problems, and secondly, there are no end of problems that often get more complex, that need solutions.  And I think we all know in our own countries if you ask ‘which is the best organisation for rehousing the homeless; for tackling drug addiction; for helping children who are not getting on at school; for teaching people to read?’

When you ask that question, so often the answer is not the department of state that is responsible for it, but the brilliant charity that has started up and is actually solving those problems itself.  So, I think the concept of the Big Society is one that has existed for thousands of years in our societies, but it’s getting ever more relevant and it needs governments that understand that and that can help others to do good work, rather than to think governments do it all on their own.

Question

You speak about Russian-English cooperation, but how could we improve this when Europe does not have any combined system of international relationships?  The USA deploys missiles in western countries. Can Europe answer to this challenge?

Prime Minister

Is it really possible for Britain and Russia, or America and Russia, who had such a difficult relationship for so many years – is it possible to have a much stronger relationship?  Well, my answer to that is yes, and for this very personal reason.  When I think about when I came to Russia in 1985, and you think of the huge gulf between us during the Cold War, coming into a country where I remember as I got off the train in Moscow I was met by someone I have never heard of before, but he wanted to know what was a British student doing in Moscow on his own and not as part of some tourist group. During the Cold War there was this incredibly frozen relationship where things couldn’t get better.  At that time, many people would have said, ‘This will go on for years.  This will go on forever.  There’s no reason why the Cold War will end.’  But it did end. Never believe that just because a relationship is difficult now it can’t be better in the future.  I think there are many reasons for optimism.

You mentioned the issue of missiles.  Again, I would say if you compare, when I was a student there was the deployment of Russian missiles, there was the deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles by the West.  There were growing tensions and growing arms races.  All that now has changed, so I don’t think you should be pessimistic at all about a proud, independent country like Russia, with its own nuclear deterrent, can’t have a good and strong relationship with a country like America or a country like Britain, France, Italy or Germany.  Obviously we have a huge amount of work to strengthen these relationships and there are all sorts of scepticism and mistrust on the path.  I think the whole point of visits like this and other people who’ve been to Russia is to try and break down some of those barriers and recognise that in international relations – after all, the relations between people in Russia and Britain are extremely strong, and so there is no reason why the relationships between the British government and the Russian government should not be stronger too.

That is the reason I have come here today.  In that spirit, I thank you very much for listening to my speech and for providing me with such good questions.  May I take the opportunity to wish all of you well in your studies here at Moscow University and wish you a very strong and prosperous future. Thank you very much indeed.

David Cameron – 2011 Press Conference Following G8 Summit

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Below is a transcript of the press conference given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the G8 Summit in Deauville, France on Friday, 27 May 2011.

This is the second G8 I’ve attended. The first focused very much on tackling deficits and getting the economy growing and this Summit reaffirmed the importance of that – including of course the need to complete the Doha trade round.

But this G8 focused predominantly on North Africa and the Middle East, while also reporting back on aid.

Middle East and North Africa

The big test for this G8 was whether we could respond to the momentous events we have seen in North Africa and the Middle East.

And I would argue that we have responded.

I said at the outset it was essential for us to give a clear message to those countries.

We will help you develop your democracies. We will help you achieve greater freedom. We will help you build your economies and develop the political parties, free media, and the fair and reliable courts that are the building blocks of what I call an open society.

That is exactly what has been agreed.

We agreed the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development should for the first time start lending to private enterprise in that region. The institution that helped to transform Eastern Europe now has a new mission.

Every G8 country now stands ready to open its markets to countries in the region committed to reform. This has been one of the most closed regions of the world to trade and investment. That is now going to change.

And we promised the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia that the international community would support their plans to create economic stability and prosperity for their people.

This support will initially be available to Egypt and Tunisia but will ultimately be there for any country in the region that embraces the path to democracy and reform – including, for example, Libya.

The Partnership we agreed today has taken months to put together and it has been a very personal mission for me.

Back in February I was the first leader to visit Cairo after the uprising. And I was the first to go the European Council to argue that the current European Neighbourhood Policy simply wasn’t working. I called explicitly for greater market access and for helping those countries that really try to reform rather than simply handing out money as Europe has done in the past.

This week the European Commission has responded to that call. More resources and more trade access for countries moving fastest towards reform.

Now there are those who argue these North African countries are not the poorest in the world, and that we should concentrate on our own affairs.

I reject this.

Be in no doubt. Get this wrong, fail to support these countries and we risk giving oxygen to the extremists who prey on the frustrations and aspirations of young people.

We would see more terrorism, more immigration, more instability coming from Europe’s southern border. And that affects us right back at home.

But get this right – support the Arab people in their aspirations and their hope for a better future will be our hope too.

  • their security will mean greater security for us…
  • and their prosperity, a more prosperous world for us all.

So this is an investment in success on which I believe the British people will see a return.

The Americans have made a big offer on relieving debt. We’re not a major creditor for the region, so we are making an offer focused on developing the institutions of genuine democracy and the know-how to create an open economy.

So, in addition to the assistance we’re making available through Europe, at this Summit, the UK has also made its own bi-lateral offer of £110 million over 4 years.

Today we have laid the foundations for an enduring partnership for the region. But it is the beginning of a process and the work must now go on in the weeks and months ahead to make sure it delivers.

Aid

In North Africa we are focused on the impact of aid to stabilise countries – much as we are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Elsewhere it’s vital that we focus aid on things that are measurable, verifiable, results-driven and we target those things that people back home can clearly see making a difference.

Bednets to stop malaria. Vaccines to stop preventable diseases. Clean water. Making sure mothers don’t die in childbirth.

I remember as a young politician watching the Gleneagles summit and the Live8 concerts and thinking it was right that world leaders should have made those pledges so publicly.

I think when you make a promise like that to the poorest people in the world, you should keep it. And I am proud of the fact that Britain is doing just that.

But the reality is that as a whole, the G8 has not.

The Communique is clear on this.

Britain ensured the accountability report published at this Summit clearly shows what each country has – and has not – done to meet its aid commitments.

That means numbers in real terms not just cash terms.

And it means highlighting – not hiding – the $19 billion gap between what’s been expected and what has been delivered.

Britain will not balance its books on the backs of the poorest. We will be the first G8 country to hit the 0.7 per cent target by 2013.

Britain will keep its promises. And I was tough in urging my counterparts to keep theirs.

It’s not just about handing over money.

It’s also crucially about outcomes and getting value for money, about promoting trade and growth.

That’s why I pushed G8 leaders to endorse an ambitious vision for free trade in Africa – including practical action to open trade corridors and remove obstacles to trade and growth.

And it’s why I pushed hard for the G8 to support next month’s London conference for the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation, which should stop millions of children dying from totally preventable diseases like diarrhoea.

Britain will be prepared to increase our funding significantly. And I look forward to other countries doing the same.

Libya

Finally, I talked late last night with the four countries here which are taking part in active operations in Libya.

Two months into the operation we are entering a new phase.

First, we turned Qadhafi’s forces back at the gates of Benghazi to avert a bloody massacre.

Then we rallied to assist the brave defenders of Misurata and Brega.

Now there are signs that the momentum against Qadhafi is really building.

So it is right that we are ratcheting up the military, economic and political pressure on the Qadhafi regime so that we can enforce Resolution 1973.

We are stepping up the capability of NATO operations. Yesterday, we made the decision in principle that UK commanders should prepare to deploy UK Apache attack helicopters.

We are ramping up the economic pressure, choking the Qadhafi regime’s ability to get money to finance these attacks.

And we are expanding the broad international consensus against Qadhafi and in support of the opposition – the Transitional National Council in Benghazi.

Crucially, the G8 nations have today reached a unanimous and final verdict on Qadhafi and his regime.

The Communique says that Qadhafi has “lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go.”

Every G8 nation has signed up to this.

And we have all made a commitment to “support a political transition that reflects the will of the Libyan people.”

This has been a timely meeting at a critical moment.

The world’s most powerful nations have sent an unequivocal message to all those in the Middle East and North Africa who want greater democracy, freedom and civil rights – we are on your side.

These things aren’t just good for the Arab nations. They are good for us too. And that’s why Britain will continue to play its full part in helping the Arab people to fulfil their economic and political aspirations.

Thank you.

David Cameron – 2011 Address to the Northern Ireland Assembly

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Below is the text of the address given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 9th June 2011.

Mr Speaker,

Thank you for your kind invitation to address the Assembly today and for the very generous welcome you have given me.

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker, a role that you exercised with such distinction over the past four years.

The fact you will hand over the Speakership to a representative from a different tradition stands as an example of co-operation between parties that will be widely welcomed.

I know the calendar can have its own sensibilities in this part of the world, but it is an honour to address you on such an auspicious day, the ninth of June.

This is the feast day of St. Columba, who very specially symbolises the historic linkages and deep bonds between Britain and Ireland.

Born a Prince in Donegal, exiled in Iona, and honoured today in the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster, his monks provided not just an Irish national treasure, the Book of Kells, but also a British national treasure, the Lindisfarne Gospels.

And can I also say what an honour it is to stand here and speak in this historic chamber.

Of course I recognise that this is not a place without controversy.

In the past it was for some a guarantee of their place within the Union; for others a symbol of a state and a system from which they felt excluded.

I don’t intend to ignite that debate, but I am reminded of the words of King George V when he opened the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1921 and his appeal to all Irish men and women:

‘to stretch the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget, and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment, and goodwill.’

Nobody suggests that we have finally reached that point yet and that there aren’t significant challenges still to overcome.

But few can argue that we have not moved a long way towards it over the past two decades.

Two events last month stand testament to that.

The first was The Queen’s extraordinary and historic state visit to the Republic of Ireland.

Nobody who was with her could have been in the least doubt as to the genuine warmth of the welcome she received and also Her Majesty’s joy in being there.

Unthinkable just a decade ago, the visit was a hugely symbolic act of reconciliation and indicated the normalisation of relations between our two countries.

The second was the Assembly election itself, which passed off peacefully and in a relatively good-natured manner.

Indeed when I spoke to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness to congratulate them on their re-election, they both pointed out that it was rather more peaceful and good natured than the referendum on the Alternative Vote that we had just had.

That in itself is surely a sign of just how far Northern Ireland has come.

None of this could have happened without the extraordinary courage and commitment of people here, from all parties and all parts of the community, over many years.

I’d also like to pay tribute to successive Irish Governments without which the progress that has been made here would simply not have been possible:

  • to successive American administrations for their positive contributions at vital times…
  • and to my predecessors as Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and also to John Major who took some great risks to begin the process in the early 1990s.

My commitment

Mr Speaker, our task is to move Northern Ireland even further forward.

And today, I want to speak about what we must all do to achieve that.

There are some things you as Assembly Members here are responsible for.

There are some things Westminster is responsible for.

And there are things we must do together, working with our colleagues throughout Britain and Ireland.

I’d like to say a few words about each.

But before I do, let me say that my commitment to the health and well-being and to the success of Northern Ireland is heartfelt and sincere.

I am passionate about this part of the United Kingdom…

  • deeply mindful of history
  • and deeply determined to work with you towards a better future.

In my first week as Prime Minister, I visited Northern Ireland to reassure people of my support, and our coalition government’s support, for the devolved institutions and for all the agreements that have been signed to make sure we have peaceful progress.

When the Saville Inquiry reported its findings on the events of Bloody Sunday, I did not hesitate to apologise for the misdeeds that were carried out on that day which were unjustified and unjustifiable.

I did so in part to close a chapter on one the sorriest episodes in our country’s history.

But also because I knew we do not honour all those who have served with distinction in keeping the peace and upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland by hiding from the truth.

And I have also held Cabinet discussions on tackling terrorism here, because I share the determination of this Assembly to defeat this threat and defeat all those who do not respect the democratic will of the people of Northern Ireland.

However, I do not view Northern Ireland through the prism of past and present security issues.

The linkages and connections between our peoples are so strong.

I love coming here whether it’s to see the opera, with, of course, Opera Northern Ireland launching their new season in Belfast today, or to walk through the beautiful Glens of Antrim, to swim off the Atlantic coast, or to hold Cameron Directs.

Indeed, I believe I am the first politician from Great Britain to hold that kind of public meeting here.

I will always be a great advocate of what Northern Ireland and the people who live here have to offer.

Shared future not shared out future

But Mr. Speaker, being an advocate of Northern Ireland, and wanting to see it progress, does not mean remaining silent on the problems that remain, and the responsibilities of the members of this Assembly.

I think I have a duty to give you my honest view.

Whether you serve here as a Minister, a member of a committee or as a backbench member, all of you carry the responsibility over the next four years of delivering real improvements to people’s lives.

Politics here is now more stable than for over a generation.

But as the institutions mature people will look for more than survival; there is now an ever greater expectation of delivery.

As in other parts of the UK, political institutions need to deliver or they will lose popular support.

So to match expectations, politics here will need to move beyond the peace process and a focus on narrow constitutional matters to the economic and social issues that affect people in their daily lives.

It doesn’t matter if people are from Coleraine or Cardiff, Birmingham or Ballymena, Arboath or Antrim, they all want the same things in life: the self-confidence that comes with work; the security that comes from safe streets, free from anti-social behaviour; the happiness and joy that comes from a stable home life.

And against a background of greater political stability there is a greater opportunity than ever before to put normal, mainstream politics first.

But if politics is about anything, it’s about public service on behalf of the whole community, not just those who vote for us.

And a crucial area where I believe we need to move beyond the peace process is in tackling the causes of division within society here.

Given the history of Northern Ireland I don’t for a minute underestimate the scale of the challenge.

But it is a depressing fact that since the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement the number of so-called ‘peace walls’ has increased from 37 to 48.

And it is disappointing that in too many places Protestant and Catholic communities remain largely segregated, sharing the same space but living their lives apart.

According to one survey the costs of division through the duplication of public services alone is around £1.5 billion a year.

But this not just about the economic cost, it’s about the social cost too.

It’s these divisions that help to sustain terrorism and other criminal activities particularly within deprived communities.

I acknowledge the work that the previous executive began on this through the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Strategy, and welcome the fact that the new executive is committed to taking it forward.

Clearly, more needs to be done.

Most of the responsibilities for this, such as community relations policy, are devolved.

We will support you in whatever ways we can.

But this is something that’s mainly in your hands.

I am clear, though, that we cannot have a future in which everything in Northern Ireland is shared out on sectarian grounds.

Northern Ireland needs a genuinely shared future; not a shared out future.

Truth, respect, devolution

If that is your task, let me say something about mine.

I take my responsibilities for this part of the United Kingdom seriously, and I will stand by and stand up for you in every way I can.

I’ll always stand up for the truth, and be prepared to face up to difficult realities, however uncomfortable that might sometimes be for the UK Government.

I knew that dealing with the Saville Report would be one of my most important early responsibilities as Prime Minister.

And I did not put it off.

Through Saville, we’ve shown that where the State has acted wrongly, we will face up to, and account for, what we have done.

Others too must think about how to face up to their part in the mistakes and tragedies of the past.

In the memorable words of The Queen, we can all think of “things that might have been done differently, or not at all”.

But she also said that whilst we must respect this history, “we are not bound by it”.

We must all think about how together we can move on.

We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland to face forwards, and not endlessly examining events from before.

That does not mean I rule out any public inquiries in the future; but I stand by my pledge that there will be no more costly and open ended inquiries into the past.

I’ll stand by Northern Ireland in respect of your constitutional future too.

My views on the Union are well known.

And as I said at the election, as Prime Minister I will never be neutral in expressing my support for it.

For me what we can achieve together will always be greater than what we can do apart.

But as the Agreement makes very clear, the constitutional future of Northern Ireland does not rest in my hands, or those of the UK Government, whatever our preferences might be.

It rests in the hands of the people here.

So we will always back the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, whether that is to remain part of the United Kingdom, as is my strong wish, or whether it’s to be part of a united Ireland.

That is my absolute guarantee and a clear message to those who still seek to pursue their aims by violence.

I will also stand by the devolution settlement.

I want devolution to work, I believe in it heart and soul.

Neither I nor Owen Paterson have any desire to interfere in those matters that are rightly run by locally accountable politicians.

They are for you to decide according to your priorities.

The same applies to the future of the institutions here and how they might evolve.

The Government’s view is that, over time, we would like to see a more normal system, with a government and opposition, consistent with power-sharing and inclusiveness.

We agree with Bertie Ahern who said in 2008:

‘there will come a time when people say “you need an opposition, you need us and them”’.

But as I made clear at the General Election, we will make no changes without the agreement of the parties in this Assembly.

Economic realities

Mr. Speaker, standing by and standing up for Northern Ireland means something else: being realistic about the economic challenges faced by this part of our country.

Every time I come to Northern Ireland and see the great cranes of Harland and Wolff I’m conscious of your proud industrial past – even more so a week after the centenary of the launch of the Titanic.

Yet today, like many other parts of the UK and for reasons we all understand here, Northern Ireland is simply too dependent on the state for economic activity.

According to one report, around three-quarters of your GDP is accounted for by state spending.

At a time when we are dealing with the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history, that is unsustainable and has to change.

We recognise the difficulties facing Northern Ireland as you chart a new, more sustainable, economic future requires us in Westminster to act responsibly.

That’s why we made sure Northern Ireland did proportionately better than other parts of the UK in the Spending Review.

By the end of this Parliament, the Northern Ireland resource Budget will have gone down by 6.9 per cent – or 1.7 per cent a year, far less than the 8.3 per cent UK average, or the cuts to most departments averaging nineteen percent.

And Northern Ireland continues to receive 25 per cent more per head in public spending than England.

But the days are over when the answer to every problem is simply to ask the Treasury for more money.

That applies here as much as it does in other parts of the UK.

So, like you, the Government is looking at new ways to revive the private sector and turning Northern Ireland into a dynamic, prosperous enterprise-led economy for the 21st century.

Don’t get me wrong. Northern Ireland is already a great location for investment.

You’ve got excellent transport connections to the rest of the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe:

  • the English language, great education results, two brilliant universities…
  • highly competitive operating costs, 100 per cent broadband access…
  • Project Kelvin, linking North America, Northern Ireland and Western Europe…
  • a strongly pro-business climate led by the executive…
  • and, not least, the benefits of being part of the UK economy in which our structural deficit will be eliminated by 2015.

The challenge is to attract that investment.

Many of the powers to promote enterprise – such as education and training, planning and infrastructure – rest with you.

Others are the preserve of Westminster.

As part of the UK, Northern Ireland will benefit from the measures to promote growth that we’ve already announced, such as cuts in business taxes.

But I recognise that in Northern Ireland we need to go further.

You have two unique challenges – the legacy of violence and a land border with a state that has significantly lower corporate taxes.

The consultation paper launched in March and which runs to 24 June focused heavily on the possibility of devolving powers over corporation tax to this Assembly.

I’m not going to pre-judge the outcome of the consultation today, though I understand the strength of feeling within the main business organisations on this issue and across all political parties.

So I can assure you that the Chancellor and I will take the consultation seriously and give it proper consideration.

Security and terrorism

There are some areas where you are very much in the lead.

There are some areas where I am in the lead.

And there are some things we must do together like standing united against the threat of terrorism.

The murder of Ronan Kerr in April was a vile and cowardly act. Yet it was one of an increasing number of attacks that have taken place over the past two years.

These terrorists have no mandate. They offer nothing. And they will never succeed.

The people of Ireland, North and South, who backed the 1998 Agreement with such overwhelming democratic majorities will ensure that.

As will those from right across the community, including politicians and representatives of the GAA, who turned out with such respect at Ronan Kerr’s funeral.

Who here could fail to have been moved by the dignity and words of PC Kerr’s mother, when she said:

‘We were so proud of Ronan and all that he stood for. Don’t let his death be in vain.’

Tackling terrorism is a joint effort in which the Northern Ireland Executive has a crucial role to play.

For our part the UK Government has made the countering the terrorist threat here a top priority.

Within weeks of taking office last May we endorsed an additional £45 million for policing.

In March the Chancellor agreed to an exceptional four year deal that will give the PSNI access to a further £200 million as requested by the Chief Constable.

And of course we will continue the unprecedented co-operation that exists between ministers in London, Belfast and Dublin, and to support the superb links between the PSNI and Garda.

As the Garda Commissioner said after the tragic murder of Constable Kerr:

“Our uniforms may be woven from different cloth, but the police on this island are bound together by a shared resolve and determination”

I would like to thank all those who work tirelessly to protect the public here from terrorism.

This Government will continue to stand fully behind them in thwarting those who choose to attack the democratic will of the people of Northern Ireland.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker, I want to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland for everybody:

  • a Northern Ireland in which everybody is treated with equal respect, whatever their community background or political aspiration…
  • a Northern Ireland that is inclusive, tolerant and outward looking
  • a Northern Ireland that sees its best days ahead rather than in a dim and distant past
  • a Northern Ireland in which everybody genuinely has a shared future.

And to achieve those objectives I am committed to working with all parties and with all parts of the community.

My door is open when circumstances require it.

We will never put narrow party or sectional interests above what we judge to be the interests of the community as a whole.

Huge strides forward have been taken in Northern Ireland over recent years:

  • the main paramilitary campaigns have ended…
  • stable, inclusive, devolved government has been restored…
  • the constitutional issue has been settled on the basis of consent…
  • relations across these islands have never been stronger.

It gives you the opportunity now to move on from the politics of endless negotiations, or of the latest political agreement, to making these institutions work to address people’s everyday concerns.

So let’s work together to make devolution a success.

Let’s work together to revive the economy. Let’s work together to build a shared future.

And in working together be assured that you have a Prime Minister, a Secretary of State and a Government that will always stand by the people here in Northern Ireland.

Liam Byrne – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by Liam Byrne to the Labour Party conference on 25th September 2011.

Conference.

As we’ve gone around the country what’s become clear is that people are now seriously worried about what this Government is doing to their families, their communities and our country.

This week is our chance to point to a different way now – and different possibilities for the future.

That is the single aim of the Policy Review Ed Miliband has asked me to chair.

After last year’s defeat, the easiest thing in the world would have been for us to turn in on ourselves.

Gaze fondly, lovingly perhaps, at our navels.

Sit around in a comfort zone.

Argue amongst ourselves.

Let’s be honest. Some of us quite like that.

But under Ed Miliband, we have to do it differently.

We’ve picked ourselves up.

Dusted ourselves down.

And got straight back out there once more, talking to people, who we came into politics to serve…

About what we got right.

What we got wrong.

And how we need to change.

What we have decided to do is go for the prize that no-one has achieved in British politics for 35 years.

One-term opposition.

A party determined to bounce back from defeat and back into office where we know we can make a difference.

So I suppose I should give you the bad news.

I know what many will want this week is a detailed 5 year plan.

A new budget.

Sorted out down to the last pound and penny.

I know the hardest question I get on doorsteps in Hodge Hill is where’s the alternative? Where’s your plan? What would you do different?

Sorry.

The easiest thing in the world would have been to sit in a committee room in Westminster and write a new manifesto.

But I can tell you now, it wouldn’t have got us very far.

It wouldn’t have delivered one-term opposition.

Because we can’t revise our policy, or reorganise our party, until we reconnect with the public.

And that is what this first year of the Policy Review has been all about.

We’ve taken the simple view: that policy has to start with politics and politics starts with people.

And that is why we got back out there.

Back in touch with over a million men and women, party members and affiliates.

150 events.

6,000 local residents, coming along in person.

20,000 submissions pouring in to our HQ.

And it’s not always been easy has it?

You never quite know what you’re going to get.

I’ve been doing policy review door to door in Hodge Hill.

I won’t forget the man in Shard End, who I disturbed in the middle of his dinner.

He came to the door. Wiped clean his moustache.

And, how shall I put this?

He confined his remarks to two words; it began with F, it ended with F, and there were five letters in between.

I said, shall I put you down as against?

But whether the conversations have been hard or easy, we’ve had them.

People have been incredibly generous and personal in the stories they have shared.

They’ve told us about their daily struggles.

Their worries about balancing the bills.

Their hopes for their kids. At school. At college.

Their memories; their observations.

Loves. Hates.

But above all their common sense.

People haven’t pulled their punches.

They’ve given it to us straight.

They thought we grew out of touch.

They thought we got it wrong, on issues close to their heart.

On immigration. On welfare. On control of banks.

And that is why they’ve told us to change.

I know at times this has felt like an exercise in gratuitous masochism.

It isn’t.

We can leave that to George Osborne.

People don’t expect us to get everything right.

But they do expect us to learn from experience.

Their experience.

Because for most people in this country, things are different from 1997.

Life hasn’t stood still.

Times have moved on.

Challenges have changed.

What we have heard from people is that there is a new centre-ground in British politics.

It’s not a place that the party gets to pick.

The centre-ground is where voters say it is.

Our challenge now is to change and move in and say once more the centre-ground is our home-ground, and this is where we fight.

Everything I’ve seen of the Tories tells us that we should be bullish if we choose to change.

I think we can be a one-term opposition because of the people in the centre-ground; they’re under attack from a Conservative party, that is not on people’s side

You can’t pretend that you’re on people’s side if you cut jobs, and childcare and tax credits.

And damage people’s chances to work and pay the bills – or treat the kids – or take a holiday.

You’re not on people’s side when you curtail the chances for children.

And you’re not on people’s side if your idea of responsibility means firing 12,000 police officers, putting charities out of business and singling out as the people who need a tax cut, the bankers who got us into this mess in the first place.

So this week is our chance to show that we’re the ones who get it.

– That we’ve heard what people said.

– That we’re up for the challenge of change.

– That we are back on the side of the majority.

This week, we’ll set out what we’ve heard about how people want a different economy not run on the old rules but new rules with a welfare state that works once again for working people.

And we’ll say how we think change should begin.

We’ll say what we’ve heard about the next generation.

Remember education, education, education?

It was an expression of our aspiration for youngsters.

This week, we’ll say more about how we bring that aspiration back alive for new times – in education, in jobs, in housing.

We’ll say where we think change should begin.

We’ll say what we’ve heard about how good people in this country want to rebuild a responsible country, with rules that bite at the top, the bottom and at every point in between.

And we’ll say how we think change should begin.

So this first year is just a beginning.

We put first things first because we know that Oppositions that stay in opposition look inwards, and not out.

And that is why I’ve always said that my hope is that this policy review will change the way we make policy.

Not in committee rooms in Westminster.

But through conversation with the public, our members and affiliates.

I know we and I need to work harder to get these debates out of here.

So if you want me to come along and listen, wherever you are, I’d be delighted. Give me a ring.

Because over the next week and over the next year, we’ll begin to set out the new ideas we think are right for the future.

New ideas for the new centre-ground.

New ideas that reflect one simple philosophy.

That for most people in this country, politics is about the personal.

It’s about how you get on at work.

It’s about the safety of your community.

The education for your kids.

The care for your parents, your husband, your wife.

It’s having the chance to earn a better life, to get the good things in life, to live free of fear.

In other words, politics is about the most important things in the world.

In everything I read this year, no-one put it better, than a guy called Andrew, from Newcastle upon Tyne who wrote this:

“People want straight answers from politicians not avoidance or waffle. Talk like people, on the street, in the pubs, in the factories and offices and give straight honest answers. Try to make Britain a fair society.”

That’s our test.

So I think if we get the politics right; if we’re passionate about how politics can make a difference, then and only then will the right policy follow.

That’s the way we earn back the trust to serve.

Get that right – and we’ll win.

Andy Burnham – 2011 Speech to Labour Party Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by Andy Burnham to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on 28th September 2011.

Conference.

What do you think of my home city?

Brilliant isn’t it?

So welcome to Liverpool – or at least it was Liverpool last time I checked, before the Boundary Commission came along.

I’ve had a great week.

It started with a goal at the annual MPs versus Press football match.

Last year, Ed Balls and I were rivals.

This year we were united up front together – and, he must be doing a good job, because if you’ve seen the photos, there was certainly no ‘squeezed middle’.

But it’s not all been good news.

Recently GQ voted me the fourth worst-dressed man in Britain.

My brother said at least it showed I was trying to fit in with teachers.

In this job, there’s one thing you notice.

How, on an almost daily basis, people who didn’t go to state schools, and don’t send their children to them, pop up in the media to tell us all how awful they are.

Is there any country in the world which runs down its schools, its teachers and its young people in the way we seem to do?

Well, Conference, at least let us put that right today.

Will you join me in thanking our teachers, dinner ladies, support staff, lollipop ladies whose utter devotion to our children makes England’s schools amongst the best in the world?

And let us all thank inspirational heads like Yvonne Sharples and Andrew Chubb for what they do to lift aspirations in places where life is hardest.

And let me thank my brilliant team – Kevin Brennan, Sharon Hodgson, Iain Wright, Toby Perkins and Stella Creasy.

Today, Labour reaches out beyond its own closed circle and I want to welcome all the members of the public and young members who join us today.

My home city is much stronger for 13 years of a Labour Government.

These days, the people hiring taxis are the Yellow Tories – sent packing for propping up a ruthless Tory Government cutting this Council’s budget by over £100 for every person who lives here.

And, yet, take heart from this.

Liverpool’s Labour Leader – Joe Anderson and his team have found a way to keep building new schools for the people of this city.

A lesson for Gove and his Tories: never, ever underestimate the people of this city.

Streetwise, self-confident – but always the city of the underdog, as its blue half will show in Saturday’s Merseyside Derby.

On some issues, though, we stand together.

For 22 years, this city has borne the deepest scars imaginable when 96 of its sons and daughters didn’t come home from an FA Cup semi-final.

As it sought answers, obstacles were thrown up and insults added to injury.

Perhaps we could have done more.

But, with Gordon’s support, Labour made the historic commitment to disclose all public documents through the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

Conference, I ask you and our Party to stand with those Hillsborough families until they have finally prevailed in their dignified campaign for truth and justice.

Nothing matters more to me on a personal level.

That’s because my own family story is bound up with the ups and downs of Liverpool.

And, in that story, a vivid illustration of Ed’s Promise of Britain.

In the 60s and 70s, my grandad drove a lorry around these docks for Tate & Lyle. Could he ever have imagined that his grandson, a former Cabinet Minister, would stand on these very same docks addressing this Conference?

We’ve all come a long way.

But, in the cold light of this century, it suddenly feels much harder for young people who don’t have much, to dare to dream.

As traditional industries have declined, so too have the ladders-up they once provided.

And today young people face agonising choices. It’s not easy to take on the cost of a degree when you know that you’re expected to work for free to get on.

But if things weren’t hard enough, they just got a whole lot harder.

They’ve launched an all-out attack on aspiration, on the hopes and dreams of ordinary kids.

Before the Election, David Cameron looked young people in the eye. He said he’d keep the Education Maintenance Allowance.

What kind of man does that, leaving thousands of young souls cut adrift?

Cameron the Conman, that’s who.

What kind of man destroys England’s careers service with youth unemployment at record levels?

And what kind of man chooses this moment to make young people pay with their life chances.

All across England, you can hear the sound of falling aspiration. And it’s terrifying.

Tony Blair said his priorities were education, education, education.

And because of what he did we can now go further: aspiration, aspiration, aspiration.

In this challenging century, we will be the party for families who want to get on in life, who want better for their children.

Labour will give every child a path in life. Put hope in every heart.

Walk into any primary school in England and you will see the change we made.

University opened up to thousands – and the greatest increase amongst the poorest children.

But we need to go further and yesterday Ed laid down that challenge.

Let’s face up to one thing, though.

As a country, we haven’t focused anything like enough on the opportunities for the 50% or more of kids who don’t plan to go to university.

Young people who want to head towards work or an apprenticeship are left to fend for themselves.

At 13, 14, 15, too many children lose their way because they can’t see where school is taking them.

That’s wrong and I want to put it right.

Young people on the university path know what is expected if they are to make the grade.

I want young people who aspire to apprenticeships to have the same clarity, ambition and sense of purpose.

I want them to be able to find out and apply for them in exactly the same way as people apply for university.

So let’s look at a national UCAS-style system for apprenticeships, raising sights, rewarding those who work hardest, giving all children hope and a goal in life.

A 21st century school system where employers have more influence on what subjects children take.

A 21st century school system based on the solid principle that hard work will be properly rewarded.

Truly comprehensive education for the 21st century: giving every child a clear path; putting hope in every heart.

With new ideas like this, Labour is facing up to the challenges of today.

By contrast, the government’s approach to education reminds me of the film ‘Back to the Future.’

Remember it?

It starred a man called Michael who was trapped in the 1950s.

Here we are in 2011 and we have the spectacle of a Tory Education Secretary promoting Latin and Ancient Greek over Engineering, ICT and Business Studies.

I want as many children as possible to take the subjects in the English Baccalaureate.

But they are not right for everyone.

And yet the message is clear – any school or student who doesn’t succeed is second best.

As we have heard today, there is a growing grassroots rejection of Mr Gove and his elitist and divisive policies.

If we just shout from the sidelines and wait for the next election, too many young lives will be written off.

So we need an alternative.

A curriculum that sets high ambitions for everyone in English and Maths.

A curriculum that gets young people ready for the modern world where they can expect to have around 10 job changes and will need different skills and qualities to succeed.

Not segregated routes between academic and vocational education but a true Baccalaureate.

A unified programme of study geared to the needs of the 21st century: stretching the brightest, yes, but giving all children a relevant route and a solid qualification behind them.

This is Labour’s vision.

Supporting the development of the Modern Baccalaureate, drawing on the example of the Welsh and International Baccalaureates, as an alternative to Gove’s backward-looking vision.

He is stuck in the past and obsessed with structural changes.

He throws money at his favoured schools – free schools and academies – and treats the rest as if they don’t matter.

A man with a plan for some schools and some children, not all schools and all children.

He cancels new schools in areas of greatest need to build new ones in wealthier areas.

And make no mistake – Gove’s academies are not Labour’s academies. We focused on areas of real need; he gives more to the best-performing schools.

In this free-for-all, with a weakened admissions code and all schools judged by the English Baccalaureate, vulnerable children will lose out.

Back to the 1950s. Two-tier education and selection by the back-door.

A new generation of grammars and secondary moderns.

We shouldn’t judge any school by its structure or status. We should judge them by their values and achievements.

Free schools and academies can embody the comprehensive ideal.

But Conference, make no mistake, that ideal is under attack.

And if I believe in anything I believe with all my heart in what it stands for: all backgrounds together, learning to see life from all sides, aspirational for everyone.

These comprehensive values should be as intrinsic to this party’s DNA as the values of the NHS.

We must reform it now for new times, meeting the aspirations of every family and our country and fulfilling the Promise of Britain.

So that’s our mission.

Comprehensive education for the 21st century.

Rewarding hard work.

Stretching the brightest.

Putting hope in every heart.

Andy Burnham – 2011 Speech to NASUWT Conference

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Below is the text of the speech made Andy Burnham, the Shadow Education Secretary, to the 2010 NASUWT Conference.

Good afternoon.

It’s great to be with you – even if it is as the first Labour Shadow to address you for some time.

What a difference a year makes.

The only positive is that gives me the first real opportunity for fifteen years to step back, refresh and rethink Labour education policy for new times.

I intend to use it properly.

So today I want to talk to you about the principles that will underpin my approach to that important task.

I might not have been an Education Minister. But I do have a few strong views about education and real passions which go to the heart of why I am in politics.

I need your help and ideas in building on the best of what Labour achieved in Government and developing a genuine alternative to the current direction of travel

Of course, there were things we didn’t get right. That’s why Labour needs time to reflect.

But we can’t afford to have our heads in the clouds. And this brings me to my second theme for today.

An attack has been launched on state education in England.

Structures that have underpinned a successful school system for decades – fair admissions, national standards, local planning – are being swept away.

It’s a whirlwind – an unseemly rush to reform with no consultation, no pilots, no evidence.

A reckless ideological experiment designed to break a successful school system and turn it into a free-for-all.

A plan for some children and some schools, not all children and all schools.

An unforgiveable gamble with the life chances of our children.

So much change has been thrown at the system at once in the last 12 months at once that it’s been hard to stand back and make sense of it all.

Today, I want to put all the pieces together.

I want to show what’s at stake.

I want to explain how the combined effect of the erosion of fair admissions and the promotion of a narrow, academic curriculum will create an inevitable drive towards an elitist, two-tier school system – a new generation of grammar schools and secondary moderns.

England is sleepwalking into a new era of selection and segregation in our schools – and it’s time to raise the alarm.

Tories in Government have forgotten that they didn’t win an outright mandate from the public for right-wing reforms to our public services.

As for Mr Clegg … well what can you say?

I was campaigning in Sheffield the other day. On one doorstep, I was saying how hard it was to work with them now as I had no idea what Mr Clegg stood for.

Quick as a flash this bloke said: “I know what Clegg stands for. Mr Cameron, when the PM walks into the Cabinet room.”

What I do know is that Mr Clegg has put the Lib Dems’ name to an Education Bill – every single word of which contradicts a motion passed at his Party’s annual conference.

So it falls to us to remind them.

Let’s do that by launching a joint campaign today to change that Bill – and put down a clear marker against the drive towards an atomised, competitive, divided education system

Just as the Government has been forced into retreat on NHS reform, if we fight together for what we believe in we can preserve a semblance of a state education system for the next Labour Government.

I will explain later how we might do that.

But, first, Labour’s policy review.

I have two clear tests for an education policy: will it help all school be good schools? Will it help every child to be the best they can be?

I’m proud that, in Government, Labour made demonstrable progress towards these goals.

Our schools saw a decade of improvement: more teachers, smaller classes, a stronger, more professional workforce, more classroom support, better school buildings and ourdoor play facilities, modern ICT, better discipline, better sport and arts.

Per pupil funding was finally brought up to the European average, 4,000 schools were rebuilt – and, as a result of all these things, standards rose.

In 1997, one in two schools were below the basic benchmark. By 2010, that was just 1 in 40 schools. 80% of secondary schools and 90% of primary schools had good or outstanding behaviour.

It’s a record Labour can be proud of – but I know it simply wouldn’t have been possible without our partnership with you.

So, on behalf of the Labour Party, I would like to thank this union for all that is has done to champion comprehensive state education, and show how constructive social partnership can work for all to improve standards in our schools.

Your contribution to this revolution was recognised last year when Ed Balls launched the Teachers’ Guarantee at this conference last year.

It was an expression of our trust in the professionalism of teachers – and our desire to support you to have the greatest impact on the learning, well-being and development of your pupils.

And I can say today that I will carry forward that principle into our policy review.

Mr Gove talks about the importance of teaching – as if nothing happened in 13 years.

Just as they have sought to re-write history on the economy, so they have deployed a barrage of selective facts to decry the achievements of our children, our teachers and our schools in the last fifteen years.

The fact is that last decade saw teaching transformed – from a profession demoralised and undervalued to the top destination for Oxbridge graduates.

40,000 more teachers, 120,000 more teaching assistants. The best generation of teachers ever, according to OFSTED.

This was achieved not by Government alone but by partnership and constructive dialogue on the things that matter to teachers, by being fair on pay and pensions.

In Government – and in partnership with NASUWT – Labour took tough decisions on pensions to make them more affordable and viable.  Together, we were able to improve long-term sustainability and reduce the risk to the taxpayer and retain the principles of equity and flexibility.

I hope even people who did not agree with us on everything will recognise that as a more honourable way of working that unilaterally deciding to increase employee contributions in advance of the Hutton Report.

The Government have made a mockery of partnership. So I understand why teachers are angry. Pension affordability is one thing. But permanent changes in the name of deficit reduction – particularly when the banks are getting a tax cut – are quite another.

When it comes to schools, parents rightly expect all avenues to be explored before other action is taken. But the onus is very clearly on the Government to rebuild trust and negotiate a fair settlement.

More broadly, Gove’s free-for-all in teachers pay and conditions will mean his rhetoric about teaching will never match up to the reality.

I know from my experience in the NHS that you build stronger and more stable public services with social partnership and national pay frameworks.

That will remain at the heart of Labour’s approach to education and is what I mean when I talk about building on the best of what we did in Government.

But we didn’t get everything right. And I know we won’t move on unless we acknowledge and face up to those things.

During the Labour Leadership election, I said I regretted the fact that, at times, Labour didn’t seem sufficiently proud of its comprehensive schools. I shuddered the day they were labelled ‘bog-standard’ – a huge disservice to the sheer variety and quality of what goes on in our schools.

For someone coming in new to education policy, the depth of negativity in the media towards our schools is quite striking.

I’m sure that there can’t be another country in the world that talks down its schools, its teachers, its qualifications and its young people in the way we seem to do.

So I will champion the school system that did a good job for me – and is doing its best for my children in difficult circumstances.

A second area where I think we need to reflect is in how we make policy.

At times we allowed the London context exerted an undue influence on the formulation of national policy.

We didn’t always get the balance right between national targets, on the one hand, and school and teacher autonomy on the other.

We didn’t focus enough on improving opportunities for the half of kids unlikely to go to University.

Politicians of all sides like to polish messages for the pushiest parents, leaving teachers are left to deal with the reality of trying to create schools that work for everyone.

I can see how this has led to a disconnect between politics and the teaching profession.

I want to address this in Labour’s policy commission on 0 to 19 education which is now underway.

Today I issue the warmest of invitations to you all to play a part in it.

Through Chris, I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas, on where we got things right in Government, where there is further to go, and where a changing world demands new approaches.

I want our policy review to look at clear entitlements for on-going professional development, giving teachers the opportunity to update their skills and specialisms.

I want to teaching to be seen as a high-status profession on a par with medicine and law.

I want to see a culture that means it is as unacceptable for a student to be failed in the classroom as it is for a patient to be failed in the consulting room.

Turning the best generation ever of teachers into the best teachers in the world should be a national mission in the coming decades. It matters for our children, our communities, and the long-term prosperity of our country.

The big challenge I have set the Commission is to rethink comprehensive education for this century, showing how it can embody aspiration and achievement in schools and colleges across the country. I want it to do that by making sure all policy recommendations are firmly based on evidence, not whim or prejudice.

Some right-wing commentators who think these two statements are incompatible, that the evidence doesn’t support what they call an outdated orthodoxy.

Since I took on this job, I have spoken of my unshakeable belief in the comprehensive ideal. Immediately, this drew a lazy characterisation that I was therefore in favour of levelling down; that I was anti-choice and diversity.

I am none of those things. I support parent and student choice, diversity of provision in schools, the promotion of academic excellence and high achievement.

My mission is to show how they are entirely compatible within a truly comprehensive system. Indeed, that is the only way we will help all children be the best they can be.

So let me refer some of those commentators to some authoritative evidence:

“Systems that show high performance and an equitable distribution of learning outcomes tend to be comprehensive, requiring teachers and schools to embrace diverse student populations through personalised educational pathways.

“In contrast, school systems that assume that students have different destinations with different expectations and differentiation in terms of how they are placed in schools, classes and grades often show less equitable outcomes without an overall performance advantage.”

It comes from last year’s PISA report. Michael Gove is fond of quoting PISA. But, interestingly, not this bit.

He doesn’t refer much to this bit either:

“Countries that create a more competitive environment in which many schools compete for students do not systematically produce better results.”

Nor this:

“Most successful school systems grant greater autonomy to individual schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies.”

PISA identifies three ingredients of a successful schools system: autonomy over the curriculum; collaborative rather than competitive; and comprehensive in terms of intake.

I will base Labour’s policy on these solid foundations. And, this brings me to my second theme.

I will show how Mr Gove is going in precisely the opposite direction on each of the three – to a more prescriptive, competitive and socially-segregated system.

The current Secretary of State has two qualities in abundance which are a lethal mix in any minister: incompetence and ideological zeal.

He doesn’t care much for detail or evidence – probably because it doesn’t support the ideological experiment he is inflicting on our children.

There is no evidence that the Free Schools policy will drive up standards. In fact at worst, as experience in Sweden suggests, they will have a negative impact – not just on standards but on social cohesion.

Michael Gove doesn’t mention Sweden much now, and prefers to points to the US and charter schools as his inspiration.

Yet, here too, academics at Stanford University found that fewer than one in five charter schools outperformed comparable state schools and over a third were doing “significantly worse”.

That is why I call his policy direction a reckless gamble with standards.

My summary of the first 12 months of this Government’s education policy is a sorry story of broken promises, incompetence and wrong-headed reforms.

They said they would protect Sure Start – but cut the funding and removed the ringfence.

They said they would keep the Education Maintenance Allowance – but scrapped it at the first opportunity.

They said it would be wrong to dismantle school sport partnerships – but they have.

And crucially, they said they had found more resources for schools, that the Pupil Premium would be additional to the schools budget.

Labour is publishing new figures today which show that the rhetoric simply doesn’t make the reality – the schools budget will fall every year for three years and per pupil funding is cut.

Thousands of teachers at risk of redundancy. 700 local communities who have seen school building projects cancelled are watching money being poured into Free Schools.

With mainstream schools facing harsh cuts, local communities must be allowed to judge whether this is the best use of resources – but the Free School programme is shrouded in secrecy.

You deserve better than this. Children, families, communities – all deserve better than this.

Where is the fairness in an approach to education where public money is used as bait to lure schools into an ideological experiment?

Labour’s academies programme was focused on turning around schools in the most deprived areas.

This Government has perverted it into a purely ideological programme with no plan for how it will drive up standards – an uneven playing field where money follows ideology not need.

The Government have fallen straight into the trap of believing that making structural changes will automatically deliver improved standards.

Unfair pressure is being piled on schools to change status. Consultation in some cases is cursory. And, disgracefully, Education Ministers put pressure on schools to sideline the voice of this trade union.

All this from a Government which preached freedom and autonomy.

In fact, they are more centralising, top-down and prescriptive than we ever were.

Mr Gove wants to tell communities what kind of schools they must have and students what subjects they must study.

So much for student and parent choice.

Parents should have influence over local schools. But the Education Bill says communities can only have one kind of new schools – a new-style academy or Free School.

The English Bacc is forcing a narrow academic subject selection on schools and students.

All this leaves Government promises of autonomy and localism in tatters – and observers scratching their heads at a Secretary of State in danger of collapsing under the weight of his own contradictions.

What guarantees do parents have about standards in this free-for-all – where schools to open in any building, with unqualified teachers, bypassing the National Curriculum?

Isn’t there a real risk that new schools will destabilise existing good schools?

So it’s to put down a marker against this dangerous experiment.

Instead of obsessing over structures, which are meaningless to many parents, we will be seeking to amend the Bill to secure what really matters to them.

Will my child have a fair chance of getting into a good school? Will they have good teachers?

Labour will seek to preserve local admissions forums to support the rights of parents at local level to have fair access to schools of their choice.

And we will safeguard standards by seeking to amend the Bill to ensure that all publicly-funded schools employ qualified teachers, requiring free schools to be covered by the same requirements regarding teaching qualifications as other schools.

Simple, common-sense amendments that give children and parents guarantees and protection from the worst of Gove’s free market madness.

I hope all those who have misgivings about this Government’s direction of travel will rally round the campaign to amend the Education Bill.

These amendments won’t solve everything – but they will send a clear message to the Government that they can’t break up our school system without a fight.

A fair school system is under threat from the combination of two things: changes to school governance – where schools are their own admission authorities; and the introduction of a narrow academic English Baccalaureate as a measure of performance.

The English Bacc provides an incentive to focus on some students rather than others and sidelines vocational learning.

Michael, you can’t design an entire school system around the requirements of the Russell Group.

The danger is that, in a highly competitive system, schools will greater power over admissions will prioritise students likely to succeed under the English Bacc – creating a selective system by the back door.

I came into politics to challenge elitism in education. And I’m now ready to give this Government the fight of its life to save the kind of school system I believe in.

Conclusion

My own journey in life took me from a Merseyside comprehensive in the mid-1980s to Cambridge and then to the Cabinet.

It has shown me the best and worst of our education system and society.

Doors never open for some young people because they are never given the confidence to knock on them.

I joined Labour in the mid-80s because that I wanted to challenge it and I’m proud of the progress we made in Government: more young people leaving school with decent qualifications; more people staying on; more people going to university.

Today, I’m more fired up than ever because I see history repeating itself and all this hard-won progress thrown into reverse.

When the Government trebled tuition fees, it filled me with despair. I could almost hear the sound of falling aspiration in my constituency.

And when I hear a Prime Minister say it’s OK to hand out life chances and plum jobs on the dinner party circuit, it reminds me why I’m I do the job I do.

For all the progress we have made as a society, it remains the case that the postcode of the bed you are born in pretty much determines where you end up in life and what chances you have.

I know that a two-tier school system, no EMA and trebled tuition fees will reinforce that, stacking the odds against those who have least.

So the stakes couldn’t be higher.

I want an education system that is an engine of true social mobility, that helps all children be the best they can be.

If this is your vision too, let’s fight for it together before it is too late.

Andy Burnham – 2011 Speech to Demos

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Below is the text of the speech made by Andy Burnham, the Shadow Education Secretary, to Demos on 12th July 2011.

When I was given this job, I said I wanted to rethink comprehensive education for the 21st century.

Today I will set out my vision for what that means in practice.

My thinking has been shaped by discussions in Labour’s Schools Policy Review and I am grateful to the experts on the group for their insights, and pleased that we are joined by one of them today – inspirational former primary school head, Richard Gerver.

I would also like to thank Demos and Microsoft for hosting us today, and Mike Baker for agreeing to chair this event.

My experts have told me one clear home truth: for too long, politicians have been labouring under old and out-dated assumptions about education and schools.

Having begun in denial, I am now able to admit they are right.

So, as Secretary of State for Education, I would look to build a school system in England based on three clear principles:

First, where hard work is properly rewarded and all young people have something to aim for beyond school.

Second, where we reach every single child, by judging schools on the difference they make for every individual student – including how far schools stretch the brightest

Third, where learning is made relevant to life today, building the character and qualities young people will need to succeed in 21st century

Reward, reach, relevance – these will be my 3Rs to guide schools reform in the 21st century.

I will seek endorsement for them from Labour’s Annual Conference as part of a report of the schools policy review.

It sounds simple. But, as I want to explain today, a school system that truly lives and breathes these ideas will be different than it is today.

And, if it is to be a reality, it’s the political debate about education that urgently needs to enter the 21st century.

My son starts secondary school in September.

Last week, we attended the induction evening with other parents.

The head began by asking us not to judge what we were about to hear by our own time at school.

Schools today were preparing young people for a very different world than the 1980s, he said.

Our sons and daughters could expect to have at least 10 different jobs throughout their career.

Unlike their grandparents, who did specific jobs in large industries, they will most likely work in smaller companies. They will need to be all-rounders, able to adapt quickly to new situations.

It is more likely that they will be employers as well as employees.

With all this in mind, he said, thinking only about exam results would be to miss the point.

Facts and content are not all that matters as some of our children will work in industries we don’t yet know about.

Success in the 21st century will depend on young people’s ability to be resourceful, adaptable, self-confident, creative and self-managing.

Good presentation and people skills will be essential, as will critical thinking.

As I sat listening to this, I was struck by two things: first, how it echoed what I had been hearing from my experts on the policy review; second, how I wished I could get him before the House of Commons to make this speech.

Most MPs, myself included, base their views on education on their own school days and what life was like in the 60s, 70s or 80s.

As the outside changes rapidly, schools remain frozen in time in the minds of most MPs.

But, since the Election, it’s got worse.

Under the Coalition, thin king about education has headed backwards at breakneck speed – following the script of a 1980s film.

You may remember it. It starred a man called Michael, who was trapped in the 1950s.

Back to the Future probably would have been a better title for Michael Gove’s White Paper.

Learning facts by rote to pass exams – names of rivers, Kings and Queens – is relentlessly promoted above instilling the essential qualities young people will need to navigate the modern world.

It’s hard to understand the thought process that can conclude that the way forward for England’s schools in the 21st century is to bring in a new ‘gold standard’ measurement system that values Latin and Ancient Greek above Engineering, Business Studies or ICT.

And, in a world of work that gets more complicated by the day, what do ministers do?

They drop the requirement for work-related learning at Key Stage 4 and allow the Careers Service to melt away before our eyes.

It’s a wholly inadequate response.

By setting out an alternative vision today, I hope to refocus the education debate away from the Government’s obsession with structural reform and back on more fundamental questions.

What are schools for? What do employers want from them?

This is where I start from.

Employability is important, but it’s not all that matters. Schools have to be about values and citizenship too.

Somewhere along the line, as well as being stuck in the past, politicians have lost this broad view of education.

Schools should build strong and prosperous communities in which all young people are ready and able to fulfil their potential – as citizens, employees, employers, mums, dads, carers and neighbours.

This is my answer to the question ‘What are schools for?’

But I don’t know what the Government thinks.

Instead, we see a blizzard of activity focused on changing school structures without any clear vision of what makes the 21st century school.

The Government urgently needs to correct this and to show how its structural reforms will deliver its vision.

Failure to do that risks making its own reform programme an irrelevant sideshow: change for its own sake, a numbers game, rather than focusing schools on the job in hand of rising to the big economic and social challenges of this century.

I am optimistic about our future, but right now our schools look stuck in the last century and government changes are sending them backwards not forwards.

If current policy stays unchanged, I have great fears for where we’ll be in 10 years time.

The lethal combination of the narrow English Baccalaureate and a free-for-all in schools risks cementing an impression that has been building for the last 20 years: a production-line approach to education where schools are stressed-out exam factories teaching to regurgitate facts u nder pressure rather building rounded characters.

Schools have no choice but to focus on what they’re told.

As the Secretary of State told the Commons yesterday, there has been an increase in the number of young people learning Latin in state schools.

I’m not sure it’s the cause for celebration he seems to think it is.

I have nothing at all against bright young people choosing Latin at GCSE. But what I suspect is happening is that schools are steering children towards EBacc subjects and the effect of this is that it is limiting choices for all children within the school.

But I certainly can’t celebrate a system that encourages a focus on the top 30% of students at the expense of the rest.

It leads me to ask: What has this Government got against creativity? What have they got to say to the 70% of children who are unlikely to opt for EBacc subjects?

I think it’s inevitable that the effect will be a school system that sift s into two levels – schools that do well under EBacc and those that don’t.

This risks taking us back to the 1950s: a two-tier system where technical or practical is second-best, our education system is divided, and a generation of children failed.

England urgently needs an alternative to this out-dated thinking.

We need an education policy that is both forward-looking and reasserts the broad view of education.

So here are my emerging ideas about how to build a school system based around the three principles I mentioned at the beginning.

First, a system where hard work is properly rewarded, by giving all young people something to aim for – building on our success in expanding university and apprenticeship places.

The education debate in England urgently needs to be re-balanced.

As Demos has rightly identified, politicians of all parties over a long period of time have let down the 50% or more of young people not planning to go to university.

Because most went to university, there is a tendency to think exclusively about A Levels and the university route, exams and qualifications.

Our school system has traditionally provided great clarity to young people on university route, as to what they need to do to secure a place.

Young people outside that route have had nothing like the same clarity and have been expected to make their own way.

Unless that changes, our school system will continue to cater for some children, not all children. We won’t rise to the big challenges of this century, which are different to the last.

When we started school, our generation had more certainty and structure.

On the whole, people knew university was a realistic possibility – and affordable – if they met the required standard.

For those planning to enter work, trainee schemes operated by large industries were in much more plentiful supply. Entry requirements for them were well understood.

Today, there is still clarity about what it takes to go to University – even if that is a receding possibility for many young people.

But, with the demise of large industry, there is nowhere near as much clarity for young people who want to get good vocational qualifications that will take them towards skilled work.

And this problem will only get bigger, as young people switch off from higher education.

I think this is taking the country in the wrong direction, as university education gives people the all-round versatility and confidence they will need for the modern world.

But, if we are to avoid a lost generation, we must urgently rethink what we are offering as a society to young people not planning to go to university.

When they start school, all young people need to feel they have something to aim for.

If they don’t have a clear sense that school needs is leading somewhere and giving them a path in life, the risk will be that we see young people switching off at school in greater numbers as the EBacc is not what they want and other courses will have the distinct feel of being second-best, an afterthought.

So what to do?

I want all young people to have a solid opportunity to aim for at 18 – be it a University place or apprenticeship.

But, if we want to instil the right values in our young people, it can’t be about handing everything on a plate.

So I believe this points to developing a new social contract with young people.

When starting school, the message to all young people should be clear: if you put in the hours, and if you meet the required standard, you will gain a solid, prestigious qualification which will open up a good opportunity for you beyond school.

This means we will need good-quality apprenticeships in much more plentiful supply than there are today, and much clearer information and structure for how they access them.

For instance, why isn’t there as much clarity over applying for apprenticeships as there is for applying to universities?

Could we build up the system John Denham introduced into a true UCAS-style system where the best opportunities go to those who work hardest?

Delivering this change will be about building on what we did in Government, but taking it to a new level.

Labour saved apprenticeships from near-extinction.

We more than quadrupled the number of places in our 13 years in government and had plans for further big expansions of public sector apprenticeships.

If the path towards an apprenticeship was as clear as the path towards university, more young people would see the relevance of their education and understand that hard work would be rewarded.

This is why the current shambles around the careers service is so damaging. The school and college leaders’ union, ASCL have said that 2 million young people could mi ss out on careers advice due to government mismanagement.

A social contract for young children of the kind I am talking about will be essential to preventing the terrifying prospect of lost generations throughout this century.

But it will also build a society based on the right values.

In the eyes of the public, Labour in government started to lose an association with hard work and the idea that the way to get on in life is to put in the hours.

At times, we created an impression that opportunities would be provided regardless of people’s willingness to grab them.

A society based on responsibility means firmly planting at the heart of our school system the idea that hard work will be rewarded.

This takes me to my second principle – a school system that reaches every single child, where there is an incentive to stretch every child.

Labour made huge progress at every stage of children’s development.

Sure Start brought a whole-family approach to education and helped bring children to primary school ready to learn.

Primary schools were our great success story. But it’s from 11 to 19 that the picture is more mixed.

I’ve been reflecting on what we got right and wrong.

In 1997, inheriting a system with 50% of schools failing to give a third of kids basic standards in English and maths meant we needed to get a pretty firm grip at the centre.

Our National Challenge benchmark of 5 A*-C at GCSE was the right measure for the time and helped us to turn around over 1,000 failing schools.

But sticking with it for as long as we did brought two problems with it: first, it judged schools by how well they did with some children, not all children; second, it did not provide sufficient incentive to stretch the brightest, to turn Cs in Bs, Bs into As, and As into A*s.

The new Government has made great play of the fact that it is continuing Labour’s approach – but with added fervour and intensity.

This is a debatable claim. But it is true to the extent that the current Government are now in grave danger of cementing into the system some of the flaws in Labour’s approach.

I believe there will always be a need for some measure of absolute standards in our schools.

But in Government we were beginning to move away from 5A*-Cs as a headline measure, because we knew that any ‘threshold’ standard like this would focus attention at the borderline and not incentivise schools to focus on every child.

We can’t turn off the flow of data, and the more information we have about our schools, the better. But we can control how politicians handle and react to that data.

By making the English Bacc their headline performance measure for schools the Government has ensured that turning grade Ds into Cs will remain a core focus for schools.

Having promised to end top-down targets, schools are being plac ed in a vice-like grip – not just the EBacc but also a tougher 5 A to Cs floor target.

Labour’s policy review is looking at whether it is possible to reform league tables so that schools are judged by the difference that they make with each individual learner.

We will now do further work on developing a simple measure –using CVA or VA as a starting point – that is well understood, trusted by parents and supported by the profession.

If we get it right, it could align the political imperative to measure how schools are doing with the professional vocation of teachers to make a difference for every child.

It would be a simple expression of what should be the mission of every school: pushing every pupil to be the best they can be, with a clear incentive to put no limits on how far we stretch the brightest.

But we will only do that if we also enact my third principle and create a system where learning is made relevant to life today, building t he character and qualities young people will need to succeed in 21st century.

Schools need to give young people need relevant answers to the challenges in their lives.

They need forward-looking courses of study, with links to the world of world, that don’t just focus on facts and knowledge but instil the essential qualities they will need to get on in a changing world.

Relevance is an important concept in education – but not one that features in current Ministerial thinking.

We mustn’t trap ourselves in the out-dated thinking that learning falls into clear categories: the academic or vocational, the theoretical or the practical, the brain or the hands.

Many subjects, like medicine or engineering, are a mixture of both.

We can both stretch young people academically – for example, by offering triple science at GCSE – whilst also promoting practical or vocational learning, like the Engineering Diploma. It’s not a choice between the two, as the Government seems to suggest.

Employers and universities are united and clear in what they want from schools – young people strong in the basics and displaying what they call ‘employability skills’ – like self-management, team working and problem solving.

And they want to see more young people with specialist knowledge in science, technology, maths and engineering.

So it follows that we need a school system that instils those essential qualities, builds strong characters and encourages independent learning.

It is clear that a content-driven curriculum alone will not develop the attributes that employers and universities say they are looking for.

We need to look at how we ensure all young people have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and attributes they need for the modern world.

I think we need to look at two areas first.

First, is there a case for setting out a minimum entitlement for all children – a binding statement of rights in a world where the education system is more fragmented and some schools narrow their focus?

It could build on our pupil and parent guarantees, scrapped by this Government.

Like the right to one-to-one catch-up if a child fell behind in the basics.

Like the opportunity to study triple science at GCSE, or to learn a language at primary school.

Increasing the life chances of children from poorer families in a century where social networks and family connections are becoming more important means giving them access to the same breadth of opportunities as children from better-off families that broaden horizons.

It’s not just about academic opportunities. There is a real fear that sport, cultural opportunities and work experience become random again and the preserve of those whose families can organise opportunities.

These are the things that develop confidence and character.

In my view, every child should have the chance to experience qualified coaching and competitive opportunities in a range of sports.

Just as I would like to see every child experience a creative and cultural education – with opportunities to learn a musical instrument, to act in a play, to develop confidence in public speaking.

Sport and arts are the things that can turn on a light inside many children, helping them achieve more in their core academic studies.

And if we are truly to raise aspirations for every child, we need to be far more ambitious about work-related learning.

Employers have a right to say that schools are turning out young people lacking in the skills they are looking for.

But they also have a responsibility to get involved in schools and help them develop those skills.

Experience of the workplace is essential if we are to broaden the horizons of our most deprived children.

We know that when young people organise their own work experience, a form of social reproduction takes place and they end up experiencing the type of work their families are involved in.

You don’t often find working class kids spending two weeks in a law firm if they have to organise it through their own connections.

Rather than scrapping the requirement, we should have a much more ambitious view where the worlds of law, finance, media and politics are opened up to young people from less well-connected families.

Third sector organisations like Future First and the Education and Employers Taskforce are helping schools to build the networks that they need to offer these opportunities in their local communities.

But minimum entitlements alone will not be enough. We also need a radical rethink of the 14-19 curriculum so that we can give young people a relevant and engaging path from school to work.

Looking back, Labour missed a moment in 2006, with the publication of the Tomlinson Report.

We had a chance to reshape the curriculum and the work of schools – relevant, rewarding, built around the strengths and interests of every child – but failed to take it.

I want to go back to the principles of that report but update it too.

We stand a better chance of engaging all young people if we can offer them relevant options at 14.

English and maths must always be at the core of a young person’s education, and no one should be forced to specialise before they are ready. But they should be able to if they are.

Last week, I visited the JCB Academy and saw students following a programme of study that they had chosen – and that they clearly found highly relevant and engaging.

The Engineering Diploma that JCB Academy offers mixes high quality academic and practical learning, and can help open the doors to apprenticeships and university.

But, importantly, it doesn’t close any doors – the head teacher told me that if, at 16, one of their students decided they wanted to study medicine, there would be no reason why they couldn’t. The school will score zero on the English Baccalaureate.

Instead of closing down their choices, as the English Baccalaureate does, I think we should open them up – so young people can follow the pathway that is right for them and develop their talents, be those are academic, technical, linguistic or creative.

I think we need to look at introducing a true Baccalaureate, like the International Baccalaureate: a broad programme of learning that lets all young people choose the path that suits them best but gives all the solid, prestigious qualification age 14-19 that is valued by employers and universities that I was talking about earlier.

If we are to do this successfully, it will demand more of our teachers.

Standing in front of a class and teaching kids to memorise facts isn’t easy.

But it might seem more straightforward than developing a relevant programme of study that speaks to every child and equips them with not only the knowledge, but also the essential attributes, they will need to succeed in the modern world.

Luckily, we currently have the best generation of teachers ever. I want to make it a national mission in the coming decade to build the best teaching workforce in the world.

That’s why I am asking if there’s a case for working towards making teaching a masters-level profession, following the example of the best school systems around the world.

Only with the highest-quality, most professional teaching workforce in the world will we be able to deliver an education system that rewards hard work, reaches every child and is relevant to the modern world.

This emphasis on access to CPD for teachers could be linked to the introduction of a professionally-led licence to teach.

A more relevant 14 to 19 curriculum will also mean changes for our schools.

I want to see every local area develop exciting and engaging new post-14 pathways, working with employers and post-16 providers.

The implication of this is two major changes from current policy: first, a continuing and important planning role for the local authority in education; second, an education system where collaboration between schools, rather than hand-to-hand combat, is the driving force.

Education is essentially a collaborative activity: the more people share thoughts and ideas, the more they learn. But the market model doesn’t recognise this: it encourages schools jealously to guard the best of what they’ve got; and will produce winners and losers, where young people get trapped in struggling institutions.

My vision is to open up the best that every area has to offer to all children.

A refocused 14-19 curriculum might also mean at 14 that we spend more time bringing the very brightest children together from schools a cross a local authority area, so they can learn from each other and we can give them a clearer idea of what is required on the Russell Group or Oxbridge path.

A system that is “comprehensive and collaborative”: not a rose-tinted view of education but, according to PISA, the defining characteristics of the world’s best education systems.It is about facing future challenges, not a vision of education stuck in the past.

It is about instilling essential qualities rather than focusing solely on facts and exams.

It is about finding a route through for every child, not just the top 25%.

If we don’t do these things, we are facing a century when there is a real risk that social mobility will go seriously into reverse.

The British Promise that Ed Miliband has spoken of – where children have greater life chances than their parents – will only be a reality if we can bring our schools into the 21st century.

Preventing a lost generation and wasting the talents of our young people is one of the great challenges of our times.

As university gets more expensive, EMA withdrawn, and old structures break down, it will be those kids without connections, and family networks, who fail to get on.

I came into politics to challenge that.

And its why today I put forward my vision for comprehensive education in the 21st century: relevant, rewarding, aspirational for all.