The Sneering Liberal Elite

liberal-elite

Divide and rule has been the Conservative Party’s strategy since the beginning of time – nothing unites people more than a common enemy.  In the ’60s it was black people and all their crimes – those who were around at the time of 1964 elections will remember that they distributed leaflets that said, “If you want a coloured for your neighbour – vote Labour. If you are already burdened with one – vote Tory” In the ’80s it was gay people and their promiscuous lifestyles and diseases that were the problem – nothing that Section 28 couldn’t sort out. Immigrants from Pakistan, India, Poland and Turkey have all been made scapegoats for the country’s problems by Conservative politicians. Last week Theresa May announced the latest enemy of the state: The Liberal Elite.

It’s a term we’ve heard before. During the EU Referendum campaign it was one of Nigel Farage’s catchphrases, second only to, “Austrailian-style points system.” You can say what you like about Theresa May but she is a very shrewd politician. She knows that UKIP pose the greatest threat to the Conservatives at the next General Election and is attempting to attract those voters by creating the illusion that the Conservatives are the party for the working class. In her speech, May talked about creating a country “that works for everyone.” She said, “That means tackling unfairness and injustice, and shifting the balance of Britain decisively in favour of ordinary working class people. Giving them access to the opportunities that are too often the preserve of the privileged few.” words one is more accustomed to hearing from Labour, not the Conservatives. Incredibly, May plans to create a more equal and fair country whilst building new grammar schools, refusing to raise inheritance tax or building affordable housing. I digress.

May continued, “They [the Liberal Elite] find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal,  your attachment to your job security inconvenient. They find the fact that more than seventeen million people voted to leave the European Union simply bewildering.” You can almost hear the Daily Mail whooping with joy.

So who exactly are the “Liberal Elite” and what can we do to defend ourselves from them? I spent the afternoon reading a range of blogs, articles and essays on this subject – at one point I even googled, “Why do people hate the liberal elite?” (Yes, I’m still on my honeymoon – am I not doing it right?) I’ve trawled the best (and the worst) of the internet to find out more about who this dangerous group really are.

First off, they live in cities. You won’t find the Liberal Elite in Clacton or Hartlepool, you have to look in cities like Manchester, Sheffield and York . London in particular, is infested with them; UKIP’s Suzanne Evans blames them on her party’s poor polling in the capital arguing that, “The educated, cultured and young are less likely to vote for us.” Politically, the Liberal Elite tend to be left-of-centre, but not exclusively. They are open-minded, believe immigration is, on the whole, a good thing, they are pro gay marriage, are more concerned with reform than retribution in the justice system, more likely to identify as feminists and they voted Remain in the referendum. They read “The Guardian”, drink flat whites and their breakfast, sorry “brunch,” is likely to be something to do with avocado. In their spare time they read, attend the theatre, go to museums, watch the BBC and travel. Bastards.

It gets worse. They buy free-range, sometimes eat kale by choice and tend not to smoke. They worry about the environment and global warming  – which is why so many of them own a bike.  By day they are nurses, writers, teachers, lawyers, actors, social workers, doctors and charity workers; some have their own businesses, others even work in the financial services. By night, they go to trendy restaurants and gastro-pubs where they hand over £7 for a glass of Malbec without flinching. If you’re still struggling to picture this dangerous group of individuals they are almost perfectly represented by the family in the sitcom, “Outnumbered.”

Oh and they sneer. A lot. In fact sneering is their main pastime other than drinking their fair trade coffee and quoting Stewart Lee to each other. I’ll be honest – I’ve not actually witnessed a lot of sneering myself but the Daily Mail said they do it so it must be true.

These are the wankers who have ruined the country. Even though those wankers tend to have a history of voting for the country to be more equal. They give money to charity, campaign to keep libraries open and to protect the NHS. They must be stopped.

I’ll be honest, apart from the “ruined the country” part – most of that is fairly accurate. Although I’ve yet to meet anyone who is happy about paying £7 for a glass of wine. Particularly when a bottle from the newsagent costs a fiver. Being part of the Liberal Elite isn’t about wealth; remember that due to exorbitant rents very few young people in London have money to burn. If I could whittle it down to just two traits it would be: tolerance and open-mindedness. It’s why the sneering comment is so unfair, as a group we’re incredibly accepting of people, whether or not they are similar to us. It’s just that, if you want to be tolerant, the one thing you can’t tolerate is intolerance.

We’re often criticised as being “out of touch” with the concerns the rest of the country has about immigration. The Express in particular likes to paint a picture of us sat in our ivory towers, in our elite bubbles, calling anyone who has concerns about immigration racist.

I live in a one bedroom flat in Wood Green, Haringey – one of the few parts of North London a teacher can live in and still afford to eat. In Wood Green only 23% of the population identify as White British, which is significantly lower than the London average of 45%. Until recently, I was an assistant head teacher in East London. I taught English to children (and parents) who had just moved to the UK. I ran after school sessions and gave up my weekends and my holidays to make sure those children could succeed. To say I am liberal in my views because I don’t understand the issues of immigration is not just ignorant – it is ridiculous. Particularly when you compare Wood Green to Clacton, UKIP’s one constituency, where the percentage of people who identify as White British is 93%. For those who like a visual – I’ve created some pie charts:

clacton-pie

wood-green-pie

Which of these demographics is less likely to understand the issues surrounding immigration?

So yes – we do like delis, bicycles and flat whites but we are kind, open-minded and tolerant people – and we will never apologise for that. Theresa May is playing a very clever game and, like so many other previous scapegoats, the Liberal Elite are being framed for a crime we did not commit.

 

29 Things You Should Know About Me

29 things you should know

It’s my birthday tomorrow! I’ll be 29. I’ve been nominated to complete this “29 Things You Should Know About Me” questionnaire. So here we go:

1. I’m happiest… on a long train journey with a good novel, a notebook and decent cup of coffee.

train-690494_1280

2. …Especially if… there is some beautiful scenery to look at.

3. I’ve always wanted to… write.

4. My family is… large (as a collective not individually) loud and very loving.

5. I am a terrible… worrier. 

6. My first job was… when I was 14 I worked in the local Post Office. I worked from 9-12 on Saturdays and got paid £4 an hour.

7. I could probably eat cheese on toast everyday.

Cheese on toast

8. I stole… A rolling pin from a local pub.

9. I was born on the same day as… Bridget Jones and Sisqo… Both famous for pants.

10. My all-time favorite film is… I can’t choose between: High Society and Submarine.

11. I do a pretty mean… lasagne.

lasagne

12. I’m still annoyed that… the Conservatives have a majority.

13. I met my husband… Well, future husband, when he interviewed me for my first teaching job. I didn’t get the job.

14. I always knew I wanted… to be a teacher.

15. I’m not afraid to… go to the cinema on my own. I’ve always been very good with my own company and going to see a film alone became my way of switching off during stressful times at University (probably because I worked at the cinema so I could go for free.)

16. I wish I could… speak another language. I know, I know I have to actually take the time to learn the language for this to happen.

17. I have almost no… sense of direction. It’s a wonder I’ve survived to my 29th birthday as more than once in Venice I nearly ended up in the canal after a wrong turn.

18. I always feel sad when… I see old men eating on their own in cafes.

19. I’m (now) a Londoner but I lived up north for 4 years. 

20. I spent 12 years… believing in Father Christmas. Yes really.

21. I wish my parents… lived closer.

22. At 5, I was deeply in love with this beauty:

image1 (2)

23. I believe if everyone was kinder the world would be a better place.

24. I can’t stand… George Osborne.

25. Whenever Peep Show is on, I’ll watch it. It’s back on Wednesday!

26. A large Malbec is my drink of choice.

wine

27. If it were up to me everybody would have a home.

28. You should probably read every day. Don’t worry about high brow/low brow read widely and regularly.

Books

29. Lillies, coffee, cheese and my cat are a few of my favourite things. 

Requires Improvement

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Time travel is regularly a topic of discussion in our house. Is it possible? If it is, where would you go and what would you do? Does it actually require a TARDIS? Would knowing what the future holds affect your decisions today? How? 

On Wednesday 6th May I accepted a job offer to be the Assistant Headteacher of a diverse and vibrant community school in East London. The school currently Requires Improvement (capital R capital I.) Whilst this was exactly the sort of challenge I had been looking for it was still quite a daunting prospect, however I felt confident that I had the energy, ideas and enthusiasm required to be part of the leadership team of this particular school.

 

On Thursday 7th May 36.9% of the electorate voted for their local Conservative MP in the General Election. This was enough to get 331 seats – a slight but very real majority. Like many others, I stared in disbelief at the Exit Poll figures and prayed they were incorrect. (They were incorrect: The Conservative Party did even better than the Exit Poll had predicted.)

The Exit Poll moment will become one of those “Where Were You When…” events that appear on our timelines like the moment you heard a plane had hit the World Trade Centre or that Zayn Malik had left One Direction. I digress. I went to bed at 5am with the dulcet tones of Dimbleby rattling around in my head and election figures burned onto my retinas. I got up 2 hours later to find my partner chain drinking coffee and staring into the middle distance. The Conservative Party had won a 12 seat majority. 
There were a number of reasons why Labour failed to inspire confidence in large groups of the population and very few of them were to do with a bacon sandwich. If you’re really interested you can read more on this here.

I know several good, kind-hearted people that voted for this Government. It is not helpful to make judgments about these people (although admittedly I felt very different on Friday 8th May having only had 2 hours sleep.) I know people dependent on housing benefit who voted Conservative despite the promised cuts to benefits, people living in social housing that voted for them, despite the bedroom tax, and public sector workers that voted for them despite cuts in funding and resources that have made their working lives near impossible. 
The job I am about to embark on now has much higher stakes.Ofsted have to grade my new school as Good in their next inspection. If they don’t then there will be a battle to fight academisation and jobs will be on the line. Obviously Governments should be working to improve schools however it is worth considering alternative models for doing this as opposed to simply applying further pressure. Schools need genuine support, resources and, most important of all, time to improve. 

I am a Coalition Teacher. I accepted my first job three weeks after Michael Gove was appointed Education Secretary. At that point I had very few political opinions other than Iraq War = bad, Tony Blair = mental and Tories = no. I had voted for the party that I believed would benefit me as a student (any guesses?) I don’t vote like that any more. I vote for the party that I think has the strongest offer for everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable.

 

At the time I had no real grasp on how the way the country voted would affect the job that I did. I knew teaching would be difficult, I didn’t expect it to get harder each year. I knew it would be long hours but I expected to be spending those hours preparing resources and working to improve my lessons not inputting data, writing documents and plans for improvement that would then sit at the back of cupboards. I originally planned to stay in teaching my entire working life and now I don’t think that’s a sustainable plan. When I first started teaching I genuinely believed I could defend children and improve their life chances and I was happy to work 13 hours a day 6 days a week to do so. I now no longer believe it is possible in the current climate. Schools cannot equip children with the skills they actually need to lead successful, happy lives because they are instead drilling them to answer enough test questions correctly for the school to avoid academisation. Our education system Requires drastic Improvement but, more often than not, it isn’t the fault of the people working in the schools (honest.)

Until September I will remain a class teacher in an Outstanding school. Ofsted are not due until 2019 or later yet still teaching today remains more difficult than it has ever been. From the focus on data, rather than children, the endless next step marking, regular observations, weekly book scrutiny and the media undermining us at every move – it is little wonder that two fifths of NQTs are quitting within their first five years. 
I am incredibly concerned about the future of our schools. This blog will focus on the Government’s impact on Education. That is not say the effect on Education will be more severe than the 12 billion pounds worth of benefit cuts, the retraction of The Human Rights act or the dismantling of the NHS. I just want to write about what I witness first hand. It is very, very easy to point out the problems or be negative about any change so I will try and keep this blog as balanced as possible and, whenever possible, present alternative options that challenge the Government’s agenda.   

We have no control over the newspapers and I don’t think for a second the blog of one teacher is enough to even to begin to cut through the barrage of negative press working against us but it’s a start. Who knows? Maybe in time things will change under the current government, if not there are only 1,803 days until the next election…