I was delighted to speak on behalf of the Labour front bench in the Lords covering an Education debate on “British Values”. Here’s my take on it:
Who forced Michael Gove into a massive u-turn? In 2007 he said “‘There is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness’. Now he has decided not only to define Britishness, but to legally require every British school to define Britishness and “promote British values”.
Everyone agrees that British values around the rule of law, individual liberty, and tolerance, helped create of one of the world's oldest and most successful democracies. We're less agreed on the recent implication that a better understanding of, say, the Magna Carta, might sort out poor school governance in Birmingham. That's obviously a bit of a caricature, but the point is that shared British values should be instilled by example, not diktat. Moreover it feels like an Orwellian and distinctly un-British approach to do what the Government has done in the wake of the Trojan Horse affair, which is to tar an entire community with language taken from counter-terrorism strategies.
Baroness King of Bow (Lab): I begin by declaring an interest as Channel 4’s diversity executive and I am incredibly proud of Channel 4’s legacy as the Paralympic Games broadcaster. I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, about Channel 4’s achievement in changing attitudes towards disability, not least the “Meet the Superhumans” trailer, masterminded by Dan Brooke. It was nothing less than a game-changer. So, too, was the entire legacy promise of London 2012. No previous Olympic Games had ever put legacy at the very heart of the bid. Our legacy promised,
“nothing less than a healthier and more successful sporting nation, open for business, with more active, sustainable, fair and inclusive communities”.
Baroness King of Bow (Lab): My Lords, I thought I would start with a reflection on what a strange breed working mothers are. All you really need to know about us is that we never sleep and continually stress over childcare. Between 1 am last night, when I gave the baby his last feed and started jotting down a few notes for this speech, and 5 am this morning, when my husband got up to feed him, I was woken six times. I have four children so I have no one else to blame but myself. It is my bed and I made it; I just wish I could lie in it, but that is a problem entirely of my own making.
What is not a problem of my own making is that when I drag myself out of said bed and complete several school runs, as I did this morning, and when I finally arrive at my two year-old’s nursery, I find that I must pay £1,100 per month if I want her to go full-time, five days a week. Despite the fact that I am, by definition, extraordinarily privileged because—look—I am standing in this gilded Chamber as a Member of Britain’s most prestigious LinkedIn group, the fact remains that I cannot afford £1,100 a month. So my daughter does not go full time; she goes half time—two and a half days a week. For that I pay £660 a month.