Carpe Diem!

Carpe Diem!

Peer challenges the party faithful about their Government tabling un-Conservative legislation

What’s been said?

Many home educators appreciated Lord Wei’s robust contributions to the Report Stage debate on 18 July. Some ten days later, a challenging article was featured in Conservative Home on 27 July. It is entitled, Nat Wei: Will Sunak or Truss finally stop a Conservative Government tabling un-Conservative legislation?

In it, Wei immediately goes beyond the standard cost-of-living crisis questions which the leadership candidates are likely to encounter at the hustings presently taking place around the country. He poses questions such as:

“ can we make sure that a Conservative government actually delivers conservative legislation? Or at the very least, stops tabling laws drafted by civil servants (often in collaboration with our political opponents) which attack directly Conservative principles such as freedom of speech and thought, or the right to privacy.”

When it comes to the Schools Bill, Wei detects both current problems and future dangers. If the draft legislation were enacted now, as it stands, he sees potential for a massive empowering of local authorities “to monitor how parents raise their children,” and speaks of “state intrusion [being brought] deeply into homes and the lives of families.”

But he also has an eye to what could happen further down the line with open-ended legislation of this nature. What if a future government sought to adjust the national curriculum to “further teach woke ideas and oppose conservative ones?” In his view, “our own Schools Bill as currently drafted will remove the ability of parents to take their children out of school and educate them at home.”

Wei presses his readers to consider how a so-called Conservative Government finds itself in this position:

“How did we get to a point when such a draconian, statist, and anti-freedom law even gets it onto the desk of our Education Secretary unvetted – let alone makes it to Second Reading of the House of Lords?”

His concern is that a lack of forethought and proper scrutiny is allowing other potentially dangerous pieces of legislation to proceed through Parliament. In each case “laudable aims are harnessed to bad laws with unintended consequences, many of which will lead to the unjust curtailment of ancient freedoms.”

Why does it matter?

If Wei is anywhere near right in his analysis, then his closing paragraphs outline a clear plan of action for the immediate future, and one which we can each take up within our own sphere of influence.

The leadership candidate roadshow making its way round the country represents an opportunity for party members to ask meaningful questions of the two remaining competitors for the Prime Minister’s job. What are their values and principles? Do either of them support parenting and family in a more fundamental way than just offering a better “package of support” than their rival?

Wei urges hustings-goers to ask the hard questions, and warns of the unintended consequences that could result from a lack of vigilance:

“So if you have a question to ask at one of the hustings this summer, why not ask them what they are going to do about the Schools Bill and others like it, which seek to curtail freedoms in ways that are not only un-Tory, but which could be weaponised against Conservatives and our beliefs one day very soon?”

We are not aware of either candidate making recent pronouncements about the Schools Bill per se, though Sunak’s comments on Grammar Schools were widely reported. However, Truss once held the post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education, and in October 2012 she appeared as a witness at an Education Select Committee Oral Evidence session on the topic of “Support for Home Education.”

The transcript makes interesting and very informative reading for two reasons. First, it shows how the same or similar questions about getting the balance between Government’s and home educators’ responsibilities are still being discussed ten years down the road. Secondly, it sheds light on Truss’s historic views about a range of issues around home education – though whether or not she still holds to the statements she made then, very early in post, is an unknown waiting to be discovered.

What can I do?

Once you’ve read Lord Wei’s article and thought about the issues it raises, pass it on to any Conservative party members known to you, encouraging them to stir up a debate in the Party which will get to the root of the matter. The article could serve as a good conversation starter about the deeper issues of civil liberties that could help grass root Tories to appreciate why the Schools Bill is a problem for more parents than just the ones who home educate. We need to get this message outside the HE communities and into wider society.

Remember that whilst Wei was writing about the Schools Bill, which pertains only to England, the leadership contest issues he raises are relevant also to Scotland and Wales. So if you have a Conservative Assembly Member, do make them aware of it.

Bring it to the attention of Conservative councillors for your area too, as well as Tory MP’s.

Read the Select Committee transcript, noting the type of questions asked, and how Truss replied to specific points. Use this information to frame questions you yourself could ask, if you get the opportunity.

Wei has identified some significant questions that could and should be asked of our potential new Prime Minister, and there is a short window of opportunity to do that right now. Let’s do all we can to seize that moment.