Extinction Rebellion got the ball rolling, but more radical action is now necessary if humanity is to survive
If only the Daily Express was right. That is not a sentence I ever expected to type. “Extinction Rebellion protests have WORKED as MPs succumb to calls for change”, bellowed the rightwing rag. Alas, the government has not capitulated to demands to declare a climate emergency, let alone to decarbonise the British economy by 2025. But Extinction Rebellion has retaught a lesson every generation must learn: that civil disobedience works. Amid the spluttering of obnoxious news presenters, it has forced the existential threat of climate change on to the airwaves and into newsprint.
But as this phase of protest winds down, the demands must radicalise. With capitalism itself rightly being challenged, the focus must shift to the fossil fuel companies and the banks. As long as they remain under private ownership on a global scale, humanity’s future will be threatened.
Brexit is destroying the Tory party. But the latest leak reveals a government that has lost its bearings on national security too
In the view of the postwar Labour prime minister Clement Attlee, “No government can be successful which cannot keep its secrets.” By that yardstick, still the traditional one in British politics, Theresa May’s government is one of the least successful in our history. This is not merely the view of its opponents. It is also the view of its own key members. Less than a month ago the Conservative chief whip, Julian Smith, admitted to the BBC that “discipline is not as good as it should be”. Brexit, he continued, had generated “the worst example of ill-discipline in cabinet in British political history”.
That’s quite a claim. But it is hard to blame Brexit directly for the extraordinarily reckless new act of indiscipline that took place this week. On Tuesday the government’s national security council, which is chaired by the prime minister and contains senior ministers as well as security officials, agreed that the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei could build parts of the UK’s 5G network. This would normally have been a tightly guarded and unpublicised decision – Attlee, for instance, involved only a few trusted ministers in his momentous 1947 decision to build an independent British nuclear weapon. Instead, the Huawei decision was reported in full detail in the following morning’s Daily Telegraph, which named five cabinet ministers who opposed it, and laid the decision directly at the feet of Mrs May.
Readers respond to John Harris’s article on our schools being at breaking point
John Harris is absolutely right (Schools are now at breaking point. Where is the outrage?, 22 April). But it is not just schools that have been devastated by nine years of Tory austerity and ineptitude. Every aspect of the system has been ravaged by cuts and wrong-headed ideology since 2010, from the country’s kindergartens and nurseries to its further education colleges and lifelong learning institutions. It is time not just for outrage but for a clean sheet, because the Cameron/May governments have made the state’s education system utterly incoherent and unfit for purpose.
One starting point for a new national education council faced with such a clean sheet might be to establish a widespread national conversation about what the purposes of education should be for the 2020s. Such a council should listen carefully to people like the primary school head in the article, who is clearly an expert on children and their development. And we should ignore junior education ministers in the Lords who believe that the biggest current educational problem is waste in our schools. Their kind and their personal whims about education have held sway for too long.
Dr Carole Easton points out that the Department of Health reports a gender pay gap of 10.5%, as opposed to the 23% in the NHS, while Ted Watson says it is not obesity that has made the health service broke
Matt Hancock states that “The NHS is a huge employer of women – I want it to be one of the best as well” (theguardian.com, 25 April). His intention to reduce bullying and harassment is laudable, as is his desire to increase flexible working. But has he paid sufficient attention to the enormous discrepancies between the civil servants and the frontline workers in his own area of responsibility?
For example, the Department of Health and Social Care reports a gender pay gap of 10.5%, as opposed to the 23% in the NHS. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that the DHSC offers 26 weeks on full maternity pay, while NHS frontline staff are only entitled to eight weeks on full pay and a further 18 on half pay. Given the urgent need for frontline staff in the NHS, and for gender equality, it would be timely to address these inequities.
Dr Carole Easton
Chief executive, Young Women’s Trust
Heather Stewart is joined by Polly Toynbee, Rafael Behr and Ryan Shorthouse to discuss next week’s local council elections, Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyref2 announcement, and what obstacles lie ahead on the long road to Brexit
Next week 8,425 seats will be contested at local council elections across the country.
And the biggest losers could well be the Tories, with fears they could lose as many as 1,000 councillors as punishment for the Brexit deadlock.
While Britain forces its disabled people to food banks, it is unfit for the 21st century | Marsha de Cordova
There is no starker example than universal credit of the way cuts punish this country’s most vulnerable citizens
It is 2019, and the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But today’s figures released by the Trussell Trust show that more than 1.6 million emergency food parcels were given to people going hungry across the UK last year.
The attacks on her from neurotypical critics are glib and spiteful. But they are a tribute to the power of her arguments
Rarely have I identified with anything so strongly as when I listened to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Nobel peace prize nominee, talking to Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Like her, I have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and it is rare that women like me appear in the media.
Yet Thunberg’s rise to prominence has been accompanied by a kind of thoughtlessness and intolerance that you might have expected society to have moved beyond. Some reactions expose how much ignorance and malice remains towards autistic and neurodivergent people, especially among those who don’t share their political views. Spiked’s editor, Brendan O’Neill, seized upon autistic traits Thunberg exhibits, such as her “monotone voice” and forthright manner, to liken her to a “cult member”, in an attempt to delegitimise her message.
In his furious eloquence, the priest spoke for us all. I hope Theresa May and other politicians at the funeral were listening
Like the life that preceded it, Lyra McKee’s funeral was completely unique and utterly unforgettable.
Thousands of mourners from every community in Northern Ireland lined the streets of Belfast to pay our respects to the extraordinary young journalist, and to tell the world that we are not defined by our worst citizens, but by our best.
Exposing young children to pointless, distressing assessments in the first few weeks of school could kill their love of learning
When I imagine the perfect way for a four-year-old to spend an afternoon, it chiefly involves making mud pies, eating raisins, finger painting with friends, all topped off by a much-needed afternoon nap. What it does not include is marching to Downing Street to protest against government education policy. Nor does it involve being subjected to a high-stakes assessment in the first six weeks of beginning school.
Yet the government’s plans to reintroduce compulsory baseline assessments for four-year-olds next year means that parents and their young children have been left with little choice but to protest. The baseline tests will supposedly assess the maths and literacy ability of children when they start school. Schools can then be held accountable for the “progress” students make from reception to year six. But the March of the Four-Year-Olds will descend on Downing Street on Thursday to deliver a petition, signed by 64,000 people, demanding that the government listens to the growing evidence that these tests are both damaging and unnecessary.